The Power of Philanthropic Marketing in Sports
So, you started a company called Capture Sports Marketing. And so, tell us a little bit about that. What you do, and what awesome things you're working on right now?
Dave and I knew each other when I was at the Metropolitan Builder's Association. Since that time, I always knew that I wanted to be entrepreneurial. I have many entrepreneurs in my family. My grandpa started a small business. My dad and my uncles ran, the largest one until they sold it in 2000. I can clearly remember going to my parents and saying, "I think I'm going to go out on my own." And it was funny, the reactions that I got from both of them, my dad has run a business was like, "do it. You will never work harder, but it's yours." And there's something to be said about it being yours.
The other side of the coin is my mom. She was like, "what are you doing? Like you saw us live through small business." And it was really interesting to go through the process of it. So, I launched Capture Sports Marketing just about nine years ago now. And our niche is working with athletes, coaches, and teams from across the country solely on their philanthropic impact. It lends to their brand, it lends to marketing, but we're not marketing agents. We work with marketing agents, but it's really how they can utilize their platform for good. We just have continued to build on that and work with a lot of different individuals who are phenomenal athletes, but they're better humans.
When did you make that shift in your brain that, "I love what I'm doing, but I think I could love something better?"
My grandpa started the businesses, but my grandma had a business too. And she's 95 now. And at that time, for women, it wasn't common for them to own a business. And ironically, she was an interior decorator that I can remember when I was little going with her to the parade of homes to decorate because she was involved. And so, I saw it at a young age that anybody can do it. If you're a man or a woman, it really doesn't matter. You can do it. And so, I started my career off in nonprofit. It was with Rogers Memorial Hospital, and it was with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for many years. And I think being at particularly the National Multiple Sclerosis Society because we were a small team responsible for everything I operated and felt like. Their board did operate it as its own business.
So, everybody that worked there kind of had to have an entrepreneurial spirit. Because you were doing budgeting, you were doing events, and you were doing marketing. And so, at that point that it started brewing for me. It was at that point that I was like, "okay, I'm going to go out on my own." And I was sitting at lunch and was sitting next to a fellow board member with the Waukesha County Business Alliance. And he had just purchased the Milwaukee Wave and said, "I'm looking for a VP of marketing. I'm looking for someone to launch a foundation, you know, do you have an interest?" And I said, "absolutely." But I was very honest about the fact that I want to own my own company. And so, we agreed for two years. And so, at that two-year mark exactly, I went in and said, I'm going." And they were my first client.
Did you transition slowly into it?
For me, it was more of a transition into it. You know, I filed my official paperwork on June 1st. But it really wasn't until October 1st that I launched. And so, I had been building out my business plan before that I had been getting my logo ready. I had been doing that. I had prepared a whole bunch of fronts financially. We had to prepare that. We need to save up so that we have some reserves as I launched and as we do it. So, it was kind of a transition, but then it was like that October 1st, it was like I was done with the Wave and all of a sudden, I'm like, "Oh, I'm out on my own." And my original business plan was more working with companies on their cause marketing was with the athletes and their platforms.
It evolved quite honestly. Some of the opportunities that presented themselves made us pivot a little bit made us evolve. And so, it really was about four years ago that I remember meeting with one of my old bosses and we had lunch. She said to me, "don't be afraid of success" because I told her, like, I don't know if I should put my stake in the ground and officially changed my name to Capture Sports Marketing make this my whole niche. And I always thought I only wanted to have four to five people on our team. And now we have 12. And so, it was at that point about four years ago that we put the nail in the ground and said, we're going to be solely focused on this niche.
I remember the day on a Tuesday afternoon, and my partner and I had done our deal, and I'm sitting there, and I'm like, "what are we going to do?" And it was interesting because he said, well, "I'd like to be your first client." I sold my business and started my coaching practice. And I said, "Jim, unfortunately, you didn't listen to me when I was your partner. So, I don't want this to be my first venture with you." And my first client is not listening to me, that's going to kill me. Did you have those, what are you doing moments for you?
Oh yes. I think it's going through them and making some of those decisions. I mean, I can remember one in particular that a client that we were working with wanted us to be a partner with them on something that would have been the most revenue for us. And it would have been the most exposure for us. And I struggled with the decision, but I knew ultimately that it wasn't the right time for us. And it wasn't the right partner for us, but it's like, weighing that. Like I could get this revenue right here, or I could do that. And I ultimately said, no, it was hard. And I kept thinking to myself, "Holy cow, I just walked away from this. Am I doing the right thing? "So, there's a lot of those moments, but I think some moments like you just said, they're defining moments. You're never going to forget it.
Where was your mentor? Who was helping you through that?
Yeah, there were a couple of different people that I turned to for a couple of different reasons. One was a former boss that I had mentioned, and she was instrumental. When she was my boss, she would just say it like it was, and she had lived in the space. She had been a woman entrepreneur. And so, I really looked to her. I also looked to my family a lot who went through it because a year after I started my company, my younger brother started one as well. And my cousin is also an entrepreneur. And for us, being all small businesses at the same time, kind of in the same part of our growth was really helpful because we could call each other up and say like, what do I do about this? How do you do this? Even though we're in totally separate industries, they were a huge sounding black for me. And then I had somebody who was an extraordinarily successful businessman. And I could go to him. And the questions that he asked me were probably some of the hardest questions that anybody has asked me, but it made me think of what the answers were going to be. So it was, it was that kind of little, little group that has helped me so much.
How often did people say, "I do my own marketing. I don't need that. How many times have you run into that piece throughout your years doing this?"
You know what? I have run into it quite a bit. And I think my biggest come back to them is I'm not an accountant. I certainly don't do my own accounting. There are reasons that we all have different talents, and we all have different things. And so, to be able to showcase to them the need for it and the results that can happen if you do it correctly, I think has always been important. doesn't have to be us versus you. It can be all of us together with it. So, I think that was, that was something that it's kind of a learning experience quite honestly, for everybody. But unfortunately, some people don't truly learn it by the end.
If somebody called you and it was a friend or went to lunch with somebody starting their own business, are there a couple of things you would share with them from a marketing perspective that is dos and don'ts?
Yeah. I think, you know, it was interesting because, for me, one of the greatest ways that I was able to market is truly through networking. I always say like outside of my first job, I never sent a resume again, like a blind resume. So, it was always through networking. So, I just think it is so important, particularly if you're going out on your own to have your network and to build your network and be able to communicate that depending upon your business is your target market on social media. Really drilling down who your target market is, finding out where they are, and how they're getting their messaging so that you can be targeted and smart about it. Going through those steps and writing that down so that you know whether an opportunity comes to you, that if it fits or if it doesn't fit with your right.
How did you know that you wanted to niche down into something that's specific for you?
I started out in the nonprofit world. I actually have a degree in psychology as well. It was always about making an impact. How can we make an impact on people's lives? How can we make it easier? What can we do? And so, I always knew kind of that, that cause, and that nonprofit was certainly something that was instilled in me when I was young. It was super important to me. But I can remember being at the Milwaukee Wave, and I had developed a charity Jersey program. So the equipment manager didn't like me because for every game there was a different Jersey. But it was custom designed Jersey with different nonprofits on it. And then they were sold, and it was an auction, and it was this larger campaign that just was tremendous. Just because you had your vision or your dream or your passion way back when it sometimes takes time to morph into what it needs to be.
Like this is nine years in the making of us being able to do it, and each day we're learning something new, and we're making new relationships, and you know, we're, we're honing in. I loved when you said earlier about the passion part of it, because even, you know, with these athletes, if they're not authentic and they're not passionate about something, we always tell them, don't do it. Like people are going to see through it. People are going to know that you're doing this because of something you should, or it's going to help this, or it's going to kind of like, like, no, no, no, we're not doing it unless you are truly touched by it. You're truly passionate about it. You're willing to put your name behind it. Like, it's just, it's so important.
How did they do most athletes have a cause in their minds already that you've experienced, or are they looking for, something like that in their lives?
The things we work with them on are really homing in on what their initiatives are going to be. There's some that, as I say, want to save the world and you, you can't. And so, but there's also some of them that are 19, 20 years old and they don't have life experiences. They may not have like a ton of life experiences to truly figure out their cause. And so, at that point, exposing them to different things so that they can develop, what their passion may be, what their interests may be. But we always tell them, I would say a lot of them come to us and say, we want to start a foundation. I'm like, Nope. You know we have to take a step back first to figure out, okay, how much time do you have? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to do? Is the foundation the right thing for you right now is the fiscal sponsor, maybe something or lending your name to something because of where you're at. But once they do start a foundation, it's looking at those initiatives. And I tell them that for a reason to say yes, and a reason to say, no, it doesn't become personal. These are my initiatives for my foundation. As an individual athlete, you can still have your own causes that you want to support, but this foundation is going to support this. And so, it's helping them home in on, on what it is, and making the biggest impact.
But you know, the athletes that we have been blessed to work with them all come to us because they want to make an impact. You know, they want to do that. A lot of them because of their sports requirements, they're not going to have time to run a full campaign or program or foundation. And so, they're looking at what we've done in the past and how we can help them. They've been receptive to it. And kind of like how Capture morphed into Capture Sports Marketing, some of these guys get into it and say, okay, I want to tweak this initiative because I did this, and this impacted me. So not to say that you can't add things to it as you get older and live life more to be able to do that. But I haven't had struggles with that, and you're right. You know, having an 18-year-old and 17-year-old right now, sometimes I'm like, Oh my God.
What I think too, it is so many people want something from an athlete. They typically should have a very small circle around them. And for us to become a trusted partner, it doesn't happen day one, but we'll prove that we're in it for the best interests of that athlete. Not the best interest of anything else.
So, can you share with us how you're pivoting with COVID-19?
With COVID hitting, mid-April to the beginning of June is typically for our NFL clients, the busiest time, because it's their offseason when they do their charitable events. So, we had six major events between April 17th and June 5th. And when COVID shut down the world, it was not only what are we going to do with Capture, but what are these foundations that we're planning on all of this money from being raised? And so, we shifted, and we did a couple of different virtual events so that we were still able to raise money for different organizations. And then we also have done a couple of radio things and have a couple more coming up.
These radio events essentially are working with the nonprofits. Most of them have been for COVID relief or their foundation. And we partner with the athlete, we partner with a radio station, and it becomes an 11, 12-hour day of fun that you can hear from all different athletes' coaches individuals and entertainment kind of throughout, throughout the whole day. And they've been, they've been so fun. The stories have been, things that you haven't heard before from different people.
Just today, Dak Prescott announced in regard to a large donation, and within it, he said, I've been dealing with major anxiety during this. And you know, for us, we've done programs within mental health or bullying before with specific athletes and the impact of going to the school and seeing them speak. And then being around afterward, when kids come up to them, or kids come up to their counselors and say, you know, if it's okay for you to say this, it's okay for me to say this. So, I'm going to do that. We know that we're making a difference, and we're able to help others. So, there are some of those campaigns that we're developing as a capture team and then involving different athletes.
What's something that you want to share with the listeners that not a lot of people would know about you?
I pitched a no-hitter in high school. I got the no-hitter because although I was accurate, I was very slow, and they were used to like super, super fast pitchers.
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