1 on 1 with
I put a lot of emphasis on outside the box thinking, a firm grasp of pop culture & current events and a great sense of humour. You've got to be unpredictable, take some risks and have fun.
Director of Marketing & Digital
I lead the team responsible for branding, advertising, content creation, social media, digital strategy, fan communications and product development (working closely with ticketing & corporate partnerships to facilitate revenue).
Our marketing department consists of seven incredibly talented teammates, including a pair of marketing/social media managers, two graphic designers, a couple of video & motion graphics producers and a digital host. They’re the engine that drives everything we do.
As a kid who grew up in Hamilton going to Ticats games at Ivor Wynne Stadium every summer, it still feels surreal to think that this is what I get paid to do.
It really depends on the time of year and where we’re at in our season. Sports is so cyclical, there’s really no other industry like it. Offseason strategy sessions, business plan presentations, free agency, the draft, training camp, home opener, marquee games & events circled on the calendar (especially the Labour Day Classic), playoffs and the Grey Cup. Rinse and repeat.
The best part is, regardless of how the team does on the field, there’s a natural reset button built into our business. You’ve got an opportunity to reinvent yourself every single year: a new campaign, a new look & feel, a new set of goals and objectives. That’s why I love working in sports: you’re constantly handed new opportunities to push the envelope within that familiar, predictable structure of a season.
In short, a typical day for me is guiding and supporting the marketing team, while trying to stay out of their way and let them do what they do best!
Looking back on my childhood, all of the signs were there. I was obsessed with sports as a kid (baseball and hockey specifically), but whenever I got the chance to attend a professional game, I was more interested in everything happening around the game itself. How does the mascot know where to be? How do they decide when to go to commercial break? How do they set up for the halftime concert so quickly? How do they pick the fans to participate in a video board promo? These are the things 13-year-old me was fascinated by – the organized chaos of attending a live sporting event. To this day, the theatrics leading into the team introduction is my favourite part of going to a game. The anthems. The fighter jets. The cool fan traditions. The fact 20,000+ people come together united by the same logo and colours. There’s nothing like it.
I would tend to disagree with that statement. Marketing people are paid to be creative, but some of our best ideas as an organization come from outside of the marketing department. An old boss and friend of mine used to say “everyone has an opinion about marketing, get used to it”. It’s an incredibly subjective profession. Accepting that fact and not falling in love with your own ideas is paramount in my role. Don’t pretend like you have all of the answers!
Ultimately, a good marketing team shines when it comes to flushing out an idea or creative concept, aligning it to a pre-existing strategy, packaging it up and executing it seamlessly.
When it comes to often-overlooked skills or abilities to work in marketing/social/digital, I put a lot of emphasis on outside the box thinking, a firm grasp of pop culture & current events and a great sense of humour. A mentor of mine always says “as a marketer, you have to zig while everyone else is zagging”. There’s so much noise and clutter out there on social media specifically. You’ve got to be unpredictable, take some risks and have fun. Assembling a team that as the intangibles to help you accomplish that goal is so important.
Social media consumes our lives, for better or worse. It’s crazy to reflect on how drastically the landscape has evolved and in such a short period of time. I still remember walking into our director of communications’ office in 2012 and asking if I could start a Tiger-Cats Instagram account. I’d be lying to you if I said the Ticats marketing team has it all figured out. It’s virtually impossible to stay on top of all of the trends and features happening on each platform – but the teams who do are the ones that steal the spotlight.
At the end of the day, content is king and certain types of content work better on different platforms than others. Meme/pop culture-based videos are a hit on Instagram lately. Our long-form video, especially anything slanted towards players giving back to the community, blows up on Facebook. We’ve got a passionate group of fans, specifically on Twitter, that we enjoy engaging with. And we’re on the verge of dipping our toe into the uncharted waters of TikTok. My advice is to focus on creating A+ content first and foremost and then tweak your execution based on the platform.
This is a tough question. Over the course of the ten seasons I’ve been with the Tiger-Cats, there’s been no shortage of outstanding content pieces to point to. The organization has been blessed, frankly lucky, to have had a laundry list of talented videographers, editors and designers come through our office. They’ve all left their own unique legacy of content.
The piece I think I’m most proud of is our 2019 Eastern Final/Grey Cup team intro video. The 2019 season marked the 150th anniversary of professional football in Hamilton and the entire season was dedicated to honouring the club’s storied history. This piece was the culmination of an incredible year of work, with every single member of the marketing team contributing to the final product. I can’t watch it without feeling the need to run through the closest wall. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oo38AyxUQBQ
I fell backwards into a handful of opportunities that helped me get to where I am. I always sat at the back of every lecture messing around on my laptop. I wasn’t the best student. I wasn’t big into networking, either (even though it’s arguably the most important skill you can have as a student). With that said, I was able to pad out my resume with some relevant sports experience early on (selling OHL tickets as a summer job and working for the Brock baseball team). Even then, I didn’t actively hunt those opportunities down. They fell into my lap at the time.
Looking back, so much of landing a gig in sports is being in the right place at the right time – it’s on you to make sure you’re in that place, ready to capitalize. Breaking into the sports industry is so competitive. You could be the best SPMA student on paper, but if you don’t have anything to point to on your resume, how are you going to separate yourself? Get involved, even if it’s volunteering your time. You could be handing out water cups at 10K road race, it doesn’t matter. Force your future employer to pause and take a closer look at the relevant experience on your resume.
Mike’s interest in sports began at an early age – specifically through attending Ticats games at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Unlike other kids, Mike became fixated on the behind-the-scenes of sporting events eventually leading to a successful career with the team he watched for so many years: the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Over the course of ten seasons with the Ticats, Mike has established quite the resume. From creating content to developing a digital strategy to facilitating revenue, Mike does it all. It’s no surprise that he came heavily recommended by previous interviewees! I found that the most insightful piece of information Mike mentioned was the fact that Marketing is a highly subjective profession. Aside from being creative, skills such as spontaneity, risk-taking and a sense of humour are highly favoured. If you can “zig while everyone else is zagging,” Marketing & Digital may be the career for you!