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We absolutely have to create a fun, high energy, party atmosphere at our games to engage the fans. If we can make sure they have a great time, even if they’ve never seen the game, we feel very confident that they will learn our sport and love it.

Mike Grace

Director of Game Presentation & Content

San Diego Seals

× The interview with Mike Grace was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

1Tell us about your role as Director of Game Presentation & Content for the San Diego Seals. What does a typical day look like for you?

It really depends on the time of the year to describe a typical day.

For most of us that work in sports, the fact that there isn’t truly a “typical day” is a big part of the appeal. On almost any given day, I will definitely be working with my video editors, giving guidance and feedback on their projects.

During the season, my time will be fairly split between coordinating social media content and preparing for the next home game.

For each home game, I’m responsible for building the show, producing the rundown and PA script, and delivering all video content to our venue for presentation.

Once the off-season begins, we start preparing for the next season by building our advertising look and feel, strategizing the content plan, and beginning the ideation and execution on new creative for the coming year.

Given that we have a smaller staff than I’ve been a part of the past, I’m happy to take a more hands-on approach with different projects like producing and editing our team’s podcast series. There are many other projects to keep me busy like building budgets, managing the mascot and dance team, and supporting or coordinating community and team driven events.

2You’ve worked in various game entertainment roles in the MLB, the NFL and now, in the NLL. How much does the approach to game entertainment change in different sports with different target audiences?

There is an incredible variance in the approach to game entertainment across the different leagues in which I’ve been able to work.

I would say there are a number of factors that affect the way we go about entertaining a fan base, including the target audience.

In Major League Baseball, you are putting on 81 home games...on weeknights, weekdays, and weekends. The nature of the game leads to a more passive game presentation. The beauty of baseball is that most people go to the game to have a relaxing or conversational experience. The game can be very exciting in certain moments, but for the most part, the environment is fairly laid back (post-season excluded).

In terms of approach, the NLL is much closer to an NFL Game in how we try to stimulate the crowd.

The NLL is an 18-game schedule (9 home games only played on weekends) so each contest is vitally important.

On the game presentation side, each home game is a major event. You just can’t approach all 81 baseball games with that same intensity.

The beauty of the direction given by the NLL and Seal’s leadership is the emphasis on fan experience and game entertainment. We understand that lacrosse, and especially indoor lacrosse, is not as mainstream as your big four or five sports. So we absolutely have to create a fun, high energy, party atmosphere at our games to engage the fans.

If we can make sure they have a great time, even if they’ve never seen the game, we feel very confident that they will learn our sport and love it.

3Describe your most successful game presentation experience. What did you do that made it so successful?

I feel the most successful experiences in my career are the larger-scale productions to honor special players, teams or moments. The one that stands out the most would have to be Trevor Hoffman’s number retirement ceremony. We received quite a bit of positive feedback from the community and team leadership after that one.

I was so fortunate to work with a great group at the Padres to really give the fans a day to remember, as well as give Trevor a day he would cherish. What was special about this ceremony was our ability to speak with Trevor’s family in the planning phase to understand what was important to him.

Considered by those who played with him to be the consummate teammate, we told the story of his career by bringing back dozens for former players, coaches and mentors from his entire life.

Just one of the highlights was the presentation of the national anthem. Jennifer Cota found the video of his late father singing the anthem at Fenway Park on the day Trevor’s older brother Glenn made his major league debut.

When you can make people laugh and cry, it’s a special feeling of accomplishment.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the first game in San Diego Seals history. San Diegans were genuinely shocked to come to a near-sellout arena and experience the high energy party of a San Diego Seals game for the first time. To be able to launch a team and a sport on such a great night was truly special.

4Shifting to the content side of your role, what is your content strategy thought process? How is it used to meet the Seals’ goals and measure success? Walk us through this process from executing an idea to tracking data to knowing if the idea worked

As a newer team (2 years old), our content strategy is two-fold.

We want to constantly engage and entertain the fanbase we’ve built to this point. But, we also need to come up with new engaging content that is going to reach outside of our existing fanbase to bring new people into our brand.

When we try to create new and intriguing content features, we always want to have an idea to whom it is aimed. It’s hard to manufacture, but we constantly work to find that one piece that has the ability to go truly viral and open our brand up to masses of new people.

One of the strategies we use to track KPIs with content is to segment our posts by message. Understanding if the goal of the piece was to entertain, inform, or market. Then measure your impressions and interactions from there. Whenever possible, combining two categories into a post helps reach more goals.

5As someone who is involved with digital and social platforms, what style of content do you gravitate toward? Quick turnaround content or long-form storytelling, with high production value? Do you have a preference? Tell us some of the pros and cons you toggle for each.

I prefer long-form storytelling that has a much better opportunity to elicit emotion or genuine reaction.

As a life-long fan of movies and documentaries, it’s fun to be able to put yourself in the role of a filmmaker. I’m very fortunate to have incredible videographers on my staff who excel at this style of storytelling. But at the same time, we understand that most people want shorter, higher impact content to consume on a regular basis.

When deciding on the types of content to produce and when, it’s about balancing the timing of posts so that you don’t post too much of the same type of material over a period of time, as well as managing the workload of your staff.

Long-form storytelling can be much more labor-intensive, and it’s important that the end result justifies the time investment.

6Finally, what advice would you give to prospective sport management professionals looking to eventually work in sport at a similar level to yourself but just starting off in their career?

The advice I typically give to young people that want to work in our industry is two parts.

First, get any and all experience you can. It’s so important to have “work in sports” experience, as that is typically what most hiring managers are looking for. Plus the sports industry is so tight, it helps to have the references. Most jobs we post, we look for referrals from colleagues around the industry.

Secondly, I encourage people to become proficient writers. In today’s day and age, so much is predicated on the written word. Not only in how we produce content but just in how we interact with each other. It’s important to be able to express yourself appropriately, even in email or text, and not be misunderstood.

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