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6 Questions with Brian Berger, President/Founder of BBPR Inc.

Front Office Sports

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By: Natalie Mikolich, @npmikolich

We recently caught up with Brian Berger, President/Founder of BBPR Inc. He shared with us what it is like to work in sports public relations, how the Sports PR Summit came to be and his advice for those who want to work in sports.

How did you get started in sports public relations and what was your first internship? What was your first career position?

I got my start in PR working for the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA). I interned with the team in their broadcasting department and then parlayed that position into a job as an event coordinator running events at the Memorial Coliseum. When the Trail Blazers decided to move from Memorial Coliseum to the Rose Garden arena (now the Moda Center), I moved into a PR/Marketing role. Part of my job was doing PR for the new arena during construction, traveling to other arenas to gather information for our arena and serving on the Grand Opening committee. It was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. I worked with athletes, rock stars and senior executives and it prepared me for when I started my own companies.

Where do you currently work and what is your position? What does this consist of?

I am currently the President/Founder of BBPR Inc. (Brian Berger Public Relations Inc), a boutique strategic and crisis communications firm. In addition, I am the President/Founder of the Sports PR Summit (NYC) and Sports PR Summit Social Media Workshop (San Francisco) — www.sportsprsummit.com. I am also a co-founder of the media & social media training company Everything is on the Record — www.everythingisontherecord.com. I am headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

Can share with us what are some of the different tasks and activities you tackle on a weekly basis?

I love working with a variety of clients and colleagues as no two days are the same. One day I may be planning the programming for one of the Sports PR Summit events, another day I may be sitting in a locker or board room conducting a media/social media training and then there are days I am working on communications strategies with my PR firm’s clients.

How did you first develop the concept for Sports PR Summit and how did it come to be?

I developed the concept for the Sports PR Summit New York City in 2013. When I worked in the NBA, I always enjoyed networking and exchanging ideas with my colleagues at the NBA League Meetings. But I yearned for interaction with executives from other leagues, brands and agencies. So out of this need, I came up with the concept for the Sports PR Summit.


We know that PR people spend a lot of time in hotels, so we make it a goal to always hold our events at unique venues — so far we’ve been to the MLB Fan Cave, Sports Illustrated, The Players’ Tribune (our current home in NYC) and Twitter (location of our recent event in San Francisco).

Our Sports PR Summit Social Media Workshop in San Francisco grew out of the need to expand the conversation around social media at our New York City event. We saw the need for an entire day of discussion around social media versus a singular panel discussion, which wasn’t enough. Having our recent San Francisco event hosted at Twitter headquarters was fantastic.

Can you share more with us about the Sports PR Summit that takes place annually and now the Twitter summit?

The Sports PR Summit in New York City takes place each May and the Sports PR Summit Social Media Workshop in San Francisco takes place each July.

Our invite-only events bring together senior PR and social media executives, national media members and athletes for panel discussions, featured conversations and networking. PR people, reporters and athletes have a natural distrust for each other and our event helps bring those groups together so we all have a better understanding of the other’s world. PR and social media executives all face similar challenges as well so bringing the entire sports world together for discussions helps us come up with solutions together.

We work in the communications industry, but we don’t get together face to face enough in my opinion. Once you meet someone face to face, the dynamic of the relationship changes and a closer bond is usually formed.

Anyone who attends one of our event returns as long as their schedule allows. We bring together so many bright and talented people, which makes me very proud.

The Sports PR Summit has an amazing Steering Committee and our members bought into the concept for our events from day one and they have been an important part of spreading the word about our event to colleagues in the PR industry.

What advice do you have for those looking to break into sports business and particularly the public relations profession?

The best nuggets of advise I can offer are these:

– Don’t be afraid to work hard and don’t ever expect that something will be handed to you. I started as an intern making $500 per month with the Portland Trail Blazers. I got people coffee, did grunt work and attended any meeting they’d let me sit in on. People who are hiring want hard workers and proactive thinkers.

– Writing is a vital skill. Whether it’s a press release, a social media post or an event recap, writing is a very important skill in our profession.

– Think like a journalist. When I am not wearing my PR hat, I host Sports Business Radio (www.sportsbusinessradio.com). I receive 20–30 story pitches per day from PR people who are trying to book guests on my show. If I receive a pitch that is catered specifically for me and my show, I am more likely to respond versus a pitch that has little or nothing to do with the topics we discuss on Sports Business Radio. Offer an exclusive experience for each reporter you pitch.

– Have a deep understanding of how to best tell a story and which tools work best to tell that story.

– Be an authentic networker. Don’t just reach out when you need something. Bring something to the table….even if it is volunteering at an event or delivering on a pitch. Once you’ve established a solid connection with a contact, keep in touch with that person and get together in person or via phone every so often.

– Keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, follow through and do it. You’d be surprised how many people find career success just from doing this one simple thing.

How to find me:

On Twitter: @SBRadio, @BrianBergerPR, @SportsPRSummit, @EIOTR

www.sportsprsummit.com, www.everythingisontherecord.com, www.sportsbusinessradio.com

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Kyrie Irving Expected to Sign with Roc Nation

Kyrie Irving is expected to sign with Roc Nation, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

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Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving is expected to sign with Roc Nation, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Irving, who was most recently repped by Jeffrey Wechsler of 24/7 Sports Management, joins an NBA client roster at Roc Nation that includes the likes of Kevin Durant, Josh Hart, Justise Winslow, Danny Green and Caris LeVert.

The switch in representation comes on the same day that Irving took the first step toward his prospective free agency this summer.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Irving is not opting into his $21.3 million contract for the 2019-20 season and will become an unrestricted free agent.

By not opting into his contract, Irving can sign with any NBA team when free agency opens on Sunday, June 30th.

If he signs with a team other than the Celtics, he will be eligible to sign a max deal worth $139 million over four years.

If he were to stay with the Celtics, Irving can sign a five-year deal worth $188 million.

An industry source speculated that Roc Nation could be waiving the fees on Irving’s contract in order to retain his marketing rights.

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Meet the WNBA’s New Boss

Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert will become the first commissioner of the WNBA and the first woman to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

For the first time ever, the WNBA will have a commissioner. Before now, all of the league’s previous leaders like Val Ackerman and Lisa Borders were given the title of president. 

Cathy Engelbert, the current CEO of Deloitte, will take control of the role on July 17th and will report directly to Adam Silver. 

What should you know?

1. By the time she is done at Deloitte, Engelbert will have spent more time at the company (33 years) than the WNBA has been a league (23 years)

2. Engelbert is the first female to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

3. She is the fifth person to lead the league after Val Ackerman (1997-2005), Donna Orender (2005-10), Laurel Richie (2011-15) and Lisa Borders (2016-2018)

4. Engelbert has spent the past four years in charge of Deloitte’s U.S. operation.

Basketball is in her blood…

Although she might be an accountant by trade, Engelbert is no stranger to the game of basketball. 

According to Bob Hille of Sporting News, she played at Lehigh for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw and was a team captain as a senior. Her father Kurt also played and was drafted in 1957 by the Pistons.

What are they saying?

“Cathy is a world-class business leader with a deep connection to women’s basketball, which makes her the ideal person to lead the WNBA into its next phase of growth. The WNBA will benefit significantly from her more than 30 years of business and operational experience including revenue generation, sharp entrepreneurial instincts and proven management abilities.” – Adam Silver on the hiring of Engelbert

“I think that’s probably one of the reasons I was selected for this role, to come in and bring a business plan to build the WNBA into a real business and a thriving business, quite frankly.” – Engelbert to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel

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Adam Silver Wants More Gender Diversity

The NBA commissioner states his desire to get more women into the sports industry. The NBA currently has a 31.6 percent ratio of women in team management.

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Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

If Adam Silver has his way, 50 percent of the new incoming NBA officials will be women.

That number applies to coaches too, Silver said speaking at the Economic Club of Washington.

How do the leagues stack up?

The following numbers, outside of MLB, come from 2018 reports put together by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. MLB is the first league to have a report done on it this year.

1. NBA – 31.6% of team management are women / 37.2% of team professional admins are women

2. NFL – 22.1% of team senior admins are women / 35% of team professional admins are women

3. MLB – 28.6% of team senior admins are women / 26% of team professional admins are women

4. MLS – 26.5% of team senior admins are women / 31.6% of team professional admins are women

5. WNBA – 48.6% of team VPs and above are women / 58% of team managers to senior directors are women

6. NHL – No report done

Quotes from Silver… 

“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing.”

“The goal is going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”

That’s not all Silver wants to see change…

Silver, who has been adamant about getting rid of the one-and-done rule, provided some clarity as to when that might be achieved.

According to the commissioner, the 2022 NBA Draft will likely be the first one since the 2005 NBA Draft to allow high school players to go straight into the league rather than playing a season in college first.

Citing “active discussions” with the NBPA, Silver noted that they are still “a few years away.”

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