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Professional Development

From the Halfpipe to the Boardroom: How Brittany Gilman Has Built an Agency From the Ground Up

Brittany Gilman’s journey from professional snowboarder to international entrepreneur has been anything but linear. 

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Brittany Gilman has taken what she learned on the field to succeed off of it. (Photo via Brittany Gilman)

 

Ever present on social media and always one to engage with her followers, Brittany Gilman filled her timeline on January 1, 2018, with a series of inspirational quotes, images, and well wishes directed towards her followers.

As someone who follows Brittany for updates on her company, BG Sports Enterprises, I was fortunate enough to come across those new year affirmations myself, during one of my daily Instagram scrolls. Yet, out of all the sentiments Gilman posted, there was one that stuck out to me, because I felt like it accurately, succinctly and eloquently summed up Gilman’s career in the sports and entertainment industry:

“Everything that you have gone through in your life, has prepared you for what is to come.”

Everything Gilman has gone through thus far in her life, a successful professional snowboarding career, a tenure as a Strength & Conditioning Coach at USC and Auburn, a Bachelor’s of Kinesiology and a Master’s of Biomechanics, a stint as a professional fitness model and about five or six other life-altering experiences has prepared her for the life that she’s currently living.

“I was always a multiple sport athlete. I ended up choosing snowboarding because it was more fun to me than any of the other sports. I have been an athlete my entire life. I come from an athletic family and a very driven family. At a young age, I had something in me that I couldn’t really describe and it was that drive that had me start snowboarding professionally when I was 17.”

During her snowboarding career, Gilman had to split her time and was essentially living two separate lives. On one hand, she was traveling all over the world as a member of the junior Olympic snowboarding team while on the other hand, she was pursuing a very intense Kinesiology Degree at the University of Colorado Boulder.

According to Gilman, the constant back and forth between school and snowboarding didn’t provide her with the opportunity to develop into the athlete she knew she could be. So when she was done with college, Gilman made the decision to snowboard full-time and moved to Mammoth Lakes, CA in pursuit of that dream.

However, Gilman’s life in Mammoth was not the life she had imagined. Upon her arrival in California, she switched sponsors and obtained an injury that drained her both personally and professionally. Wanting to take a break, Gilman realized that it was time to adjust her sails and move in a different direction.

As a result, Brittany took an opportunity to serve as an intern on the football strength and conditioning staff at the University of Southern California. That opportunity led her to Auburn, where she served as a strength and conditioning coach for a year, while she got her Master’s in Biomechanics. Gilman stayed at Auburn for a year before she decided to move back to California to pursue an internship opportunity with a sports marketing agency in the city. However, that opportunity wasn’t quite what Gilman had imagined for herself.

“The agency told me that they didn’t have work for me to do but if I wanted to show up and hang out in the office I could. I knew that there were better ways for me to use my time so I started brainstorming and that brainstorming lead me to start my own sports marketing agency in 2007.”

Although the opportunity to branch out on her own was exciting, Gilman admits that it wasn’t easy. So much so, that she even worked for free for the first three years of being in business.

“I would work with guys and assist with their marketing plans, but the guys I worked with at the time weren’t huge names so I couldn’t make a living off of that alone. As a result, I supplemented that work with different types of strength and conditioning / personal training jobs to get me through until I could sustain my life with my business alone. And now, here I am.”

Stacy Elliott, Brittany Gilman and Ezekiel Elliott at the ESPY Awards (Photo via Brittany Gilman)

And where Gilman is at now, is a fearless entrepreneur and the owner of a successful international sports marketing, PR and management agency, BG Sports Enterprises. The majority of BG Sports clients are NFL and Football (soccer) athletes; however, they cater to all sports, including NBA, MLB, boxing, track and field, and of course snowboarding. They also offer brand consulting to various companies as well.

Gilman sees her experience and unique approach as an advantage for her clients because unlike larger firms, BG Sports is able to provide its clients with the individualized attention that’s required to create ideal marketing strategies.

“We have a menu of services that we provide our clients and depending on our client’s objectives and needs, they pick and choose bits and pieces of the services we have in in our repertoire for their use.”

Brittany Gilman and Stacy Elliott at the NFL 2016 Draft (Photo via Brittany Gilman)

“I have been splitting my time between Los Angeles and London, 60/40, for the last year and a half. Prior to that, I made several trips to the UK and other places throughout Europe. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time expanding my network, learning different cultures, exploring different industries and creating meaningful relationships. All of those relationships were developed with a lot of hard work.

The services that we implement most for our international clients are digital branding, digital monetization, international PR and brand development. These have come to fruition because of BG Sports’ dedication to providing continuous value and empowering our clients to live out their dreams.”

Up until a year and a half ago, Gilman’s company focused primarily on American Football players. However, she has now begun to turn her attention to the soccer players in the UK and has been employing innovative cross-marketing techniques to connect her NFL and NFL UK players.

“Last spring, we worked with the NFL UK and had Jarvis Landry come over and then we did a lot of stuff with the NFL UK. We visited Tottenham Football Club as well as Liverpool Football Club, and attended several other sporting events. Being able to work with the NFL UK has been quite the blessing. ”

This duality, between football and American football, has served Gilman well. She has been spending most of her time overseas and through her continued grace, resilience and some old-fashioned hard work, her clients and her company are starting to see the impact.

“We are growing really quickly as a company, which is quite the blessing. You can put a strategy in your head and think “this is what’s going to happen” with the company but rarely does it ever end up going in that way. But, in the interim, you have to be flexible and roll with the waves. And now the international component is growing very quickly and there’s so much opportunity there.”

And it’s that opportunity, coupled with her passion and her desire to give back and help empower athletes to lead their best lives and accomplish their dreams (both on and off the field), that keeps Gilman and her company moving forward.

“I see so many athletes that don’t have the ability to embrace and capitalize on the power and the potential that they have on and off the field. What really inspires and drives me is that I have the ability to educate them and give them the tools they can utilize for the rest of their lives.”

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

Chloe is a former DI Women's Basketball player turned entrepreneur, writer, advocate and Chicago Tribune Red Eye "Big Idea" Award Winner. She's also the Founder and CEO of Elle Grace Consulting, LLC, an athletics consulting firm that helps prepare ALL athletes for lives of thoughtful leadership and meaningful service beyond athletics. You can connect with Chloe at chloe@ellegraceconsulting.com.

Professional Development

Chicago Blackhawks Partner with Business Operations ‘Incubator’ to Provide Development Opportunities for Employees

The hockey MBA program focuses on professional development and seeks more NHL partnerships to help boost the economic results of professional organizations.

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The Business of Hockey Institute continues to establish itself as a premier organization for professional development in the sport.

The BHI recently announced a partnership with the Chicago Blackhawks, which includes a designated number of class registrations for Blackhawk employees within the institute’s curriculum.

Founded in 2015, the BHI partnered with Edmonton’s Athabasca University to offer the first MBA in hockey management as well as the standalone Certified Hockey Professional education program.

“The CHP is designed to be the ideal professional development program for business employees in hockey organizations,” said Brian Burke, BHI co-founder. “It would definitely benefit a lot of people working for NHL franchises. We are proud to have the Chicago Blackhawks as our first academic partner and look forward to working with their valued employees.”

SEE MORE: William Hill and Devils Bring Sports Lounge to the Prudential Center

The organization also awards honorary CHPs to established hockey executives, including the first presented to Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough.

“We approached Mr. McDonough with a proposal to provide professional development opportunities to their employees and he was on board with it,” BHI Managing Director Manav Deol said.

The Blackhawks partnership has broadened the institute’s mission to include more professional development, and BHI intends on seeking out more NHL partnerships, Deol said. There’s also hope Blackhawks employees will impart peer-to-peer real-world experience and knowledge to other BHI students, as well as networking opportunities.

“BHI continues to innovate and grow the business side of hockey by providing professional development opportunities for those that are both currently working in hockey and those who strive to join this competitive industry,” McDonough said.

Students and hockey professionals alike can enroll in the CHP (for CAD $50,000) or take part in the entire MBA in hockey management (for CAD $80,000). Terms of the Blackhawks partnership were not disclosed.

SEE MORE: How the Golden Knights Landed Their Sportsbook Partnership With William Hill

“The costs can be flexible, depending on if a team enrolls an employee or employees enrolls on their own,” Deol said.

In Canada, hockey organization employees enrolled by teams can see the costs reduced to a third, thanks to the Canada Job Grant program. The BHI also offers scholarships starting at $5,000.

Courses at the BHI include Business of Hockey, Marketing Hockey Strategically, Integrated Marketing Communications for Hockey, Game Day Management & Marketing, Managing Franchises Strategically, and Hockey Operations. The courses are taught by sports management academics from universities across North America.

While most of the courses focus on the business side of hockey, Deol said it is important for many hockey organization employees to hold a foundational understanding of what goes on in hockey operations.

SEE MORE: Executive Buy-In Helps Propel Dallas Stars’ Digital Strategy 

Burke and Ritch Winter, a player agent, started BHI when they realized few sports management programs across the continent focused exclusively on hockey.

“We want to be the organization that the best hockey teams in the world come to train their business employees,” Deol said. “We also want to be the incubator that teams look to when they are searching for qualified candidates to join their business operations.”

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Professional Development

Former NBA Training Coach Making Difference in the Business World

Alan Stein Jr. is proof that basketball and business are very similar.

Aaron Blake

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If you have ever thought about transitioning career paths, you are not the only one.

Alan Stein Jr. spent nearly 20 years as a professional basketball performance coach before deciding to enter into the corporate world. Now, instead of helping world-class athletes improve their performance, Stein helps corporate leaders and individuals improve their collective and individual performances.

In basketball, Stein worked with highly magnified NBA superstars like Kevin Durant, Victor Oladipo and Markelle Fultz when they were in high school and events with Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, and LeBron James. Now he works with clients like American Express and Pepsi.

Stein believes the tenants of achieving success in sports and business are vastly similar, thus allowing him to position himself as an expert in a new industry.

As a corporate keynote speaker, Stein now dedicates his time to instilling organizational performance, cohesion, and accountability, per his dominating interests.

“I found myself studying, observing and learning everything I could on leadership, team cohesion, culture and accountability since those were the topics that consumed me,” Stein said. As he was approaching burnout in his basketball career, Stein knew if he was not 100 percent committed as a coach should be, then he needed to develop a new passion.

“Making a pivot from on-court basketball performance to corporate leadership, sales and organizational performance was a seamless transition,” said Stein.

SEE MORE: Athlete Brand Building and Its Importance 

The two careers are very similar in that Stein takes fundamentals from basketball and meshes them with the business world, leaving positivity and results in the wake.

Varsity Partners Principal Tim Rebich has worked with Stein in the past in branding. Rebich knows Stein’s passion and excitement can inspire any audience, and his success pays to it. When transitioning careers like Stein, Rebich puts it simply: “The personal brand needs to always be consistent, while the audience changes.”

As much as inspiration is important, Rebich knows perception is just as important.

“As humans, we make assumptions based on first impressions. It is important to align these assumptions with your brand vision,” said Rebich.

Leadership, according to Stein, is a choice and not a title — a choice everyone makes in an organization.

“Everyone has the choice to intentionally have a positive influence over someone else,” said Stein. “I now take the lessons I’ve learned and translate those into actionable strategies for businesses to implement.”

SEE MORE: Former NFL Star’s Players Philanthropy Fund Is Bigger Than Sports

By educating, empowering and engaging with his clients, Stein is able to facilitate a “game plan” as he calls it to lead others

“He provides a realistic look into teamwork and different mindsets that allow you to grow not only as a professional but as a person,” said Rebich.

Through his performance measuring metrics, analytics, and praise-filled testimonials, this new career gleans of immediate success, but Stein knows building brand recognition in a new industry was the biggest challenge.

“I went from a space where I was fairly well known and respected to a space where I was virtually unknown,” said Stein. “But nearly every skill set and intangible quality I learned through basketball is applicable in business.”

Coaches, CEOs and managers, players and colleagues, and teams and organizations all share the same traits and Stein treats these roles similarly.

SEE MORE: Personal Branding Tips for Sports Business Professionals 

Stein knows he has found a unique niche in the business world carrying learned skills and attributes from sports to deadlines, sales, and organizations, all while espousing wisdom.

“Companies that have authentic cohesion, vertical and horizontal accountability, and an unparalleled culture will outperform those that don’t,” said Stein. “This will not only result in higher profits, but a more fulfilling workplace, higher satisfaction, and lower attrition.”

If anything, Stein is actually still a performance coach, engaging a different audience, but still bringing out professional performance qualities in today’s business and innovation leaders.

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Professional Development

Athlete Brand Building and Its Importance

When it comes to building an athlete’s brand, the CEO of Firestarter wants athletes to know it’s about sticking to their laurels and who they are.

Blake Yagman

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Your reputation is the basis for your brand. Your brand is how your reputation is projected to the world.

With respect to athletes, how they brand themselves is imperative to the individual’s overall success; it helps them convince their current — and future — employer(s) that they are a good fit for the organization. Meanwhile, it also persuades potential endorsers that the athlete is a great spokesperson for their product, and it allows them to create enough public goodwill to start and maintain their own philanthropic organizations.

Frances Reimers, the founder and CEO of Firestarter, helps athletes, coaches, and executives develop, manage, enhance, and protect their key professional asset: their personal brands. Firestarter, which is a personal consultancy located in Alexandria, Virginia, also provides integrated marketing services, crisis communications, and public relations consulting, analysis, and strategy, in addition to day-to-day brand management for clients such as former Ravens kicker Matt Stover and his Players Philanthropy Fund.

SEE MORE: Former NFL Star’s Players Philanthropy Fund Is Bigger Than Sports

Reimers has eclectic experience, which helps her to navigate any kind of public relations or marketing challenges. Prior to launching Firestarter in 2016, Reimers spent more than 15 years leading integrated marketing and public relations campaigns around the world for many corporate, non-profit, and government clients.

So, what goes into building a brand? Some of the key questions that Reimers offers when evaluating or constructing a brand include:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they need from you?
  • Where do they need to hear from you?
  • What kind of corporate sponsors are you trying to engage?
  • What type of person are these corporations looking for?
  • What charities, companies or products do you plan to launch in the future?
  • What kind of paid, earned, owned or shared media will help support these objectives?

“Above all else, your brand narrative needs to be authentic. This term is becoming slightly cliché, but it’s importance can’t be overestimated.”

Additionally, Reimers stressed:

“Authenticity is vital for two fundamental reasons. One, athletes want to ensure that the persona that appears online, in advertising, etc. is the person they are in real life. Few things kill a brand faster than the discovery that it’s not genuine. Two, remaining authentic allows for differentiation. In the crowded sea of successful professional and amateur athletes, the development of presenting your authentic self helps an athlete find a way to stand out.”

How important is brand strategy to an athlete?

“You don’t play a game without a plan. Managing your brand is no different. Regardless of whether you’re deploying your content through individual social media platforms or using an all-inclusive platform, there has to be an objective before a single piece of content is created.”

SEE MORE: Carolina Hurricanes Put Local Emphasis on New Marketing Initiatives

When it comes to athletes who want to manage their own brand, Reimers advised sitting down with a professional or attending a training session to learn some basic tips and tricks or to get assistance on how best to draft their personal narrative and build a long-term strategy.

Just like with legal and financial matters, there are times when it’s best to leave a person’s brand creation and development in the hands of a professional.

At the end of the day, “an athlete’s brand isn’t and shouldn’t work in isolation,” Reimers said. “It should always remain top-of-mind as the athlete makes any career, legal, family, business, philanthropic, or financial decisions. Ideally, I enjoy being considered an integral part of an athlete’s entire support system, along with his or her spouse, agent, attorney, etc. When everyone is working in concert, the athlete truly derives the most benefit.”

Everyone – not just athletes – should consider the advice that Reimers gives on personal branding.

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