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Rising 25

Meet the Rising 25: Justin Warden of Ader

The Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Ader knew he was destined for a career in gaming and esports at a young age.

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The Rising 25 class of 2019, presented by AB InBev, represents some of the brightest young professionals in the sports industry. Over the next several weeks, we’re proud to introduce you to this year’s winners and highlight some of their achievements to date.

Today, meet Justin Warden: Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Ader. Growing up in Marin County, California, Warden discovered a love of gaming and esports at a young age. This instilled a desire to find a career within the gaming industry.

READ MORE:  Meet the Rising 25: Jack Kelly of CAA and the Premier Lacrosse League

“I played ‘Starcraft II’ and hit masters on a really crummy laptop that would crash or freeze three times a match, but I still was able to do it because I was really competitive,” he recalls. “That’s when I realized I wanted it to be in the ecosystem.”

Warden carried that love of gaming and the unique competitive playing field esports provides through college.

“I decided to go into esports because it offers a way to compete that truly levels the field. I wanted a place where anyone can compete regardless of physical attributes.”

Warden founded Ader, an influencer network and agency with a gaming focus, in 2014. For accruing more than $7 million in revenue, Warden was recently named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for gaming. Warden credits much of his success to the team he has built within Ader. He advises other young professionals to learn from this and surround themselves with a quality team.

“Find the right people. I got really lucky. My team is phenomenal. The reason people struggle early in their careers is that they can’t find the right people. Surround yourself with people who actually want to succeed and see you succeed.”

Working in esports, Warden can attest that any preconceived notions of esports being for the lazy or faint of heart are incorrect. The industry is getting more and more competitive by the day and doesn’t slow down for those who can’t keep up.

“I think people perceive it to be an easy life. It’s not just playing video games all day. They think that these people stream a few hours a day and they’re making millions,” he states. “The truth is that whether you’re a competitor, content creator, or a manager, you should be working your tail off every day. Lazy people are being pushed out of the industry and the ones that are coming up are the ones that are working 12-hour days. It’s not easy.”

READ MORE:  Meet The Rising 25: Josh Keiles of The National Sports Forum

After seeing the benefits of working hard, Warden embraces the grind of being an entrepreneur and where it has gotten him. Other young entrepreneurs would be wise to follow that example.

“It can be really exhausting to think about the entrepreneurship life and the 60-80 hour weeks you put in,” he says. “But when people see you working hard, they want to back you. They’re much more likely to support you than if you were just doing the traditional nine to five grind. I wish I’d had that kind of insight when I was younger.”

Meet the full class of 2019 here.

Rising 25

Meet The Rising 25: Nick Carey of Bespoke Sports & Entertainment

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The Rising 25 Class of 2019, presented by AB InBev, represents some of the brightest young professionals in the sports industry. Over the next several weeks, we’re proud to introduce you to this year’s winners and highlight some of their achievements to date.

Today, meet Nick Carey: account coordinator at Bespoke Sports & Entertainment. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Carey originally arrived in Ann Arbor to pursue a business degree, but made the switch to sports management to pursue his passion.

READ MORE: Meet The Rising 25: Melissa Darusz of Hard Rock Stadium

During his sophomore year at Michigan, Carey was approached to work as a brand ambassador for the launch of FS1’s college football coverage, specifically Michigan’s season opener that season against the University of Utah. His primary task: dress like head coach Jim Harbaugh and travel across the country doing appearances for three weeks. This was Carey introduction to the world of sports business.

“I love Michigan and I wanted to get more involved in sports business,” Carey says remembering this role. “I had an amazing time and learned a lot about the industry on the agency side, the brand side, and the media side all a really robust, three week, immersive experience. Coming out of that trip I knew this is definitely what I want to do and exactly why I was interested in this in the first place.”

Carey interned with Bespoke during his undergraduate days before joining the company full-time in 2017. He believes he is currently doing some of his best work with the company.

“We focused on building a full-service integrated marketing platform with Navy Federal Credit Union,” he says. “That ranged from onsite activation at partner schools to assisting our leadership with, planning out the integrated media. We also did a scholarship program as part of that focusing on ROTC units. Getting to work with those folks on such a robust platform at such a young age is probably the highlight of my career thus far.”

Being a part of several smaller-scale teams and projects has taught Carey a valuable lesson: do not underestimate the value that can come from hands-on experience.

READ MORE: Meet the Rising 25: Miles Cahill of the LA Clippers

“If I went back to when I first was in that sport management class, probably 90% of people said they wanted to be a GM for a big team or work for a major agency,” Carey states. “I’ve learned from direct experience that working with a smaller agency where can I get a lot of exposure to a ton of stuff that I feel like I would miss out on if I had gone to one of those mega agencies or a large team right away.”

Carey has been successful up to this point in his career because of his ability to build strong relationships with those in his network. His advice to aspiring sports professionals is to find a similar ability within themselves.

“Follow your passion for sports business, but make sure that you are connecting with others in the space and dedicate time to networking,” he says. “The only way to get good at networking is to practice. My best advice would be to network, network, network because whether you’re selling or not, those kind of interpersonal skills are invaluable.”

Meet the full class of 2019 here.

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Rising 25

Meet The Rising 25: Melissa Darusz of Hard Rock Stadium

Going outside of her professional comfort zone helped the Calvin College grad land a role in special events at the home of the Miami Dolphins.

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The Rising 25 Class of 2019, presented by AB InBev, represents some of the brightest young professionals in the sports industry. Over the next several weeks, we’re proud to introduce you to this year’s winners and highlight some of their achievements to date.

Today, meet Melissa Darusz: account manager for special events with the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. A graduate of Calvin College in Michigan, Darusz realized the validity of pursuing a career in sports after a conversation with her father during high school. The two considered what subjects she had a great deal of passion for and the answer became obvious.

“Sports made me the person that I am today,” Darusz recalls. “So being able to give that back to people and giving that amount of happiness and passing it forward really pushed me to get into the industry and from there I definitely haven’t looked back.”

Darusz graduated from Calvin College in 2015 after founding the school’s sports management club. She then began working with the Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami shortly after graduation in June of that year. Darusz has worked several different positions on the sales, membership, and business development side for the Dolphins but assumed her current role in late 2017. As account manager for special events, Darusz and her team rent out parts of Hard Rock Stadium for events like conferences and conventions. She recently completed her biggest sale to date for a three-day conference that came out to a $1.5 million sale. She describes this as one of her proudest professional accomplishments.

Throughout her career, Darusz has found that going out of her comfort zone to be a useful practice. It has helped her acclimate and thrive in new surroundings up to this point.

“Reach out and network with people that were already in the industry,” she adds. “When I was in college I was consistently trying to learn from people and trying to get to the next level. At first it was uncomfortable and awkward when I was 19 or 20. But being able to get all these pieces of advice helped me to continue to grow, continue to learn and engage with some of the people throughout the industry. Always be looking for ways to push it to the next level.”

Taking this initiative to reach out to those who could provide valuable insight or experience is one of Darusz’s most important pieces of advice to young professionals just beginning their career in sports.

“Many people within our industry I think have gotten to the point of where they are because of people that have mentored them and were willing to help the next generation. So go on Linkedin and you message someone that might potentially have that dream job that you’re looking for. Talk to them or even job shadow them to get some real hands on experience. I think that’s the best way to get into the sports industry get to the point where you want to be.”

Meet the full class of 2019 here.

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Rising 25

Meet the Rising 25: Miles Cahill of the LA Clippers

A graduate of the University of Arizona, Cahill quickly found his footing in the sports partnership space with IMG College and later in the NBA.

Front Office Sports

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The Rising 25 Class of 2019, presented by AB InBev, represents some of the brightest young professionals in the sports industry. Over the next several weeks, we’re proud to introduce you to this year’s winners and highlight some of their achievements to date.

Today, meet Miles Cahill: Partnership Marketing Coordinator with the NBA’s LA Clippers. A graduate of the University of Arizona, Cahill received his introduction to the business side of sports during his time as a student in Tucson.

“When I was in college I knew I had to get as heavily involved within Arizona Athletics as possible. I found out about a club on campus called the Sports Marketing Association (SMA) and absolutely fell in love with it. To this day, I think this is essentially how my career in sports took off. I began volunteering at sporting events through SMA as much as I possibly could and wound up receiving my first internship stint with IMG College at the University of Arizona. In this position, I was able to do partnership activation there as a property assistant,” Cahill says. “I loved the balance of game day operations as well as the business relations side, in making sure partners and clients are happy with the partnership and their investment into an athletic program or team/league/association.”

After a year of working with IMG College, Cahill decided to continue working with the company for an additional year and a half as his love for sports business really set in.

“I was able to learn how to truly connect genuine brand synergy and understand just how much can go through a partnership agreement, whether it be media, social/digital, community events, permanent or static LED signage, and more. When I started the role, I always assumed it was providing unparalleled client service on the hospitality and promotional-based front but the opportunities expand farther than that… even everything that goes into prospecting and follow-ups on the sales side,” he says. “But ultimately, when I was fulfilling my day-to-day responsibilities on the activation side was when I knew I found something I could not only be passionate about, but also thrive in.”

Cahill also worked game operations for the Tucson Roadrunners as well as serving as an academic mentor and sports nutritionist intern during his time at Arizona. However, he found himself coming back to partnerships a few months after graduation. Cahill describes getting his degree from UofA and becoming a first-generation graduate on his mother’s side of the family as one of his proudest professional accomplishments.

“Graduating from college was a big stepping stone for me,” he recalls, “but more on the professional side, getting an opportunity to work for an NBA team has always been my dream. Particularly doing it in partnership activation was a double win because I knew all the work I put in to get to this point had finally paid dividends.”

Cahill started with the Clippers in September of 2017 where he has achieved success coordinating the relationships between the organization and its sponsors. Through advancing up the sports business ladder, Cahill has learned several important things about this process that other young professionals can learn from.

“One of the biggest misconceptions in my eyes is that sports experience by itself will guarantee you a job after graduation,” Cahill states. “I learned it’s also heavily based on your network and how you perform in your job. Just the fact that you held a position does not tell the full story in regards to performance. Be on time, always give it one hundred and ten percent and do all the right things at your job. Not only that, continue to expand your portfolio and further develop those relationships that you have with people. You never know when a new opportunity could arise that could be a superior fit for you and that relationship you have fostered comes around full circle.”

Cahill’s other piece of advice to young sports professionals for achieving similar success is finding ways to stand out amongst the masses.

“I think the strongest advice I’ve ever gotten was the importance of cultivating and further developing relationships in unique and personal matters. One way I like to do that is with handwritten notes. It’s something that I did throughout my last two years of college and have continued up to this point in my career. It allowed me to get my first professional job out of college. Do things that other people won’t do or find ways that can make you really stand out from the people that you’re battling against for a job.”

Meet the full class of 2019 here.

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