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Diversity in Sports Interview Series: Martin Graham (MSA '13)

Tuesday, February 23 2016 10:13am

Martin Graham, Premium Sales Account Executive with the Orlando Magic, talks about his experience in sports and how diversity impacts the workplace.

Q & A by Francesco Marini ('17)

Martin GrahamCould you describe your career since your graduation from the MSA class of 2013? 

It started with my Graduate Assistantship with ESPN Wide World of Sports during my second year at OHIO. I took care of market research projects for the Business Development department.  

That opportunity opened the door for a professional intern position at the Disney Institute, helping sports organizations develop a better experience for their customers by implementing Disney’s best practices. After a year I became a full time account coordinator, responsible for sales and service within the professional sports market, including16 NBA teams.

With the aim of getting closer to corporate sales, I accepted a position in premium sales with the Orlando Magic. I have been with them for almost a year, establishing new premium partnerships with companies interested in expanding their reach in Central Florida.

 

For students looking to break into the sports industry, what skills help differentiate a candidate in the hiring process?

I believe that hard skills are not always the key differentiator. As an employer, my attention would focus on personality traits, including openness, willingness to learn, empathy, and positive attitude, to name just a few. If you possess these traits and attitude, you can always learn and build a unique skill set to be successful within any role.

 

What does diversity mean to you and why do you think it’s important in the workplace?

Diversity has opened a number of doors for me from my educational years through the early stages of my professional career. In fact, most of the people and institutions that I have been associated value minority status as an advantage to opening doors, rather than the disadvantage that it may have been more commonly seen as in the past. Now it is a matter of continuing to make that principle more widespread.

Regarding diversity in the workplace; America, and the communities we live in are continually becoming more diverse, and I think it is important for our workplaces to reflect that. The added value that diversity brings to the workplace is in the various perspectives it grants.

For example, our fans here in Orlando come from every sort of background and from different ethnicities. In order to communicate effectively and tailor our product to them, we need that type of diversity among our own staff members.

 

Are there any particular instances when diversity had a direct impact on your company being able to do good work?

Last year Orlando broke the record for number of visitors in a year: 64+ million tourists. That amount of visitors provides revenue opportunities through single game and group tickets. In order to take advantage of this and effectively market our entertainment, we need a diverse Tourism staff that is familiar with the various cultures and values of those visitors.  

Being involved in Diversity Council during your time at Ohio University, what do you hope to see from the program in the future in terms of diversity?

At the time when I was part of the council we were still trying to identify the council’s mission. Did we want to increase the number of diverse applicants or have a larger number of diverse students admitted? Or did we want to unify diverse alumni to open different opportunities in the future?

Now that the council has been operating for a few years, I would like to see it build a network that has consistent communication among its members and opens up opportunities for the diverse students in the program for the years ahead.

 

How was your personal experience being a student in the Ohio Sports Ad program? Do you have a favorite memory of your time in Athens?

The most beneficial experience on the academic side was the opportunity to access the invaluable alumni network. Be it through projects or just to seek advice, the alumni network is a great opportunity to grow. The opportunity to work on real-world projects for alumni allows us to understand how sports leaders think and how the business truly works.

One the personal side, my favorite memories of Athens would be the Sundays spent with my classmates at Courtside watching the NFL throughout the day in between group meetings and projects. It was a great way to bond with friends whom I still am in contact with on a daily basis.

 

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students in the program?

Connect with as many alumni as you can, whether it’s for projects or just to reach out and know more about their professional experience. Find reasons to connect. When you come out you realize that the OU network makes a difference, but that network really is only as strong as you make it.

Genuinely staying in touch is going to help both parties from a personal as well as professional standpoint. As you progress through your career, take time to retain connections; the sport business revolves around them.

 

Follow Martin on Twitter at @MartinGraham_