EPISODE 027: Monumental’s Patrick Duffy Is a Wizard at Helping Companies Maximize Their Sports Marketing Investment
Patrick Duffy is the senior vice president for global partnerships for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, headquartered in Washington, D.C. Patrick is a graduate of Florida State’s MBA program. He joined Monumental in 2014 and oversees marketing partnerships for all of Monumental Sports’ properties, including the Washington Capitals of the NHL, the Wizards of the NBA, the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, and the AFL’s Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade, as well as the NBA’s e-sports venture, NBA 2K.
In addition to sports properties, Monumental Outdoor and Monumental Sports Network’s Partnership Marketing fall under Patrick’s management. Patrick has a long track record of success throughout the sports industry. Prior to his current role with Monumental, he served in a leadership role with the Tampa Bay Lightning and also with the New York Islanders earlier in his career.
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Patrick Duffy: I grew up as a lifelong sports fan, so I am fortunate enough to be in this industry and really the sales profession as a whole. It has been an absolutely fantastic experience here at Monumental and having grown up in Long Island, New York, and I had spent some time in Florida as you mentioned. I have four little girls, so balancing that with the career in sales and in sports is always a challenge but a lot of fun along the way.
Fred Diamond: Have the girls been on the ice yet with sticks?
Patrick Duffy: They have. Still working to get them up to the level of what we see on a regular basis, but they love coming out to games. They’re very fortunate with the great ownership group here that supports the work-life balance, and being able to get them out to sporting events is a lot of fun. It’s great to see them grow and enjoy what I enjoy as well.
Fred Diamond: You sell things that are fun, but I know in the sports industry it’s sometimes very hard to sell partnerships and tickets when the team isn’t doing as well or hasn’t done well for a while. Of course, it’s always good when the team’s doing really well. But let’s talk about your career. I’m excited to learn a little more about you and some of your evolution and lessons that you learned. Tell us a little more about what you specifically sell today and what excites you about that.
Patrick Duffy: For us, we offer brand engagement through sports and media properties, so it’s a really unique opportunity and an exciting atmosphere. In the landscape of the world today, where I think we really are able to cut across the grain is that live sports has really become one of those few things that you have to consume live. For us, to be able to really engage brands and story-tell during that moment is really impactful, and you really make a measurable impact for folks.
Fred Diamond: Take us back. How did you get into sales as a career?
Patrick Duffy: While I was at Florida State I took an internship with a minor league hockey team in town. I really didn’t realize that sports is a part of the business world and there were opportunities there. I did a little bit of everything from slingshot T-shirts on the ice to literally pick up the Yellow Pages and call companies, or individuals in some instances, to buy tickets to the games. I recognized that I’m really passionate about sports. I’m not fortunate enough to be out on the ice or the court. I don’t have that level of expertise. I then cold-called just about every NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, and NFL team and landed an opportunity with the New York Islanders, which was exciting for me having grown up in Long Island and now having the opportunity as a first job out of college to go back home and work for the team that you grew up admiring.
Fred Diamond: Now you’re working for some of the biggest brands in sports. You’re working for a great ownership team. You’re working for some teams that have a lot of loyalty amongst the fans. But you mentioned you we were working for a minor league team back in Florida. What were some of the key lessons that you learned from some of your first few sales jobs that have carried with you through today?
Patrick Duffy: First and foremost, work ethic is key in the sales space. I think when you look at it, your hustle is controllable. Ticket sales is really a volume-driven business, as is a lot of different sales roles, so that was something I really took to heart. I really just tried to benchmark myself against the rest and really push as hard as I can.
Fred Diamond: You’ve been in sports marketing your whole career. Tell us a little more about what you’re an expert in. Tell us a little bit more about your area of brilliance.
Patrick Duffy: For me, it’s really working with various brands and our team as well. Just getting out in front of various key partners, both prospective and current, and really getting to know their business and listening. A big part of what we do is learning and listening in trying to put together a compelling story of how we can intertwine their brands with ours to really meet their objectives and goals and, at the end of the day, drive the business for them moving forward.
Fred Diamond: Tell us a little more about sports marketing. Do your calls get answered right away because you’re calling from Monumental and you’re representing an exciting group of products? Or do you have to work hard to get in the door? How does the balance work these days?
Patrick Duffy: It’s not a lot of inbound. It’s outbound, so it’s very similar to a lot of other industries. Certainly there is a bit of cachet to the sports industry, but not everybody is a sports fan by any means, so we work with people who are sports fans. At the end of the day I think everybody values a strong audience, so that’s really what we try to focus in on and make sure we can tell a compelling story of what we can deliver. It’s a lot of outbound and heavy effort, but at the end of the day, kind of what is to be expected in the sales space.
Fred Diamond: Another question, going off course here, but a lot of people listening in are going to be sports fans, because if you’re in sales you’re probably competitive and you’re probably following some teams. Is it the sport you’re selling? At the end of the day, what are you selling to the customer? Is it the sport, is it the association? What is the thing that really resonates with your customers that you found in your career in sports marketing?
Patrick Duffy: I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the sport. I mean, it’s certainly part of it, but it’s really the audience. When you’re looking at sports, at sports teams in general, attendees will be coming to a game. Generally you have to have discretionary income to be able to afford tickets, and you’re usually very passionate about the teams and brands, so you certainly want to tap into that. If you’re a brand that’s definitely attractive… I think it’s the audience and the demographics of that audience. That’s what we really try to foster, not necessarily lead with the sport itself. That’s part of the overall experience and what we can deliver but not the core of it, so to say, from a deliverable standpoint.
Fred Diamond: You’ve mentioned your customer a number of times. Who is your customer? Who are you trying primarily to sell to?
Patrick Duffy: We work with just a number of brands across various industries and categories, so we try to align with really great partners whose goals and objectives and values match ours as an organization. We try to be very thoughtful on who we approach in various industries and try to align with those folks and also work with other brands that are really trying to grow along the way. We’re fortunate with a number of properties here, from hockey to basketball to football to women’s sports—lots of different avenues that we can look at and our media property as well, with our digital network and our out-of-home space. So there’s lots of different avenues that we can go with things. It’s great to have a lot of tools in your tool belt.
Fred Diamond: Patrick, you’ve had a nice long career here. Tell us about an impactful sales career mentor and how they impacted your career.
Patrick Duffy: I’ve been fortunate during my career to work with a lot of great people. Here at Monumental, ownership is great, so it really starts at the top and certainly I glean a lot off the vision of the ownership team. Here at Monumental, our team president and I work together every day. Jim Van Stone is fantastic, and every day I learn more and more. In my years in Tampa, head of our team Ron Campbell and Sean Henry in particular were fantastic. Sean’s the CEO at the Nashville Predators now, somebody I keep in contact with on a regular basis, sharing ideas, and just someone I really learned a lot from in my earlier career.
Fred Diamond: Very good. What are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader? You’ve been doing this for probably close to 20-some years. You’ve probably seen things change. What do you think are the two biggest challenges right now as a sales leader?
Patrick Duffy: Proving the metrics is very important. Obviously buyers and partners these days are very sophisticated. I think in the old days of sports, it was just the cachet of being involved with a team that was the big driver. Now you need to have measurable results. Marketers need to prove that the investment they’re putting forth is rewarding and fruitful. For our end, we’ve really drilled in deep on the business intelligence side and grown that end of our business to ensure that we’re driving measurable results for all of our partners out in the world today.
Fred Diamond: Take us back in your career. You’ve had some great successes. Tampa Bay, of course, won the Stanley Cup when you were there. What is the number-one specific sales success or win from your career that you’re most proud of?
Patrick Duffy: Stanley Cup was a heck of a lot of fun. You certainly feel a part of that being within the organization… You certainly felt part of the team, so it helped me get and replicate that here in D.C. with our teams and reach that championship level as well.
Specifically on the sales side, some great experiences were in Tampa, where I wore a lot of different hats during my 10 years there and had some success while I was overseeing ticket sales. We had brought on a really big partner to oversee one of our big entitlement spaces there when it wasn’t really my necessary role. It was more about driving our teams to sell more tickets there. It was nice to step outside your space and show your merit. That’s kind of what further grew my career, really showing that ability to not only do a great job at the role that’s in front of you but also being a team player and driving results for the organization as a whole. In recent times, our new naming-rights partnership with Capital One that you mentioned at the top is phenomenal. It’s something that we’re deep in the process of getting off the ground, and it’s going to have lots of benefits for both partners, which is what you love to see in a true partnership, so we’re excited about that.
Fred Diamond: Another question here from a sales perspective. You were with the Tampa Bay Lightning when they won the Stanley Cup. Was the next year easier or harder as a sales professional?
Patrick Duffy: I think my perspective on that’s different than most. With the Tampa Bay Lightning and us winning in ’04, the next year was a lockout. That was extremely challenging. The upside was we had the Stanley Cup for two years, but at the end of the day that’s a tough thing because it’s out of your hands and out of your control. We were trying to bridge that gap with the uncertainty of when we were going to be back. Is it going to be tomorrow, next week, next year? Ultimately that year was cancelled, and we had to wait until the next year to come. It was a different environment, not normal. But I would say for most, in the normal environment of having a championship success, usually the next year is a fruitful year.
Fred Diamond: I want to ask you a question about that year. As we talk to a lot of these sales game changers, it seems that most people have had a nice straight career. Most people that I’m interviewing have had a great ascension from a great company to a great company to another great company, continued success. But we all know the line of sales success has waves and things like that. Here you are. You’re a sales executive, and all of a sudden you don’t have a product to sell. What did you do that year? What was that year like? You just had the highest of highs. You won the Stanley Cup, the biggest prize in sports. Now there’s a lockout. There’s this trust customer. They don’t know what’s going to happen. Do you mind telling us a little bit what that year was like as a sales professional?
Patrick Duffy: Yes, that year you really had to become a psychologist on top of a salesperson, so to say. It was a lot of just trying to keep up on progress even thought it was drips and drabs and update the group and certainly sell the hope that the season’s going to be right around the corner. It was an evolving process. Certainly a week or two in is not bad. A month, it starts to get a little bit more uncertain, and then once that season finally was cancelled it was pointing to the fact that we’ll be back quickly thereafter.
In Tampa, we were fortunate. We had an Arena Football League team there too, with the Tampa Bay Storm, so we shifted some efforts towards that other product. Revenue lines weren’t certainly as large as what the NHL team was, but it still added some focus towards that to keep everybody busy and bridge the gap a little bit.
Fred Diamond: You’ve worked for some great brands. You’re working for one of the biggest brands in sports and entertainment right now. Did you ever question being in sales? Was there ever a moment where you thought to yourself, “It’s just too hard” or “It’s not for me”?
Patrick Duffy: Not really. What I love about sales is there’s always tomorrow. I’m not one to give up very easily. You’re not going to hit a home run every time along the way, but the way I look at it is, if your effort’s consistent and you’re methodical in your process, you’re going to see those results. You may go through the ups and flows—I think any salesperson does—but let’s keep a positive outlook at the end of the day. I think I’m always optimistic that the next day will be better than today.
Fred Diamond: Patrick has been talking about understanding the brands that you’re trying to sell to and what their initiatives are. He also talked about how the buyer has changed and the fact that you now need metrics. You need data. You need information to prove to them that their investment in your offering, in this case sports and entertainment branding and partnerships, is critical. You have to become more intelligent about providing information to a sophisticated buyer.
Patrick, I want to get some tips from you now for the sales game changers listening to today’s call. What’s the most important thing you want to get across to junior selling professionals to help them improve their career?
Patrick Duffy: I think work ethic is key in the sales space. I think coming in at a junior level you need to out-hustle folks. Certainly that’s controllable. As you out-hustle people you’re certainly going to learn along the way. And then you can start to outsmart people, so I think I’ll hustle out of the gates and then I’ll outsmart people down the line.
Fred Diamond: I have to imagine you have a pretty high-profile position within your organization as the global partnership sales VP. What are some of the things that you do on a daily basis or a weekly basis to keep your saw sharpened?
Patrick Duffy: From my end, I try on a regular basis to talk to other counterparts across the industry, gleaning ideas from other folks. We are fortunate in the sports leagues to have a number of people in other cities throughout the country, so certainly I have a close group of folks there that I’ll bounce ideas off and hear their perspective as well in regards to what they may be experiencing. Also attending a number of key sales conferences, whether industry specific or not industry specific, to try to get out as much as possible amidst our normal schedule here to make sure we’re keeping everything sharp.
Fred Diamond: What’s a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Patrick Duffy: For us, it’s continually looking at how do we advance the ball and staying out in front of the game. We have been fortunate as an organization, even in my three-plus years, that we’ve grown a lot here. When I arrived it was just the Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics. Since then, we’ve added two arena football teams because we love arena football so much and we wanted to double down, so we added a team here at Washington that plays at Capital One Arena, the Washington Valor, and we added the Baltimore Brigade, who plays out of Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, so very exciting there.
We expanded into the e-sports space with NBA 2K. We’ll have our own franchise that’ll play in an e-sports platform, so very unique, very interesting. That’s the space that’s ever-expanding and growing at just a tremendously rapid rate—a different demographic there too, which is exciting. Our out-of-home business has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, so that’s something we’re continuing to grow. That’s just a little bit more transactional in nature, where you’re looking at eyeballs and what that’s generating—a little bit different than what we do on the sports-properties side.
And then, another area that we’ve grown on the media space is our Monumental Sports Network. We’re the first team in sports to launch into an OTT platform from a regional perspective. It’s been tremendously successful, and we’re really trying to drive a lot of partners through that space. We are focusing on our Caps, Wizards, Mystics arena football products but also youth sports and high school space, so really growing that reach and hitting another level there as well. The way that we’ve tried to stay out in front of things is “What’s that next step?” We’re not risk-averse, and we want to get involved in things and be out in front of the curve.
Fred Diamond: Patrick, sales is hard. People don’t return your calls or your emails. They have a lot of options. Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career that keeps you going?
Patrick Duffy: I look at sales and the space that we’re in, every day is a new day. You’re working on a million things. You don’t know the next door that’s going to open for you. That’s exciting. It’s exciting to see partnerships that you launch, to see the things come to fruition that you hoped would, so really working hard to make sure that that’s accomplished is exciting. What I really love about this space is it’s not stagnant. It’s not doing the same thing every day. It’s a new thing every day, and there’s always room for growth which is exciting.
Fred Diamond: Give us one final thought to share with the sales game changers listening in to help them take their career to next level.
Patrick Duffy: Something I truly believe in is if you can align your passion with your profession, that will truly set you out for success. I have been fortunate enough that I’ve been able to do that. But no matter what industry you’re in, if you can really home in on something you’re personally engaged with, I think that’s something that can really add that extra twist to make it even more exciting and probably up a level and percentage of success. It’s something that I certainly keep focused on, and I’m fortunate to be in the space that I’m in.