|David Gross- Commissioner, Major League Lacrosse|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 25 May 2012 13:07
David Gross is the Commissioner of Major League Lacrosse.
David enters his ninth season at the helm of MLL in 2012. Prior to becoming the league’s first-ever Commissioner, he was the Vice President and General Manager of the Boston Cannons for three years. During his tenure, David has created a truly national footprint for the league.
David has launched MLL into the national spotlight through major television deals with ESPN and CBS Sports Network, in addition to many syndicated stations throughout the country.
He has also driven the growth of MLL by adding sponsors and licensees like Ford, POWERADE, Fathead, Tequila Avion, Brine and Skinit to MLL’s stable of corporate partners, while also receiving stronger commitments from longtime sponsors like Bud Light, New Balance, Warrior and Cascade.
David has also spearheaded the league’s expansion initiatives, announcing expansion plans that will bring Major League Lacrosse to a total of 16 teams before the end of this decade.
By Ismail Uddin
What does your role entail?
As Commissioner I get to have my hands in all aspects of our business. We have a very dedicated and solid group in the league office, the team level and our players and it is my responsibility to help each group maximize their potential. Laying out, articulating and executing a clear vision and direction is an important part of building the league.
What is Major League Lacrosse doing to harness the rapid popularity of college lacrosse?
We believe that the MLL has helped increase the popularity of the sport at all levels and it is important for all groups in lacrosse to feed off of each other. With over 50 college games on TV now, by moving our college draft to January (right before the players’ senior year) we’ve been able to make the MLL part of the conversation during each broadcast. When a drafted player scores, the college announcer usually makes reference to what MLL team selected him. Most articles written about college also make reference to a player’s future pro team. All of this helps drive the connection from college to pro.
What would you consider to be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of running the MLL?
We have such an incredible product. Those that come to games have a great time, but building a loyal and consistent fan base of ticket buyers has been our biggest and most frustrating challenge. We’re finally starting to see the growth that we need.
This might sound corny, but everything, including the challenges are incredibly rewarding. We are creating something from the ground up. Everyday there are roadblocks that we need to navigate around. You can feel that we are gaining momentum. We know it’s not a question of if, but when as it relates to our breaking through. This has truly been an endeavor that each day when I wake up I can’t wait to get at it again.
What has your years as MLL commissioner taught you about the business?
Working at the MLL has been an incredible education. I’ve been fortunate to have been exposed to all aspects of managing a business. Early on I was forced to learn on the fly and have obviously made my fair share of mistakes in going through that learning process. I think I’ve grown quite a bit over the past nine years, especially in my ability to understand what each stakeholder is looking for. I think I’ve learned to have patience, where I know I didn’t have that before.
Considering the unfavourable economic climate, do you feel you have to be a bit more imaginative when attracting supporters to a lacrosse match?
As I stated before building that consistent and loyal ticket buyer has been our biggest challenge, but I don’t think the economy has anything to do with it. Our tickets are priced to be very family friendly with an average ticket price of only $15. Where we’ve had to be creative is how to get our message out working on a limited budget. We produce and deliver a great deal of content a price that amazes people. We don’t have the ability to just throw money at a problem, so being imaginative in our approach is vital.
What social media strategies does the organization adopt?
Aly Morrissey, who runs our marketing at the league, has done a terrific job using social media to engage and increase our fan base. By getting fans to interact with us via Facebook, twitter and the other avenues we have witnessed growth amongst all of our revenue streams. Our fan base is fairly young and lives online. Communicating with them, where they want to receive and be part of the message has paid dividends. While we use a lot of our social media to push content and information, our greatest success is when we can get a dialog going with our fans.
You recently announced a new title sponsor for the All-Star game. What do you hope this new partnership will achieve?
We couldn’t be more excited to have Moe’s Southwest Grill on board as our presenting sponsor for the 2012 All Star Game. It is our hope that this will be the first step in a long term mutually beneficial partnership between Moe’s and the MLL. For this event both sides can help increase exposure and sales for the other. We will have a three week in store campaign going in Moe’s stores as well as via social media. Lacrosse fans love to support companies that believe they are helping to grow the game. Moe’s is getting heavily involved in the sport at all levels and they will reap the benefits of this support.