In this episode with USA Basketball Foundation Executive Director, Killjan Anderson, you’ll learn about…
“If we are focused on building champions in life and in communities, we are going to win a medal on the way by, but what we’re really going to have is people that make significant contributions to the world.”
Or watch the live interview below:READ FULL TRANSCRIPT
Welcome to the Brand Lab Series™ from AE Marketing Group. This week, CEO, Brian Walker, hosts a live conversation with USA Basketball Foundation Executive Director, Killjan Anderson.
I am thrilled to have you with me, Killjan Anderson. This is our first ever Brand Lab Series™ podcast that we’ve recorded live. We’re here at the Broadmoor Hotel in beautiful Colorado Springs, your home and home of your current role with USA Basketball. I’m so excited that you could be with us today. I’m thankful to SPN for giving us the opportunity to be able to host our podcast here. And when they asked me if I knew someone that had great expertise in the area of nonprofits, building teams, leadership, you were the perfect fit for that. So I’m very excited that you’re with me today.
I appreciate that. Thanks for having me. It’s always good to connect with our friends over at AE marketing. And this whole conference is really amazing. I got here earlier today and was able to check out some of the different exhibits. And just good energy in here, so thanks for having me. And it’s great to host you here where we’re living now.
Yeah, and I’m very grateful, for those listeners and those watching, you and your wife, Angela, were kind enough to open your home to me earlier this week. There’s been a lot of snow, record snow, in fact, in Colorado Springs. So the fact that you were kind enough and as I said, if you were an Airbnb, I would have given you guys five stars.
We appreciate that.Who knew you’d be going back Chicago to warm up?
It’s funny. You know me as a marketing guy, right? So when I grew up, I always heard the jingle, “Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, what a great place.” What made you decide that the Air Force was a great place for you?
I have a pretty non-linear route to the military. I graduated high school and headed off to college. I started at the University of Oregon and to be honest with you, just lacked some basic discipline when I got to college. It was a very new environment for me. I actually wound up on academic probation at one point, and so struggled a bit in the beginning. Left school, pursued an opportunity in Atlanta, which was unsuccessful largely because I didn’t put my best foot forward and wound up back in Dallas, Texas where I had grown up, working at a sandwich shop, trying to figure out how I could patch together credits to get back in school and actually crossed paths with a buddy I’d gone to high school with who was wearing a suit.
And he worked at State Farm. It was a big deal. And I was frankly embarrassed because I hadn’t really reached my potential. So I left work that day. And I drove to a strip mall where there was all of the service branches. I didn’t know anything about the military. I visited with each one. The Air Force guy was the coolest.
And that’s how I kinda made my decision. It’s the second best decision I ever made, behind getting married to my wife. But that was it. It was really a matter of being bold and trying something new. Because I was afraid I would just wake up and be 50 and dissatisfied.
And you spent almost 25 years in the Air Force. Is that right?
So talk about how that career, and I know you were all over the world. So 25 years in the Air Force and then you moved into becoming an executive in the nonprofit space. So, talk a little bit about how the military prepared you for life as a nonprofit executive.
Well, so it’s interesting. There are a lot of parallels, I would say, between military service and just service in general, nonprofit service. Certainly, in the Air Force, things are rooted around core values. So in the Air Force, that’s integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all you do. So I was already acquainted with that mission environment. Certainly, in the military, there’s a compliance mindset which is incredibly important on the nonprofit side.
There’s a need for continuity. And then the other point that I’ll say, and this might sound a little provocative, but sometimes, people and their individual skills can be overrated. And I say that almost jokingly. But in the military, there’s a lot of turnover. And so you are dealing with people for a very limited amount of time. You become very quickly focused on trying to draw out that person’s strengths and making them the best they might, best possible airman they could possibly be, realizing that it’s gonna benefit another portion of the organization.
So on the nonprofit side, especially having worked in two small nonprofits, I’ve adopted that same mindset. I’ve been in situations where there’s not a lot of upward mobility. There’s only 12 people on the staff. So I’ve always tried to position nonprofit service in these small organizations as a place to come, get stronger, support a mission, build your skill set and ultimately, slingshot you into your next possibility. So for that, for the military, I’m really grateful for that because it’s something I’ve been able to apply in the nonprofit space.
And you just said something that I definitely wanted to ask you about. ‘Cause I’ve heard that a lot this week here is that while some organizations might have high brand ID, so you were the executive director at the Pat Tillman Foundation, a very iconic individual, very well-known individual brand. And now you’re at USA Basketball, again, high brand ID. But actually, I think people would be surprised to know that your teams are very small. Your teams are very nimble. And how do you maximize a lean team to be successful as a nonprofit?
I think it’s a really good question. And I know you’re certainly qualified to weigh in there too. I know your company, AE Marketing, is a small team. But there is tremendous value in manageable small-size organizations, almost like a boutique model, if you will. Everyone in your organization knows all of your clients. There’s a connection. Whereas maybe in a larger organization, you don’t have that benefit. You might not even know a client if you’re, depending on where you’re at in the organization.
For me, it presents a real opportunity to be on a small team. For one, it requires an extraordinary amount of team work. So at Pat Tillman Foundation when I got there, we had eight or nine people. When I left earlier this year, we’ve grown to maybe 13, but didn’t have any aspirations to get much larger than that. And the thing I like the most about that… And there’s about 30 to 40 employees at USA Basketball right now. So what I really like about that is it’s this all-hands-on-deck environment. And at different points in time, different portions of the organization are out front. So, when I got to USA Basketball this summer, we were gearing up for the men’s national team, that was up front. So, there was really an extraordinary amount of effort to help that process. It rotated over to our youth program, so the next week, I’m in the back of a truck moving boxes and bringing things in. And I think that when you wind up in that dynamic cooperative environment, where really, every single person in the organization really matters and you need them to be at their best. I like that focused collaboration. I actually think that’s an asset to companies like yours versus the big companies because you’re gonna get that personal attention and that real synergy of people working together.
Yeah, I would agree with you on that. I think it provides a real wealth of opportunity and experience, especially if you’re more junior as you’re growing up in your role, you can get your hands a little bit more dirty. I also know the flipside is there’s really nowhere to hide. [chuckle] Because everybody really does need to do a lot. I’m not above a lot of things just because I’m the CEO of a company, and I know you have that same kind of mentality as well, and maybe in your case, again, it stems back to this all hands on deck mentality in the military. We talked a little bit about dealing with the more lean and nimble team, but something that’s been talked a lot about at SPN is development. And obviously, in the for-profit world, we’re talking about sales and revenue, in a non-profit world, it’s just the same, it’s the life blood of an organization. So, you’ve got development around corporate giving, individual giving, grants. Talk about how you approach development.
It’s funny, right? I’m not like a typical straight-leg fundraiser. I came from the military, I was a cop actually in the military. So, to think that within a year of getting out, I’d be engaged in fundraising activities, is kind of a big leap, right? And to your point, it’s the same thing as a business operation. Fundraising is sales, right? So, I was given a copy of an article by a lady named Carla Williams. It’s called “Think, Say, Do: How to Build a Philanthropic Culture in Your Organization,” and it’s a really, really compelling article and it kind of changes the whole conversation about fundraising and development. And what she says in there is that philanthropy is based on values and that development is uncovering where shared values are, ultimately leading to fundraising which gives somebody an opportunity to act on their values. So, she states this position that your job isn’t to get donors, your job isn’t to raise money, it’s to build relationships that are gonna result in support.
So, that was one of the first things I read when I got into the non-profit space, by frankly, our chief of development who was mentoring me as a non-profit executive, and that’s been my focus both at Pat Tillman Foundation and as we build out USA Basketball’s foundation, is engaging with people, throwing out a wide net, seeing where there’s alignment and continuing that conversation. And my experience has been that, one, all money ain’t good money, and second, when you really find you share values, you’re not really asking people for money, you’re not shaking them down for money. It drives a conversation where they get to a place where they’re like, “How can I help with this? How can I be personally involved to help you achieve this mission together?” If I can give you an example, at USA Basketball, we have a really remarkable program called “Women in the Game.” I just went to it for the first time, it was in mid-October. And we bring, with the reach we have through the NCAA, NBA and all of our other partners, we bring women executives into a conference style format. Speakers, panelists, you name it. And then in the audience, there’s a combination of players, students, young executives, and it’s just the power of representation.
I mean you’re sitting up there on the stage looking at Michele Roberts who is the executive director for the NBA Players Association, she runs the collective bargaining agreement for the NBA. She’s a big deal and she shared her story. Grew up in the South Bronx, was a public defender on homicide cases, made her way to the NBA. She’s bad, and she’s cold, and she knows what she’s doing, and I saw her say, “I wanna help you all. I wanna help you get to where I’m at.” And I was really just dazzled by the executive’s desire to hold that door open and create opportunities for the people in the crowd. So, kinda going back to your question is, now I’m thinking about who are the potential partners out there, whether they’re individual donors or they’re corporations, like-minded organizations that are interested in trying to make sure that we don’t leave that conference and everyone kind of goes back to what they’re doing. There’s a partner out there, we’re gonna find one, we’ll find him or her soon. Hopefully, it’s a handful of people that wanna bridge that and to talk constructively about what we can do to bring those two communities together.
And so that’s kind of an example where I’m not interested in convincing you to support that because you can be convinced to go do something else, but if you believe about what’s happening in that room at that conference and you wanna help bridge that, then you’re a potential partner and we should talk about that. And overtime, those kind of pathways emerge and you figure out when and where to support. And those are the people, frankly, that when you start talking about outcomes and you’re keeping them posted or you involve them in the conference, they are not going anywhere. Our best and biggest supporters at the Tillman Foundation, same at USA Basketball, are people that come back to us and say, “Man, what are we doing next year?” Because they feel very ingrained in what we’re doing. So, it’s less of a business development sales type of model, I would say, that I’m gonna instill at the foundation. It’s more of a, let’s find people that believe in what we’re doing, we’ll believe in what they’re doing and that will result in support.
Building the long-term relationship shared values, those are absolutely things that I look at in the for-profit business essentially. One of the advantages I have of running my own company is that we’re choosy who we do business with. Something that I talked to a number of people here at this conference about this morning was the power of branding, and there’s an immense shift in branding today because everyone with a phone is a critic, an advocate, an author, a journalist, a photographer, and that creates a whole lot of problems. And a lot of times, brands, especially in the non-profit space, find themselves running into problems in the news or headlines or chaos that they didn’t even start. And I know you learned that first hand at the Pat Tillman Foundation when there was so much to be said for Colin Kaepernick, he was taking a kneel during the National Anthem, NFL got involved, fans got involved, they tried to pull Pat’s legacy into it. Talk about dealing with brand crises, and how did that experience at the Pat Tillman Foundation prepare you for something that wasn’t directly involving USA basketball, but certainly had that halo of basketball in the US, which is the recent tension around China and free speech?
For sure. I’m gonna start in… My experience in the military to answer that. So, I mentioned I was a police officer, I was emergency responder. So, you get really clear instructions in the military. So, if you’re at an incident and you’re on the perimeter and media comes, and you’re young guy or gal in the military, they say, “Look, direct all questions to public affairs.” I’ve had bosses over the years that will say things like, “Never pass up a good opportunity. Just shut your mouth,” right? And so, Tillman Foundation, I think it’s kind of important to talk about the Kaepernick thing for a second. So, for those who remember, the reason he did it was to highlight and illuminate issues and concerns about racial inequality, but the whole narrative got hijacked and it suddenly became… It got projected on the veterans. And I remember waking up one morning and there was a tweet or something, it had a picture of Kaepernick, and then it had a picture of Pat, and it was saying, “This guy’s traitor and this guy’s a hero,” and they wanted us to adjudicate through Pat, invoke Pat to adjudicate what Colin Kaepernick was doing.
And you were helpful. I sought you out around this time as well, and the response was nothing, is that we’re not gonna go there. We have an organization to run, we have a mission we’re focused on. It was to… The mission at that organization is to build the next generation of public private sector leaders, and there was literally no value in getting snarled in that whole dialogue. So, I would say it’s the same thing, as you hear what’s going on with China and the owners, I’m not gonna venture into that. I have a responsibility as we build this foundation and we are gonna be focused on championing initiatives in support of women. We are gonna create opportunities for youth, we’re gonna help further develop a nationwide network of coaches and role models, and that conversation doesn’t fit into any of those missing components, so I’m not gonna choose to spend my time there because we’re trying to rally support for these other matters.
But there’s one thing I’ve learned from you, and you’ve been a good mentor to me sometimes, is it’s all about focus. And I think that’s a great example of just saying, “Hey, we have a mission to do. This other stuff is white noise. I’m going to keep focusing on what we need to do and what our goal is, and what are the steps to be able to get to that goal.”
Well, and if I can piggyback, so the board chairman for USA Basketball is General Martin Dempsey who’s the former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff. So, this guy knows a thing or two about leadership, right? And a really powerful statement he said was that when you wear USA across your chest, whether it’s on a military uniform or on a basketball jersey, you’re representing everyone in America. Not the left, not the right, not just the middle, all of them. So, you wanna engage in activities that illuminate what we’re trying to do in the shared mission and goal of USA Basketball and representing America on the world stage. So, if you think about it in the terms of that as well, it makes it very clear about what your focus is, and that’s, on the players’ side, to assemble a great team and go win a medal and on the foundation side is to support that effort, but then to also focus on the other aspects of the mission that we talked about.
You’ve teased us a little bit with basketball, I know we talked about how you went from the Air Force, then into the Pat Tillman Foundation, you led that for a number of years very successfully. And then this year, you came back to Colorado Springs, you become the executive Director of USA Basketball Foundation, what drove you there?
So first, I relocated to be closer to my aging parents. I’ve got a stepfather who’s got some pretty significant health issues, and our daughter just headed off… Our youngest just headed off to college, so we’re empty nesters or like a month-and-a-half and we’re gonna be an empty nesters. So, going back about a year ago, realizing that we were soon gonna be empty nesters, I’ve been trying to move my parents off to Illinois for a number of years, and they’re very happy here in the Springs, so we made the decision to relocate back to the Springs. I let the foundation know, I helped them with their search. And to my point about the military, fresh eyes are good. My successor at Pat Tillman Foundation is a really dynamic guy named Dan Futrell who you’ve met.
I know Dan, yeah.
The organization’s needs have changed. It’s ready for a different type of executive director and like Dan’s so great, so I’m cheering for him. And that organization gets somebody out there evangelizing about it as well. So, all that said, I relocated to Springs, and I think you’re asking how I wound up at basketball. So, lifelong basketball fan, I knew I wanted to be in and around athletics or higher education. The Olympic movement kind of provides a little bit of both, also personal excellence, which I was certainly accustomed to dealing with the Tillman scholars. So, I started aiming for USA Basketball, but it wasn’t… Literally, lifelong basketball fan, the foundation is being formed from scratch, so I like to… I view myself as a builder, so it was a really great chance to get in on the ground floor. And I’ll tell you, frankly, after my first interview and meeting the CEO, who didn’t have to start a foundation, right? But recognized that he has a responsibility to use USA Basketball’s amazing voice and reach to just to do simple good. When he started explaining me what he was doing and why they were forming the foundation and the opportunities that could really present itself to advance society, I was in. And so I’m really happy and to be there now, we’ve got a lot of stuff, exciting stuff on the horizon.
Well, I know you’re a fan, we’ve talked about that a lot. I think what a lot of people also might be surprised is basketball is the most popular team sport in America, and I think people inside the US probably don’t realize how global a reach that basketball has become as well. You start to see it with a number of personalities at the professional level, but basketball’s really a global phenomenon. And I think when you hear, “USA Basketball,” though, you immediately think of the Olympics, rightfully so, because you were kind enough to host us there this week and to see all the amazing awards and accolades and gold medal after gold medal that the team has won. You kind of associate USA Basketball, with just the Olympics, but from a brand messaging standpoint, you’re much bigger than that, much bigger than just the Olympics. So, how do you communicate the true reach of USA Basketball?
You know it’s having conversations with guys like you [chuckle] who helped me understand the organization where I’m at right now. You’re, we spent a lot of time together earlier this week, and having you in my corner and your expertise and your AE marketings teams, expertise to be able challenge me to take a step back from it. So clearly USA Basketball has the senior men’s and women’s team, they’re amazing. They’ve had wild success going all the way, Dream Team and back for a long time. But it’s really taking a step back and looking at it beyond the Xs and Os. If you think about it, what else is going on here that is of benefit to other people? So we certainly again are having success on the podium, but really what, as you kinda challenge me to think about the organization and the different components, the junior national teams, the youth programs.
Really what we’re doing is there’s a pipeline of deliberate development that is occurring with very young boys and girls in open court program for USA basketball, or through our camps, our coaching clinics. Coaches are being developed through our coach licensing and coach academy programs. We’re inviting and holding camps and selecting junior national teams which are taking athletes and at a young age, say on a Under-16 team and taking them to Peru, Romania, like opening their apertures allowing them the chance for meaningful competition internationally helping them earn a scholarship to college.
High, high number of junior national team members wind up playing in the NBA. When we think about all the different things that are going on really what we’re building are exceptional men and women, exceptional human beings. They know how to win, they know how to lose, probably more importantly, they know the importance of a shared goal and when these men and women stop playing, they’re in their 20s, 30s. There’s a lot of life ahead of them. So when you start thinking about the breadth of USA basketball, in those terms, I really feel like we are presenting people back to your communities. They’re gonna, they’re gonna make a difference, they care, they’re gonna start foundations that are gonna go achieve success in corporate America that are gonna start businesses.
So I kind of challenge everyone to think a little bit more broadly about the game, athletics, and just activity in general, and that’s really part of what’s going on. And if we’re focused on building champions in life, and champions in your community, my assumption is we’re gonna win a medal on the way by, but that we’re really gonna have people that are gonna make really significant contributions.
Well, from a marketing perspective, basketball in general is really unique because you have all these brands, you have USA basketball, you have NBA, you have WNBA, you have iconic individual brands of some of these players in both leagues. And then, when you think about though, again, USA basketball in the Olympics, a lot of times you tend to think men, but the reality is you have a huge program with women’s national team.
And just recently a lot of expansion in the women’s national team and something that I think is super fascinating and you touched on this for a minute, but the women’s success on the court is good or better than the men, number one.
But number two, their success off the court in life is astounding. So, as you start to think about that, what excites you with that? Especially as a father of a daughter, who just started rugby.
Yeah, right? Well I guess the first thing is, so let’s think about what philanthropy would look like around the women’s national team. If I were to come up to you and we’re doing the development thing we’re trying to uncover shared values, and I’m saying, “Help us field the next women’s Olympic team, so we can go win the gold.” That doesn’t check out. There are 101 and one and have won six straight gold medals. Right? So, you’re just not gonna… Why would I give you any money for that? You’re gonna go do it, probably anyway. And compete at a high level.
Yeah and I just had that conversation this morning about… I know sometimes people struggle with, what’s our point of difference and are you really conveying a message that’s gonna get someone to care or so, what? And I think it’s a problem that everyone would love to have, constantly winning, but that does present kind of an interesting challenge. And we talked a little bit about this at your offices this week, what are some of the other motivators, what are some of the other personas, what might drive them to really wanna get involved? And that’s where I think this women’s national team, and some of this is just really, really fascinating.
Yeah, I’m on a plane tomorrow to Stanford to accompany the women’s national team for a series of games against NCAA opponents. I can’t wait to get out and meet and interact with the team. But it was kind of like the earlier point of trying to figure out what else is going on here beyond just winning a medal. And so, in 2020, it’s a year where our under 17 junior national team will come together. So I just said, “Okay let me look at this a little bit, let’s see what’s going on here, with this whole U-17 thing. So, we will hold a camp, it will whittle down to 12 players that will go compete internationally.
I’m not even sure where yet, but it’s gonna be the best young basketball players in the nation. So, I said, “Alright, let me go back”. So I went back to 2010, the under 17 team competes every other year, so I went back and pulled all the rosters from 2010 through 2018, and they’re 59 young women on those rosters. 100% college attendance rate, obviously, they’re getting college scholarships, I think there’s nine Stanford attendees in there, 7 Notre Dame. Really great schools. UCONN, Virginia, you name it. So, now we’re talking about a group of 59 women, they have made these scenes over the last 10 years, they’ve all gone to college.
We’re doing a little bit of a study now, how many of them are first generation college students, ’cause we all know what infusion of opportunity that is for families. Thirty of the 59 are currently in school. But 25 of the 29 are out, actually played in the WNBA at one point, others played internationally. But interestingly, even beyond that and in there, there’s WNBA and VPs, there’s rookies of the year, there’s all kinds of amazing athletic accomplishments. But there’s some other really interesting things happening too. Others are finishing their time playing, whether it’s in college or pro, going to law school and they’re now leaders in labor law or they started their own business.
So when you look back on the rich history of women’s basketball, USA basketball, and there are people like Tamika Catchings who, of course was fantastic, went to Tennessee, had an amazing career. She’s a WNBA executive now, but she also has an amazing foundation doing great work in the city of Indianapolis. So it’s kind of like my earlier point of, there’s a tendency of just thinking, “Oh, it’s the Olympics”. But we’re really fielding people that are doing some remarkable things. And I think I mentioned to you there was an Ernst & Young study that said 94, I think it’s 94% of women that have achieved C-suite positions, played sports and 54% of those played collegiate sports. So there’s just really undeniable…
Prediction of athleticism and success, that the foundation is gonna dive into and frankly get a little bit better of an understanding about it. So, we can involve partners who are interested in further investing in that community, in shaping like real outcomes, long beyond their time playing on the court.
And you talked briefly about a whole other program within USA basketball, which is the junior national team.
I think it’s interesting because, one, obviously, that’s building a pipeline of future mens and women team players, but also future leaders as you just kind of alluded to, but there’s also so much about basketball, in general, besides being the most played team sport in America.
We see this a lot where it’s a sport that bringing communities together, bringing youths together. Talk a little bit about some of your youth outreach.
Yeah, so there’s a really amazing Youth and Sports Development division at USAB, headed by our remarkable team Jay and Andrea. And they have open court programs where they’re just trying to spark activity and getting in the gym and active play, again feeding into these kind of camps, huge tournaments, coaching clinics. And I don’t think we’re far, too far from a day when there’s gonna be a member of the Olympic team, men or women’s side, that has been through the whole pipeline. Right, I think our youth division is about five or six years old.
I’m still kinda new so I think it’s five or six years, but there’s gonna be a day where somebody went to open court, they went here, they were coached by somebody who held a license, they made the junior national team. ‘Cause we’ve seen some of that, like Jayson Tatum on the Celtics, Andre Drummond were both junior national team members and they are incredibly grateful for their time to represent USA, first, and then certainly, just their experiences of being able to go overseas and have all these remarkable opportunities. So, I think that investing in, further investing in youth and sports development is that notion of kinda building the bench. It promotes awareness and support for the sport, but it’s really kind of building, it’s building, young people up, to better opportunities. It’s gonna create all kinds of positive outcomes.
So let’s pivot just a little bit though, because, we’ve talked about, and I know this, but I don’t think everyone watching and listening, would know this. Your part of the larger USA basketball program, is still relatively small…
Building out this foundation, and a lot of non-profits. Again like we talked to earlier are a little lean and right now is you’ve kind of, coined the term and I’ve stolen from you a couple of times, you’re kind of working on the chassis, you’re trying to figure out as a small team and a growing non-profit, what are some of the things you need in place from an infrastructure standpoint…
To help fuel some future development, major programs, major activity.
Talk a little bit about some of the things you’re doing, ’cause that’s a big topical question that I got asked here.
Right. Yeah, so, I think I’m on month five now. There’s only one employee at the foundation, it’s me. We’ll start building out the team. Yeah, and we’re at the stage where we’re starting to look up from, we, I’m starting to look up from, getting the business operations in place. So, “What’s the accounting picture look like”? Right? “How often we’re gonna generate financial statements”? “What are the internal controls”? And all of the things you wanna have in place, to make sure that you’re running a smart business. A lot of those, and with the support of my colleagues at USAB, we’ve got a lot of that into place.
So, as we look up to kinda build out the program, we’re thinking about head count, like what does that look like? We are really committed to having a positive impact here on our local community where we live. So right now I’m in discussions that was actually hosted at the CEO from a group named “Peak Education”. They have scholars in kind of a underserved portion of the town. So, we’re all curious if we can build an internship model to have young folks in the community, come up and create and have opportunities. And then to your point, and the kind of discussions we’ve had, is starting to figure out that program, what that looks like, how do we take that program, and build it into robust talking points that are connected to a larger society, of advancing, no, a larger strategy of the advancing society, right? So, we’re now kind of like trying to connect those dots, and then ultimately, put that into the form of a way for people to get involved. And that, like that’s hard.
Right, it’s hard. We know what we wanna do, we know what’s important to us, we know the offering we have, we know the incredible brand ambassadors we have. We have a sense of who’s out there that might be interested in supporting, but it’s like taking one step further is… It would be a mistake to only focus on basketball fans or sneaker heads when you think about basketball, like…
But, I wanted, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I do wanna ask about that because I think, again from a marketing perspective in the non-profit space and in some of the people that I’ve talked to here at The Broadmoor, I think they have a good idea who their audience is, who their base is.
But I think where they struggle is, how do they drill from their audience into their personas?
And what are some of individual motivators or how do they go out and talk to other groups? So in your case maybe they’re not ultimately hardcore basketball fans or maybe they, they’re not as motivated by the Olympics.
So talk, I know we chatted about this a little bit earlier in the week, but talk a little bit about what that looks like.
Yeah, I mean, you really kind of prompted a really powerful point for me to think about, that is, if you’re only speaking to basketball fans, that’s really, a small sliver, there are a lot of people who watch basketball, but there are a whole lot more that don’t. And what aspects of our mission could appeal to them? And when we start talking about improving… Like, it’s even the community of the people that come to this conference, they’re focused and interested in improving the lives for other people.
So there’s a conversation to be had there, right? There’s real opportunity through other people and the talent that we’re kind of cultivating, that could make an impact or be helpful to them, so it’s really learning how to speak to the people, we’re not speaking to. And so we’ve certainly got our base, we’ve certainly got the basketball fans, we’ve got the sneaker heads. You’ve got those types of segments, if you will, and I think the larger drill that any business or non-profits should be thinking about is, who else is out there… That shares… There’s some alignment with…
And then how do you get to them, and then how do you undergo that process of uncovering shared values? So it’s tough right, like I know you and your company are like really, really good at it. You’ve challenged me to think about what are those other populations, to watch other companies, read about their corporate values and then use that and then back into where we’re at. So that’s been a, it’s hard, right? What we’re doing…
But I think there’s more alignment out there than people know, right? I think people, “Oh, they’re just playing basketball, why would I give money to that?” Well there’s something else going on here beyond putting the ball in the basket and winning the medal.
Well, and I think it’s hard because we’re in such a hyper-competitive time of our lives, where digital is changing everything people are getting constantly inundated with information, it’s hard to capture attention. So and I say this as the CEO of a marketing agency where the easy thing to do is to check the box and be like, “Okay, I messaged and I reached out to my core fans. Hey, we got it, we checked the box. We talked to the basketball fans we’re all done here.” And I think really, where you go from being great to exceptional, and there’s a big difference there, is finding those little margins. Where you can grow and find new audiences and bring people in and get people passionate about your mission, passionate about your brand, passionate about your cause.
So here’s an example, I thought about after you’re pressing me about, thinking about that and you know I see kind of a conversation, maybe some content of ours at some point, where we bring a current member of junior national team in and we bring an Olympian in, a current Olympian, a current women’s national team member. Maybe we take a former junior national team member or former Olympian tons come to mind, but maybe a successful Wall Street executive that played basketball, has a medal. And we have a conversation with this young player on the junior national team about redefining what success looks like, because if we’re not careful, again, people associated will just go and put together a great team go and win a medal and boom, we’re done. That’s a priority, we wanna win and we’re gonna assemble the teams to do so. But speaking to this young junior national team member about all the possibilities that exist about the voice that she can gain through playing the sport and you see members of our teams currently you see people who played for, Lisa Leslie was just here in Colorado Springs getting inducted to, I think Olympic hall of fame, she’s doing all kinds of good outside of the community.
She’s also been a broadcaster. So I think it’s helping them understand that their time with us is special and that it is absolutely a huge predictor for success and that their, she is joining a group of amazing women that are gonna continue to uplift one another and do some really amazing things. We gotta figure that out. How to curate that type of content to kind of change… Not change, but kind of expand the conversation beyond the podiums.
Yeah, well I appreciate you saying that I spurred your thinking challenge you. I always love our conversations, I think I’m always smarter when we’re done spending time together. It’s one of the things I did wanna talk about for a minute obviously is last year’s, you know I was in Tokyo. I know Tokyo is a very special place for you and your family as well and you’ve been overseas there and it’s the home of the 2020 Summer Games. What excites you about that? The pressure is not necessarily on you as it is so much is on the court? But I think it seems to be a given that gold medals need to be brought home. But overall, when you think about Tokyo and you think about this opportunity there and it also being special to you, what is that like?
Yeah, so my family was stationed at Yokota air base, from 2000-2004. It’s absolutely our favorite assignment. We have some amazing friends that we stay in contact with, and we just really really enjoyed our time there. Our daughter was born there and we’re trying to figure out a way to bringing the whole family back maybe to go see some of the areas we’re at, And I was actually on the phone. A good friend of mine who lives and works in Japan, Japanese citizen, and he was talking about the excitement of the Olympic games coming to Tokyo, which you know, just gorgeous and fantastic city, with great people, and he was just going on and on about the buzz around the Olympics and then in particular, of all the sports basketball there’s been a recent first-round draft pick of the first Japanese citizen drafted in the first round Rui, he’s generating a lot of excitement. You know, what I started thinking about was I was in Las Vegas when our men’s team came together earlier this year, they were headed off to the World Cup, and there’s a player name Donovan Mitchell, he plays on the Utah Jazz.
And I was trying to act like I’ve been there before. There’s all these famous players, and I’m just not pulling my phone out, not taking photos ’cause no one’s acting like it’s strange but there’s all these amazing basketball players there, some of my favorites and Donovan Mitchell comes in, I’ve always been a fan of his and he’s sitting there and there are literally 20 people sitting in the lobby at the win, who figured out the players are coming in through the door. And I saw Donovan Mitchell come there and a kid wandered over and he picked him up and he was talking to him for five minutes, and he signed his I think he took a shoe out of his bag and gave it to him, he’s just such a good guy, right? It’s such an opportunity for us to have a remarkable person like that as an athlete out there representing us. And so I look at it and I have a lot of excitement about, of course, competing and doing well. We certainly wanna go out there and win gold medals on both men and women side. But I’m particularly intrigued at the real opportunity for us to really demonstrate the best of us, in the form of these athletes that are out there competing, competitive excellence, humility, winning, winning well, and demonstrating sportsmanship and I think that that is, that’s gonna be a really special opportunity to be part of an organization where you’re really being able to promote such kind of good will.
Killjan, I knew that this would be a great conversation. I was very excited to have you on. I’m excited for this video to be shared across our network across all the people that subscribe to Brand Lab Series for all the people that were watching here at the conference today. You’re always full of insight. As I joked earlier in the conversation, I’m always smarter after we talk. I’m thrilled that you could take some time out your busy schedule and come here to the Broadmoor and have this conversation, if there’s ever anything I could do. You know you always have a friend in me, so thank you for being on Brand Lab Series.
You got it, thank you so much.
Tags: Nonprofit, Brand and Marketing, Customer Experience
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