EDITORIAL | Success Starts at the Top

June 11, 2013 2:35 pm by Jake Chastain


| The world of sports and entertainment is a sink-or-swim industry. There are plenty of sports agencies and organizations that have experienced their fair share of success and there are even more that have experienced the bottoms of failure. In today’s sporting world we’ve become accustomed to the norm; that is, The Big 3: football, baseball, basketball.

These three titans of the sporting world have become immensely popular because, first of all, they’re fun to watch. Second, each of these sports is played by the youth of our society across the country. That, in turn, has led to increased interest starting at a young age. And third, each one of these sports has been run the right way by the leaders at their helm. That is to say, the big-wigs that run the MLB, NFL, and NBA have created systems that works. They have created a product that has mass appeal and they marketed, showcased, and expanded in a way that allowed them to not only stay relevant among the mainstream but to grow and branch out to capture new audiences in the process.

With that being said, let us still realize that each sport has their flaws up top. The NFL is dealing with the concussion problem and illegal hits. The NBA is trying to crack-down on the ‘flopping’ that players act out to draw fouls. And the MLB had to deal with the entire ‘steroid area’ of baseball. But, through it all, each organization has managed to stand the test of time, deal with the situation, and come back year after year stronger and richer than they were before.

But how hard is it, beyond The Big 3 listed above, for an organization to rise up and remain popular today? Well, the short answer to that question is, it’s extremely hard. It’s not just the sport that makes the organization successful. People love to watch football, but the NFL is not the powerhouse that it is just because people love the game. The leaders and suits that run the NFL have marketed its brand to be successful over a long period of time. For example, the AFL and XFL never came close to reaching the status that the NFL has. The NFL’s front-office is doing it right.

Baseball is not even in the Olympics right now, yet it’s one of the most popular universal games on earth. So how does the MLB stay popular? They’ve has marketed their company the right way. They’ve brought over the best talents in the world to play in one organization and that draws numbers. Their system works.

Here’s one; soccer is widely regarded as the most popular sport on the planet. Across the globe, no matter what country you’re from, soccer is a legitimate sport played by the young and old of a community. But MLS in the U.S has never even come close to reaching the popularity that the NFL, MLB, or NBA have. Why? Because you need the right men up top running the business the right way. There are strategic steps that need to be taken along the way to ensure the continued growth and popularity. It never happens over night and it never happens smoothly. But the key is the persistency of growth and expansion.

I get that the NFL, NBA, and MLB have been around for a long time, but that doesn’t mean a new sport cannot rise and join the ranks of these popular professional sports organizations. If the front-office understands the marketing and how to strategically plan the right moves to puncture into the mainstream, you could, maybe, stand a chance at rising into the legitimate sports ranks. That was made true by the continuing growth and popularity expansion of the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). But it took a face.

MMA in general is growing rapidly throughout the world but organizations such as Bellator and WSOF are riding the coat tails of the success that the UFC has worked so hard to gain. And where does all this success start? Right at the top.

UFC President Dana White is, in my opinion, one of the greatest presidents/commissioners in sports history. He turned a dying company into one of the most success sporting organizations in the world. And the way he’s done it is remarkable. The man demands respect, not because he’s rich or powerful, but because he loves what he does, he’s passionate about continuing to help the sport grow and evolve, and he’s not afraid to say what or how he feels about anything. He believes and lives for his brand.

Most commissioners or presidents of the larger sporting organizations take a back seat while the players, coaches, and teams make the sport appealing and successful. We don’t watch the NFL because Roger Goodell sets up great games or has implemented amazing rule changes that have made the game better. We watch the NFL because we love the players, teams, and coaches. My point is that we don’t see Roger Goodell’s face until something bad happens and he feels the need to stick his nose in the situation and try to fix it…and even then it seems that he can make the situation seem worse. But we still like the NFL because the leaders of the game have created a system that pretty much runs itself. 16 game seasons, a playoff, and then a championship.

How often do we see Bud Selig talk about the greatness of baseball or hype big games coming up that he’s excited about? I can’t think of many. I do, however, remember his face being at the front of the media cameras when trying to fix the ‘steroid’ image that baseball had taken on in the early 2000’s.

My point is that we rarely see these presidents and head-honchos taking the time to promote their sports even when they are already successful. I, personally, have begun associating their names with unfortunate situations. They have become less of advocates of their sport and more of ‘damage-control’, and that is not the first thing that should come to mind when thinking about the head of a successful organization.

Running the UFC, on the other hand, is a very hand’s on job for the main man, Dana White. He is constantly promoting his brand, he’s helping set up fights, he  breaks the biggest news, and he talks with the press about every upcoming and past fight. He talks about the good thing and he’s not afraid to be blunt about the touchy subjects either. Dana White has made the UFC successful because he is not just another president in a suit. He is a fan as much as he is a boss, but he never lets the fan-part get in the way of him doing his boss-part. That realness that Dana White brings to the table for his company is what has made the UFC the now-global powerhouse that it has so quickly become. And unlike the NFL, which saw many rival companies such as the XFL come a go, the UFC has paved the way not just for themselves but for many other MMA promotions such as Bellator and WSOF. The UFC’s success has not only led to its own growth but has helped the sport of MMA grow as a whole.

Success starts at the top and with Dana White at the helm of the UFC’s reigns the sky is the limit.

I don’t want to seem as though I’m completely looking past any positive impacts or work that Selig, Gooddell, or even David Stern in the NBA, have done to better their organizations. Those three sports are still successful partly due to their leadership skills. I just think that Dana White has a little something extra. Because of the state that he purchased the UFC in I don’t think many other men could have done what he did. I mean, MMA was unsanctioned in much of the U.S at that time and now White has his company opening gyms, hosting events and reality shows in other countries, and he’s working with one of the largest sporting giants in television with FOX. So, I respect and appreciate the work these other presidents and commissioners are doing, I just don’t think it stacks up anywhere close to what White is doing with the UFC.

With White now working with FOX Sports I honestly don’t think it will be long before ‘the big three’ in sports TV becomes ‘the big four’. The UFC has all the right elements to continue to succeed, but, unlike the other sports listed above, the UFC has a real, hardnosed businessman that loves the sport and wants nothing more than to see his brand grow.

Jake Chastain


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