CLEVELAND — At the club level of FirstEnergy Stadium, a small group of young professionals gathered together for a four-day sports marketing workshop. Over those four days, participants learned about the industry, networked with professionals and were provided with tools to help them in whatever career they may venture into.
The workshop was held in collaboration with the Marcus Graham Project and Black Sports Professionals of Cleveland, bringing in around 20 applicants with an interest in the sports industry to participate in the event and expand the diversity within the industry.
"There's a huge disparity in terms of the diversity of employees of color in sports positions," said Larry Yarrell, chief development officer the Marcus Graham Project. "For candidates of color the opportunities are much slimmer and the entry path is often much harder to take. What our organization shows them is different ways they can get into the industry and we put them in front of the people who are actually making the decisions on hiring. For organizations like the Cleveland Browns who are looking for diverse talent, this is a perfect fit."
Over the four days, participants not only took part in panels and educational programming but also teamed up in groups to create a marketing plan for the Browns themselves.
Each group collaborated together, creating a marketing plan for the Browns’ Be The Solution and social justice campaign, bringing a young and diverse perspective into the team’s approach.
Over the course of the week, the teams created their marketing pitches, culminating in a presentation to a group of Browns reps who decided on a winner at the end of the day.
The winning group, made up of Katie Schroeder, Bryce Walker-Ollins, Noah Pena, and Taylor Banks, was praised for their ideas and the way they presented them to the Browns.
"Either we’re going to look at these and say ‘Man, why didn’t we think of that? That’s so easy and so smart to do. Yes, let’s do it now," Yarrell said. "Or we’re going to look at it and say ‘Oh my gosh that’s crazy, there’s no way we can do all of that, but it’s so dope that we get to choose two or three pieces of it that make sense,’ and this group had a little bit of both of that."
After recognizing the work of the winning group, an MVP of the week’s event was named and awarded a trip to Dallas, Texas to participate in the exclusive Marcus Graham Project’s iCR8 Summer BootCamp.
That winner was Joshua Hatch, a 25-year-old social program specialist at Franklin County Children’s Services.
Hatch, a graduate of Wright State University who earned his degree in psychology, works as an adoption recruiter and sacrificed a major moment in his career in order to attend the Browns workshop.
“Fortunately, I was able to get off work but I am very passionate about the child welfare field. I did grow up in foster care so I have a different insight and I take it very seriously because those are kids that have futures and us as social workers...it’s important to be in their lives,” Hatch said. “I actually had an adoption on Wednesday of a sibling group and I wasn’t able to be there. It was a group that I did all the work to really help them find a family.”
Hatch said he was able to FaceTime the children and congratulate them for having permanency, which made everything worth it, even more so after winning the MVP award.
Now, with new experiences under his belt and additional career growth waiting for him in Dallas, Hatch hopes to continue this new path into marketing with his ability to bring a diverse background to the field—which he credited to the event at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“It makes me feel like I’m included. It’s kind of like a drop in the ocean, but a multitude of drops make the ocean. I think it’s incredible that the Cleveland Browns are driving this, pushing this, making it a priority for their brand and their organization,” Hatch said. "I really think it’s something that other organizations are going to look at and say ‘We need to be more like the Cleveland Browns, we need to look at what the Cleveland Browns are doing because they’re doing it the right way.”
Be the Solution
The Browns have been advocates for diversity and inclusion within their organization, and the four-day workshop put words into action and solidified the team’s commitment to making a change not only in the local community but across the country.
"Last year we launched be the solution and [General Manager] Andrew Berry talked about having dialogue and having conversations about change and how we can all make our local community better, as well as society, and this is the next step," said Jenner Tekancic, Browns vice president of community relations. "We wanted diverse thought, we wanted collaboration with young professionals because we don't have all the answers and the answers come when we can all work together and come up with the next thing we should be doing to elevate be the solution and this workshop really helped provide some of those pathways."
The Browns have been aiming to be the leaders of a culture shift stemming from the social unrest during the summer of 2020. This week's workshop was just one of many initiatives—but certainly not the last.
"It's the first time we have done a workshop like this, and I would foresee this in our future, absolutely," Tekancic said.
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