How do we get there? Establishing The Narrative and Building the Network to get where you want to be

By Joe Favorito (@joefav

Much is made about how to navigate the complicated and very fluid professional waters we are in today. As someone who has been at this for over 30 years and has spent the last decade on my own, I offer some thoughts.

In August, Frank Bruni penned a New York Times column about going back to school, and the real value that students should look for when returning, or starting off, on the path to academic success. He touched on two areas that go well beyond the college experience, and have great value along the path of life; the value of storytelling, especially the personal narrative we build, and the value of mentoring and surrounding yourself with the right people to help you choose the path you may end up on.

As someone with a passion for learning from people from all walks of life, as well as someone who has now spent ten years in the uncharted waters of consulting, understanding your narrative contribution and the skills you have to help others, and the building of a personal network are invaluable. Here are a few thoughts as to what you need to get those two areas strong and healthy.

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Stay relevant to the community around you. Learning something every day and figuring out how that can apply to the task at hand, is key. Being pigeonholed as someone who does one thing at a certain price for a certain period of time is a hindrance. Being able to balance advice and deliver at the same time is a challenge learned only by experience.

Time is precious, manage it well. Having the efficient use of time with all the distractions we have around us to finish projects, to work with others, to manage deadlines, even to think clearly and effectively, is so important, and is a skill that always needs improvement. If you can be successful juggling multiple projects in multiple time zones for multiple personalities you know how to make the clock work for you.

Take notes, lots of notes. Even the best with memory forget, and early in in my career, my boss Anne Worcester, who was CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association at the time, was big on making sure everyone had notepads. Make a list, check it twice, and review it at the start of the day and at the end. It really helps you see progress, and make sure that the little things are getting done in a world too dependent on email sometimes.

Look left, look right. I have always been admirer of how point guards in basketball go about their jobs in games. They are always looking to see where things are going and how things are developing. They rarely look down. I readily admit that, I am always looking down. However it is really important to have a sense of all around us, because if we don’t, we miss a lot of the activity that makes us whole, in business or in our personal lives. The people and places around us bring us much.

Most importantly, LISTEN. We are all in a rush with limited time and bandwidth. However if you take the time to listen to all that’s going on around you, you will HEAR people tell you some amazing things about themselves, their lives, their businesses, their needs personally and professionally. Ask questions off of what you have heard, and develop the narrative off of that. It becomes a personal conversation that may lead you to places that you were not expecting, just be gearing some of the simplest of things that people are telling you.

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Now no one will say that the journey is easy. We are a global community with millions of stories waiting to be told, many of which are in our midst. Off of those stories comes the narrative that we ourselves can build, and off of that narrative comes the path that can lead us not just to where we want to go, but to where we can go personally and professionally. Is that road fraught with disappointment sometimes? Yes. Is the financial remuneration always the best? No.

However by being able to tell one’s story and by building the right group around you, the ability to get along personally and professionally becomes that much more manageable. Finding ways to do the little things, and build personal brand through storytelling and listening, is very rewarding.

Your value lies within, it is the only thing you take with you for the long term.
Good luck on the road, but be sure and enjoy the ride.

Sport, Twitter Hashtags, and the Public Sphere: Curt Schilling Case Study

Instantly, the hashtag #CurtSchilling became a flashpoint for debate about the issue on Twitter. Thousands of users deployed the hashtag over the following 24 hours, either criticizing Schilling for his homophobia, or castigating ESPN for political correctness. Capturing 10,000 of those hashtags revealed fascinating findings.

By Dr. Brendan O’Hallarn (Old Dominion University)

“Twitter is Destroying America”

This stark headline greeted readers of current affairs and politics website The Week early in 2017, after a particularly ugly Presidential election campaign. The piece joined others with similarly bleak prognoses in The Atlantic and Medium as the popular social media site faced a rash of criticism over the prevalence of bad behaviors by its users.

For me, unabashed Twitter enthusiast, the critique represented a challenge. Can the enlightened, pro-democratic discourse Twitter promised during its hopeful early days

NASSM Blog Habermas
 Jürgen Habermas

as a vital organizing tool used by Arab Spring protesters still be realized? Can it still offer the potential to create dialogue akin to Jürgen Habermas’ public sphere?

The passion and consumption pattern of sport fans, along with specific aspects of Twitter architecture—notably the nimble hashtag—could spur the type of online discourse that Habermas termed deliberative democracy. Of course, barriers exist to that construct, notably the limitation on the length of tweets and the Online Disinhibition Effect, the tendency for online interactions to turn angry and negative.

On April 20, 2016, a former World Series-winning pitcher decided to make his political views very public.

The Military Child Education Coalition 17th National Seminar
Curt Schilling

Schilling was fired after sharing a meme on his Facebook wall about HB2, the North Carolina law which prohibits transgender people from choosing which bathrooms to use. It featured a picture of a large man in ill-fitting women’s clothing and the caption: “Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you are a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” Schilling was swiftly fired by ESPN.

Clearly, two “teams” of Twitter users materialized—with pro-Schilling and pro-firing tweets appearing in abundance. Analyzing the conversation patterns demonstrated there was very little interaction between the “poles”—the two sides were almost exclusively talking past each other.

However, an online questionnaire given to users of #CurtSchilling in the time interval of the study revealed three interesting things:

  1. The users themselves felt a tremendous kinship with other users of the hashtag, feeling like they were part of a collective conversation;
  2. Almost universally, they had no interest in communicating with the other “side” in the debate, feeling like everyone’s mind was already made up; however,
  3. Despite the lack of interactions, hashtag users knew all of the arguments being put forward by the other side. Even though they weren’t discussing the issue actively with them, they were consuming the alternative viewpoints.

Why This Matters:

The general fulfillment from users of the hashtag and the awareness of differing viewpoints (even if not commented upon) suggest some behavior approaching the Habermasian public sphere is present in the interactions.

For #Sportsbiz Professionals:

If they are running an active Twitter feed for their organization, the feeling that “engagement” with followers is the only way to feel like your feed is making an impact. Sometimes it’s worth simply knowing that even if they don’t voice their opinions, people are listening.


For those interested in reading in more detail, find the full research article here.

Challenge accepted: Why women play fantasy football

As expected, women play fantasy football for similar reasons as men, but also play for unique reasons. A total of five motivation factors were uncovered.

Three factors (Enjoy, Enhance, and Socialize) are similar to motives previously found by sport management and communications scholars, and two factors (Challenge and Connect) are unique to female participants.

By Brendan Dwyer (Virginia Commonwealth University), Joshua M. Lupinek (University of Alaska-Fairbanks), & Rebecca Achen (Illinois State University)

Women dominate the consumer economy. Some estimate that they control over 75% of all discretionary purchases and represent a growth market larger than China and India combined. Yet, our marketing strategies for this lucrative population are often stuck in the 1950s. Spectator sport marketing provides a harrowing example of this, as we often engage women’s sports fans through the “Pink it and Shrink it” strategy. That is, we take a product initially marketed toward men, like a football jersey and make it pink and smaller. While strategy may reach some women, it fails to fully represent the unique needs and wants of this important demographic.

Credit: Julia Gilbert (

In the context of fantasy football, women make up nearly 38% of participants and represent the fastest growing demographic for the activity. This is unique phenomenon, as fantasy football has been portrayed as a highly masculine domain. In the sport management and communications literature, most of the research on fantasy football has focused on why people participate. The resulting motives vary from one study to the next, but consistency between the studies exists in that nearly all of them surveyed or interviewed male participants only. A few studies have then taken the motive instruments developed through male samples and applied them to female samples.

This provides some utility; however, similar to the above “Pink it and Shrink it” strategy, it misses the opportunity to understand the unique motives of female fantasy participants. Certainly women play for the same reasons as men, but they may also play for reasons that have never been measured. The current study aimed to explore this phenomenon.

The current study explored why women play fantasy football through a scale development research design. We conducted multi-stage, mixed methods study where women fantasy football participants and sports fans were inductively interviewed, motives were then developed, refined, and retested on two larger samples of female fantasy football participants. In total, 450 participants were studied.

As expected, women play fantasy football for similar reasons as men, but also play for unique reasons. A total of five motivation factors were uncovered.

Three factors (Enjoy, Enhance, and Socialize) are similar to motives previously found by sport management and communications scholars, and two factors (Challenge and Connect) are unique to female participants. These factors include:

  • Enjoy: playing for fun and entertainment
  • Enhance: to improve the time spent engage in NFL-related activities
  • Socialize: to bond, compete, and stay in contact with friends, family, and coworkers Two factors, however, represent new motives for the fantasy sport knowledge base.
  • Challenge: The first unique motive. It represents the opportunity to engage and defeat male opponents in a male-dominated environment.
  • Connect: The second motive signified the drive to connect with individual NFL players on a deeper level through fantasy participation.

Validity testing found that the Enjoy and Enhance factors predicted NFL viewership, the Connect factor predicted social media use, and the Challenge factor negatively predicted enjoyment with the activity and positively predicted frustration. In general, the findings provide a number of takeaways for both academics and practitioners.

For academics, there remains a need for understanding the unique attitudes and behaviors of female sports fans. The current study is evidence that similarities obviously exist with males, but there are also distinct aspects to being a female sports fan.

For practitioners, the Challenge factor may represent an opportunity for more empowerment-related marketing tactics for female fantasy football participants and potentially female sports fans, in general. Empowerment marketing has grown recently, since its inception in the late 1960s. Companies like Under Armor and Dick’s Sporting Goods have utilized empowerment messages directly with sports equipment and apparel. Fantasy football may represent another platform for this marketing strategy. Similar to the female consumers, in general, female sports fans are powerful, and more empirical research in this area is advised.

Interested in learning more? Read the full article here.