Spring 2018 - Alumni Spotlight
Interview by Anne Krepacki, MBA '87
Brian Papson '08 MBA
Vice President of Marketing, Philadelphia, Eagles
Sports are both Brian’s career and his passion, having spent most of his life involved in athletics. We chose Brian for our first “Alumni Spotlight” because he is a great representative of all that the Villanova MBA program represents: The pursuit of excellence, success through hard work, and passion in giving back to the community.
Q1: As the VP of Marketing for the team, can you tell us about your role in keeping the fans excited, growing the fan base, and maintaining that momentum?
A: Being involved in sports for most of my life, I’m well aware that there are always going to be a lot of ups and downs. That’s why I believe in a long-term strategy of fan engagement, with programs taking place throughout the year for both kids and adults. As an example, we recently ran a “Junior Cheer Clinic”, a cheerleading program for girls from ages 6 to 12. Along with the other programs and clinics we put on throughout the year for men, women, and boys, it’s a great way for the fans to engage with the Eagles. If a family has a really positive experience with the team, then, well, we have fans for life, starting with those who are just 6 years old now. That’s how you build fan excitement and build a great fan base. When you’re a fan as a young child, you’re a fan for life!
Q2: Did you know then that you wanted to pursue a career in sports marketing? Can you tell us about how your career evolved?
A: I’ve been involved in sports my whole life. I was fortunate to be able to attend Susquehanna University and play both football and baseball. While I was a student at Susquehanna, an opportunity to intern with the Philadelphia Phantoms presented itself, so I jumped on it, despite passing up a higher-paying internship offer elsewhere. I truly went with my passion. And it paid off because when I graduated, they actually created a position for me with the team. But then when the Marketing Director left the team, they moved me into Marketing, and I’ve been involved in Marketing ever since.
From the Phantoms, I went to United Sports Training Center. It was a great position working with youth sports, and I gained important sales experience, but I missed working for a sports team. I then moved on to a sports marketing role with Villanova that I truly enjoyed, and I also got my MBA degree while I was there. Throughout this time, I had always stayed in touch with a mentor of mine who had been my very first boss when I was with the Phantoms. He ended up joining Spurs Sports & Entertainment – owners of the [NBA team] San Antonio Spurs, as well as other professional sports teams, in addition to performances that took place at the AT&T Center. He then recruited me into the Spurs organization. I had truly loved my position and the people I worked with at Villanova, but with the encouragement of my girlfriend at the time – who is now my wife – I knew that the move to the Spurs was the right thing to do. My co-workers at Villanova were great and wished me the best! Then, when the position with the Eagles opened up, it gave me the opportunity to come back home with my family and continue with the career that I love.
With just 32 NFL teams, I realize how very fortunate I am. The steps that led me here are, first and foremost, a supportive family. But you have to be patient and weigh your next moves. The “grass isn’t always greener”. You must always believe, you must know the direction that you want to grow, and you must feel that it’s the right thing for you and your family.
Q3: You already had a successful career. What made you decide to get your MBA from Villanova?
A: I feel that I’ve always approached the moves I’ve made in my career with the idea that “it’s the right thing to do”. And I knew it was time for me to go back to school. I wanted to be a better professional, to have more exposure in running an organization. At Villanova, I had a pretty rigorous schedule promoting the Men’s Basketball Team, the Women’s Basketball Team, and the Football Team. In most circumstances, with that kind of schedule, it would’ve been difficult to pursue an MBA. But being at Villanova enabled me to pursue my degree for two reasons: First, they gave me the flexibility in attending classes, and, secondly, because all I had to do to get to class was, quite literally, to walk across the street. And it truly changed my life because I actually met my wife at Bartley Hall.
Q4: How did you and the EAGLES team get involved in the cause for Autism Awareness?
A: For the owner of the Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie, autism awareness is a cause that’s very near and dear to his heart. For him, it’s a priority to promote and support awareness, as well as research into causes of autism. Autism research has traditionally gone underfunded, and there is no cure. So this year we sponsored the first annual “Eagles Autism Challenge” to raise both awareness and money for research. It took place in May. It was a unique event in that participants could choose to bike or run, and they finished at the 50-yard line of Lincoln Financial Field. Participants challenged themselves while raising money for a good cause. My involvement has been very eye-opening for me personally – I learned, for instance, that the chances of a boy being diagnosed with autism are 1 in 42. It was also my own personal challenge: I completed a 30-mile bike ride, while also setting a challenging fundraising goal for myself. I certainly encourage my fellow MBA alums to consider getting involved in this event in the future.
Q5: The most important question: Are the Eagles going to repeat?
A: I certainly hope so! It has truly been an amazing experience. Better than I ever even imagined. It’s something I will cherish forever, and I hope we have the opportunity to experience it again in the future. This is a great organization with both players and front-office staff who are very involved in their communities and in giving back. They’re a truly great organization to work for with the heart to win again!