Author’s note: Thanks to Commissioner Brown for answering our submitted questions! MLL has undergone a strategic review and is entering its’ 19th season, starting in late May, with the Launch opening May 31st at home against the Atlanta Blaze in their new facility at Central Broward Regional Park.
FLN: It’s one year into your position and it certainly has been an adventurous and busy one to say the least. Could you give us a summary of the issues you’ve had to deal with over the course of the year as well as some of the changes we will see this upcoming season?
Commissioner Brown: I had to quickly learn to whole landscape of the league – the teams, the personnel, and the league culture. MLL has had 20 years of history, and I needed to absorb all of that so I could help move the league forward. After getting up to speed, I worked with the team to assess where the league stood in terms of potential growth opportunities, as well as areas for improvement and then developed strategies to seize new opportunities and make changes where they were needed. We had to address the competitive landscape and take action to secure MLL as a leader. As a result, I think we’ve taken some bold, exciting steps this year, launching a new schedule with more games, planning more events to engage our fans, fostering a robust digital presence, and committing to creating a better game day experience. Finally, we refreshed the MLL brand, with a new logo that is reflective of the exciting future of professional lacrosse.
FLN: Any long-term organization needs to reevaluate itself from time to time even in quieter periods of existence. The League utilized an outside organization to help facilitate a strategic review to help in setting some goals and direction for the near and long term. What are some of the results of that review that you can share from at least the generic sense and was there one or two insights in the research that would surprise our readers?
Commissioner Brown: We are dedicated to growing the league and expanding the fan base, and that’s been a big focus for me and my team this year. We did not use an outside organization to formulate our long-term plan. That said, we did hire Nielsen to do a deep dive into our fan base, and that information informed the plan MLL developed internally. We found that, unsurprisingly, the MLL fan base is extremely loyal and enthusiastic. Our digital reach is three times that of NLL, and higher than NLL, PLL, TLN and LSN combined. MLL fans over indexed in terms of purchasing brands associated with the sport of lacrosse by over 70 percent. So that is very positive. Going forward, this review enabled us to see that we need to do.
FLN: Given your extensive experience on the International side (readers, Commissioner Brown has been past President of Univision Sports and started Univision Deportes, as well as ESPN Asia and ESPN Star Sports, as well as the NBA international television sales) can we see some possible marketing efforts for MLL rights to be broadcast in those countries outside of North America that are rapidly getting exposed to the game through youth participation?
Commissioner Brown: Interestingly, MLL Director of Marketing Carrie Gamper and I both played competitively overseas – Carrie played in the UK and I played in Australia. Securing international opportunities for the MLL is a goal that is near and dear to our hearts. We are working closely with Jim Scherr and FIL on this initiative and Jim and his team have been excellent partners for us. We are already working with a number of international federations and hope to increase the number significantly this year.
FLN: The League finds itself in a suddenly unusual competition for players due to the PLL formation. The League lost a number of big names in the sport for the upcoming season and has found itself in sort of a fork in the road as far as how to rebuild rosters. Will we see multiple approaches out of the teams? Will some compete toe to toe for top college draftees with salary competition? Will some look to capitalize on local talent, if that is possible? How do you see the teams competing for, what is in effect similar, to the old AFL-NFL pre-merger competitive landscape?
Commissioner Brown: We have made a number of significant changes for the better to the MLL over the last 12 months, both for our players and our fans. We have work left to do, but I like the progress we have made so far. Our focus is constant improvement of the game day experience for our players, fans and partners. I believe we are executive on the goals we established for 2019. We have an incredibly loyal fan base in nine key markets in this country, and we are adding to this daily. I am very excited about the trajectory of our league.
FLN: A lot of readers would be surprised to know your own lacrosse background as a player, including that you played in the USILA North-South Game (the college senior All Star Game) in 1985 as a representative of Washington & Lee University. Is there a personal feel or desire to making this league successful, beyond just being the Commissioner of a professional sports league?
Commissioner Brown: I have always had a passion for the game of lacrosse. Like most people associated with the sport, it has had a palpable impact on my life. I was fortunate enough to be presented with the opportunity to lead this league and to be able to take the things I have learned in my career and apply them to an endeavor for which I am passionate. Needles to say, I love coming to work every day with the intent of making a positive contribution to MLL, and to our sport. We have accomplished a lot in a short 12 months. I’m very excited about where we are headed.