You bring up the Oakland A’s and nine times out of 10, the first thing that comes to mind is Moneyball.
The arrival of Wade Martin to Vancouver as Whitecaps FC’s new chief revenue officer brings valuable experience from working under famed baseball analytics mind Billy Beane, but there are other elements that are first and foremost to his approach.
Connectivity and transparency.
Probably not a surprise, given his history with a ballclub situated just a line drive away from Silicon Valley.
“Creating a culture of connectivity is what’s important. The transparency goes both ways with our fans, with our partners and constituents of the club,” explains Martin. “Connecting all those groups to make sure that everyone understands what the vision is - what we're doing on the pitch, how we're building the club and the academies, and all the way through.”
Boasting a resume that includes stops in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions, as well as working with a handful of other MLB, NBA, and NFL teams while with global sports entity Endeavor, Martin traces his strategic approach to the simple act of listening.
That was key in the A’s recent ascent in MLB revenue growth, despite being surrounded by a congested sports market in the Bay Area.
“A lot of it is listening, taking what you hear, and putting it into practice with products and opportunities. With the A’s, it was ‘how do you want to experience baseball?’ We listened to fans and we came up with A’s Access, a subscription-based membership model that provided them with a new way of consuming baseball. Three years later, we've grown our season ticket membership, we’ve grown our partners both quantitatively and qualitatively.”
It’s a process Martin intends to continue in collaboration with ‘Caps supporters and partners.
And there’s also the influence of the statistical analysis learned with the A’s, where he reported under President Dave Kaval, but also had daily interaction with Beane.
“Billy allowed us to be really disciplined, not just with budgeting, but more so how we use the resources to grow,” shares Martin. “We had more data scientists and analytics folks on the baseball side and the business side than most organizations, so there's not anything we do that isn't calculated.”
Martin also admires Beane for his clear-minded approach and vision, something that resounded with him as well when learning about Whitecaps FC.
“I was really just struck by the commitment from ownership to take the organization to the next level,” says Martin. “Axel (Schuster) has built the vision on and off the pitch, and being able to be part of that on the business side is just so exciting.”
Having led the naming rights project with the Chicago Cubs and historic Wrigley Field, and ballpark partnership strategies with the A’s and Oakland Coliseum, Martin now has his sights on MLS.
“I just have been really inspired by the business model and what the league is doing collectively. Despite that MLS is younger than other leagues, it's got 25 years of history and it's positioned really uniquely to be a little bit more progressive and more innovative. That, to me, is a sort of a marketer, a partnership builder, and a revenue generator.”
He makes it clear, however, that “revenue is a result, not the objective.” The stream will come in as long as the focus is on creating opportunities for partners and connecting fans to the product – and the ‘Caps are in a unique position in doing exactly that during the pandemic.
“We’re not on the frontlines saving lives but we're a source of joy, a source of distraction during this time. Creating opportunities to do that through virtual experiences, through content, allowing our partners to that connectivity, and allowing our partners to take that to market in whatever industry they're in. We provide partners with ways to tell their story.”
With Martin on deck as the latest addition to the new Whitecaps FC senior leadership team, supporters and partners alike can expect an innovative and connected ‘Caps experience as the club enters its second decade in MLS.