By Alfredo Bustamante, 2L, CSLP Fellow
On Friday, February 6, 2015, the TJSL Center for Sports Law and Policy (CSLP) hosted a panel featuring Len Simon who is the Co-Owner of the Lake Elsinore Storm, a Class A baseball team and affiliate of the San Diego Padres and Assistant General Manager/Director of Corporate Sales Raj Narayanan.
Moderated by CSLP Director Jeremy Evans ’11, the panel covered a variety of topics, including duties within the organization, staffing levels and structure, and goals. The panelists began by explaining their respective backgrounds. Mr. Simon is a graduate of Duke University School of Law and has been a litigator in San Diego since 1983. Mr. Simon explained that he had always loved sports which is why he sought a way to get involved in the sports industry. In early 2002, he purchased the Lake Elsinore Storm with Gary Jacobs.
Mr. Narayanan, who joined the Storm in October 2009, attended the University of Connecticut and Rutgers University. Prior to joining the Storm, he worked for the Inland Empire 66ers for four years and as a Financial Services Professional in New Jersey for six years.
Next, the panel discussed the general differences between a Minor League team and a Major League team, as well as the relationship between the two. Unlike Major League teams, the Storm does not have control over the players on their roster. Although they sometimes have big name players join their program, he explained that it is not in their best interest to promote those players as part of their team because it is possible that they will be called up to the Major League at any time. Therefore, Mr. Narayanan and his staff are responsible for coming up with new and creative ideas to promote the team and attract fans to come watch their games.
When trying to come up with new, fresh ideas for promotions, Mr. Narayanan explained that it’s important to know what is going on in the world at that time and what’s being talked about. “You have to ask yourself, how can we capitalize on this? What’s trending right now?” An example that he mentioned is the current NFL scandal known as Deflategate. However, Narayanan said before going forward with promotions involving public figures or trademarks, it is important to protect against legal issues through licensing and approvals. He added that although a promotion may seem innocent enough, you never know when a legal issue might arise.
Besides coming up with creative promotions related to trending topics, the Storm also focuses on promoting their mascot, special events like fireworks and giveaways, and discounts on food and drinks. The panelists also discussed the importance of finding ways for the team to tie their promotions to good causes, such as charities and cancer research.
Along with learning about what it’s like to own and be a General Manager for a Minor League Baseball team, guests of the panel were also given advice on how to someday earn an executive position with a team. “Just work hard,” said Mr. Simon. “Work hard, learn how to do whatever task you are given, and be a smart worker.” Mr. Simon discussed the importance of being technologically savvy by explaining your social media skills considering the role that social media has today. In a world where everything is becoming digitalized and imprinted on social media, having that kind of knowledge and skill is very valuable.
Mr. Narayanan advised guests to work hard, as well as constantly be learning. “No matter what position you get into, learn as much as you can. When I first started, I tried to get involved with everything I possibly could, and that’s how you can make yourself stand out.” He also referenced the movie Drumline by saying “You have to learn how to follow before you can lead.”