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Sports Marketing: Making Connections in a Disconnected World

Sports Marketing: Making Connections in a Disconnected World

“In a connection and relationship-driven business, if you are professional, exceed expectations and make things easy for your clients, more connections will come.”- Michael Hughes

The sports marketing industry has evolved over the past 135 years from the first baseball trading card, produced in 1886, to fans being able to meet their idols face-to-face (and, more recently, back to trading cards). One of the businesses spearheading this evolution is Radtke Sports based in Flowery Branch.

“We’re a total sports marketing and merchandising company,” said Michael Hughes, owner of Radtke Sports. “We have relationships with athletes that allow us to infuse the different services and products we offer into the marketplace.”

Radtke is a major player in the sports marketing world, having exclusive deals with athletes such as Brett Favre and selling merchandise with autographs from athletes and entertainers such as Rob Gronkowski, Michael Vick, and even Kit Harrington.  Their services range from having players autograph memorabilia to setting up events for athletes to meet their fans.

“Primarily what we do is autographed memorabilia and merchandise. As our company has grown over the last 20 years, we’ve taken on a lot more marketing endeavors as well, so we do more player appearances and speaking engagements,” Hughes said.

In today’s world, it can be difficult to set up these engagements for the fans and athletes, which is why a multi-faceted sports marketing company, such as Radtke, is still able to succeed and evolve with the industry.

“As far as sports memorabilia and marketing, the sports industry is very strong. There are historic numbers right now in sports cards and sports memorabilia. A Michael Jordan 1986 rookie card recently sold for $700,000. We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been able to grow every single year. Our growth plan is to continue to add more athletes and different services to our portfolio as well as be more ingrained in the corporate culture of infusing athletes and entertainers into what we do.”

Along with encouraging fan interactions, meeting new people and making connections have been staunched by the pandemic. Having a wide variety of connections from two decades of being in service has helped Radtke make new connections while keeping and strengthening their current ones.

“In a connection and relationship-driven business, if you are professional and exceed expectations and make things easy for your clients, more connections will come,” Hughes explained. “For example, if I did a really good job for Brett Favre, Michael Vick, or Terrell Davis, that word-of-mouth opens up new channels. A lot of what we do is working with players directly, versus how we started through agents or marketing agencies. If you do well with those players or agencies, then they’ll recommend you to other players, and it brings more opportunities to you.”

Having these strong relationships not only improves business as a whole, but can deliver future connections and athletes on its own.

“As the relationships grow throughout player’s careers, those opportunities and deals are sometimes offered to you and they’ll send another up-and-coming guy to you. It takes time, but it all revolves around making sure you’re doing things the right way and you’re coming through for them. If you make a mistake, then be accountable for your actions and do what you can to make it right.”

As important as connections are and as far as relationships go in this business, Hughes fully stands by the two reasons his business is where it’s at today: hard work and dedication to your clients.

“For me, I think what’s important about being in business is to continue to do things ethically and morally sound. If you do people right, your business can only go one direction: up. Obviously, there’s a lot of different factors that can hurt and hinder your business, like the pandemic, but ultimately, the thing I’ve learned about myself and being in business, especially in a relationship-driven business, is that people want to work with you if you do the right things.”

“Under-promise and over-deliver. Show up for work, come in early, and work hard.” -Michael Hughes

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Sports Marketing: Making Connections in a Disconnected World