Inside Track with President Stephen J. Friedman
Along with Chairman of the Pace Board of Trustees, Mark M. Besca
January 29, 2014 - Pace University New York Campus
CEO of Steiner Sports Marketing, Inc.
As a poor kid in Brooklyn, Brandon Steiner lived for the summer days when he could scrounge together enough change to make the subway trip to Yankee Stadium, buy the cheapest ticket available, and bask in the aura of his favorite baseball team for a couple of hours. On the train rides home from those escapes, little could Brandon have known that in a few decades, his own name would be indelibly linked with the team in an exclusive memorabilia partnership (Yankees-Steiner Collectibles) and that one day, he’d own the very stadium he had just been sitting in.
Raised in Flatbush with his two brothers by a single mother, Brandon attended John Dewey High School in Coney Island, NY and from there went on to Syracuse University, graduating in 1981 with an accounting degree.
Brandon then began an Odyssean career that saw many twists and turns, and many self-reinventions, but that always centered around his two sharpest skills: managing people and providing services.
Brandon started out in food service and hospitality, managing a hospital cafeteria in Baltimore. From there, he moved to a brand new Hyatt in that city's refurbished inner harbor. One of the youngest restaurant managers in the nationwide hotel chain, Brandon oversaw that location's two most-trafficked restaurants, helping to ensure that the new hotel would be a success for years to come.
After his time at the Hyatt, Brandon moved back to his native New York, where he served as manager at the Hard Rock Café in the late 80s, when it was easily one of the most popular restaurants in the city. It was there that Brandon began meeting many of the athletes he would later represent professionally; they were regulars at the iconic 57th Street bar and grill. Brandon met still more athletes at the next restaurant he managed – the Sporting Club – which was New York City’s first full-service sports bar. It was there that Brandon made his first foray into sports marketing – hiring athletes as "guest bartenders" for charity events, and to show up as guests of honor to “Fight Nights,” where the bar would air satellite broadcasts of big-time boxing matches.
As he got to know the athletes, Brandon learned that they did not have anyone to represent them for speaking engagements and corporate appearances. To fill that void, Brandon started Steiner Associates (later renamed Steiner Sports) in 1987, with only $4,000, a one-room office, and an intern.
Over the years, the business slowly but steadily grew, and by the late 90s, Steiner Sports comprised dozens of employees and represented most of the big-name athletes in the New York sports scene. It was also around this time that the company expanded its business focus to collectibles. Brandon had long asked each of the athletes he represented to sign memorabilia for corporate gifts and to accrue new business clients; in time, the companies he worked with started requesting these signed items almost as much as the appearances of the athlete themselves.
In 2003, Brandon published his first book, The Business Playbook: Leadership Lessons from the World of Sports. The Business Playbook was supported by a national book tour which brought Brandon as a guest lecturer to some of the top business schools in the country, including The Harvard Business School, The Kellogg School of Business, Columbia and Yale. Brandon also began being hired as a motivational speaker, a role which brought him to Fortune 500 companies ranging from hotel chains, to real estate companies, to countless trade conventions.
Perhaps Brandon's biggest home run to date is Steiner Sports' aforementioned deal with the New York Yankees. This unprecedented partnership was announced in 2004, as a way to provide Yankees fans with authentic Yankees memorabilia and one-of-a-kind fantasy experiences at Yankee Stadium.
Steiner Sports followed this with similar partnerships with Notre Dame Football, Syracuse Athletics, and Madison Square Garden. Each of these partnerships bring fans closer to the games and athletes they love, through meet-and-greets, speaking appearances, signed memorabilia including game-used jerseys and equipment, and countless other products and services.
In 2008, Steiner Sports created yet another unique market, by buying the exclusive rights to the disassembled Old Yankee Stadium. Steiner created an entire, authentic Stadium product line; fans now have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take home seats, signs, bricks from Monument Park, and hundreds of other unique pieces which give the old stadium new life.
Today, Steiner Sports is a company that takes in $40 million per year in revenues, and employs 100 people.
Outside the office, Brandon has become a permanent fixture in the media and is a regular on ESPN Radio 1050, along with his co-hosting duties on Yankees-Steiner: Memories of the Game, prominently featured on the YES Network.
Additionally, Brandon is frequently utilized as an expert commentator on sports and marketing on national news networks including CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, and ESPN, and in newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Most recently, he made several appearances on the MLB Network while promoting the MLB Fan Cave.
Brandon was also instrumental in creating the David Falk Sports Management Program at Syracuse University and is a Founding Member. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Syracuse Athletics.
Brandon devotes most of his limited free time to several charities, including Family Services of Westchester, which helps provide quality social and mental health services to strengthen families and children. With Brandon's help, Family Services of Westchester has been able to open two group homes for teenage boys and teenage girls with no place to call home.
In 2012, Wiley & Sons published Brandon’s second book, You Gotta Have Balls, which chronicles his long career, and the life and business lessons he learned therein.
Brandon resides in Scarsdale, New York with his wife Mara and their two children. He still bleeds Syracuse Orange and hosts at his house a weekly basketball game for his employees and friends.