When it Comes to Career Planning, Alumnus Michael Yormark Doesn’t Play Games
President of Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports International, Headquartered in London, Dishes on his ‘Points of Differentiation’ & Why Today’s Students Should Have Some, Too
With a daughter who's a senior in high school—and with his 10-year work anniversary with Jay-Z’s sports management firm, Roc Nation Sports International, on the horizon—Michael Yormark, GVPT ’88, has spent some time reflecting on the part the University of Maryland played in his career success.
The short answer? A big one.
Yormark knew he wanted to be in the sports entertainment business since he was 13 years old, and from that point forward, every academic and career decision he made was in strategic pursuit of that goal.
“The University of Maryland was not too far from my home in West Orange, New Jersey, and knowing what I wanted to do from a career perspective, being—at that time—at an ACC school with proximity to Washington, D.C. was really important to me,” said Yormark.
Yormark’s foresight ultimately paid off. While participating in UMD’s Federal Work-Study program, Yormark took a part-time position in the University of Maryland Athletics’ sports information department, staffed basketball and football games, and got to connect with basketball coaching greats Lefty Driesell and Bob Wade, and former athletic director Lew Perkins.
Perkins introduced Yormark to the Washington, D.C. team of ProServ, one of the nation’s first sports marketing agencies where Yormark went on to intern during his senior year.
“Having the exposure of the ACC and getting firsthand experience in marketing and PR and communications within the sports industry was a dream come true,” he said. “And my internship my senior year is what really reinforced exactly what I wanted to do in my career; and, quite frankly, it paved the way for my acceptance into Ohio University to get my master’s.”
At the time, Yormark explained, there were only two schools in the country offering master’s degrees in sports administration: the University of Ohio, and the University of Massachusetts.
Yormark remembers deciding to go to graduate school as being a “difficult experience” because going would mean that he would need to incur more debt.
“But, I really felt that if I was fortunate enough to get accepted by one or both schools, it would really give me a point of differentiation,” he said. “I ask my daughter, and my nieces and nephews all the time: ‘What is your point of differentiation? What's going to differentiate you from other college graduates? When you're all applying for the same job, why are you going to get chosen as opposed to somebody else?’ To me, it's the focus and the experience that you can gather in college. That can be the point of differentiation.”
For Yormark, it was. He was offered acceptance into both graduate programs, and not long after graduating with his master’s, Yormark kicked off a career in sports defined by impressive approaches to unique challenges, and work with some of the biggest names in global sport such as Kevin Durant, Kevin De Bruyne, Dez Bryant, Saquon Barkley, Romelu Lukaku, Siya Kolisi and more.
Roc Nation Sports International expanded into the Brazil market this past July through the acquisition of the soccer-focused TFM Agency. With that, Yormark says to keep your eyes and ears open for news of Vinicius Junior, a “star” player for Real Madrid: “Soccer fans know who he is. Non-soccer fans don't know who he is, but those are the fans that we're going to reach, and those are the fans that are going to become his supporters in the very near future.”
One of Yormark’s most noteworthy career accomplishments was finding a way to sell ice hockey in the Sunshine State as Chief Operating Officer, and eventually President and CEO, of the Florida Panthers.
“Marketing hockey in a nontraditional market like South Florida, where most people didn’t grow up with ice hockey, was a challenge in and of itself. So, my whole strategy and blueprint for success for the Panthers revolved around selling hockey as entertainment,” explained Yormark. “I also ran the market's most successful entertainment venue at that time, the BB&T Center, so my value proposition and our point of differentiation in the market compared to other professional sports teams was the entertainment value of closely aligning the Florida Panthers with the premier sports and entertainment venue in the market.”
It was through his 12 years of work with the Panthers and BB&T Center, now the Amerant Bank Arena, that Yormark got to meet celebrity artists like Jay-Z, and those represented by his entertainment agency, Roc Nation. Yormark says the Roc Nation board was the one to approach him about joining the company’s sports management division.
“I probably wouldn't have gone to any other company at that time, and definitely not to another sports agency. But I felt that Roc Nation’s purpose, and what they were trying to accomplish with professional athletes and artists was very unique,” said Yormark. “Most agencies are focused on what's good for them, and how they leverage the success of their athletes or artists to better themselves. That’s not part of Roc Nation’s thinking. What's important to us is to make sure that every athlete and every artist achieves their life goals and objectives.”
What Roc Nation Sports International does for its clients, part of its “secret sauce,” Yormark says, is exactly what he managed to do for himself, starting with his decision to attend the University of Maryland.
“For me, college was the job before the job. I used my time at the University of Maryland to really set the table and the foundation for my career journey,” he reflected. “The job market is so competitive today that you need to be disciplined. You need to choose a path while you are in college to give yourself the best chance to land a wonderful opportunity upon graduation.”
Published on Wed, Oct 25, 2023 - 2:46PM