It’s hard to believe that Brad Robins was turned down for his first job out of university. Today, Robins is one of the most influential consultants in the world of hockey – a personal branding and lifestyle manager for some of the game’s biggest stars, including; Carey Price, Martin Brodeur, Joffrey Lupul and Brendan Gallagher. His CV includes notable former clients such as Facebook, Apple Computers, Absolut, Air France, Subaru, the Katz Group, Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital, and he’s the former owner of a major junior hockey franchise.
But as a young BA student in the 1980s, Robins didn’t look so impressive on paper. To get his foot in the door, he wound up volunteering as a “gopher” for a small ad agency in London, Ontario. “I was emptying garbage cans, pulling stock photography, doing errands,” he recalls, of his first foray into the business world. Eventually, through sheer tenacity, he landed a position with a larger firm, and when an opportunity came to handle the Canadian marketing efforts of a little startup computer company called Apple, Robins jumped. “To get ahead in the advertising world you have to look at each prospect as an opportunity and move quickly,” says Robins.
On the heels of that success he was able to launch his own agency. Through a combination of heady ambition and astute business sense, Robins was soon brokering multi-million dollar deals. Today he is recognized as the top sports marketer in Canada (Yahoo Sports, Globe and Mail) and his grasp of social media has created a players network that reaches over a million fans a day.
Along the way, one of Robins’ strengths has been his uncanny ability to see what lies ahead. His competitive foresight is a key reason Robins was tapped to join the Business of Hockey Institute (BHI), which provides business insight to Athabasca University on its new Executive MBA tailored with hockey-specific courses (video). Robins will also serve as an adviser to students in the program, helping them to focus their learning.
Having watched and worked the game for over 20 years, Robins sees new challenges ahead for the world of hockey. “It’s still an old school sport,” he says, “but there’s a difficult, challenging paradigm shift underway – buying and consumption patterns, viewing habits, changing delivery options. We need to open up creatively and continue to evolve this incredible game emphasizing how captivating an entertainment vehicle the greatest game in the world truly is.”
To address these changes, Robins says, the game needs a new breed. “We need to educate future students in this game to keep making it better and continue to ask the questions; how do we engage fans and ignite audience passion in the best ways possible?”
If anyone can help a new generation of business leaders answer those burning questions, it’s the former “gopher” turned independent pro sport mogul.