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Volume 21 No. 48
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The Sit-Down: Craig Brown, Greenville Drive

The Greenville Drive was awarded the 2017 John H. Johnson President’s Award, the most prestigious honor Minor League Baseball can bestow on an organization. Team owner Craig Brown, after years in the advertising business, uses the team as a community business and education driver.

We often look at the ballpark as a piece of hardware and with today’s technology, you need to keep the hardware fresh, you need to keep it clean, you need to keep it functional and modern. But the magic of baseball is really the software, the programming that goes inside the ballpark and that’s where we really put our focus. 

Photo: greenville drive

[Minor League Baseball is] the ultimate community platform. The world is moving so fast these days, minor league baseball has a bit of a throwback to it in terms of the way things used to be. You focus on affordable family entertainment.

We spend a significant amount of time developing events that celebrate and reinforce … economic development elements and use the Greenville Drive/Fluor Field platform to make community messaging more memorable and effective.

South Carolina ranks No. 43 in the country in terms of the number of family physicians per 100,000 residents. So we need to create a robust health care career pipeline, and we begin this by exposing young people to the variety of careers that exist in the industry. This is accomplished by incorporating a career fair and making it an integral part of the fan experience at a Drive baseball game. 

We have another night devoted to advanced manufacturing and engineering, which fills the concourse with exhibits and 3-D printers and robotics and LED lighting, and [we] bring in education partners and young people through those exhibits. We really want to expose them to it, so they may say, ‘Wow, manufacturing is not what I was thinking, but it’s sexy, it’s got some appeal.’

That’s what gets me going, gets me excited. You realize you have this platform — and I love baseball, that’s what got me into it — but then you realize it really has a much broader application as a community engagement platform.

[The biggest change in Minor League Baseball] is the evolution to a more marketing-orientated model. We’ve always been known for promotions, and some of them were very transactional, very slapstick, if you will. 

Brown greets visiting Columbia Fireflies player Tim Tebow at Fluor Field last season.
Photo: greenville drive

But the ownership models and the sophistication of the ownership groups has evolved tremendously and the league has become much more marketing-orientated, where it’s about the experience, keeping it fresh and unique, and becoming extremely relevant in the community.

When you look at … any of the big consumer product companies, they’re always searching for affordable family entertainment properties. Quite honestly, once you get beyond Disney, there’s not that many organizations that index the way that Minor League Baseball does.

We can scale the enterprise so that we become very appealing to many national advertisers who are very much interested in engaging with families, children and the youth — building a platform around Minor League Baseball and the 50 million people that come to our games every year.

I’m at the stage in my career where not necessarily bigger is better. It is trying to make an impact, and what I love about Minor League Baseball is there’s still enough business that gets my business juices flowing, you’re working with young people, which I think is a great thing, and you’re giving back. 

You can give back in time or you can give back in resources and that’s what a lot of our schedule, games, and efforts are devoted toward. Giving back to the community and building up the community.