Starting at the Michigan Daily as an undergrad and transitioning into the world of sports marketing, Mark Burns, ’11, has made a career at the intersection of sports, business, and writing. Currently a talent marketing executive at CSE, he tells how he got where he is and how he feels about being named to Forbes magazine’s fifth annual “30 Under 30” list.
CSE is an Atlanta-based sports and entertainment marketing agency. I’ve been there since 2015. We represent major league baseball players, MBA coaches, NCAA college baseball and basketball coaches, some retired athletes, and both sports and news media. I do their marketing, commercials, speaking engagements, book deals, autograph signings, anything away from their general employment contract, falls under me.
Your work intersects sports and business. How do these two topics collide?
I’m in the sports business industry, so I sort of sleep, eat, and breathe it twenty-four-seven. But then I’m also a contributor for Forbes’ sports money blog. I love writing.
Did you ever plan on going into journalism or was it always sports marketing that you were interested in?
Journalism is something I thought about. But the agency world is something I also always wanted to explore. I felt like I’d really enjoy working that field with my law degree, my love for sports, and the business of sports. The writing has allowed me to meet people that I wouldn’t necessarily meet as part of my network.
You were recently named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30. How did you get to this place in your career?
Being nominated was an honor. I had my five seconds of fame on that day. My phone was going nuts and I was getting a lot of congrats texts, calls, emails, and mentions on Twitter.
I had a ton of unpaid internships, and built my network and relationships with people not only in the agency world but across the entire sports landscape. I think a little luck plays into it as well. But I also think you sort of create your own luck.
What advice would you give to students with similar interests?
For college at least, study what you are interested in. If you looked at my education, it makes no sense for what I’m doing now. But at the time, I majored in history, minored in political science, and crime and justice. I went to law school but now I don’t practice law at all. You are going to hear a lot of ‘no’s’ in your lifetime. Be okay with hearing that “no,” because all it takes is one “yes” to get that internship or first job. But be persistent. A mentor of mine said “Be bold with your dreams, be bold with your aspirations.”
And of course, how did your time at Michigan influence your career choices, or simply yourself as an individual?
The broad base of classes I took helped to broaden my general knowledge, as did the real world experience I got from The Michigan Daily. Just being in a newsroom with 100 plus students, putting out a daily newspaper five days a week from scratch, and having no adult oversight as 20-year-old students, was probably one of the defining experiences I had while at Michigan. If I could have been and undergrad for seven years, I probably would have.