Chris Grosse: Penn State Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing - Work In Sports Podcast

By Brian Clapp | October 16, 2019

Chris Grosse, Penn State Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing joins host Brian Clapp on the Work In Sports podcast

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of content and engaged learning at and this is the Work In Sports podcast…

There is something magical about college sports. I’ll be the first to admit, growing up in the Boston area, there isn’t a huge college sports component, it’s all pro sports. 

I always thought of college sports as the minor leagues to the pros, and therefore less important. In my world view the pro game was the pinnacle and everything else was just a pathway. 

But really, this is the wrong lens to look through. Chris grosse Penn State Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing

This perspective changed for me, when I was in my late 20’s. I travelled to England to watch a few premier league soccer games -- I saw a game at Arsenal, and another at Chelsea - and these were experience I had never had in sports.

The fans were different, the stadium experience was different, the vibe was different. I remembered returning, and going back to work, which was at CNN/Sports Illustrated at the time and telling anyone who would listen.. Oh my gosh, I feel like a different sports fan with different expectations. 

One of my co-workers said to me… have you ever been to a game at UGA? Well, no. 

Another -- have you been to a game at Tennessee? (this is when Peyton was huge) And then my boss a Michigan grad said ..dude “what about the Big house?” you been?

It wasn’t until I started experiencing these sports cathedrals that I realized mine was the skewed perspective. That the real passion and enthusiasm and maniacal fandom was in college sports. That booming of 106,000 people chanting so loud your chest felt like it was compressing. 

That’s the magic you want from sports. 

And as my journey has continued, as I’ve interviewed associate athletic directors from Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan… you realize how much goes into operating a department representing sometimes 30+ teams, not just one. The effort and coordination it takes to maximize the experience of thousands of student athletes across a department...and to draw fans not just to football saturdays, but mid-week soccer games, and water polo and baseball. 

The challenge is real, and it’s exciting.

I’m in awe, and for that reason I watch, listen and learn from those friends I have created in college athletics to better understand their world. A new friend in the mix, this weeks guest Chris Grosse -- Penn State Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing.

Here’s Chris…


Questions for Chris Grosse, Penn State Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing 


1: Before we get into sports marketing in athletics, and life at a major university like Penn State – I want to go back to your beginning… you’ve been in various roles in college athletics, often in marketing, how did you figure out or discover this fit? Why college sports and why marketing?

2: As I do my research to come up with my questions I start out looking through your resume, you’re a pretty young guy, and yet you’ve already worked all around the country – University of Connecticut, Naval Academy, Florida State, New Mexico State, Georgetown and now Penn State – is this the reality of roles in college athletics, you have to move around to move up?  

3: How much do the roles change when you go from school to school – they all say “marketing” in the job title, but I imagine the approach and resources are different at New Mexico vs. Georgetown, and even more so jumping to Penn State?

4: The sports industry is a small world, but it also has many sub cultures  – I came up in the sports media, and that can be a small community where we all kind of know each other, or know someone who knows you – the same seems true in college athletics – when you tweet, I see 90% of the responses come from other people in college athletics in similar roles – what is that like having your own little supportive community to engage with?

5: You are very active and insightful on Twitter – a great follow if I do say so – you shared a tweet a while back listing all of the components of sports marketing - you listed 20 skills ranging from fan engagement and ticket sales, to video and fundraising. The graphic shows off the enormity of the role and what marketing really means.

Looking for your guidance here – should young people who want to work in sports marketing try to become a jack-of-all trades learning all of these component skills, or lean into certain area and become a master?

6: Of those skills, you have to have favorites, and things you dread doing – this is just life – so explain, what do you love most…and what do you put off as far as you can?

7: We always focus on the big teams on campus – football & basketball – but using Penn State as an example, you have 31 teams competing in Div 1 … throughout your career, in a marketing sense, how do you balance focus on the big earners, while also trying to grow the smaller sports?

8: To be in sports marketing you clearly need a flair for the creative – I just saw you’re having a Pumpkin Spice Night for the Women’s soccer teams game against Illinois – very creative -- but you also have to be able to execute on the ideas and track data to know if an idea worked or not – how important is it for someone to be more than just creative?

9: Every home game you are involved in an event with 106,000 of your closest friends. Seriously, it’s like you are throwing a house party and 106,000 people are on their way over. What is the process for managing the fan experience and making the event memorable?    

10: We’ll finish off with this - You compiled a list of advice for young professionals who want to enter the #sportsbiz and shared it on twitter – I will post it on our page for this episode as well. The list is an aggregation of advice from 27 of your friends and co-workers in the industry. It’s great, very insightful and to the point. But one thing was missing from this doc – your advice.

So spill it, what is your advice for young professionals trying to enter the sports biz?

Listen to this podcast episode to hear the answers to these questions and more!

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