I’m Kevin Donnellon and I own Macali Communications, a marketing and public relations firm that specializes in the golf industry. Previously, I owned Donnellon Public Relations that represented various sports and related companies and brands including Gatorade, Sears, Lands’ End, Miller, Outboard Marine, Brunswick, EAS, Wilson and Prince.
I’ve held various marketing and communications positions at Wilson Sporting Goods, Procter & Gamble and agencies including Golin Harris, Ketchum Communications and Burson Marsteller. I have been fortunate to have many diverse challenges, opportunities and fun.
Today, I’d like to share my career path and some advice on how to succeed in your career.
My career started as a journalism and political science major at The Ohio State University. I loved journalism because I had the chance to see how the real world worked from university administration to major college sports to state and local governments. My news training helped me understand how people and organizations function and succeed.
When I graduated, journalism jobs were scarce for entry level reporters. The field had become saturated following the exciting crusading journalism of Woodward and Bernstein and the Washington Post while investigating the Watergate scandal. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of the famous reporters in the movie “All the Presidents Men” helped swell journalism schools and make newspapers deluged with candidates.
PR Natural Transition
At the same time, I began to feel that journalists, while an important part of our society and business, were more on the sidelines than in the game of actually directing programs and making a difference in organizations.
So with this feeling, I turned to marketing and PR, a natural transition as the journalism skills (writing, analysis, trend watching, etc.) were fundamental to this new pursuit. After a very successful sophomore (yes sophomore) summer of networking and many subsequent internships, I was lucky to be chosen to interview with the business leader Procter & Gamble.
After a series of P&G’s comprehensive and intensive interviews, I was offered a job in their expanding PR department. I was the second person hired straight from college into the department. I did all the had PR responsibilities for different divisions, one was actually called Toilet Goods (included Crest, Head & Shoulder and Scope) and another called Bar Soap & Household Cleaning Products (Hello Ivory and Mr. Clean). My tasks included release writing, position statements, managing agency programs, handling media queries. I also learned about communications and business strategy and how successful businesses work. I am honored to be a P&G alum.
And yet I wanted more. At that time, P&G was very reluctant to fully embrace marketing PR. That reluctance led me to pursue the new field of sports marketing and PR. New York was where this action was, so I launched a job search there and was lucky to have a job in three months later at Burson Marsteller.
My first account assignment at Burson was a St. Regis Paper Co. program called Math Baseball (MB). It was a campaign to support the company in local markets where it did significant business. The program featured MLB stars hosting MB games at local YMCAs. Our national spokesperson was Monte Irvin, assistant MLB commissioner and retired Hall of Famer. Our backup was emerging baseball analyst and now famous Fox Sports analyst Tim McCarver. I met major stars, directed their PR interviews and had so much fun working. I got the bug.
Emerging Marketing PR Leader
That interest led me to Ketchum where I worked on various sports programs including the national Cracker Jack Old-Timers Baseball Classic and Tinactin’s fitness campaign.
Chicago and the Midwest beckoned, and I was recruited to the emerging PR leader Golin Harris, which was really taking off from its McDonalds roots. I joined the firm to work on Heileman Brewing and Citibank, and eventually was able to develop and manage programs for Coors, Frito-Lay, Quaker and Wilson Sporting Goods.
Wilson then asked me to start an in-house PR function for them and I eventually became VP of Advertising and PR, running its inhouse marcom agency for golf, tennis and team sports divisions. In my time there, I created and managed programs featuring new products and Michael Jordan, John Elway, Roger Clemens, Chris Evert, Payne Stewart and John Daly.
Following a reorganization at Wilson, I started Donnellon PR and developed a strong marketing and PR and sports niche. We were fortunate to work with major brands in sports including Wilson, Prince, Gatorade, Sears, EAS, Miller, Brunswick, Outboard Marine and EAS. Our campaigns involved spokespersons and events including BCS Championship, Christine Aguilera, High School Players of the Year, Sports Science Institute and many innovative and successful bicycles, apparel, beverages and equipment.
After a family event, I started Macali Communications and focused on my passion, golf and communications. That passion started as a caddy, my college Evans Scholarship and my golf work with Wilson.
An industry specialty allows me to have a competitive advantage over generalist firms as I know the golf market, influencers and thoughtleaders in golf. I also know the market drivers and levers to add value to my clients.
I represent and work on projects for new, emerging brands like SeeMore Putter Co. Fujikura Shafts, Get Golfing, Get Walking, and AMF Golf Management. My mainstream media practice is developing into social media as more golfers and the market is going there for news, information and entertainment.
My career in sports PR has been with brands and organizations and has allowed me to use the entire marketing and PR toolbox from crisis management to product introductions to reputation management and now social media. I also love being a strategist and a counselor.
And sports have many opportunities with teams, leagues, sports companies and associations. All of them are positive opportunities to practice and learn your skills.
When pursuing sports or other PR career I recommend you:
- Learn the business of your clients and how you can help them grow it.
- Step outside your comfort zone and take on a project bigger than you, you will grow.
- Read everything and anything related to making you a better business person in mainstream media (Wall Street Journal, Economist, Fast Company) and blogs (Chris Brogan, David Meerman Scott, Paul Gillin, etc.)
- Pursue your passion and your purpose. My passion was golf and my purpose is helping company’s grow their revenue, reputation and relationships. Do the latter two and the former will follow.
- Be a good writer, analyst and student. Learning starts when you leave school.
- Pick one thing (think Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan) to improve on every year.
Good luck on your career path. I hope your enjoy your work and prosper.