Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE) is one of the largest integrated sports and entertainment companies in the U.S., reaching fans across the Mid-Atlantic region. MSE owns 8 teams, including the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals. In addition, MSE manages several facilities such as Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. MSE also operates Monumental Sports Network (MSN) with the NBC Sports Group and has an ownership stake in esports franchise Team Liquid.
Since its founding, MSE has been committed to a double bottom line philanthropies, working to do well as a business while also making a difference in the community. To accomplish this goal, MSE Foundation raised funds through multiple charitable initiatives each year, primarily engaging players, owners, and fans, and then the MSE Foundation provided grants to nonprofit organizations in the local community. Additionally, teams and players would also engage in independent activities to support different community groups and causes. While the multiple entities across MSEwere contributing regularly to a variety of issues, the work lacked a cohesive strategy, and MSE believed they could do more to impact their community.
MSE engaged Wachs Strategies, a consulting firm that specializes in developing strategies for corporate and philanthropies clients that maximize social impact, to help set a new strategic path forward to increase MSE’s impact in the Greater DC area. The first phase of work focused on understanding MSE’s goals and the unique set of assets the company brings to the region. The planning process included dozens of interviews with key stakeholders, working sessions, and research to analyze historical efforts, needs in the community, and what was possible for the future.
The Wachs Strategies analysis highlighted that while MSE was involved in many activities at the MSE Foundation, team, player, and league levels, there were no centralized efforts that audiences could understand and that would move the needle on a specific issue. Multiple competing events and messages on different topics caused confusion, and there was limited enterprise-wide coordination or engagement. This confusion resulted in missed opportunities for focused community impact and to create business benefits such as increased revenue from corporate partnerships and connecting MSE’s brand to their community work.
Wachs Strategies and a cross functional MSE team explored several potential scenarios for focus and determined that MSE’s strongest assets to bring to the community including three things: (1) the ability to create and amplify messages both in arena and through digital reach to hundreds of thousands of people; (2) the opportunity to engage players, employees, and fans; and (3) ongoing business investments in the region that contribute to a vibrant economy for all. As a leading company in the region with an unmatched audience reach, a strong and talented employee base, communications and story-telling expertise, multiple events in arenas, and multi-media entertainment platforms, MSE will bring these strengths to the table for community partners to lift up their work and strengthen their impact.
The new social impact program shines a spotlight on a different issue area and a corresponding nonprofit partner each month within the three focus areas of kids, heroes, and community. Monthly themes were chosen through a collaborative process to accommodate league commitments and stakeholder priorities. In addition to a monthly grant to each organization made by the MSE Foundation, employees, players and fans will engage in volunteer activities, amplify key messages, and contribute monetary donations.
The strategy is set to both increase MSE’s community impact and increase business value. By streamlining the MSE Foundation revenue sources and consolidating grantmaking to support fewer organizations with more focus, more emphasis will go into elevating selected organizations and result in more tangible impact. Revenue will grow from corporate sponsors of the monthly themes and deepen relationships between MSE and their corporate partners as they collaborate on causes that matter to both of them. A cohesive and clear narrative of MSE’s community impact will strengthen MSE’s brand with fans, players and the general public. Finally, employees will engage in new ways with several issues, increasing their overall engagement.
For successful implementation, Wachs Strategies led a cross-functional team of key departments that met regularly to discuss and design the details of the program and the various activations required. This included representatives from the Foundation, communications, community relations, corporate partnerships, marketing, human resources, and the executive team. Social impact was elevated as a strategic business priority within MSE and a Vice President of Social Impact leadership position was created in the executive office to coordinate the cross-functional efforts needed to bring the full strengths of MSE to the community. The team also created a regular dashboard of metrics that include both business and community results to track and adapt the program.
The program launched in October 2019 highlighting kids with a youth sports theme benefitting Up2Us Sports a nonprofit that engages, trains and supports sports coaches to transform youth, programs and communities. MSE-produced videos told Up2Us’ story in Players, employees, and fans shared stories of coaches that made an impact in their own lives. Social media throughout the month highlighted the partnership. Fundraising activities included a 50/50 raffle at Wizards and Capitals games, “Round up at the Register” at the Team Store at Capital One Arena, and a corporate-sponsored fundraiser during the Mystics WNBA Championship Series games. MSE employees attended an Up2Us training to learn how to better support youth as mentors, coaches, and community members.
This project demonstrates the power of increasing corporate social impact activities to the strategic level for an enterprise. By understanding MSE’s goals and the unique assets it had to offer the community, the team created a focused approach for social impact that aligned with the organization’s core competencies. In addition, creating a new structure within the leadership team ensures the necessary infrastructure to deliver.