Ryan Berman talks to thought leaders from around the globe in business, sports and entertainment to uncover what it means to be courageous in today's world.
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EP79 Beth Malafa

Beth Malafa – Senior Director Experiential Marketing, Global Events & Brand Partnerships at Under Armour

Growing up in a large Ohio blue collar family, inspired by her love of sport as a young girl, Beth Malafa told her mother she wanted to work for the NFL or the Olympics. Today, she has checked the box on both. In fact, Beth has found herself putting on events for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS and the USOC. On this episode of The Courageous Podcast with host Ryan Berman, we learn that Beth doesn’t simply embrace teamwork — but the importance of hard work in everything she creates for Under Armour. Beth shares what it’s like working with megastar athletes, her thoughts on the parallels between the sports and business worlds, and how memorable it was (to her) when she brought tears of joy to her brother’s eyes at a Cleveland Browns game. Learn to play the long game while enjoying this thoughtful and fun conversation.

Episode Notes

Growing up in a large Ohio blue collar family, inspired by her love of sport as a young girl, Beth Malafa told her mother she wanted to work for the NFL or the Olympics. Today, she has checked the box on both. In fact, Beth has found herself putting on events for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS and the USOC. On this episode of The Courageous Podcast with host Ryan Berman, we learn that Beth doesn’t simply embrace teamwork — but the importance of hard work in everything she creates for Under Armour. Beth shares what it’s like working with megastar athletes, her thoughts on the parallels between the sports and business worlds, and how memorable it was (to her) when she brought tears of joy to her brother’s eyes at a Cleveland Browns game. Learn to play the long game while enjoying this thoughtful and fun conversation.

Beth Malafa  0:00

I think it is important to not do an event for the sake of doing an event. And that's something that I'm sharing even right now internally with our groups. It’s like, we're not pushing to do an event because we've done that in the past. Some of the events that we've worked on too, I’ll be like, “Okay, this hit the mark, this did not. We were off here. How can we fix that as we move forward?”

(Intro music 0:21-0:38)

Ryan Berman  0:39

Tom Brady, Steph Curry, Kelly O'Hara, the US women's gymnastics team, Jordan Spaeth. What unites them all is they're not just Americans, they rock Under Armour for a living and that's pretty cool. And we're joined today by the Head of Experiential Marketing at Under Armour; Beth Malafa.

Beth Malafa  0:59

Hi, Ryan. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Berman  1:02

It's so good to see you again. This is what I love about all this, like, you and I have been live together for just under three hours. I know that because an all-star game is three hours long.

Beth Malafa  1:15

(Laughs) True.

Ryan Berman  1:17

And Under Armour, I believe I was in your box, actually. Out in San Diego. It was 2016 when the American League won for like the 44th consecutive time; 4:2. And I don't know if you remember this, this is like the thing that I remember, first of all, you were so cool.

Beth Malafa  1:37

Oh. Thank you, Ryan.

Ryan Berman  1:38

No. Seriously, and you had put on your event, and we were working with Major League Baseball on putting on the PR side of the event. But, what I remember the most, and I don't know if you remember this, is I had brought my buddy and he didn't know that Kevin Plank was sitting pretty much next to him. And I turned to you like, “I don't think he knows that that's Kevin.” Do you remember that part of it at all?

Beth Malafa  2:02

I do. That was really fun. That was a really fun all star game out in San Diego, and in a really cool park. Yeah. Kevin is really nice because he's super low-key, and he had the family there too on that one. I think actually think James was shagging balls during the [Inaudible 2:20]

Ryan Berman  2:20

(Laughs) Oh, man.

Beth Malafa  2:21

Yeah. That was the fun one for sure. And you're right, a lot of times he's just a very down-to-earth, unassuming, and you can go up and have a conversation with him just like we are right now.

Ryan Berman  2:32

Well, unassuming would not be the first word that comes to mind. I'm very aware of who he is, and I was just like, “Wow, my friend doesn't know. This is going to be fun.”

Beth Malafa  2:41


Ryan Berman  2:42

Yeah. Approachable is a great word choice. So, by the way, the theme for this episode for me it does start with Kevin and it blends into you, and you'll see why. This episode will very much remind me of home. I am a Potomac, Maryland kid. I grew up rooting for all of those teams over there, shows you I'm loyal. We won't go into that. But rooting for the Terps, and the Commanders. Now, I’m trying to even say that word. But then, my mom's side is from Ohio. She's from Akron. She's a Buckeye. Now you see where I'm going with this?

Beth Malafa  3:22

Mm-hmm. You're speaking my language. OH to your mom.

Ryan Berman  3:25

Yeah, she'd be right there. She'd be the first to be like, “IO,” she'd be right on it. So, let's talk Chase Young for a second. Where is he on a scale from one to 10 for you? Are you a huge Chase Young guy? Because he's a Buckeye, he's in the area now.

Beth Malafa  3:42

Yeah. That's super exciting. I remember when… Actually, I had a friend who was there, and they drafted him. I was like, “This is really exciting.” But I believe he's from these areas too originally. So, it's always good to get Buckeyes, it's almost like that hybrid, because I'm a little bit of a hybrid too. I'm from Ohio. I was here, and then, I went back to Ohio and now I'm back. So, I've kind of got a bit of a hybrid with this, with the Mid-Atlantic region as well. My heart probably does lie a lot in Buckeye roots in Ohio.

Ryan Berman  4:13

So yeah. Let's unpack that a little bit. So, you're from Ohio. Are you from Akron? Or, where are you from?

Beth Malafa  4:20

Cleveland originally, but grew up more closer near Dayton. My dad worked for the Air Force base there at Wright Patt down in Dayton. And then, out of college, I went and worked for the Ravens. So starting there, I was there and did a lot of actually production, and I was a radio-television major. But also, a lot of my internships were promotion based, so I went the Phoenix branch promotion route there at the Ravens. And then, I went to the Browns. Most people were like, “Did you do it in that order? Ravens, and then Browns?” I'm like, “Yes,” but I did grow up a Browns fan. I went to the Browns and oversaw events and game day entertainment, and then, went to Ohio State and directed football game day. Oversaw a bunch of sports like hockey, lacrosse. Actually was in charge of Community Relations there for 36 Sports. And then, I've been at UA now for almost 10 years.

Ryan Berman  5:12

That’s amazing. Let's see, most of my friends were not directing 36 Sports in college.

Beth Malafa  5:16


Ryan Berman 5:18

I remember seeing them between the hours of like 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM which is when you were probably sleeping, not that you didn't have a good time either. By the way, I'm a television radio major. I went to school in upstate New York; Ithaca college. It was amazing. I am a hands-on learner, so when I finally got to that school and they taught me how to be a director. They taught me how to shoot a camera, back then. Gosh, now I’m dating myself. Splice editing films with actual [Inaudible 5:48] film. How awesome was that? Amazing opportunity.

Beth Malafa  5:53

Amazing. It was so great for us. So, when I was at the Ravens, I got to help a lot with the production. We started a TV show. I was, of course, very, very junior. I didn't start it, but I got to help support it and it was cool because I got to make some really great relationships. Like Sage Steele, who now is with ESPN, she was one of our people that was our host. So, I got to know her, and still, I absolutely adore Sage. She's amazing. What was really great about, like, teaching, and learning, and helping understand that side of the business. And I think the hands-on approach, like you said, you can't put a price on that and that's a really cool thing. With that major, they didn't have sports marketing majors when I was in college, that was new since I've been out of college. Now, everyone's going and doing that. I was specifically sports broadcasting. We had our own little sports center every night and stuff that we did. So, I got to do that. And I remember I was challenged young because I grew up always going and carrying my own camera, my tripod. Going to football practice and they'd be like, “Wait a second, before we do an interview, we need to quiz you to make sure we know what's going on.” I'm like, “All right, let's go”

Ryan Berman  7:02

Let’s have at it. Yeah. about it.

Beth Malafa  7:05

Football has been in my life, or it was in my life for a long, long time.

Ryan Berman  7:08

Yeah. Like, how? Why? Were you just at the age of six you just were passionate about the misery of the Browns back then? Like, will they finally win?

Beth Malafa  7:20

(Laughs) Well, when I was young, we were not so bad. We made a lot of playoffs. I was not a Broncos fan. We lost a lot to the Broncos when I was young. But yeah. From a young age, I'm a one of five and my mom was like… We all played sports because she was like, “If you're tired, you're not fighting.” So she made us all play sports. I didn't play football, but siblings did. My brother and stuff did, and I always just loved it. So, from a young age, I told her I wanted to work in the NFL or I wanted to work for the Olympics. It was something that I was always drawn to. I think it's a lot about what I love doing. The passion. That's why I love college too, people do it for the passion. They love the sport. And there's so much you can learn from it; the ups, the downs, there's so many teachings that you can learn from working within the sports world and it became like family too. All those teams were like families. They were small groups. It's not big corporations when you're working for a team, you're only like 150 people, though it’s a lot bigger now. But it's small, so you're very tight-knit and go through a lot of ups and downs together. A lot of hours.

Ryan Berman  8:29

So, where were you in the order? You said there's five of you. Were you right smack in the middle? Oldest? Youngest? Where were you?

Beth Malafa  8:35

Three. I’m three of five.

Ryan Berman  8:37

And what were the age differences from top to bottom?

Beth Malafa  8:39

So, that is like an interesting dynamic. So, I have an older sister, she's almost 10 years older than me. We have the same parents so it's like the same family, but then my brother is three and a half older. And then, the last three of us are, like, boom, boom, boom. So it's like me, and then my sister below me is 14 months. And the sister right below me is like 18 months. So, it was sort of a little bit like… She graduated from high school when I was in second grade. So I was sort of an oldest, but then when we were all together, I was in the middle. So, there was like that whole dynamic going on.

Ryan Berman  9:14

I'm just guessing here too, by the time you sort of bring the next round of children, we'll just call it. So, how tired were your parents? Were they like, “ Just figure it out at this point?” Or, were they on it?

Beth Malafa  9:28

I think my mom. I credit my mom. She's the one who gave, I think, so much of the passion and drive of what we did. My family didn't have a lot of money. So, she's always like, “You can do anything you want, you can do anything you put your mind to.” We put our own selves through school. I put my own self through my MBA program. And I think that passion of just pushing yourself, being the best you can, comes definitely from my mom. I remember I was a cross-country runner, and, like I said, we didn't have a lot of money. And one of the girls on the team had a lot, and I was the fastest girl on the team. And her mom told her if she beat me, she got a new car. And so, I went to my mom, and I didn't have even have a car. I was lucky if my parents let me drive their car around. And I was like, “Mom, she said that her mom would buy her a new car” and she's like, “Well then, don't let her beat you.” I was like, “Where's my car?” She's like, “Don't let her beat you.” I was like, “All right, yeah. I'm not going to let her beat me.” But it wasn't like my mom was offering a car. She's like, “Well, you better not let her beat you then.” And so I was like, “Yeah, good point.” So I think that kind of always sticks in my head as ways to…

Ryan Berman  10:34


Beth Malafa  10:35

She never beat me. No. She never beat me.

Ryan Berman  10:38


Beth Malafa  10:39

She never beat me, but I was kind of like, “Wait, where's mine?” And my mom's like, “That's not how life works all the time. Sometimes, things are…” She's like, “Life's not fair. Don't let her beat you.”

Ryan Berman  10:48

So, some people know this, most people don't. One of the recent honors I've been able to work on is Landon Donovan's memoir. And so, for me, when I was a little boy, if I was on a soccer field I was happy. That was my place. And so, the idea of the world has decided to connect Landon and I, and he's an amazing guy. I'm always skeptical when somebody says he's a great soccer player and a better human. You know what I mean? You're like, Okay. Right”

Beth Malafa  11:23

He’s an amazing soccer player. Yeah.

Ryan Berman  11:25

Off the charts. And didn't come from a lot of money. He was a runner, like, he could just run all day and he has a story in his middle school called the Moir mile. That nobody thought he would win, of course, chip on his shoulder, super competitive. And he takes it, he wins it. And it just sort of reminds me of that, like, that's life, right? Life is a marathon, it isn't a sprint. And I guess you're sort of set up for that too. But by the way, I love this quote from you, and I’m curious to hear... Because running is kind of an individual sport,  but you're a team player, right? When I think about Under Armour, and I think football, I do think baseball, I think basketball. And you've said, “Teamwork is at the forefront of my management style, and I believe we accomplish more together than separately.” And this is front and center on your LinkedIn page. It's such a good quote. Is what happens when, well, you don't have a choice, you're part of a starting five growing up? Or was it learned over time with mentors and maturing the business world?

Beth Malafa  12:36

Yeah. I've had some amazing mentors in my career, for sure. And some really tough, but at times, I think growing that skin, growing that almost coating over you is really good for me. When we put on an event, it is not me putting on an event. There are hundreds… The event I was just at over the weekend, I had a friend in, and she was doing something and she's like, “Is there this many people usually around?” I'm like, “Yeah.” Security, product, social media. We probably had 10-plus people there, but you need those people to do it. So, any one person who goes out thinking that they're rocking it by themselves has… I think a little bit of humility is needed, the person who's cleaning the bathrooms, or bringing out the food, the catering, all those people make up the event. And I think it goes back to probably a little bit like you're saying what's planned in probably a little bit of my humble beginnings. You need to appreciate the janitor. You need to appreciate the catering service waiter. I bartended and waitressed all through college. Those are the people who are also contributing to the success of this, and I think how you treat them then becomes how the outcome can be. You can all have a miserable time, that shows up for people. The beauty of my job is we get an opportunity to give people, like you said, if it's a game or something, three hours. If you're attending an event, an hour. We give them the opportunity to relieve their problems, come, enjoy and just experience things, like you said, the opportunity we had together in San Diego. That's a really special gift I don't take lightly, and it's not something that can be done alone. There is a team of people that need to be put together, and that mindset of going in as a team is what I like to foster with the people I work with because there's no one person that can just take it, and leave it, and run on your own. I challenge any person to show me if you've done something completely on your own. I would like to see the success of how that came out.

Ryan Berman  14:41

Yeah. Well look, this may come off the wrong way, and I'll explain what I mean. I almost feel like we've over-indexed on hustle and hard work. And no doubt, that's almost like table stakes. If you can't work hard… But I almost think we’ve almost under-indexed on empathy, like. To your point, like you said, maybe it does have something to do with when you step back and look at the journey that you've been on, and you're putting on this event, and people can escape for a few hours, and there's smiles and there's joy, and there's pictures. Maybe the runner who is getting a car if they win can't really relate to that life. Has never had the opportunity to step into that life. And I don't want to put that person in a box either or vilify that human, right? But there is some empathy to putting things in perspective fast. And maybe you can share what event where you at, what were you doing? Give the listeners a little bit about what it means to be head of experiential marketing, if you don't mind.

Beth Malafa  15:46

Yeah, of course. There's so many. There's probably two that I think of the most, and one of the biggest ones was… This one was at the Browns, but I think it goes to one; really giving people a chance to see who you are, and what you can do for them. I remember it was the beginning of a game, it was a Browns game, so, again, we had a lot of losses. So, this wasn't crying tears of sadness, these were tears of I think maybe being proud. But my big brother was standing next to me and I always looked up and emulate him. We’re still dear friends to this day, and I look over and he has tears in his eyes, like, it's a full 100-yard slide, fly over, the national anthem’s playing. And I think that emotion that we can spark in what we do from an event in experiential is so powerful that I almost don't know many things that can touch it, and it makes all the hours and work go into it. And so, I always look at that as one of my proudest moments. It wasn't a Kevin Plank. It wasn't the President of the United States and all these really important persons. It was someone who was really important to me, my brother, and that was really cool to see. And one other I really loved that it kind of comes down to how we can help others is when we were doing the Rio Olympics. We were really lucky we were able to get in market like two years ahead of time and really have a chance to get to know the atmosphere and the people we're going to be working with. And in Brazil, there was such disparity. You have the very, very wealthy, and you have the extreme poor and the favelas and stuff. Such poverty. Again, you spoke about it, we live here in Baltimore, we see that a lot. But this poverty and level of people who had nothing was just a new low. And so, we were able to set up these gyms on the beach free of charge for people to come in, and then we offered classes two times a day. And so, anyone could do it. And you can walk in, we gave you gear, we had these opportunities on the beaches. And it was really cool because of course it was a little bit of strategic behind, there was some grassroots marketing and getting into the region. But to see people workout from their mental standpoint, health, and you didn't have to be wealthy, you didn't have to have the money. We were offering these classes and that was really cool to me that we were able to make some impact in people's lives just by putting them on the path of health and wellness. And I'm so really proud of those moments and what we were able to do there. From getting to see the great Michael Phelps race and have him do all those things, that was really cool.

Ryan Berman  18:23

Also for Maryland, got to give him a shout out too, right? So let me just make sure I acknowledge that we're 15 minutes in here, and what I heard is what Beth wants to do in her life is she wants to work in the NFL, and she wants to work in the Olympics. And if I'm following and tracking it home, I believe that's two checked boxes, right?

Beth Malafa  18:48

Yeah. I really have. I've been very fortunate that I've gotten to work in two venues. The two areas that I really did from a young age, one that I grew up watching and wanting to work with.

Ryan Berman  19:00

All right. So has that list expanded since?

Beth Malafa  19:04

(Laughs) Yeah, now I think it's like pushing it. So, what I try to do with my team is like, I think we were… It's really interesting, in COVID, we found ways to pivot to the virtual world. Now, where everyone's like the hybrid, I get all that. But what I want to know is what can we push to be even different and beyond? And so, I'm really pushing myself, my team to look in places that we wouldn't necessarily look. We're going to art gallery openings. And of course, you see the festivals and all that, but how can we take some of these different approaches and build them into some experiential moments that are new, innovative, pushing the envelope a little bit. That's a great thing about UA is we always have an opportunity to push beyond and you're not going to get… Sometimes you’ll be, “That maybe was a little bit of a miss,” but I'd rather someone tell me it's a little bit of a miss and we're pushing instead of sitting on what we did in 2019. So, that's a big area for me is continuing to push and find some new ways to innovate and bring things to life for people in the event and experiential realm.

Ryan Berman  20:10

Well, look, I think this is sort of a Captain Obvious comment, but undeniably we're ready to go. Like, get me out of here. Get me into some experiential magic. Like, let me see some spaces. I'm based in San Diego. Comic-Con was here a few weeks ago. Walking around there, if I'm brutally honest, it was both awesome to see that it was back and also slightly terrifying to see that many people in one place after multiple years living in Zoom boxes. But I digress. No doubt, experience was back, it is a great time to be you because we’re craving that escapism. And talk to me a little bit about, like, if I get access to your calendar, how bad is it? How many events are you a part of a year? How much traveling are you doing?

Beth Malafa  21:09

Yeah. I think that's a really good call. So, I love that you share the Comic-Cons and all that because I myself do sometimes. I came back from the airport, I was telling you before we started, and when I flew out it wasn't so bad, but coming back and it was so crowded. And first off, I was like, “Whoa, this is nuts.” And I had to take a step back and be like, “Wow, this is a lot of people here right now.” And all moving, all bustling, hustling, which is cool but it took me a moment to set back. One thing that we are looking to do is… I know that this sounds strange because I'm like “We're pushing, we're pushing.” But we've gotten so many people wanting to push, so many people wanting new things. I think it is important to not do an event for the sake of doing an event. And that's something that I'm sharing even right now internally with our groups. It's like, we're not pushing to do an event because we've done that in the past. Some of the events that we've worked on too, I’ll be like, “Okay, this hit the mark, this did not. We were off here. How can we fix that as we move forward.” We are experiencing a bit of influx on travel. I was just on the road for two weeks in a row, have some upcoming travel, quite a bit. But as we start for the remainder of 22 and heading into 23, as we're building out our calendar, we are pausing and being like, “Does this make sense? Does this align with our mission and goals from a brand perspective?” Because what you'll see -- and I think this is what I'm seeing is, I think you've mentioned it is I'm seeing people attend things, but I'm not seeing the level and quality maybe that was there before. And I think it's just because people are like, “Okay, go,” and everyone's like, “Well, now we've got to find venues, and I've got to find this.” And with inflation costs, and supply chain, everyone's all over trying to even just source materials. So, I'm eager for us to keep moving and innovating, but I want to be cautious on how we're bringing that to life. So, I know it’s not pretty now but I'm trying to get…

Ryan Berman  23:11

I think it's a little like the restaurant industry, right?

Beth Malafa  23:15

So true.

Ryan Berman 23:16

You go out, and if you're not careful… Look, I'll be the first one to say; great processes isn’t invisible. Great process isn’t invisible. If you're on a plane, and you hear the cart clinking into every elbow and chair, and it sort of interrupts you; not great process. And I think what's happened in the restaurant business now, I don't envy it, but they're short staffed, and like people are doing double time, and you start to sort of recognize the cracks. And so, I like where your head's at. Don't do an event just to do an event, like, if you're going to be short-staffed. We need to almost not get into this robotic behavior of just, “Well, we did it last year so we should do it this year.” And if there is a pie chart of your time, what percent of your time is challenging or nudging the team to keep the event truly special? Versus a creative team is coming up with the idea now, you're now in the execution meets production arena. What's the blend look like for you and the team?

Beth Malafa  24:27

I love this question. This is super crazy important for me. So, I made it one of our goals. So I cascaded it down to all of our team members as one of our goals. I'd like to say that we were able to alleviate and give more time to it, but day-to-day business with meetings and stuff just overtake things. So, I would say like 25% of our time. I don't think it's that high, but it is a goal of ours. Percentage wise, I'm going to say we've done things as a team. I've done things on our teams to help implement these. We have monthly Lunch and Learns where we're all pushing each other and we sit together. We share webinars, but that's not that's not moving the needle. To actually sit and be creative, you do have to block time. And I was reading something the other day where, of course, you look at your calendar, and you're like, “Oh, man, freaking nine to five.” I had meetings starting at 8:30 on a Monday today after I was traveling all weekend. I’m like, “Oop, these are my meetings for 8:30.” But I think that it's a priority. So, I've made them basically block times in their calendars, whether it's bi-weekly, some do it weekly, to keep pushing and innovating because if we don't do that, we're all doing ourselves a huge disservice. And there are areas, I think the next step to that is the recap. You mentioned it yourself. Like, “I think we missed the mark,” a lot of times people just let that blow past an event because you're on to the next one. I think it is important to stop, pause and be like, “Okay, how can we fix that? Or how did we miss the mark there? What can we do to continue to innovate”. And a lot of times I think learnings come from those recaps that people so quickly want to pass through those analytics and data, but taking the time to evaluate data is really important as you move forward.

Ryan Berman  26:15

All right. So, let's go take one full event then, what percent is… All right, let's bring some magic. That's like 20-25 %. What is the activation itself, or the production itself? What is the -- and maybe this is a perfect world, you can pivot --  but the mortem, the post-mortem, the learning opportunity? Give me the percentages.

Beth Malafa  26:35

So, I think a lot of the logistical planning is going to be a big chunk of your time. You're spending at least 50% with… For us internally, all the players, getting the product team on board, the social, the comps, sports marketing, whomever this is revolving around; train or whatever department is. All those meetings, the logistical layout, site venues, building out that to run a show is a good -- I'd say, probably like, let me say -- almost like 60% of our time. I would like to say this last one we did came out towards the lower end, and I was pushing more because I caught on towards the end of it. But I was like, “All right, stop.” I literally stopped thee… I'm like, “Stop. Where's my wow moment?” I halted the process. Like, “Where's my wow moment? Just give me one.” I'm like, “We should be having more than one during this, but give me one.” So we did. We stopped, we paused, and had some good meetings on what we could do to elevate and bring some wow things to life, and did get there. But I'd say, usually, if you can allow at least 10% of that time to really innovate and push; that's amazing. So, what are we up to? 70%?

Ryan Berman  27:49

(Laughs) 110% is where we’re landing, right?

Beth Malafa  27:54

Obviously, you have the execution and on-site as a huge part of that piece. You got to pull that into there, but I don't know if that's really the build-up of it. But again, I think motivation is a huge part of it, that has to be a part of our team. That's, at least, probably 10% the time. Motivating people, like, “Where's the product? Where's the creative?” We need it on a positive end because you can see people's reactions when they're starting to feel low. You can feel that energy. And, what can you do to help bring that up? I'd say on the post-mortem, this is an area of opportunity for us 100%. I would like to see that be, at least, 7,8% of the time you're hitting that mark, but it often ends up being maybe 1% and it becomes very superficial. A recap meeting should be more than just listing off this is what we did. Let's talk about what we did. How can we improve? What are those areas of opportunity that we can really delve into? Which are hard conversations because everyone's tired, and they want to say it's great, but the only way we get better is by pushing and finding those areas. That's where you're going to see the success as you continue to grow.

Ryan Berman  29:06

Yeah. Plus, they're probably on to the next event.

Beth Malafa  29:10


Ryan Berman  29:10

They’re onto the next thing and the last thing they want to do is go back to the last event.

Beth Malafa  29:15

That's 100%. That's exactly right. Literally, I was touching base, I'm like, “I don't see the recap meetings on here. Where's that? Where's the analytics we need to pull?” And we need to put that together so we're able to pull on that even the next year if it's an anniversary event that they're working on. I don't think I gave you 100%.

Ryan Berman  29:34

I think we're okay. I'm not going to go back and, like, “Let’s go back in the episode and record our numbers.”

Beth Malafa  29:38

I'm not a finance person. I do do a lot of budgets, though.

Ryan Berman  29:44

So, in the spirit of pie charts and percentages, what I'm about to say right now is probably like somewhere between 17 and 23% shameless self-promotion, and 83% maybe this will help. Maybe this will help because I love where you're going on the ‘wow’ factor in creating criteria to make sure you're hitting it. And to your point, it shouldn't be like break glass before emergency, “Where's the wow factor?” It should be part of the criteria of everything you do. So, you were just in Chicago, I feel like I've been living in Chicago. We've been doing a lot of cool stuff for Kraft Heinz, and the way courageous looks at stuff, it's always through the lens of courage. So, our definition is knowledge plus faith plus action equals courage, and it needs to be all three. So, knowledge and faith with no action is paralysis. Faith and action without knowledge is reckless. And knowledge and action without faith, if you're just numb on the inside, you're working on status quo, and you're not going to get that wow factor. So another way we talk about it, this is the think component which one of my partners runs, there's a feel component which I run, and there's a do component, right? Think, feel, do who -- Nicole Miller, you love her. Shout out to Nicole, also from Ohio, by the way -- she runs the action side of the business. So, look, you're called experiential marketing, that means there's an experience that's happening. Did somebody actually experience what you're trying to experience? That's the feel. That's the wow factor. How do you make sure you don't just put this event on -- and this isn't you, this is the metaphorical you -- and that wow factor is happening? I imagine when you have Steph Curry at your fingertips or whomever. People must be so excited just to spend a few minutes, or Tom Brady, or whoever it might be, is that the wow factor? Does the wow factor always start with, hey this amazing athlete who's an overachiever on a field, or court? Is that how it starts?

Beth Malafa  31:46

I think that's a plus always. And from working with athletes my entire career, I think you can use it as an aspect. But you also learn that's also sometimes a question, like, are they going to show up? Or what time are they going to be here? I'm not going to build an entire event… People still say, “Can we announce who's here?” I'm like, “No,” because we don't know. Unless it's like a specific Steph Curry event or whatever, but we don't know 100% if they're going to be here. I can't tell you 100% that person is going to show up. So, is that always an added benefit? Yes. But I don't think that's the… To me,  that’s not the ‘wow.’ To me, that is a really, really nice added benefit to be like, “Okay, we have Tom Brady coming on.” That is a great thing, but also, you want to be respectful of them and what they're comfortable with. And some personalities, I'll say, athletes I work mostly with, are not comfortable in that stage. They are not someone who's very extroverted or wants to be out there in the face. And they might just want to come say hello. So, I think building an entire ‘wow’ moment around that without knowing your personality could be a detriment to your event if you didn't know who they were, or what they were committing to. And even sometimes if they commit, that might not just be a strong point for them. That is an added plus that helps elevate, but I don't think it becomes ‘the moment’ or the piece that is ‘wow.’

Ryan Berman  33:20

So, I definitely hear kids in the background so I have to ask. Oh, it's all good. How many kids? What are their ages?

Beth Malafa  33:27

(Laughs) I thought I had the door closed on that one. I have two girls. One's about to be five in Wednesday. So, I'll have a five-year-old and I have a two-year-old.

Ryan Berman  33:38

No starting five, huh?

Beth Malafa  33:40

No. I would never mind starting five, though. I love kids. Probably does come from it, but I have a lot of nieces and nephews. But they're fun. They actually are really fun, and I tell them, “Be quiet. Shhh.”

Ryan Berman  33:52

Oh, they're fine. I have a seven-year-old as of today. She turned seven today.

Beth Malafa 33:58

Oh, happy birthday!

Ryan Berman 33:59

Yes. And a nine-year-old and it only gets better. All right, so I got to ask, did you learn this rule by experience or by a great mentor?

Beth Malafa  34:13

Experience, for sure. Yeah.

Ryan Berman  34:17

Do tell.

Beth Malafa  34:18

(Laughs) There's too many to tell. But yeah. I literally have had athletes come up to me from behind being like, “I'm not comfortable in this situation.” I'm like, “This is not the best time to be telling me this right here, right now when we have 3000 people out there.” But then, I've also had experience where I've had athletes in VIP events and they're talking to me, and I'm like, “Okay, you're half hour late. You're 45 minutes late. You're an hour late.” “Beth, I'm not sure where to go.” “Do you know that huge building you’re playing on Sunday? Drive towards that. Just drive towards the light, just drive towards the light.” I’m like, “A house on the right. Go to that building where you play on Sunday, that's where this is going to happen.” So yeah, I think that, one; it's important to know that relationship is like we mentioned. I think it goes back to that whole thing with relationships, you have to build them with the athletes, you have to build that trust, you have to experience that. And even when that happens still, it's like everyone does have… Life happens, you and I've experienced that where things happen. When someone gets sick, or something happens and you're unable to make it. So, always a contingency plan, there is always a contingency plan. And sometimes you have to go to contingency plan C. You're just winging it on the field. You're like, “We're moving to this right now because this is all we got.” And I think as long as a lot of times people don't know. In certain situations I've been really pressed, but a lot of times people don't know. And as long as you can keep moving things along, keep being quick on your feet, that's a huge part of what we do, you can cover up a lot of things.

Ryan Berman  36:04

All right. If I was able to pull your entire team, anonymously, of course, because we want the truth, and I said, “Give me three words to describe Beth.” And they all sent in their emails to me, what three words am I getting from them? What are the top three?

Beth Malafa  36:22

I think we said it before. I think I'm very empathetic, but I think you have to be vested in your team, and you have to let them know you care and then you're going to receive amazing work, and I truly feel that on my team. I think that they’d probably say,  not necessarily, but I have high expectations from them. And I think they appreciate that, maybe not always, but there are high expectations. And they'll say fun. I like to have fun. I say that word a lot. It's simple. It's a simple word, but it's big in what we do. We are not Johns Hopkins brain surgeons, we have amazing people in this city who are at Johns Hopkins that are helping on many things, we're not. And so, let's have some fun with this. And the more you can do that, I think it shows in your work. And it could be just even us doing a team retreat. But if we're able to have fun and allow each other to have fun, I think that then helps make the situation better. It's better for them when we're doing that, when you're traveling away from your family, your dog, your yoga studio. My team has to be on the road a lot, so I need them to know that it's good to go try out that new restaurant in Chicago, go take that spin class, go meet up with a friend, go experience a new art opening or gallery opening in a cool city. By us doing that, we're able to create, I think, not only a good relationship between us, but then, even within our event. And that, to me, then transcends and people are able to feel that.

Ryan Berman  37:56

Well, I love that nudge. I wouldn't call it a challenge, I love the nudge. And I do think it's a fascinating time to be you in and in your space because, like you said, you have all these athletes that are not just athletes anymore, right? They're all creators. They're all designers. They want to be seen for their creativity. They want to be seen for more than just they play basketball, or they throw football. And we're at this amazing time where we all now are filmmakers. We have this thing in our pocket called a phone that basically isn't a phone anymore. It's everything but a phone. It allows me to snap amazing pictures, or film my own movies. So that challenge or nudge when you look at your team and say, “Remember how creative these athletes are.” Do they see themselves as athletes, by the way, first now? Or, what are they? Multifaceted? Any insight there?

Beth Malafa  38:53

I think that's a great call. You mentioned Stephen Curry. Again, I can't speak on their behalf, but I would say they are so well-tuned to what's going on within the world. Like you said, from the social to businessmen and women, innovators. It's definitely changed a lot in the 20 years I've been doing this where you think your only goal is to perform on the court, the field, the pitch, whatever you may be on, the ice. I do think that they have had a lot of added almost responsibilities to keep driving that way. Whether it's getting new content or drawing more viewers and different sponsorships that they're getting. A lot of that relates, they're all intertwined. So you do probably… I'm trying to think of a sport that doesn't really even roll with that, but almost everyone I can think of is somehow intertwined with all of these different areas now you almost need to be. So that's a huge change since I've started on, is all of how that's evolved.

Ryan Berman  40:00

So, is that even more of a reason to be like, “Hey, let's turn it up a notch.” Is it an art gallery, is it a… Let's bring some of that special into the table here and figure out the best way to do something different. And I imagine the athletes appreciate that too. The last thing they want to do is just show up, snap a few pictures for the half hour or hour they’re there. They're all for probably a little bit of uniqueness. Yes?

Beth Malafa  40:26

Yeah. I would say yeah, definitely. Some are, and some probably do just want to get their commitment in. But I would say most probably are appreciative. And actually, we do get some really great comments when it's like, “Oh, that was cool.” Or, “I really liked how we did that.” Or, “That was neat.” So, I do think that we've seen a lot of success there.

Ryan Berman  40:47

So, starting out in television, radio, and bringing your camera around everywhere. And look at where you are now, and you're running experiential. Is this how you thought it would go?

Beth Malafa  40:59

No. That's one thing I always tell people even when I'm interviewing them. That 8:30 call I had this morning was an interview. I said, “Don't be afraid.” My path is not straight. I've never had a straight path. I've gone around. I thought I wanted to be an athletic director, and that's why I got my MBA, that's why I went to Ohio State. And I was like, “Well, I’m really into fundraising. That's not so much my thing.” And then I found out athletic directors do a ton of that. I have to raise a ton of money. So, I think it's really interesting to follow your passion, and if you're interested in something; pursue it. Whether it's classes, or learning, or just talking to people. That's really great about what we have now in these open lines of communication. So, I wouldn't have said I was going to be right here. I'm super happy I am right here. It's taught me a lot. And even when a new opportunity presents itself, I'm always like, “Okay, how's this going to help me grow or change?” Exactly when I came to UA, I had only been with teams. And I was like, “This would be really cool to work for a public company. It’d be really cool to challenge myself on a more global scale.” And I really appreciated that UA afforded that to me, and had some really cool moments with it.

Ryan Berman  42:11

All right. We're coming down to the end here. I'm not surprised this was a fast 45. Those two boxes that you set for yourself to tick years ago; NFL, Olympics. So, if you're going to create two more boxes for your future, and I'm not saying you need to go the, “Hey, I want to do an event on the moon.” Amazing, by the way. I’m in for that. But are there two other boxes? Is there a professional one? Is there a personal one that you can share?

Beth Malafa  42:53

Yeah. I'd say one of my biggest one is, I talk to my daughters about this a lot, and one of the things I have is being in purpose. How can we help with our purpose in another's lives? And so, I think that to me it's really important that whether we volunteer weekly with the homeless shelter. I would like to find more ways of incorporation of that within our events. Doesn't necessarily have to be within UA events, within events that I do. I think that from that, to me, I think that starts lending itself to what is that higher overarching power that you want to kind of do good with? As you get older, you start thinking it's not just about what's great, and what's hot, but how can you really help others? And how are you able to lend kindness? Again, that’s, like, I have fun, but kindness is a big word we use a lot here in this household. I'm like, “Being kind is very easy but it's not for a lot of people.” And so, I would love personally to continue down that path. I think I'm always growing in that area. Professionally, yeah. There's some big things I would love to do. One of my questions I always ask if anyone's listening on this… In an interview, I always am like, “What if you could do an unlimited event for an unlimited budget?” I have some really cool ideas that I would love to do. Just these 24-hour events that are happening and stuff like that. So, I would love to get one of those off. It's going to happen sometime, I just am not exactly sure when. A couple of things are always popping up, but that's something that in my world that I would love to do. The planning of it would be crazy, but again, I think it does meld to some of the things, everything. It does meld that, like, purpose, and this would kind of meld together in that piece and that place.

Ryan Berman  44:48

Yeah. It feels like a perfect purpose, opportunity, right? Like, it could weave in all the things you're talking about. Look, this has been an awesome 45. I took a lot from our time together. Three huge sort of themes really pop for me. One is that life can be messy, it isn't linear. Like you said, where you start and where you land, people didn't think that's where they would. You're still sort of in the same arena.

Beth Malafa  45:18

Yeah, absolutely. It’s weird because people here would say they feel like they work in sports. I think we work with sports, I don't think I work in sports. So, my mindset from being there, but definitely still within the sports world. Just not necessarily for a team. So I think I work with, not in.

Ryan Berman  45:42

The second one that I took away is cliche of, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint,” and “Don't let the other girl beat you for a car.” But really, the big takeaway on this one which I love, and it's not the cliche, it's; play the long game. Always play the long game. Don't cut corners on your values, don't cut corners on who you are. If you just put in the work and play the long game, give yourself permission that it could be messy -- we're back to number one -- good things can come of it. And number three, and this sort of skirted by near the end of the episode, but I think it deserves more love than it got is that I like how you said, “Hey, is this going to give me an opportunity to grow and change?” And so life is nothing more than an opportunity to grow and change. And for those who have listened in the past, you know my number one personal value is optimism. So that plays so well to who I am. Even some stuff that isn't perfect or isn't going to go great is really an opportunity to grow what I learned from it. Sometimes I wear my shirt, “Mistake it till you make it.” I love that mentality too. So, those were my three big takeaways. Although I really actually liked your, “I work with sports, not in sports,” there's a lot to unpack there as well, but maybe that'll be an episode for another time. Beth, any last thoughts you'd like to share with us before we wrap?

Beth Malafa  47:09

No. I love the platform that you're bringing in. I too feel I'm very much ‘glass is half full.’ I think that that kind of mentality does breed some really amazing things that happen in life. Whether it's pushing us, or just even the kindness factor. So, I'm very appreciative of the platform that you've let me speak here and for what you all do.

Ryan Berman  47:31

Keep doing what you're doing. I'm excited. Let's try to get in the same city again, it's been too long. Since 16?

Beth Malafa  47:37

I know. I think we all gave ourselves a little break with COVID. That was just craziness. I literally am like, “What?” That whole area of time is hard to place. I’m like, “Oh gosh, it has been that long,” because that two and a half years just kind of wiped things out.

Ryan Berman  47:55

Yeah. It’s somewhere between like Matrix, like, red pill, blue pill, or inception, right? Like if those two had a baby, that was that three, or four, or however many period it has been. All right, Beth. Thank you so much for joining in. I appreciate you.

Beth Malafa  48:11

Thank you so much. Appreciate the time, Ryan.

(Outro music 48:13-48:39)

[End Of Audio]

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