An Interview with Tyrel Kirkham: The Vice President of Global Merchandising for the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center

Hunger, dedication and hard work; three important qualities of a successful sports business professional, as per SUNY Cortland alum Tyrel Kirkham. Tyrel always had a knack for business and a love for sports, which led to him majoring in Sport Management at SUNY Cortland. His hunger and determination to succeed led him through various positions inside the New York Mets and Brooklyn Nets organizations. Now a member of SUNY Cortland’s Sport Management Advisory Board and the VP of Global Merchandising for the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, Tyrel gives us insight into the sports industry and what it takes to be successful in it. Today, fellow Red Beat contributor Alex Gaviria and I had the chance to have a phone interview with him.

(interview transcribed by Jessica)

(questions asked by Alex)

“What are some key skills that students should learn in their 4 years of college?”

Photo courtesy of the SUNY Cortland Sport Management Advisory Board page

“The biggest things are time management, organizational skills, and networking for sure. Those are all 3 skills that I feel are really applicable to real life. Once you are in a job in fast paced environment it is important to keep those in mind as you face some tough times.”

“Building off of networking, do you think that networking helped you get any internships?”

“Yeah every time you talk to someone it gives you an opportunity to network. When you meet new individuals you have to be on the top of your game, networking isn’t always about me me me its about listening and inserting yourself where needed. If the opportunity arises to talk about your individual brand then you do so.”

“Did you intern anywhere specifically before you landed your current job?”

“I interned for the Mets, and I was lucky because the Mets ended up giving me my first job. Normally it takes two, three, four internships before landing that first full time job. I was in baseball operations which I did not know a ton about but I worked hard, and did whatever they told me to do. By doing all of that the Mets kept me on the top of their mind and that lead me to more opportunities. I also used every opportunity I could get to help get my name out. Instead of looking for a ride home after every night I was done interning, I would stay after and talk to executives.”

“As vice president of global merchandising for the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center, what are your daily responsibilities?”

“I oversee a multi million dollar retail operation, so everything you see Brooklyn Nets related in terms of merchandise has come across my desk. I also oversee our retail marketing, our e commerce business, as well as our team identity so any video game designs or website designs I have been a part of that process. Not only is it done for the Nets but is done for the Islanders on the hockey side I have oversight, the Barclays center so the different concerts that come to town I work with the tour managers and we sell products on their behalf. There is always something different that I have to work on each day for my job so that is a huge challenge I face.”

Photo courtesy of

“What is your favorite part about the job?”

“I love the people I work with. I work with some incredibly talented individuals. We have a lot people working together for one common goal. We are able to work collaboratively for the end result so that end result may be a successful marketing campaign or a jersey launch or even a new sponsor we worked on getting. To see that come together from our hard work is such a rewarding thing.”

“What sparked your passion for the sport business?”

“I always loved sports, I grew up playing them but I also had a love for business. My family owned their own business and I worked there ever since I was a young kid and having sort of a best of both worlds to combine my passion for business with sports was a no brainer for me.”

“What attracted you specifically to the merchandising aspect of the industry?”

“I looked at merchandising as the best brand extension that’s out there so sometimes like a marketing medium such as a digital billboard or a printed newspaper ad, I just felt like those are tactful ways to reach your consumers but with merchandising you can market or promote whatever you can but you are also making a profit. For example, if someone buys a t shirt and wears it every Saturday, for as long as that t shirt holds up it’s like a free walking billboard for your brand. I can’t think of any other medium that has the same impact and result.”

“How important is analytics in your job?”

“Analytics helps drives a lot of the decisions we make internally, specifically in my world looking at historical data really helps me see which consumers like our products and who doesn’t. For the consumers who don’t like our product I can use the data to figure out what changes need to be made. I can make smarter decisions from the type of data that is collected.”

“What advice would you give to the sport management students here at SUNY Cortland?”

“You have to stay hungry, this is not something you get into easily most of the time. You have to be very passionate. Everyday I’m up against or have colleagues from ivy league schools and I’m proud to be from SUNY Cortland and to still be associated with the department because everyone was so important to my success. My biggest thing is how the department is great at setting up students with great experience whether it had to be doing case studies, role playing, and practicum hours. I don’t think that is taught everywhere, and you have to take advantage of it. This isn’t an easy road, I started in ticketing and had to work my way up. It wasn’t just handed to me.”

We thank Mr. Kirkham for taking time out of his day to make this interview happen, and wish him continued success!


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