The Boston Bruins’ Mark Majewski on the joys of of creating for an audience of sports fans
This is part of our 100 Creative Directors interview series. It has been edited for length and clarity. To return to the series homepage and browse other interviews, click here.
What was your path into a creative career?
I got my start as, essentially, a sports information director. I was a liaison to the media, writing press releases and such. I’ve always worked in hockey — I worked at Northeastern University in Boston for four years, Boston College for five, and then went down to Clemson and ran social media for their football program for a year. Great year — it was 2018 and they won the whole thing. But I learned the South wasn’t really for me and came back up to Boston.
The point of all that background is that as my career accelerated, social media was taking over as the primary means of communication. Because of that, I learned that what I enjoyed working on most was the visual content that goes along with social posts. It was a lot more fun than PR work — coordinating interview timing with journalists. That year at Clemson, I put PR duties behind me and was able to delve fully into the visual, branding, creative work.
I had great people around me at Clemson who taught me a lot in about a 12-month span. When this role with the Bruins came up, I had to take it — Boston is home for me at this point and it was an opportunity to go all in on the creative side and really leave PR behind. Now I’m in my fourth season here.
Your role is Director of Creative Services — what does that mean to you, what are you doing on a daily, weekly basis?
Honestly, it means something different every day.
In recent years working in the collegiate sphere, we were putting out work more catered towards attracting potential student athletes. We had a ton of creative freedom, the mandate was just: make cool stuff and convince those athletes to join us.
At the Bruins, the stakes are a little higher. I might be working on a campaign to get the fans excited about an upcoming slate of games, or I might be ensuring that a sponsor logo that just went through a rebrand is correctly updated everywhere it lives in the Bruins universe.
My role is technically Director of Creative Services at Delaware North. This is a large organization that owns the Bruins, the TD Garden and many other properties. There's a much larger team, but my focus is 50% TD Garden, which is the arena, and 50% Bruins. Those are two separate-but-connected brands and the way we have to approach work for both is different. Time management is a big part of my job, making sure we’re giving enough attention and time to both brands.
At the end of the day, my job is to take in requests from the two main brands we cover, and all the brands that fold up into them, and turn those requests into plans for me and my team to execute on. It’s a high volume of work. A big priority for me is making sure we have enough time to both get through the lower-lift, everyday tasks and commit significant energy to the exciting, ambitious projects that get the Bruins fans excited.
What’s the hardest part of shipping good creative, whether on huge projects or everyday output?
When I worked at Clemson we needed good creative because it's a small university in rural South Carolina — we were selling a vision. Once we’d won, we were selling winning, which is easier to do. But they still needed a boost to garner excitement in the digital sphere. It’s a totally different thing from working on a sports brand in a metropolitan area like Boston.
What was tough is we knew the fanbase was consuming what we were putting out on social, but we couldn’t always tell if it was moving the needle. Our impression was that it was, but it’s still difficult to gauge. The stadium was packed every night — we knew it was working, but you always want to get even better, and it’s tough to figure that out when you’re already winning. A stadium full of fans on game night is amazing, though.
Here at the Bruins, the bottom line is the bottom line — revenue. Our mandate is to contribute to that, and we fill seats here too, so that’s a good indicator. If there’s a challenge, it’s getting approval. We’re often working on creative that needs approval from sponsorship, from TD Garden, and from people in the Bruins office, all at once. The more stakeholders, the harder it is to thread the needle.
On the creative team, we’re up here in the office working on our computers, then we send out the assets and get feedback from all these different parties. You need the feedback, but you don’t want too much. The best creative is the product of a strong vision, it’s not designed by committee.
The key to threading that needle and protecting the vision is communication. My job is to get that good, vision-driven creative through. I learned this at Clemson: my role as the Director of Creative Services is to act like an offensive lineman, almost. Break through the barriers, knock down the silos, prevent frustration buildup across the process.
I have to pick my battles and help everyone else pick theirs, too. Like, if we’re talking about a 40-by-40 graphic for an email that may not even get a high open rate, we don’t need to think outside the box. Just do it by the book. Let’s invest our energy into things we know are going to get engagement, things that really have a chance to move the needle.
When you’re working on some major project, that’s when you blow it out.
How do you know that what you're doing, as a creative team, is successful?
I'm always monitoring what's being said around the organization and on our public channels. I hate putting stock in social media comments and things like that, but when you're not getting any comments, that’s bad. You shouldn’t over-index on any specific social comment, but you need to keep an ear to the ground.
Here’s an example — we do goal graphics for all the guys on our team. That’s commonplace in the NHL, in any sport, you prep these graphics. Around Christmastime last year, one of our goalies almost scored. Missed by this much. And we didn’t have anything ready for him! I was thinking about our fans, that they’re going to forget that it happened, this great moment, because we didn’t put up a graphic to solidify it.
The next day, I made sure we prepped a bunch of graphics for our goalies, fixing this blind spot. Then a month or two later, another great moment like that happened, and we had the graphic ready, and it was one of the best-performing pieces of social we put up all season. The fans loved it! It was this niche moment that we’d put thought and care into preparing for, and that work paid off. That was really cool. I don’t like to put too much stock in social analytics, but you can’t deny that.
It’s also gratifying seeing stuff we’ve made in the real world. We moved into a new office and I’m walking around seeing people hang up the posters and such we’d made. That’s really cool. I guarantee 90% of the people in this building don’t know who made it, but they’re decorating their office with it — it’s a cool feeling.
When I go to a game and see a kid holding up some card or merch we’ve worked on, that’s the best feeling. You’re responsible for making something that this kid is going to take home and put on his wall! It’s those little things that are really a huge measure of success for me.
What's the best piece of advice you've received that has in some way influenced the way you approach your work?
It’s something that a buddy of mine from Clemson says. His name is Jeff Callan. When we're creating things, we're creating things specifically for the Clemson fan — or in my case now, the Bruins fan. If other people outside of that group find it cool, that's just an added bonus. I think that's really important.
Always remind yourself who you're creating for and why. Try not to worry about all the other noise. But if other people latch on and say, “hey, that's sick,” or “how'd you come up with that,” that’s a great bonus. Those added bonuses can help fuel you. Just remember who you're creating for and why.