Martin Salamone Nevada football
Joe Howell

General Andrew Maraniss

Behind the Dores: Martin Salamone

Senior Associate AD boasts love of Philly sports

A native of the Philadelphia area who got his start in sports marketing with the Phillies, Eagles and his alma mater, Penn State, Martin Salamone serves as Vanderbilt's Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs, overseeing fan-facing activities such as marketing, ticketing and concessions. He joined the Commodores' staff after 14 years at the University of Florida, where he was Assistant Athletic Director for Revenue Generation and Retention.

Have you ever seen the TV show The Goldbergs? I grew up in the next town over, Glenside, Pennsylvania. It's just about a mile from Philadelphia.

Growing up in Philadelphia, my favorite players were guys like Dr. J., Darryl Dawkins, Andrew Toney, Mo Cheeks, Mike Schmidt, Randall Cunningham, and Bobby Clark.

When I was in 7th grade in 1985, Villanova won the NCAA men's basketball championship. I went to a Catholic school and all the nuns were pulling for Villanova. Philadelphia is such a blue-collar town, and sports are a big part of that.

My mom and dad would take us on the subway to Temple Owls football games, mainly for the postgame concerts. We saw the Beach Boys and the Monkees, bands like that. That's why we'd go to the Temple games.

When I was in elementary school, I decided I wanted to be a United States Senator. I thought that was the coolest job in the world.

I started out as a political science major at Penn State and then moved into speech communications. I decided I wanted to become a speech therapist where I would work to help kids with stuttering problems.

My senior year, I had a professor who lost tenure and left the school, so we were told we needed to get internships for course credit. A friend of mine who worked for the Phillies told me he could get me an interview to intern with their ticket sales and marketing team.

I worked in the ticket room, which was a bunker with no windows. I was on the phone selling tickets all day, every day. One day someone came in and asked for volunteers to do something. I raised my hand because I just wanted to get out of that room, and so did my friend Christian. They took us to this long, dark room and said they had a corporate function that evening and we needed to take the labels off of 1,000 plastic chairs and tables. We sat there in this blazing hot room and peeled off all these stickers.

I don't know if that was a test, but we didn't complain and from then on, they didn't even ask for volunteers for projects. They just asked for me and Christian.

The Phillies said they would like to have me back when I graduated, but then Major League Baseball went on strike that very next week and they had a hiring freeze. But I still talk to the director of marketing weekly. He's now the VP of marketing for the Phillies. I think working hard made an impression on him.

A college roommate had a job with the Eagles, and he helped me get an interview for a position with the Eagles in their suites. After that 1995 season, the scouting department asked if I would come and work for them.

I would update the draft board, take reports from scouts and put them in the computer, and sometimes I'd have to watch film and look for tendencies of certain players. Ray Rhodes was the coach and Jon Gruden was the offensive coordinator. I had a lot of fun.

If you work really hard and follow through on what you say you are going to do, people take notice.

I don't think I've ever turned down a request from somebody who just wants to talk about career advice, even if I don't know them. People did that for me, and I want to pay it forward.

In marketing, you need to be prepared to hear constructive criticism. Some people may not be wired that way. If you are reviewed by your boss and there's 10 things to discuss and one of them is positive and the other nine are areas for improvement, some people may only hear the one positive thing. I'm the opposite. If there are nine positives, I'll have anxiety about that one area for improvement. How do I get better? What do I need to do to fix that?

We need to do everything we can to make sure our fans are enjoying their time in our venues. That means marketing, ticketing, concessions, guest services. Listening to our fans is so important.

We send out postgame surveys, and I encourage our fans to participate in them. They're usually only around three questions. We might ask you to tell us about your experience with concessions, and then we'll ask you to tell us why you gave it a certain score.

Based on what we hear, we'll go through and highlight three or four weekly discussion points for our facilities staff, for our ticketing staff, for concessions. The goal is to have the concerns addressed as quickly as possible.

My wife and I have been married for just over a year, and we love it here in Nashville. We love checking out new restaurants, walking our dogs along the greenway, going to the Ryman and CMA Fest.

I was blessed to grow up in a city like Philadelphia with so many things to do, and then we enjoyed living in Gainesville, which was a cute, safe little college town. I would say Nashville is a perfect blend. I call it a little big city.

Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss
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