Opportunity doesn’t always come when you expect it – or even when it’s convenient. Graham Wheeler (SOC ’12) learned this first hand when he got the dream job offer – digital marketing manager for the Washington Nationals, D.C.’s major league baseball team. The only catch? He was less than a month into a new job at a hospitality marketing firm.
“It was the opportunity of a lifetime for a lifelong sports fan and having been in DC since 2008 – this is the gig,” he recalls. “There’s no way I was going to turn away from this.” The offer of a lifetime required him to quit his current job on a Thursday, and start his new job on the following Monday. Now, almost three years later, the marketing wiz got a front row seat to the Nationals’ first appearance in baseball’s biggest event: the World Series.
The team squeaked into the playoffs with a legendary come-from-behind victory against the Milwaukee Brewers in the winner-take-all NL Wildcard Game. They then pushed through two massively talented teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to face off against the formidable Houston Astros, arguably, the country’s best team this season. It took seven games and yet another underdog victory, to bring the Commissioners Trophy to the nation’s capital. It was Washington’s first World Series win since 1924, when the local team was called the Senators. Wheeler got to see it all, and help make it happen.
“It was absolutely most days flying by the seat of our pants, trying to organize a schedule of what we’re pushing and when, across what channels…there were no days off,” said the alum of being in the belly of the beast during the historic playoff run. “It was extremely early mornings, extremely late nights, celebrations in between where you can fit them.”
With the Nationals, Wheeler is responsible for the team’s email marketing and overseeing the team’s fan club email list, as well as keeping brand continuity across the team’s website via ad trafficking and copywriting. Communicating with fans about game and watch party logistics and ticketing was extra important during the last explosive month, when everyone wanted to see it happen. By his count, the email list size has doubled (over 250k subscribers) from Wildcard to World Series win.
Growing up in New Jersey, he was a longtime fan of the New York Yankees, but has grown a close connection to the Nationals team and its staff since he came to D.C. in 2008. “Just being part of the inner circle for the past couple of years has really opened my eyes to the amount of work after hours this ball club really puts into giving back to the fans, and making sure that every time you come to the ballpark, it’s a great experience,” he said. “Now that the Series, parade and season are all over," Wheeler said while he’s no longer “stressed out to the point of sweating through shirts,” there’s still plenty of offseason events to promote for the months leading to spring training.
Before joining the Nationals, Wheeler worked at various firms in marketing and research. He describes the innovative, start-up nature of some of these organizations, such as Social Tables, now Cvent, as giving him a chance to work on the razor’s edge of innovative marketing. He also attributes the power of the AU alumni network in helping him grow his career. During his time at AU, where he majored in film and minored in marketing, Wheeler did some babysitting work for a local alum, who happened to have a connection at the Nationals.
“My alumni network at American really got my foot in the door and got my resume above a lot of other individuals,” he said. He recommends that current students in the field take advantage of that too. “Don’t be shy to use your alumni network…If there’s anything you want to get your foot in the door with, there is more than likely a connection you can reach out to.”