ALSD Member Highlight: A Buckeye Born and Bred

He’s born and raised in the Columbus area. He leads the sales team for nine ticketed sports at Ohio State. He’s the newest addition to the ALSD Board of Advisors. He’s Justin Doyle, Sr Director of Ticket Sales and Premium Seating for Ohio State Athletics.

  • Justin Doyle, Senior Director of Ticket Sales and Premium Seating, Ohio State Athletics

Editor’s Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Justin Doyle knows a thing or two about the big Buckeye brand. Not only was he born and raised in the Columbus area, he first cut his teeth in OSU Athletics and hasn’t looked back. His outlook on life, leadership, and adaptability pave the way for him to now be considered his premium team’s pack leader.

His peers describe him as humble, but Justin’s bio is anything but modest. His team executes sales strategies for 97 luxury suites, 44 loge boxes, and 2,500 club seats at Ohio Stadium, as well as 52 luxury suites and 4,000 club seats at the Schottenstein Center. In addition, Justin oversees a team of nine sales representatives who are responsible for selling nine ticketed sports.

Justin is a consummate industry leader, recently appointed to the ALSD Board of Advisors. In late 2019, the ALSD had the pleasure of sitting down with Justin, who showed his true scarlet and gray colors.

“The work-life balance thing in this industry is impossible… Our youngest was adopted from China, and during that transition, [my wife] was there to get him accustomed to the States.”

– Justin Doyle, Ohio State Athletics

Amanda: So, happy birthday.

Justin: Thank you.

Amanda: How old are you? You don’t have to answer that.

Justin: Forty-six.

Amanda: Dude, you’re old.

Justin: I’ve been told.

Amanda: Do you feel old?

Justin: I do actually [laughs].

Amanda: Are you from Ohio?

Justin: I’m from Dublin. I grew up in Dublin, went to Dublin High School when there was just one [high school]. I still live in Dublin actually. I went to Muskingum University before coming back home.

Amanda: Where is Muskingum?

Justin: Muskingum is about an hour east of Columbus. It’s in a small town called New Concord.

Amanda: Did you play sports?

Justin: I played tennis. It was fun and a beautiful school.

Amanda: Do they give full rides?

Justin: I wish. It’s a Division III school. It’s grown a bit since I’ve been there. Probably 1,500 students now. I loved it.

Amanda: And what keeps you active now? Are you still playing tennis?

Justin: Not as much. It’s just hard on my body. I play a ton of golf with clients. My kids have got me coaching basketball. They love basketball. My youngest is almost as tall as my wife now. He’s 4’8”, and he is eight years old!

Justin and his wife Kim with their sons Camdyn (left) and Jackson (right). “Both boys are adopted. My oldest, Jackson, was born here in Columbus… We got a call a week before he was born and was going to come home to us. We had exactly one week to get the house ready.”

 

Amanda: You have the family, the great gig. But how do you achieve the elusive work-life balance?

Justin: The work-life balance thing in this industry is nearly impossible. My wife is great, very understanding. She maintains everything, including the kids, as I’m frequently working 8:00 p.m. basketball games or 7:30 p.m. football games. She does an unbelievable job. Our youngest was adopted from China, and during that transition, she was there to get him accustomed to the States.

Amanda: That’s incredible.

Justin: Both boys are adopted. My oldest, Jackson, was born here in Columbus. My wife got to be in the delivery room. It was one of those surreal experiences. We got a call a week before he was born and was going to come home to us. We had exactly one week to get the house ready. We were on the list, but you just never know. We got really lucky that he was here in Columbus.

Then Camdyn came to us. He initially came to America with an adopted family here in Columbus. However, after a month, it was determined not to be a fit. We got a call, met with Camdyn and the family, and Camdyn came to us. And we’ve been off and running since.

Amanda: Do you have a trip planned at some point for Camdyn to visit China?

Justin: We do. We’ve talked about it a lot with him. He’s seven years old now. He has maps at home. He shows us where he’s from, tells his friends too. We want to wait until he gets a little bit older, but we are definitely going to China to experience the culture, visit his province.

Amanda: Tell me more about family life.

Justin: Jackson and Cam do a lot of sports. Tennis, baseball, basketball. Depending on the time of year, I’m usually coaching them. We also go on family vacations in the summer. We got back from Disney this past summer for the first time. Camdyn is infatuated with Mickey, so it was like meeting his rock star. As crazy as it is there and as hot as it was, it was worth seeing his face light up when he got to meet Mickey. Additionally, there is plenty to do here in town. And of course, they come here for games occasionally.

The prestige of the Ohio State brand impacts how Justin manages his staff. “We try to emphasize it, often taking a step back from the daily work rituals to understand the enormity and recognition of our brand. We look for next steps, ways to be cutting-edge.”

 

Amanda: Do you have them in a suite?

Justin: Oh yeah, 100%. Here’s a great story. We have a friend here who coaches a high school football team. As we were driving to one of his games, Jackson says, “Hey dad, are we going to be in a suite for the game?” I turned to my wife and said, “These kids have no idea what they’re about to experience.”

I will tell you though, they got the VIP experience anyway. They got to go in the locker rooms, had helmets on, got things I couldn’t even compete with. They don’t know any different and my wife’s the same way! If we go to a concert, “we’re in a suite, right?”

Speaking of concerts, we actually have an interesting connection to that market here. You may not realize that we manage Nationwide Arena together with the Blue Jackets. Our staff does all the concerts.

Schottenstein Center and Nationwide Arena, being so close to one another, competed for concerts for several years until multiple key stakeholders suggested managing Nationwide Arena together. Before, we were probably paying many thousands of dollars more for a concert because we were bidding against each other. With that remedied, the prices dropped for the shows, which means ticket prices have become more affordable for concertgoers. It’s been a win-win from a management and financial perspective.

Amanda: Rewind and tell me how you landed here. Ohio State Athletics is a big gig, and you don’t get here without some grit and a damn good résumé.

Justin: It was right place, right time. When Schottenstein Center opened 21 years ago, it was really the first major arena the city had. It was a big deal, especially to a kid who grew up here. I was just two years out of college, so my philosophy was simple: intern for free, just start working there.

So I did that. I interned for free and did whatever was needed – operations, service, and eventually, more intimately, marketing, mostly for concerts.

At the same time my internship was coming to an end, the athletics department was beginning to hire full-time staff. I had been working with them for six months. They were very comfortable with what I was doing, and off it went. I went from marketing concerts, to selling sponsorships for athletics, to the premium world.

Amanda: Has there been a pivotal time in your life that shaped your character?

Justin: Unequivocally. It’s been 19 years since I had a bone marrow transplant. The arena had been open for a year or two, and I just wasn’t feeling good at work, or otherwise, and I was jaundice. It was determined there was a virus in my liver. Doctors said it would pass. No big deal.

I went back to the doctor when I developed spots, which they thought were just an effect of this virus. However, they ran the blood work and told me I was not creating platelets and thought I might’ve been bleeding internally.

“Because the donor was anonymous, to this day, I have no idea who he or she is, and I can’t tell that person thank you for saving my life.”

– Justin Doyle, Ohio State Athletics

From there, we went to the James (The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital), which is obviously a great place on campus from a cancer standpoint, and they realized my bone marrow had shut down.I was in the hospital for eight months. I did chemo, radiation, had everything stripped of me. Then they found an anonymous [bone marrow] donor, a ten out of ten match with the markers test. Because the donor was anonymous, to this day, I have no idea who he or she is, and I can’t tell that person thank you for saving my life.

Seeing how my family reacted to me not being able to do anything made me realize how short life can be. We all take little things for granted sometimes. Now I see how much little things matter.

I’d hear people complain about the miserable weather outside, but because I had been sitting in a hospital room for six months, all I could think about was how much I’d love to go outside. Also, just sitting in traffic for the first time after I could drive, I was so happy because I wasn’t in that hospital bed.

The other kicker. My now wife, Kim, and I had just started dating for two weeks when this happened. I was on my way to see her when I got a call from the doctor. She got thrown into meeting my parents for the first time at the hospital. But she stuck with me and drove up from Cincinnati every weekend she could, even though she herself had also just starting working.

Amanda: How did you and Kim meet?

Justin: Kim’s best friend and I went to college together. We actually had a radio show together. Kim visited, but we didn’t date until after Muskingum.

Amanda: What’s your favorite thing to do on and off campus?

Justin: In terms of the best places to go, and largely because my life revolves around the Disney Network and Nickelodeon now, my wife and I get out to Cap City when we find a night where one of us doesn’t already have something.

Otherwise, hanging out with the family and having them come to an event can’t be beat, especially watching the boys’ eyes light up at Monster Jam. They’re all about monster trucks. When the cars get smashed, they can’t believe it. Their eyes are so big. It’s the greatest thing ever.

The best game I’ve been to was a basketball game against Illinois who was undefeated at the time. It was the last Big Ten game of the year, and we upset them. It was kind of the rebirth of our program. After that, the program took off.

Justin and Kim took Jackson and Camdyn to Disney World this past summer. “Camdyn is infatuated with Mickey, so it was like meeting his rock star. As crazy as it is there and as hot as it was, it was worth seeing his face light up when he got to meet Mickey.”

 

Amanda: Speaking of games, does your team take clients to away games?

Justin: We do. We rotate suite holders, usually four to six, and go on mostly football or basketball trips. They get to eat with the team, and the coaches are very engaging. It’s a wonderful experience for our clients, who rave about experiences such as Coach Holtmann’s pregame meal chat.

Amanda: Does your team use any notable sales or service tools?

Justin: Our sales team is in-house, and we continue to evaluate if certain tools can help make our processes even more streamlined and data driven. For the first time this year, we opened up football inventory to our sales team, and the numbers are impressive.

Across the industry, season ticket numbers are down, so we, like many others, are getting creative with ideas like mini-plans for football, which we have never done before. We have to meet our clients’ desires. We are blessed with a supportive AD who recognizes the at-home product is continually improving, and who supports our ingenuity to find ways to fill our venues.

Amanda: The prestige of the Ohio State brand must be exhilarating. Does it impact the way you manage your staff in order to maintain excellence?

Justin: We try to emphasize it, often taking a step back from the daily work rituals to understand the enormity and recognition of our brand. We look for next steps, ways to be cutting-edge. Frankly, we rely on the likes of ALSD to understand how to maintain innovation. ALSD has helped us tremendously, going to the conferences and talking to others. We learn what’s going on in the ticketing world and how to get more people through our doors.

More with Justin Doyle: Read our coverage of the recent renovations at Ohio Stadium and the Schottenstein Center.

 

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