What are your job titles and responsibilities?
I am the founder and CEO of KBS Sports Strategies and Partner in The Collective BEST. My responsibilities are to provide strategic solutions and to enhance communities and organizations through sports.
What was your first job in the industry?
I started in the industry as a travel counselor at Visit Hampton’s Visitor Center. I was a recent college graduate when the opportunity presented itself- and I’m so happy that it did. That opportunity and the foresight of the CEO launched what is now a twenty-plus-year career that I am still in love with.
What aspect of your job do you like most?
Everything. It’s learning about communities and sharing the resulting strategic thoughts. It’s seeing my partner communities succeed. The continued building of a strategic arsenal impacts communities beyond room nights. It’s in seeing the beautiful struggle that the athletes endure and the smiles and wide eyes of attendees and citizens. It’s mentorship and ensuring that others can learn and have opportunities, just like I did.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an athlete and a teacher.
How did you get into this line of work?
I was in the right place at the right time. I spent some time with my adopted family in Virginia when a neighbor began talking about the need to fill a position in the visitors’ center, and I needed a job. My plan was to work this job until the school year started, and I would begin teaching. As I learned more about the tourism industry, I liked it more and more. When the talk about creating a “sports market” began, I asked for the opportunity. And I’m thankful for it being awarded.
Kris, you have taken up an endeavor near and dear to your heart and revived an event you once played in. Please tell us about your vision for the Brick City HBCU Kickoff Classic at Red Bull Arena.
Affectionately named after its host city, Newark, NJ, the annual Brick City HBCU Kickoff Classic will be the first game of the season and will be played on September 2, 2023, in Major League Soccer’s Red Bull Arena and pit Grambling State University vs Hampton University.
Beginning in 1968, select Historically Black Colleges and Universities made their annual pilgrimage to the New York area to play in a special game that often drew 60,000 or more attendees. New York City was enthralled with the athleticism and strategy on the field but was also electrified as it got its first taste of the pageantry and energy represented in the tradition of black college marching bands. That all ended in 2015 when event organizers decided to discontinue the series. Having participated in the Classic while attending Hampton, I was keenly aware of the importance of this game. Not only as a showcase for HBCU’s, but also because of its historical significance. The game was created as an instrument of unification and healing in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau has been a great partner and was looking for an event that could showcase the city while providing an impact on its citizens. Having that charge and understanding the city’s assets, we developed a concept that could do just that.
Designed with a 12-month calendar of events to engrain the Kickoff Classic and HBCU’s into the fabric of the community, the Brick City HBCU Kickoff Classic will re-establish the New York Metropolitan Area as the Mecca for black college football. The Brick City HBCU Kickoff Classic will increase the awareness of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Newark metropolitan area while directly impacting the local community through the awarding of scholarships, community partnerships, and local economic development.
Attendees will travel from all over the country for this game. Broadcast and marketing opportunities are abundant, and hotels and restaurants will be full. Activations will take place in all wards of the city. Sponsors and partners are enthusiastically supporting this effort. Students receive scholarship dollars, and the universities get much-needed funding for their athletic departments. It’s a win/ win for everyone.
What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far in your career?
To be honest, I can’t call upon one accomplishment, but rather a series of things. I am incredibly proud of my time in Hampton, VA, and Detroit. We did outstanding work in both communities. We launched sports tourism initiatives and combated negative perceptions while proving our value as a community and destination. We developed facilities, staff, and service offerings making our operations more efficient and effective. We’ve created businesses that now work internationally to improve communities through sport. And we’ve worked to develop programming and events that enhance communities and provide opportunities through scholarship, participatory sports, and employment. I am proud of EVERY step in this journey.
How do you manage your daily tasks?
Easier said than done, but discipline and time management. In a field where all of my partners are a priority, my time must be managed effectively. Focus, efficiency of movement, and an outstanding team.
How do you stay on top of sports tourism industry trends?
Studying and understanding the complete ecosystem (economics, supply chains, etc.) and how it functions collaboratively. Networking with my peers keeps me on my toes. These things together increase my diversity of thought.
How are you developing key partnerships in the marketplace?
It’s about relationships and understanding platforms, abilities, and value. Attending and utilizing trade shows has been essential to my success. We can use as much technology as we want, but it always comes down to our relationship with individuals.
Who was your greatest mentor?
I’ve had many mentors in my life. Too many to name here. Some are your readers. I will tell you that my most profound mentor would be my father. He taught us to be enterprising but not to forget the human condition.
What are the top 3 things you’d want to pass on as advice to a young, upand-coming industry professional?
Be humble. Be genuine. Go big!
What are you most passionate about, and how did you get started?
I am most passionate about life, bottling up the experiences and lessons that come with it and sharing that with my family.