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The 20th Anniversary Of MLB’s Diverse Business Partners Program

While teams, league staff and players gather in preparation for the upcoming season, MLB’s version of Shark Tank is in live time for minority and women-owned businesses.

You’re a minority or woman and own a fledgling, digital advertising company desperately trying to stimulate business in a highly-competitive market. One day you receive the incredible opportunity to pitch your business to decision makers within the New York Yankees organization looking to start a new advertising campaign.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime: 60 seconds at a table with 30 Major League Baseball clubs ready to spend some of the 10 billion or more in total revenue it now generates yearly. It’s up to you to convince them to do business and elevate the trajectory of your earning potential.

That’s exactly what goes down at Major League Baseball’s Supplier Diversity Summit, held in Las Vegas from December 8th through the 12th, during the league’s Winter Meetings.

While teams, league staff and players gather in preparation for the upcoming season, MLB’s version of Shark Tank is in live time for minority and women-owned businesses.


The Summit is one of MLB’s best kept secrets as the league continues to promote diversity and inclusion within an iconic American Sport that was at the forefront of racial desegregation in America. 


20th Anniversary Supplier Diversity Summit

“This year is a milestone season for MLB’s Diversity & Inclusion team,” said Corey Smith, Senior Director of Supplier Diversity and Strategic Sourcing at MLB.

MLB Winter Meetings in Vegas will also host the 20th Anniversary of the Diverse Business Partners.


Created in 1998, the program is an economically-driven initiative designed to cultivate new and existing partnerships with minority and female-owned businesses by increasing opportunities for them to participate in the procurement activities of MLB.  

“We have the longest running supplier diversity program in all of sports, “ Smith said. “For us it makes incredibly smart business sense to partner with diverse owned businesses to procure our good and services.”


MLB has spent more than $1.5 billion with diverse businesses since the program was created, and was recently honored as one of the top 50 U.S. corporations for multicultural business by the largest member organization of diverse businesses in this country.

MLB Communications on Twitter

Last week, @MLB was named the National Corporation of the Year by the @NYNJCouncil for the League’s commitment to supplier diversity spending. @NMSDCHQ

 

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“The reality is that we’ve been able to save money by utilizing diverse businesses to provide goods and services for us,” said Smith.  “In an ideal world, our costs are actually decreasing while we’re increasing our spending with diverse businesses.”

It’s not only the right thing to do, but Smith, Rene Tirado (MLBs Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Head of Diversity & Inclusion) and their team, have been able to reduce costs as a function of diversity, which is the perfect storm.

MLB is all in on its Diverse Business Partners program, a year-round, joint effort. According to Smith, all of the 30 clubs participate. The commissioner’s office participates. Advanced media, MLB Network participates.



MLB will host close to 100 suppliers in a variety of categories: promotional products, marketing, technology, facilities, food service.


“Based on the clubs needs coming up, we selected suppliers who we thought could fill those needs and the financial opportunities that will present themselves for next season and beyond,” Smith said.  

DISC Symposium on Twitter

MLB’s Corey Smith headlining a talk on supplier diversity successes and its impact on the business. #DiversityGrandSlam

 

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Smith’s peers in the supplier diversity industry will be on a panel teaching the prospective minority clients about how supplier diversity varies within the different industries.  

“You’ve got entertainment and the resort world with MGM, you’ve got technology with Facebook and social media and then you’ve got baseball,” Smith said. 


 

Make Money Moves

The Summit moved to the Winter Meetings three years ago.

“The reality is this is actually the time of the year that teams are spending their money because they are getting ready for next year,” Smith said. “The off season is when the teams are actually in buying mode. Moving the event there, has ramped up how much money has actually gone to diverse business, because it’s in real time. So folks are coming to this event and literally next week they are getting the opportunity to bid on orders that teams are pushing out the door.”

USBlackChambers Inc on Twitter

USBC present at The MLB Diversity Business Summit to identify supplier diversity opportunities. @MLB_DBS


 

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Elevator Pitch  


Following several special workshops, diverse suppliers will have the opportunity to showcase and network with MLB and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) Clubs. The highlight of the Summit is the speed round, where suppliers get to meet face to face with all 30 clubs over a 3-hour period and get to do a 60-second elevator pitch.

Each MLB club has a table with about 9 suppliers ready to pitch their products and services. Each minority supplier gets a minute to speak and then they get up and move onto the next table.

“That’s exciting because over time you get to see how they actually improve on how they sell their company from the time they sat down at the first table to the last,” Smith said, when listing the various benefits of the speed round.  

“In the first year, within two months diverse businesses literally had about $300,000 worth of orders on the books. Last year within the first 3 months we had hit maybe $500,000,” Smith boasted.

The quest for total diversity in sports wasn’t invented by MLB’s Diversity and Inclusion team, but they are doing it more consistently, genuinely and with more innovation than any other pro sports entity.



JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.