As Vice President, Partnerships and Strategic Development and Vice President, Diversity Partnerships and Strategic Relationships of AOL from 1995 to 2009, Jimmy Lynn led the transformation of AOL Sports to become one of the leading sports destination sources. While he pushed the limits for digital sports marketing strategies, he also devoted countless hours to implementing effective diversity and inclusion practices throughout the workspace. Jimmy’s Japanese heritage is intertwined with his career milestones and commitment to public service. He is dedicated to helping his students and served on the Advisory Council of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund and Board of Directors of Asian-American LEAD.
Recently, he’s set his sights on transforming mobile video applications with Kiswe Mobile Inc. As Co-founder and Vice President of Business Development, Jimmy is putting the power of video back into the hands of the user. Beyond his career successes, Jimmy is an innovator, an advocate, a mentor and a true powerhouse. His self-less nature and core understanding of his crafts make him not only one of the greatest innovators in sports marketing but a true testament to the power of embracing diversity and paying it forward.
What advice do you have for students and entry-level professionals who may be struggling in the first few years of their career? What are some of your key strategies and building blocks for success?
I think it’s important to not only have mentors but to be a mentee. Every week I’ve been bringing my Georgetown students over to mentor students at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. It's incredible to see the power of mentoring and helping others. It’s such a good feeling.
We met at National Geographic’s Asia- Pacific Resource Group’s panel discussion in DC. At the event you stated, “Look at what you can bring to the table – don’t be afraid.” Can you touch a little more on what you meant by this? Why is it important to not be afraid career wise?
I embrace my minority status. Don’t be afraid of your background – embrace your diversity and use it to your advantage. A lot of people are afraid or nervous to be the minority in the room and they might not want to speak up but you bring a different point of view to the team and its management, which is valuable. It’s important to embrace your background and where you come from because it will end up helping the company in the long run.
You’ve worked on AOL Sports' strategic partnerships and accounts for the NFL, NBA, MLB, PGA Tour, ABC Sports, CBS Sports- you name it! What were some of your favorite moments?
The most rewarding was that at the time, the internet was new to sports (late 1990s). We were creating a new media platform, we were creating incremental revenue, and we were leading the way of showing how to leverage the internet to grow AOL Sports’ popularity, brand and usage. That was really exciting for me. It was like being in broadcast TV in the early ‘60s. The internet was new to the league and for me it was very exciting.
Sports-related media can be so exciting yet very challenging, what were some of the fundamental things you worked on that helped AOL get to be one of the leading global sports destination Internet sites?
If you think about how the leagues were covered by traditional media, there was television (TV), newspaper, radio or magazines but it was only a set time of the week that the publication or news came out. Now, the internet allows the fans access to content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The internet became a different way to present content. It created that much more affinity for the fans.
Over 70% of fans are “displaced”. When they move to college or move for work, their home team was not covered by local media. So, what the internet did is it provided a way for people to follow their local teams wherever they were in the world. What is now called social media back then was called message boards or chat rooms. Now it’s all through social media like Facebook and Twitter, but back then it was a new way for the leagues to explore their fan base and create more access to their fans.
As you mentioned with the rise of Social Media, how has that changed your marketing strategies with your own company Kiswe Mobile?
There is a major shift with how people are consuming video especially for the millennials. More and more millennials are watching video content on their phone instead of regular TV. Another shift, is that people are watching content when they want to watch it – they binge watch on Netflix or Hulu. But with sports, you want to watch it live and that’s why sports remain very valuable. It’s almost like the last piece of reality TV. Fewer people want to pay for cable bills now that everything is on social media, we call this “cord cutters”. More and more people want to go to an OTT, an Over-The-Top app, they want to be able to go directly to watch content when they want.
PAYING IT FORWARD
According to a study, the top 3 challenges reported by Asian American professionals in Asia Society's most recent APA survey are: a lack of role models, professional growth and career development. Do you have any role models that have helped you develop your career?
I didn’t have Asian role models, but that’s the reason why I spent so much time focusing on mentoring minority students. I’ve had a few Asian students tell me their parents expect them to be a doctor, a banker or a lawyer. There are not many Asians in sports entertainment, so some of the younger Asian students tell me that I am a role model to them. For any minority, it’s important to follow your passion. It’s important you pursue your own dream and do what makes you happy.
You served as Vice-President (Diversity Partnerships and Strategic Relationships) for AOL's Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The increasing focus on “inclusion” has the potential to be transformative for corporations. How did you increase not only diversity but inclusivity at AOL and in other workspaces?
One of the things I did was create joint events. For example, our African-American employee group and our Pan-Asian employee group would have combination events where you learn from each other’s cultures. We also had themed months at AOL. We would do big celebrations about culture, food and dance. We would have people share their experiences and the more you share the better we are. With the company’s expansion, it’s important for executives to come to our events and learn about the cultures of our employees because it will make them better managers.
You’re on the Advisory Council of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund and were a part of the Board of Directors of Asian-American LEAD. Could you talk a bit more about your roles and what are some ways you help the next generation of API leaders.
Most of the kids in these groups are first generation college students. In many cases their parents didn’t go to college or they simply couldn’t afford it. The Scholarship Fund really helps them understand what they need to do in high school to prepare for college, like learning how to fill in applications. It’s all important. We try to focus on being a resource to these kids so they know how to use the proper resources. We give out up to $5,000 scholarships to help pay for their education.