Who’s your all-time favorite player?
Who’s your all-time favorite team?
These are easy questions for all of us in #SportsBiz. But when asked who is your all-time favorite executive, do you have an answer?
At 4FRONT, we do, and her name is Margaret “Midge” Donahue.
You won’t find her on LinkedIn, but you will find her fingerprints in every team office around the world and in everything we aspire to be at 4FRONT. You’ll find her heart and mind in every team’s marketing plan, especially in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Final that will be played, fittingly on International Women’s Day, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia with a capacity of more than 100,000 fans.
For many of us, we wouldn’t have jobs without the trailblazing ideas that Midge implemented.
Just over a century ago, Midge was named the first female executive to work in a team’s front office when she joined the Chicago Cubs as a Stenographer in 1919. Her tenure in the front office reads like a Hall of Fame plaque for the Sports Business. She was responsible for creating an abundance of concepts that are commonplace today, but we forget there was a time they didn’t exist.
Here are a few examples:
1. Midge created the season ticket (Let that sink in. She invented the season ticket.)
2. Midge created a discounted child and family ticket
3. Midge created the gameday promotion with “Ladies Day”
4. Midge created the off-site ticket sales point-of-purchase
Imagine your team’s business without Midge. Now, imagine how hard it is to an innovator and the courage it takes to think of a better way to do something and the chops to bring it to life.
While these ideas in hindsight are no brainers to all of us in 2020, they were controversial at the time. It’s a great reminder of the bravery and the importance of being a progressive thinker.
At 4FRONT, we have 5 core values and my personal favorite is Be Like Midge. For me personally, she’s my alter ego in my daily commitment to be an innovator at 4FRONT. Beyond what Midge did, I think it was who she was that inspires us daily to be great and I think there are a few specific attributes she has that we think about a lot at 4FRONT when we want to Be Like Midge:
Dedication: I grew up a Cubs fan so I have to admit that Midge must have seen a lot of losing baseball, but I always think of the daily dedication that she brought to her job; constantly pushing forward and re-defining what a team front office can be. I see that same dedication in trying to do things that have never been done before by Shannon Hooper, Jenna Kampfschulte and Stephanie Warren-Ryce.
Each sets the tone for 4FRONT’s internal and external heartbeat. It’s a daily grind to get up early and push forward and it begins with a dedication for excellence that Midge brought to the North Side of Chicago all those years.
Dependable: When we established 4FRONT’s core values, we referenced a quote from Brooke Halvorsen who, when asked to stay late for a project, responded “On it. I’m All-in, all the time.” For us, ALL-IN has been a calling card for Brooke and our Innovation team filled with fellow Midges Katie Foglia and Katie LaCroix. Dependability is arguably a lost art and it’s a spirit that made Midge, like Brooke and the Katies, such an incredible teammate.
Dignity: Midge was so respected by all that came into contact with her. I love this picture of her front and center in the Cubs 1929 team photo. You can feel the respect she’s earned and the pride she must feel. I feel that same level of pride in our 4FRONT digital team when I see Heather Klein, Andrea Lopez, Kati Ruthart, Courtney Penland and Erin Willoughby bring their complex use of digital media to drive incredible ticket sales ROI for our partners. While Midge didn’t have access to programmatic media back in the day, something tells me she would be so would be extremely proud of our digital Midges.
Loyal: Ask anyone who knew Midge personally or professionally and they would say she was one of the most loyal people they ever encountered. At 4FRONT, we’re so fortunate to have loyal teammates around the world like Hillary Angel, Kate Agnew, Cara Bartucci, Teresa Basile, Ana Lisa Bassewitz, Kacy Burke, Rachel Chessky, Kenna Conway, Deborah Cook, Amy Corbett, Natalie Davey, Laura Day, Kris Ekeren, Ariel Fields, Cheryl Gaffney, Mallory Glazier, Aisha Gonzales, Michelle Gonzalez, Kari Gritton, Greta Gustafson, Katie Haas, Kelly Higgins, Nicole LaPointe-Jameson, Dina Jansen, Robin Jentes, Bridget Johnson, Sarah Leeth, Katherine Loomis, Erin Lydon, Meghan Madson, Megan Malone, Kerry Manders, Kim McConnie, Melissa McDermott, Laura McLeod, Kris Morgenthaler, Karlie Newman, Rebecca Norberg, Jovan Overshown, Lisa Pearson, Cassidy Rooke, Joanna Sabato, Jeanne Salazar, Molly Salaza, Chelsea Saunders, Courtney Scrivano, Beth Turnbull, Dawn Turner, Katie Vannelli, Ani Vasileff, Lexi Walston, Hilary Ward, Laura White, Elisa Wills, Jordan Woodcroft, Molly Wurdack-Folt, Charisse Winter, Jennie Wylie who bring a Midge-like focus in both their unwavering loyalty and Midge-like approach to their work.
Cheerful: Anyone who has worked in the sports business knows it’s hard. Really hard. Whether you’re doing outbound ticket sales, tasked with selling a losing team or managing the internal daily grind; this is not a business for anyone with thin skin. That’s what makes my favorite attribute of Midge so powerful.
She was cheerful.
Think of all that was on her plate. She was always upbeat, positive and led with a cheerful spirit so radiant that it still shines on the 4FRONT team and a global audience of millions that will watch the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup Final in Melbourne on International Women’s Day.
While I grew up in Chicago idolizing a certain basketball player in the 1990s who had a whole ad campaign focused around our desire to be like him, I must admit that, as an adult who strives to be a cheerful, dedicated and dependable innovator with dignity, I’d want to Be Like Midge.
On International Women’s Day, please join me and all of us at 4FRONT in saluting Midge Donahue by sharing her story with the Midge’s in your life. One of 4FRONT’s own Midge’s, Katie Foglia, had the amazing opportunity to visit with Midge’s nieces and we encourage you to listen and share their incredible first-person accounts with their Aunt Midge.