#5QsforCMOs: Jonathan Karron – National VP, Brand & Digital Marketing of Boys and Girls Clubs of America


#5QsForCMOs is a series of short interviews conducted by AgencySparks, in which we ask senior marketers five simple questions to uncover insights about their brand, and help us better understand their thought process as a marketing leader.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is focused on Inspiring and enabling all young people to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens. Boys & Girls Clubs are a safe place to learn and grow – all while having fun. It is the place where great futures are started each and every day.

What career experience has best prepared you for your role at Boys & Girls Clubs of America?

It’s really been a variety of experiences that prepared me for this role. I’ve intentionally tried to add a lot of tools to my toolbox throughout my career so I can be a better marketer and have also gone deeper in a few areas in recent years. My focus in my current job is on building our brand so the general public better understands the great work we do and on rebuilding our digital platforms that need a lot of TLC. So I’ve leaned on the work I led at Turner Classic Movies in doing audience research and in launching a new brand campaign and some of my agency experiences for positioning brands.

On the digital front, I built a digital marketing team from scratch for Turner’s Entertainment networks and developed a comprehensive digital strategy at Herschend Family Entertainment that resulted in new web and mobile sites, a CRM & email platform and developed a social media strategy that led to triple digit eCommerce revenue growth in 5 years. I am also leaning on my experience chairing marketing committees for several non-profits in ATL and that experience has been invaluable as I moved to non-profit work as a full-time career.

Given some of the challenges that BGCA is facing today, what’s your number one marketing priority?

The short term priority is fixing our digital footprint.  We haven’t refreshed our main website (bgca.org) since 2007 and it needs work to better represent our brand, be a vehicle to tell stories about the great work we do for kids in need and be a better engine to raise funds to further our mission.  We just launched a temporary mobile site (in October 2015), since our site wasn’t mobile-friendly and our bounce rate was too high because of the poor user experience.

Longer term, we face challenges that many non-profits face and that is clearly defining who we are and what we do in the eyes of the public.  If more people knew how we laid the foundation to provide Great Futures for 4 million kids each year, I think we’d get more people advocating, volunteering and donating to our organization. 

What do you see as the biggest marketing strength for BGCA and what is the biggest weakness?

Our biggest strength is that we serve almost 4 million kids a year and that we are an essential link to helping them towards a path to a Great Future.  As a result, we have many prominent people who went to Clubs as kids that are willing to share their experiences with the public and help us increase awareness and serve more kids.

Here’s a link to some of our famous alumni which includes our national spokesperson, Denzel Washington, and other high achievers including: Jennifer Lopez, Shaq, Misty Copeland, politicians, athletes, scholars, Oscar winners, etc. Boys & Girls Clubs of America Alumni leveraging their experiences and star power really helps us break through the clutter.

Our biggest weakness is lack of resources, which I think is a challenge for many non-profits. We rely on the goodwill of media and marketing partners to help us get our message to the general public as we don’t buy advertising which makes it harder for us to tell our story in the time and place where we want to tell it.

What areas of marketing for BGCA do you feel strongly need to be in-house, and what areas do you think should/could be outsourced to an agency?

We are not locked into any formula of what we can do in house versus with an agency partner. But where we don’t have expertise in house – marketing research, brand creative development, rebuilding digital platforms (to name a few that I directly work on), we will be seeking outside partners who are experts in these areas to help.

What’s a quirky thing/funny story that not even your marketing team even knows about you?

I have too many quirks to list...  as I write this I’m coming up on my 6-month anniversary at my job, and I think everyone is starting to learn about my unhealthy obsession with the Atlanta Falcons and my moods which are influenced by their on-field performance (at least on Mondays). But as I write this, we are off to a 5-1 start, so my moods have been pretty good this Fall… and I hope that continues all the way to the Superbowl.