In my first role as a Protective Intelligence Analyst, I worked in the Global Security Operations Center (GSOC) of a family office supporting the owner of a professional sports team. I knew this environment would offer insights into a unique angle of executive protection — combining the typical aspects that you would expect in corporate executive protection, with all the nuances that go along with a professional sports franchise. And of course, all moving at a pace that was much faster than I ever anticipated.
In essence, I was supporting four agendas:
- The principal as the leader of a multinational corporation
- Their family office that included varied business meetings domestically and internationally
- The sports team that included more meetings, special events, and of course — the sporting events themselves
- The needs of the principal’s family
As I reflect on this time, here are six of my biggest takeaways:
- Sports fans can be zealots
While many brands have enthusiastic fans, they are not diehards like sports fans. Since fans have such an emotional connection to the game and the team, they tend to lean towards being fanatical. They act out their fanaticism online when they voice their strong approval or disapproval of the team’s performance and how the team’s management makes decisions. They especially act out in-person, at sporting events where they exhibit strong emotions. Additionally, enthusiastic fans (and some with mental health troubles) have also been known to write letters to and even attempt to make contact with sports executives and players.
- Always be researching!
Following local and national news is critical since so many events influence your security posture. On a local level, it’s important to understand what’s going on in the cities that the security team operates primarily. For example:
– Are there major freeway construction projects on the horizon that will interfere with logistics?
– What’s new with the FBOs / Airports that you frequent?
– Is the principal being mentioned in the local paper?
– Are the principal’s associates being mentioned in the news? If so, is it positive or negative, and how might this affect the principal?
On a national level, having your pulse on the news is important as it relates to other properties or locations frequented by the principal, especially those locations where other business campuses might be.
- It’s more than just sports
Beyond the sporting event schedule, there are a large volume of smaller events that support the team — recruiting and drafting, philanthropy, award ceremonies, community events, and more. This array of activity fuels a need to always be aware. As a Protective Intelligence Analyst, I needed to be aware of VIPs mentioned publicly that will be attending events, whether the principal’s attendance at an event is time and place predictable, general mentions of the event online, and more.
- Name recognition = Inappropriate pursuers
From my own interactions with diverse intelligence teams, there appears to be a correlation between the volume of inappropriate contacts with a principal and the number of times their name is mentioned in the news. Similar to marketing a brand, if your name is mentioned enough then it creates awareness — but this awareness can also trickle down to those that you’d prefer keep a distance from your protectee.
- On-the-ground intel is critical
Getting intel from the person on the ground doing the protective advance is critical! There will always be unknown factors that get uncovered: the gate that the driver normally uses is closed, law enforcement is blocking a particular street, or every car is being stopped for bomb detection canines to check. There is a severe limitation in only relying on online research and OSINT tools — this blind spot can only be reduced by support from people conducting the protective advance or working on the ground at the event.
- ESPN and social media is an extra set of eyes and ears
Fans are never shy about posting content — I’ve seen it all. Major sports networks tend to catch a lot that the security team at the event might be immediately unaware of. For example:
– Is there a VIP in the crowd who did not previously disclose their attendance?
– Are there news cameras in the areas where the security team will be operating?
– Is there an unexpected situation occurring outside of the stadium?
– What is the sentiment of the crowd?
What’s more, when it comes to fans posting on social media, analysts can often use hashtags and location-based social posts to get a highly accurate pulse on what’s happening at an event. You know when fans are arriving at the stadium, how they feel during the game, and what their plans are post-game.
Whether you’re in the professional sports space or not, finding a candidate who embraces all of these critical elements listed above is no easy feat. Check out my article on How to Recruit and Select a Protective Intelligence Analyst.