Brian Corcoran says good luck and good fortune have helped him get to where he is in business. It is, after all, why he named his venture Shamrock Sports and Entertainment.
Growing up in Old Orchard Beach, Corcoran always knew he wanted to work in sports. Initially, though, he had his eye on sports medicine.
As a student at Eastern Kentucky University, he utilized his spot on the track team to make connections within the athletic department. But the more he learned, the more he became intrigued with a different aspect of the program — how these events had the power to bring people together.
And others recognized that Corcoran could bring people together, too. His efforts earned him roles with noteworthy groups such as the Olympics and NASCAR, but the further away he traveled from Maine, the more he realized that he wanted to chase his dream in his home state. However, building a company centered on sports-based entertainment in Maine, especially during the recession, would be a challenge. It was one that Corcoran didn’t mind facing head-on.
Eight years and many clients later, Corcoran has found that it takes a little more than good luck and good fortune to succeed in his home state. But putting a little extra work in has never been a problem for Corcoran; it’s helped him get to where he is today.
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Growing up, when Corcoran watched games or read stories on sports he was always impressed by the people who worked to get injured athletes healthy and back onto the field so quickly. When he headed off to college, Corcoran initially focused on sports medicine, hoping to be an orthopedic surgeon.
However, he also had a desire to be a family man. A doctor’s schedule — particularly one that includes constant traveling and caring for professional athletes — is always on call and their time isn’t their own. That realization led Corcoran to change course.
His time with the university’s track team and inside the athletic department team helped fuel his decision, too. He got to know the Athletic Director, becoming increasingly intrigued by that job. Corcoran found that the more time he spent around the program, the more his interest in marketing and event planning grew.
He seemingly had access to an event-promoters playground — a college campus that’s constantly abuzz with activities and ideas, especially on the weekends. He noticed, though, that once a given activity was over, people were not exploring the rest of the campus or taking advantage of the events being offered. Corcoran began to think about how he could bring everyone together.
So, he took the challenge to help the university become a weekend destination, heading up an effort called SCORE – Student Colonels Organizing Real Excitement. By organizing events and programs that would appeal to even non-sports fans, Corcoran helped make the university a place where many different kinds of people could come hang out for a day or two, rather than just stay for a three hour game and leave immediately.
Knowing that he could make an impact, Corcoran made the commitment to study sports management in graduate school. His thesis focused on the economic impact of the Olympics for Atlanta. Choosing that focus helped set in motion the job that launched Corcoran’s career.
One night, he was invited to have dinner with the president of the university. Little did he know, it would be an informal job interview as the president of the ‘96 Olympic Committee was also at the dinner. The dinner went well, and Corcoran was offered a job working for the Olympics right out of grad school.
It wasn’t Corcoran’s only job offer at the time, though. He had also caught the eye of a sports marketing firm based in Dallas. Early on in his career, Corcoran had proven himself and that he was on his way to success.
Corcoran opted for the Olympics job, a move that proved fruitful. Since then, he’s also worked for NASCAR and Fenway Sports Group. But as his portfolio grew, so did his desire to return home.
The stars aligned in 2010.
Corcoran was in the right position to make the leap to running his own firm. He now had the chance to build something off of his winning formula, and he opted to base it in Portland.
Shamrock started off strong, as Corcoran had two solid clients from day one – the Professional Bull Riders Association and the Arena Football League. Corcoran also had one year left on his contract with Fenway Sports Group, which he credits with helping him get Shamrock going so quickly. Within sixty days, Corcoran was able to hire four employees.
“We had more insurance and a stronger foundation compared to a lot of small businesses that launch,” he says. “We didn’t have a shock and liability factor…I was still pinching myself when it started, wondering if it was sustainable.”
Though Corcoran knew he wanted Shamrock to be based in Maine, he knew it might not be ideal for a brand new agency.
“We were taking a pretty calculated risk,” he says of the decision.
To this day, Corcoran says they still have to overcome the perception of Portland as a small town. But they’ve been able to do so with the help of relationships, using connections and networks that Corcoran fostered in the early years of his career and has continued to make through the years Shamrock has been in business.
Initially, Shamrock began to grow with local clients, but Corcoran wanted to play it smart. He realized that five or six clients were about all they could take on before they started to cannibalize other people’s turf and harm their own reputation and relationships in doing so. Corcoran recognized this, and began to shift Shamrock towards more national work.
“When it comes to local work, less is more,” is how he views it.
Now, Shamrock tries to limit themselves to one or two local clients and several national clients. They do still make a point to be involved in the local community. Contributing to charity and being involved in community are two of the principles which Corcoran adheres to as he runs his business.
“I love driving the economics of conscious capitalism,” he says.
Eight years in, Shamrock has eight full-time employees and four contractors. Now with an eye towards the future, Shamrock will look to expand their “Shamrock Signature” offerings of events. According to Corcoran, These events are designed to drive economic impact while enhancing the entertainment offerings between Maine’s busy summer and winter tourist seasons.
With big plans ahead for 2018, Corcoran mentions that he wouldn’t be “half the success” if wasn’t for his best friend and wife, Melissa Smith, CEO of WEX Inc. He credits the success of their partnership, affectionately called “SmithCor,” to a commitment they made to live their best lives, no matter what, whether at work or at home.
Corcoran realized he wanted a career in sports when he was only in high school. He learned what his real priorities were early on, and shifted his career goals to reflect that. Now, he’s married with three kids, and though he shifted career directions, he still found a way to chase his dreams — now doing so in his home state, where he gets to give back to a community that gave him so much.
That’s why Brian Corcoran is a Maine Icon.
All photos by Peter Anania