Bernard Mullin, PhD

Founder & Chairman

Dr. Bernie Mullin is Founder & Chairman of The Aspire Group. The Aspire Group works with many partners to maximize organizational effectiveness, grow revenues and attendance. Aspire does this by building a sustainable fan/corporate partner base. Under Bernie’s guidance, the firm has rapidly grown into a company that generates over $200 million annually in revenue and has served 200+ brands and properties across 11 countries and three continents in 17 different sports.

Aspire’s purpose manifests through the 47 Fan Relationship Management Centers (FRMCs) currently operating across the USA. Bernie and the Aspire staff have a highly successful track record of reducing fan churn, increasing fan loyalty, growing share of mind, heart, wallet, and maximizing revenues and attendance while simultaneously reducing operating losses. This is accomplished through the creation and seamless execution of many of Aspire’s proprietary “Next-Practices” programs that helped produce numerous league and franchise all-time attendance records, record revenue and profit growth, and increased enterprise value.

Bernie is an internationally-acclaimed management and marketing consultant and speaker, who along with Dr. Bill Sutton and Dr. Steve Hardy wrote the book, entitled “Sport Marketing.” Bernie has over 30 years of experience as a chief executive or senior director in iconic and highly visible organizations in professional sports, collegiate athletics, and entertainment venue operation at the highest level. In his career, he has specialized predominantly in start-ups and turn-around situations, building winning organizations on the field, court, and ice as well as developing sustained peak performing organizations on the business side taking people and teams to unprecedented levels of success.

Prior to The Aspire Group, Dr. Mullin held the following positions: 

  • President/CEO of the Atlanta Hawks (NBA); Atlanta Thrashers (NHL) and Philips Arena (2004-2008) – Bernie inherited an organization losing US $47M per annum, the worst team in the NBA and an NHL team that had never had a winning season. In just 4 years, the Hawks operating losses were reduced by 80%, the Thrashers won their division, and Philips Arena enjoyed its most profitable year in its history. As a result of this new foundation, the organization was sold 7 years later for over 5 times its acquisition price.
  • SVP Marketing and Team Business Operations for the National Basketball Association (2000-2004) – The league tasked Bernie with creating the world-renowned TMBO (Team Marketing and Business Operations), in-house consulting and best-practice unit, which has now been recreated by many sports leagues globally. TMBO was able to grow attendance for four consecutive years and increase league-wide ticket revenues by $250M per annum after two years of revenue and attendance decline.
  • Vice Chancellor of Athletics, University of Denver (1995-1999) – Bernie took an NCAA Division II program to the Division I level and oversaw the fundraising and building of $250M worth of new athletic, recreation and wellness facilities. As a result of these changes, DU has since captured 13 NCAA Division I National Championships in Men’s Hockey, Lacrosse, and Skiing.
  • President/General Manager Denver Grizzlies (International Hockey League, 1993-1995) – Bernie built an expansion franchise into a back to back Turner Cup Champions.
  • SVP- Business, Colorado Rockies (MLB, 1991-1993) – As one of the first employees of the expansion franchise, Bernie built the business plan and hired the front office staff who produced over $40M profit in its first season and broke the MLB all-time season attendance record of 4,482,250 which still stands today. He also oversaw the design and initial construction of award-winning Coors Field.
  • SVP – Business Operations, Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB, 1986-1990) – Bernie was hired to turn around the attendance and profitability for the team with the worst record in the league. In 5 seasons he took the club from drawing 700,000 fans per season to an all-time franchise record of over 2M fans. Inheriting a $10M operating loss, Bernie made the club profitable and was credited with numerous innovations in guest relations and club-owned retail merchandise operations.
  • Professor of Management and Sport Business, University of Massachusetts (1977-1986) – Dr. Mullin was the first ever PhD in Business to work in Sport Management where he helped build the program into international prominence. Bernie was the principal author on the first ever text in sport marketing which is now in its 4th edition, selling over 75,000 copies and published in 11 languages.

British born, Bernie holds a PhD in Business, MBA and MS Marketing from the University of Kansas and a BA in Business Studies from Coventry University. Bernie was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from Coventry University in England in recognition for his outstanding contributions to the industry. Bernie was inducted into the Sport Business Hall of Fame at Robert Morris University in 2012 and the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) Hall of Fame in 1999. Mullin has been active in the communities where he has lived, serving on the following boards: YMCA; Make a Wish Foundation; Sports Council and Visitor Convention Bureau.

Bernie was a four-year varsity soccer letter winner at Coventry University and captained the team to the British Collegiate Finals in both his junior and senior years. He went on to play semi-professional soccer for Oxford City FC in England. His coaching career included a Big 8 Soccer Championship in 1976 with the University of Kansas, and back to back East Coast Athletic Conference Soccer Championships with the University of Massachusetts.

In his distinguished career, he has received numerous additional honors and recognition including being dubbed “The Guru of Ticket Sales” by Sports Illustrated in 1993, “The Pirate of Profitability” in 1986 by the forerunner of the SportsBusiness Journal, and being named the Boy Scouts of America “Peach of an Athlete Award” recipient in 2008. Married to Valerie Wilkinson, he has three children Julie, Lara, and Steven and step-son, Chad and five grandchildren. He is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma – the National Honor Society in Business.