Brandon Steiner spent his childhood trying to find ways to make money. During his senior year at Syracuse, he needed to call upon those skills. Quickly.
Wanting to go to Florida for spring break, Steiner realized he wouldn’t have enough money for the trip unless he earned some money fast.
So before he could go to Florida, he brought Florida to Syracuse. Steiner organized a beach-themed party at a now-defunct local club called Uncle Sam’s, enticing Syracuse and Le Moyne students with the appeal of a summertime atmosphere in the middle of winter.
“By the time this party came, there had to be a thousand cars trying to get in the parking lot,” Steiner said. “There had to be hundreds and hundreds turning away, knowing they could never get into the place.”
Steiner got his money, and his spring break.
He never stopped promoting, channeling his talents to create a leading sports marketing and memorabilia company: Steiner Sports. Through his business, he has organized appearances and autograph signings for hundreds of professional athletes across the country. Steiner returns to SU on Friday afternoon to sign copies of his book, “You Gotta Have Balls,” which chronicles his journey from being a poor kid from Brooklyn to becoming a national success story.
Steiner didn’t have much money growing up, and the lack of resources drove him to do anything he could to create value for himself and others.
When Steiner received donations from his fifth-grade class to buy new clothes, he felt embarrassed for being perceived as needy. Rather than feel sorry for himself, he decided to find a way to make money.
“I went home that day and I was really upset, crying,” Steiner said. “My mother told me I was between sizes. The next day, I told her I was going to get a job. I went up and down the highway until I got a job.”
His drive continued throughout high school, and Steiner found a way to attend Syracuse by piecing his savings together with various scholarships and other sources of funding.
At SU, Steiner’s marketing nature remained unsuppressed, with ideas like the beach club coming to life. During his time in college, Steiner formed friendships with Syracuse football players. The sports side to his business started to develop.
At Syracuse, Steiner met Joe Morris, a running back who went on to have a successful NFL career that included two Pro Bowl selections. While the two became fast friends, Morris’ shyness kept him from joining Steiner’s business ventures during their time in college.
“I wouldn’t take a risk,” Morris said. “I didn’t want to do anything where people would wonder, ‘Well, what are you doing that for?’ When he was doing those things, we were in two different worlds.”
When he left Syracuse, Morris’ view on business began to change.
Morris and Steiner embarked on a business relationship through Steiner Sports. The two worked to organize appearances and autograph signings, taking the Syracuse friendship to a new level.
“Brandon would always tell me, ‘Joe, you don’t realize how great you really are,’” Morris said. “He taught me how to market myself.”
Steiner and his company maintain long-term relationships with athletes from all the major sports.
For Morris, Steiner’s skill in dealing with athletes comes as no surprise.
“We’re all the same people,” Morris said. “We want to be liked; we want to be taken care of. Brandon likes people and he likes the interaction.”
Steiner said one of his most significant achievements came recently, when he negotiated a deal to acquire the remnants of the old Yankee Stadium, which was torn down to make way for a new stadium that opened in 2009.
Steiner realized that buying the rights to the stadium could allow longtime fans to acquire pieces of the ballpark they knew so well. And Steiner could also make a profit.
Although he made money from the deal, Steiner values the chance to contribute to the bond between Yankees fans and the old ballpark.
“It was a very difficult deal, and also a big responsibility,” Steiner said. “I always thought that was the best stadium on the planet, and I wanted to do something spectacular with it. I wanted to create millions of pieces of that stadium.”
Along with his larger business dealings, Steiner finds time to give back to Syracuse. In recent years, Steiner Sports has worked with SU’s Sport Management Club to put on an annual auction that includes Steiner Sports memorabilia. The auction takes place before an Orange basketball game, drawing thousands of people. All the proceeds go to charity.
Last year, Steiner Sports donated a Derek Jeter-autographed baseball with a case, an Eli Manning-autographed Giants replica helmet and a Mariano Rivera-autographed baseball, among other items.
For junior sport management major Steve Kozar, this year’s auction chair, Steiner’s efforts go a long way toward ensuring the auction’s success.
“Without Steiner Sports, this auction would not be nearly as profitable for our beneficiaries,” Kozar said in an email. “Mr. Steiner truly makes not only an impact on our club, but on the thousands of lives that we touch with our donations.”