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Conversations with Mikko Mabanag

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mikko Mabanag.

Hi Mikko, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My career in professional DJ-ing and sports digital marketing in the United States started when I decided to move to California six years ago. Music has always been a part of my life. As an ex-professional soccer/football player I’d always listen to music as part of my pregame ritual. Music is therapy. Each note flowed through my body and dictated the beat of my heart. Music puts me into a euphoric trans and helped me get into a zone of pure focus before stepping onto the pitch. Furthermore, the beauty of music coincides with its relational aspect. Being able to travel to various parts of the world and meet people from different walks of life, I was able to share the music I love and also expanded the horizon of my music taste/preference. It was as if every country and person I’ve met were the crates of music I’ve collected and shared today.

As an athlete, marketing has become a pivotal component of having a voice in the sports industry. Especially today, being able to brand yourself is a vital aspect in the ecosystem of what it means to embody a life of an athlete. Luckily, my skill in soccer and my educational background in business gave me the tools to brand myself and excel in the sport I love. With that, I’ve experienced being featured in newspapers and magazines, speaking in of the camera, and representing notable brands like Adidas Philippines, Havaianas, and Red Bull.

When I moved to the United States, I had two goals in mind, and that is to hone in on my craft and share the purpose that serves me and the world. I realized that combining my sports background, my musical interests, and my love for sports worked well together. I went to UCLA to get a certificate in Digital Marketing with Web Analytics to complement my BS in Management major in Legal Management and minor in Marketing. After 1 year of schooling, I quickly got a job at Churchill Boxing Club and Management as their Operations and Marketing Manager. I also took the opportunity of being around people in the industry to help me get DJ gigs around Los Angeles.

Fast forward to today, I’m currently active in having professional boxers and promoters as my clients in Marketing and also active in DJ-ing at bars and events in Los Angeles.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has its ups and downs. It started after leaving my 9-5 job at Churchill Boxing Club. Being an entrepreneur is both thrilling and daunting. 1) Knowing that there is not a monthly check coming may make one feel uneasy but also it is librating that you are living the life that is focused on what you love doing 2) There is also a chance of burning out. Since I’m in the field of creatives, making social media campaigns for my clients and curating sets for DJ-ing can be draining, but in this manner, I find myself pushing the limits/boundaries and discovering more about my capabilities as a marketer and a DJ.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Digital Marketing Specialist – Sports have always become part of my life. As an ex-professional athlete, I’ve had a first-hand experience of what an athlete goes through. As someone who has an educational background in marketing, I’ve come to realize that I can directly help athletes with the knowledge and experience I have in marketing. When I started working for Churchill Boxing Club and Management, I recognized this huge opportunity in boxing, which in fact can be considered a blue ocean market. First, A lot of professional boxers are very skillful (ex. Ray Beltran) but lack marketing therefore they have a hard time finding “big payday” fights. On the other hand, there are multiple professional boxers (ex. Tommy Fury) and even youtube “boxers” (ex. Jake Paul) who lack the skill or do not even have the qualities of a true pugilist but get paid so much because they can sell tickets. With that said, I focus my campaigns on creating authentic narratives — making sure that the core values of the sport is upheld and the boxer’s story is concise and well with a goal and purpose of creating more awareness.

DJ – I’ve always loved the relational aspect of DJ-ing. Before getting into DJ-ing, music already had a special place in my heart. Also, I’ve noticed that there’s just a lot of music that has to be shared. I like mixing the old sounds to the new and playing music that creates a noticeable vibe change — like you know DJ Mikko is on the decks when you enter the venue. I think that’s how I’m able to differentiate myself as a DJ.

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
I think life can be more fulfilling when we take risks. But also risk-taking entails so much responsibility, in my opinion. I live by a quote from the movie Dead Poets Society, “There’s a time for daring and there’s a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for”. For me, this quote can be simplified this way — one can have fun and still be responsible and it takes a lot of awareness to recognize this. So when we see ourselves standing on the precipice of risk, we must think about its pros and cons, but also keep in mind — knowing that there is a possibility of not succeeding would be devastating but also knowing that not trying would be worse. Risk-taking in a nutshell and in a lighter tone is after all, about the journey, not the destination.

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