People of OU: Detroit sports personality, entrepreneur Mike Sullivan


Photo courtesy of WXYZ Detroit

OU alumni, entrepreneur and Detroit sports personality Mike Sullivan (right) talking sports on WXYZ.

There are busy bodies, there are busy bees and then there’s Mike Sullivan.

Sullivan, simply known to some as “Sully,” is an Oakland University graduate, former executive producer for 97.1 The Ticket’s “The Valenti Show”and founder of Brand25 media and Metro Detroit Golfers. Growing up in Clarkston, Michigan, he was always into sports, mainly football.

Like many kids, he had dreams of playing football professionally. Luckily for him, he got the opportunity to play college football at Division II’s Saint Joseph College in Indiana. 

When he realized that he probably wasn’t going to make it as a professional football player, he decided to go into sports radio during his freshman year. He fell in love with the field, transferring to Oakland the following year to get further involved. 

Sullivan is someone who’s always trying to stay one step ahead, dating back to his days at OU, where he tried to get his degree as soon as possible.

“When I transferred to OU I really wanted to just grind and graduate college quickly,” Sullivan said. “I was interning at 97.1 and it’s such a crazy space in radio especially and I had a chance and an offer to work at 97.1 as soon as I graduated college and those things change so much so I really wanted to just try and graduate as quick as I could.”

Sullivan was able to graduate so quickly by taking a full load of classes during the summer semester. He was only 20 when he graduated in 2014, the youngest person in the class.

“The summer courses were really [how I was able to graduate so early] and just get a ton of credits,” he said. “I would take full courses in the summer and again, just with that goal of graduating and diving into my career as soon as possible.”

Reflecting further on his time at OU, Sullivan said it was where he “fell in love with the communications-media type space.”

“Whether it was my broadcast classes, or my mass communication classes, or my journalism classes, my public relations classes, [I] really had kind of gone down that route and also just honed in on the radio side of things,” Sullivan said. “I interned at 97.1 The Ticket when I was at OU and really, my entire life was interning and 97.1, working at WXOU and doing my show and then working at the Nike store at Great Lakes Crossings as well, so I was super busy.”

Reflecting on his time at The Ticket, Sullivan said 97.1 offered him a job immediately after he graduated.

“They basically created a spot for me,” he said. “I was an assistant producer. I would kind of assist each show a little bit. And I was in that [role] for about 9-10 months and then had a chance to get promoted quickly. At the time, it was an interim basis to the executive producer of ‘Valenti and Foster.’ So I was there for maybe around six, seven years at 97.1 and just kind of worked my way up to executive producer, had a chance to be on air a lot and a chance to build a lot of a lot of client relationships. So I had a great experience there.”

While he was at 97.1, at some point along the way Sullivan decided it was time for something different. So with the help of a friend, he started his own media company called Brand 25

“I’ve always wanted to build my own business,” Sullivan said. “I’ve always had that entrepreneurial drive. And basically at 97.1 again, I had a great experience there but I really wanted to just go dive into my own thing and then how it all started really was kind of on the side. I had several of my radio clients that were asking me, ‘Hey, you’re good on social media, can you help me with social media? Can you help me with some websites?’ It kind of started on the side in terms of our media company, Brand 25, where I was doing some consulting and helping clients with their online presence. And it really got so busy and my partner Kyle, who worked at 97.1 as well, was kind of in the same situation. He wanted to leave, wanted to go dive and do his own thing. Him and I kind of teamed up and really just dove into it full time.”

Sullivan also said he and his team just started a new division of the company called Make The Turn, focused solely on golf-related marketing.

“We’ve been flooded with golf marketing requests, whether it’s golf retail courses, golf fitness that need help with marketing,” Sullivan said. “So we’re doing a lot of golf specific marketing. There’s been so much synergy between just our marketing efforts and just golf in general. It really has been a whirlwind — just diving into everything and being so busy growing these companies.”

Sullivan was very close with Timothy Ponzter, who passed away in an auto accident last summer. The two came to know each other at OU and would go on to work with each other at Brand 25. 

“When we started Brand 25, Tim was the first full-time team member that we hired,” Sullivan said. “Tim was exceptional. He was so bought in, he was so passionate about helping and client relations and digital marketing and writing, of course — he was such a great writer. So it was really a no-brainer to hire him. [His passing] was extremely tough from a personal perspective, and now of course from a business perspective with all that Tim was doing and how big part of our company he was and how driven and bought in he was. He was a great, great friend and really just a great team member as well, especially having known him and worked with him in several different spots. Just just one of the best.”

Sullivan has also started a golf community called Metro Detroit Golfers, which has exploded in popularity, gaining over 50,000 members in just two years. Sullivan said he never anticipated this much growth this quickly, and attributes the success to the passion that Michigan golfers have. 

“When we launched MDG we certainly thought there was a need for it in terms of, quite frankly, just creating a golf community for the state of Michigan,” he said. “So I was surprised that there wasn’t one that existed. There wasn’t an online space really for Michigan golf that existed. So what people don’t realize is that Michigan is the third biggest golf state in terms of total golf courses. It was honestly that mindset of ‘hey, let’s create an online space for the Michigan golfer.’ There’s so much passion here. There’s so many people who want to talk golf and just have that golf discussion and meet people.” 

Sullivan has also been very adamant about trying to get star golfer Phil Mickelson to re-enter the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. When an article from The Detroit News last year portrayed Mickelson in a negative light, Sullivan decided to take matters into his own hands.

Sullivan said he thinks he can get him to come back to Detroit.

“Phil was upset about [the article], and I just tried to turn [the situation] into a positive,” Sullivan said. “I tried to just say, ‘hey, regardless of what people think of the article let’s just show Phil that he is wanted in Detroit and people do love him here.’ I started this petition, and Phil mentioned my name in his press conference, which was unbelievable, just growing up as one of  the idols of my generation. And then I got a chance to meet him briefly as well and just for him to kind of know me on a first name basis is just unbelievable. But yeah, trying to get him back. I think he will, we’ll see.”

Sullivan said the next step for him is to keep “expanding and growing” Make The Turn.

“I have a very forward thinking mindset where I’m always trying to stay one step ahead,” Sullivan said. “So I never want to just be complacent. I’m always thinking about the next thing. I think that that is a company that has some national appeal. We have a lot of national connections outside of just Michigan. So I think the next step and in simple terms is really trying to scale Make The Turn as big as we possibly can and as effectively as we possibly can, and really just be a leader in the golf industry space for marketing.”