Brian Polark would like to help you expand your professional network. But leave your suits and stilettos at home—this is no business card-exchanging grip-and-grin. It’s a standing invitation to form a team and join an after-work league of softball, flag football, soccer or any other sport that strikes your fancy. Polark’s company, Cincinnati Sports Leagues, coordinates more than 100 recreational leagues across the city for 13 sports—everything from basketball to bowling, kickball to cornhole.
Wait. Cornhole is a sport? Perhaps that’s a debate for another time. In any event, it’s all part of the business Polark bills as a “lifestyle marketing company,” because in addition to sports, CSL organizes social events at local bars and restaurants. CSL picks a venue, finds a sponsor to subsidize the drinks and then spreads the word. The captive audience of 21- to 35-year-old professionals is attractive to sponsors such as Captain Morgan and Anheuser-Busch. These companies advertise on the sports fields and the CSL web site, and sponsor post-game parties.
Polark himself is proof that in terms of meeting people, these happy hours work. He met his wife at one event—the greatest networking coup of them all.
Polark created CSL in 2000 after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts. Ten years later, the company serves more than 25,000 participants. Polark thinks he could eventually reach 40,000. “Cincinnati is an extremely sports-based town,” he says. “It always has been.”
The goal of CSL, Polark says, is to create an opportunity for young professionals to make friends, establish business contacts and recreate. “It helps people who are new to Cincinnati,” he says. “It helps them lay down roots so that Cincinnati doesn’t become a revolving-door town.”
For the athletically uninspired, CSL offers cooking courses with local chefs, wine-tastings and dance classes. But Polark points out that for some sports, no innate talent is necessary. “Kickball is something everybody did in gym class,” he says. “Whether you were coordinated