Meet Chris Vurnakes

Chris Vurnakes

Octagon Sports Marketing

An introduction: Currently I serve as Event Director for our Octagon office in Cary. Our team manages the planning and execution of the SAS Championship and Thrive NC presented by Blue Cross NC. Our greater group manages professional golf, culinary and other events across the country.

My role is focused on our corporate and community partnerships, as well as marketing and communications for our various events. Our team’s overarching goal is to ensure everyone who interacts with our event — sponsors, attendees, volunteers — has a great experience.

Inspiration: The variety of tasks and relationships this role has offered me ensures that no two days are the same. Every day we face new challenges, and the opportunity to collaborate as a team to come up with new ideas to bring to our clients and partners is exciting to me. As an added bonus, our events also support our community in a significant way.

Professional highlight: Totaling the proceeds generated across the various teams, properties, and events I have worked with or managed since starting my career, the combined charitable giving now exceeds $2,000,000 to local nonprofit organizations.

Biggest risk: The first job I took following grad school was with the Carolina RailHawks. The month before I started, the ‘brand assets’ of the team had been sold on Ebay as part of a liquidation from the previous ownership. A local news outlet wrote an article titled “An inside look at the rise and fall of the Carolina RailHawks” the week I started.

We struggled early on, but the team that was a part of the rebuild ended up setting organization attendance records in the years to come. In 2013, the team beat the LA Galaxy in a US Open Cup match at home in front of a record crowd. At the time, it felt like we had achieved something special together.

Core values: Our events exist to help bring our community together. Being born and raised in North Carolina, I have a tremendous sense of this community. It’s a joy for me to help plan events that I used to enjoy as a fan, like the SAS Championship. Creating memories for those who now attend is an amazing feeling.

Greatest challenge: The coronavirus has had a severe impact on the sports and events industry. As events are being reevaluated, postponed or even cancelled, we have been challenged to deliver unique experiences for our clients and partners in uncertain times.

We have had to assess each aspect of our events in a ‘new normal,’ and the circumstances continue to change. The in-person experience of live sporting events will never be the same.

Fun fact: My personal high is 88 golf holes played in one day, as part of the YMCA Golf Marathon in Cary.

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