This conversation is happening in every collegiate athletics department around the country right now. My answer as to will college sports survive is yes, but…
The only way college sports will survive is if every department evaluates what is truly at the heart of what they do, recognizes what is most important and makes that a priority.
Every. Day. Of. The. Year.
What might you ask is at the heart of college sports? Community.
What is most important? Real connections with real people. Again, community.
Make that the focus and the priority and everything else will fall into place. College sports will survive if each department recognizes what really makes them great and what they really stand for. Every employee. Every day. All year. All conversations. With everyone you meet.
Is the competition aspect important? Yes. But it’s not everything. The community is everything.
College sports are unique and some legendary programs now span centuries of active existence and participation. And yet for some that legacy is in jeopardy. For others, they’re more confident now than they’ve ever been and they continue to reinvest in their communities.
I’ll say it again: College sports will survive if the executives in charge put community at the heart of everything they do and make their work about the community and nothing else.
Is money important. Yes, absolutely.
Are expenses real and growing every year, if not every month or day? Yes, absolutely.
So what do I mean by community?
I mean the collection of people who all believe in something greater than themselves. The community of alumni, employees, friends, fans and citizens that come together to celebrate the culture that exists around the competition.
This topic is somewhat controversial and may stir some people the wrong way, but over the next few months, I’ll be exploring why and how I think college sports can survive. The grand summary of how college sports will survive is community.
Community is service to others.
Community is acceptance.
Community is celebration.
Community is core values.
Community is academia and business coming together.
Community is people connecting at a higher level.
Happy 2015! I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I last posted on Bill’s Sports Business Blog and I apologize to you, my readers. Right about the time I stopped posting, was also the time things at my last sports business job got crazy. A couple people in my office ended up leaving for other opportunities and it turns out I ended up leaving a few weeks later too! Yup, Bill got a new job. As a result of all that stuff going on, I didn’t really have a lot of time to myself, which left no time for posting to the blog. I’m sorry about that readers. BUT, I do think I have some interesting advice on how to get a job in sports – or at least I hope you find this information useful, depending on where you are in your career. I figured since I am only a few months into my new job I’d offer a few tips on how to break into the industry and get a job in sports.
For the purposes of this post, I’ll target my advice to those who are looking to get a job in sports and are just getting started with their career. Certainly it helps if you are entering the early stages of your career and just getting started working in general, but some of this could apply to anyone looking to get a job in sports.
FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LIKE TO DO
First, you’ve got to figure out what you like to do and what you’re personal interests are, as there are several avenues to take. Are you a creative person? Do you enjoy art, drawing, painting? Are you a technical person who enjoys data, statistics and numbers? Are you a people person who likes talking and interacting with people on a constant basis? No matter what you like to do, there’s probably an application for your skills in sports somewhere. Consider sports information/statistics, IT, analytics, marketing, sales, ticket operations, equipment, operations, coaching, counseling and legal counsel to name a few. Some of those areas have more strict application requirements, but like I said, if you’re at the beginning of your career, the world is your oyster – or playing field…haha.
DECIDE ON WHAT LEVEL OF SPORTS BUSINESS YOU LIKE THE BEST
Where do you see yourself – really? If you really want to work in sports business, it can’t be all about the money. Sure there are some jobs that pay very well in sports, but the likelihood of you ending up in a high paying job in a short amount of time isn’t likely, so take that aspect off the table and think about what’s more important. With so many people wanting to work in sports, the competition for getting most sports jobs is as tough as the competition on the playing surface.
So – where do you see yourself, really? Did you love your little league team and find yourself managing the local club while you were a student in high school? Maybe a community organization would be a great fit. There are probably several non-profit and for-profit sport organizations in your local community – go see what they’re up to and start a conversation.
Did you enjoy playing high school sports and like how everyone came together to celebrate with their friends and family? Maybe that’s where you belong. There are more high school sports programs than probably any other level of play, so opportunity at that level seems rather abundant.
How about college sports? DI, DII or DIII? You’ve got quite a variance of experience and competition to choose from and really the only way to figure out what fits best for you would be to go see a couple of games and watch everything but the game itself. By that I mean take a careful look at how many workers are there, what the setup is like and what the game presentation is like. Another thing to consider with college sports is the size of the organization you want to work for – small, medium or large. Do you prefer to be a part of a smaller team, where everyone involved is expected to contribute to the greater good by performing many different tasks? Or do you think you’d prefer to be a part of a larger organization that requires most employees to specialize in something specific?
Next, there are the pros – the top level of competition. This is usually what people think of and dream about when they think about working in sports. If your dream was to be the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks or the general manager of the San Francisco Giants, what a great dream! Never stop dreaming, but also be realistic. The relatively small number of those types of positions makes it statistically unlikely that most people will ever advance that far in their career. That’s not to say that you can’t find enjoyment and have a great career in pro sports doing something other than being the top boss.
CONSIDER OTHER OPTIONS
Depending on what your skills are, you should also consider other ways to be involved in sports business. There are many different industries that directly support sports business or are tangential to sports business organizations. By that I mean, consider working for a venue, stadium or arena. Working for a building or building management organization is a great way to see all sides of what it takes to make events happen on a regular basis. You get to see sporting events, entertainment events, community events and a whole array of different people that make things happen. This is the type of organization I work for now and am learning new things everyday.
Another way to look at getting a job in sports is to consider being a referee. I was a referee in graduate school and absolutely loved every minute of it. It was a ton of fun being involved in the action in a very important role, plus its an excuse to stay active and in shape year round. The other thing that’s nice about being a ref is that it’s not a full time job; that way you can stay involved in sports, stay in shape, and do something else you love.
On the other hand, do forget about non-mainstream sports and endurance sports – think bowling, biking, obstacle races, running – basically sports other than football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Those areas are growing rapidly and are great options to be involved in sport in a different way. Again – it comes down to who are you, what do you like to do and where do you see yourself?
The last option I want to mention is working for an organization that supports the business of sports. There are apparel and equipment manufacturers, media organizations, consultant groups, food and beverage organizations, specialized video and game presentation organizations and numerous other ways to get a job in sports without actually being “in” sports. Think about all the different pieces that make TV games happen – well…maybe that’s difficult because you don’t know what’s out there yet, which brings me to my next point:
NETWORK AND GET TO KNOW PEOPLE
The best way, in my opinion, to get to know if a job in sports is for you is to actually go talk to someone who works in sports. Go find someone who does something related to whatever it is that you think you’re interested in and find out what they do on a day to day basis. Also find out what it took them to get where they are and how long it took. Find out what kind of education and training they have. Find out what kind of work-life balance they have. Many people say that work life balance doesn’t exist in sports, but I say those people are bitter. Of course there’s balance, there has to be or you burn out and quit. Do we work a ton of hours in sports? Yes. Do we love it? Oh yes, absolutely (most of the time). But, it does take a supportive family and a strong personal character to make it work with a family.
Long story short, go meet people and talk to them about where you are in life and where your interests lie. If you’re honestly just looking for advice, I’m sure most people would entertain your questions or at least be able to direct you to someone who can help. I would. Send me an email and signup for updates in the side column.
There’s no easy way to get a job in sports. It takes a lot of hard work, thoughtful action and due diligence to get what you want. So figure out your passion, apply your skills and talents and show up everyday with a positive attitude, ready to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. If you do that, regardless of whether you end up with a job in sports, you’ll find happiness. The world needs more people who are alive with their passions and do the work they love. Don’t focus so much on “I want to work in sports” but instead on “I want to find a career (not a job) that I love.” Do that and the rest will work itself out.
Thanks for reading Bill’s Sports Business Blog. For further reading on this subject, check out one of these Sports Business Books (affiliate). I hope you find something you like – I appreciate your support of my blog.
I received this email the other day with the subject line “Bowl Games: Better In Person” reminding me to buy tickets for my college football team’s bowl game (and that bowl games are better in person). As I’ve mentioned before, I am subscribed to more email newsletters than I can count, so it takes something unique to stand out – SeatGeek made a good point in this email by mentioning that this is the last year to witness a college football game under the non-playoff type system we call the BCS (I hadn’t thought of it like that – good one!). That combined with the fact that this is also the time of year we are reminded of the fact that we won’t see our teams compete again until next August – unless your school makes a big deal out of their spring practices.
SeatGeek doesn’t know what my favorite team is, but based on the preferences I set in my account they know I like American college football. They also know that there are plenty of tickets to go around for all 35 post-season bowl games because they are compiling all of that data and have an excellent idea of how many tickets are available and for how much. If you’ve never heard of them, “SeatGeek is a ticket search engine that makes finding tickets to live entertainment at cinch,” (seatgeek.com). I’ll talk about them and what they do in tomorrow’s post.
So why else should we go to a college football bowl game live and in person? I wrote about why live sports are better than on tv in a previous blog post and wanted to share another perspective on that same thought. Live entertainment is better than watching on tv, including college football bowl games. There’s really nothing like the sensory experience you get when you attend a live event. Maybe one day you won’t need to leave the comfort of your own home in order to experience the same thing (ever heard of oculus rift? Check out this multi-directional treadmill I saw on Shark Tank last week).
Once someone figures out how to incorporate the olfactory element of virtual realtiy, you probably won’t want to leave home for anything, but for now though, you’ve got to get out of the house and into a real life stadium. Even if your favorite college football team isn’t playing in a bowl game or if your team is playing too far away from home to reasonably travel, considering getting over to the bowl game nearest you, whichever one that happens to be. Other than the fact that this is your last chance to watch a football game for another 9 months, most post season bowl games put on a great fan experience that incorporates much more than the game itself.
Many bowl games do a great job at involving the local communities by engaging fans in some sort of community service or food drive or some other worthy cause or initiative. In this case it is nice to know that you are supporting a non-profit if the bowl game you attend supports such a cause. As an aside, the level to which they are they are really trying to help people and not just generate a profit in the name of doing the right thing should be questioned. Corporate responsibility is important, but I suppose that your political views will affect how strongly you feel on that issue. In addition to the community ties, many bowl games are played in destination locations that make it attractive to visit that area anyway. Finally, the teams participating must have reached some level of success by winning at least 6 games which speaks to the quality of the product on the field (hopefully) and assuming non-traditional opponents, the game experience is great all around.
Now if that wasn’t enough, and especially for those of us that work in sports, it’s great to just get out to see someone else’s game presentation different than your own. It’s also great to see how different companies are activating their sponsorship agreements – to see the giveaways, the hands-on, live interaction showcases, the signage, and the energy they put out to try to develop their own product on top of what the bowl itself is doing. Because all 35 bowl games are heavily sponsored, activation elements play a large part of the experience – which is great for your players and fans who are looking for a way to try out new products, a win-win.
So head over to a bowl game near you, get out of town if you can, and support your favorite team while enjoying yourself at a post-season college football bowl game. Sports should be fun and that’s what bowl games are all about – celebrating your team’s great work over the last year in honor of coming together as one to achieve something wonderful.
I’ve been writing this blog on a daily basis since about the beginning of October on topics relating to sports business and hope you have found what I have written useful. Although I was writing fairly long posts at the beginning of last month, I must admit that it has become quite difficult to come up with relevant, long-form content on a regular basis. I will continue to post daily, but am always looking for ideas on which to write or provide some insight for others. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment below, send me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn or send me an email.
In many ways, this blog is as much about my own growth and development as it is for you, my readers. I certainly try to make everything that I write on here beneficial to others in some way, but recognize that I haven’t provided any cold, hard facts for people to run away with and turn into profit. No, most of what I’ve written about has been at a higher level of thinking aimed at the big picture of sports business and how to do better work and do work that matters. This “50,000 thousand foot view” perspective in my writing is something we discussed on a regular basis in my graduate level marketing class and something that has stuck with me ever since.
I enjoy writing about sports business ideas from this perspective because these ideas are relevant to more people. By drilling down on what works for one organization or the other, sure it would be helpful to a select few, but until I’ve got something that is definitely ready to share on this blog, most of the writing will continue to be geared more toward the higher level and motivational type of content. If there is something specific you’d like to ask me about what works for me, please let me know. There have been a few readers who have already asked me a few questions and given me ideas; you know who you are, so don’t worry – I’m still working on your responses!
So finally after all that, what is the drip? Thanks by the way for reading this far – I appreciate you sticking around to read my blog. The drip is the idea that great work can happen by doing a little bit everyday. By showing up everyday and posting my ideas, thinking out concepts, and sharing what I know with the world, great things will happen. Maybe one of these posts will blow up and change the world forever. Maybe none of these posts will ever reach more than a few hundred or few thousand that stumble across my blog. Either way, by “dripping” everyday something of value as it relates to doing the work that I love, I’m learning, I’m growing, I’m becoming more of that which I already am.
I’ve considered how writing something and posting it online has changed me over the course of the last two months and it’s been profound, yet subtle at the same time. I find myself constantly considering new ideas and new ways of doing business, let alone – what the heck am I going to write about today!? Well, that’s the power of the drip – forcing myself to grow, learn, and articulate something I know will be for the benefit of others as well as myself.
I really hope you enjoy reading Bill’s Sports Business Blog. I’d love to hear from you, so send me a message, a tweet, or leave a comment below.
You may not have realized it but your athletes are your greatest ambassadors! Your athletes are the what makes your program attractive to fans and without them, you’d have nothing. In exchange for the education, salary and benefits you offer them, engage them in your marketing and sales process. The possibilities for how this could turn out are endless, though the arrangements ought to be mutually agreeable.
First – the why. Why would you want your athletes involved in your marketing? Easy – because they are more than just athletes and the more personal they become to your fans, the more personal your fans will become with your team and organization. Everything in sports is about personal connections with your fans. We’ve all felt this and have discussed it in the past when we answered the question “why do people like sports?” For many, it’s because of the community, the team spirit, the becoming part of something greater than one’s self. By involving the core of that connection, your athletes, you are solidifying your fans’ reasons for being there in the first place. You’re effectively giving them exactly what they want…at least in terms of what you can control.
Next – the how. How might you involve your athletes in your sales and marketing? Well, one way would be to have them record the wait message on your main ticket sales and telephone line. “Hey there Niners fans, this is Joe Montana, hall of fame quarterback – thanks for calling. Someone will be with you shortly to take your ticket order and to answer your questions.” Update this regularly and at certain distinct times of the year…the off-season comes to might as a nice way to tell fans thank you for their support and that the team is looking forward to seeing them next season. Of course in that situation be mindful of any off-field issues that might make this a sensitive topic – contract issues and transfers or graduation from school.
You could also have them record a voicemail type message to send to your ticket holders’ cell phones with important announcements. I’ve had calls from coaches in the past asking fans to arrive to the game early, especially when much anticipated opponents are in town.
If you have a big sponsorship pitch coming up soon and plan on involving a few athlete appearances as part of the agreement, have them show up to meet your future clients. If the athlete has expressed interest in going into business after retirement from sports or graduation from college, this could be a great mutually beneficial relationship. This might also be a great way to involve graduating senior student-athletes for whom NCAA compliance issues are no longer a concern.
Yet another easy way to involve your athletes in your sales and marketing could be to simply get them on camera in front of a green screen. You can have them act out “pump up” or “make noise” motions to play during your game time outs. You could also record them reading your public service announcements (PSAs) that run during pre-game warmups. By making fan conduct a personal issue and by putting the faces of your team on the screen, this is yet another touch point and connection your fans will have with their favorite players down on the field and on the court. Those little things really do make a difference and go a long way toward encouraging personal connections with fans. This is perhaps one disadvantage the games of football, hockey and lacrosse have that others don’t – you can’t see their faces at all times.
So how are you using your athletes as ambassadors now? How might you consider involving your athletes in your sales and marketing moving forward? Consider these tips and offer any other ideas you have below in the comments. You can also sign up for instant updates to your inbox!