How To Get a Job in Sports

How to get a job in sports - self identity, networking
Looking for a job in sports? Consider these tips below. Photo of Safeco Field, Home of the Seattle Mariners, Seattle, WA

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.

BOTTOM LINE

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.

Go Forth!

Book Review: Marketing Outrageously Redux: How to Increase your Revenue by Staggering Amounts

Jon Spoelstra is a sports business legend. If you don’t know anything about Jon, check out this Wikipedia page and buy his book right now, Marketing Outrageously Redux: How to Increase Your Revenue by Staggering Amounts(affiliate)

I just finished reading this book two days ago and all I can say is WOW! Jon’s ideas are definitely outrageous but definitely get you thinking outside the box when it comes to increasing your team’s bottom line in a way that builds your brand positively and creatively. No matter what particular area of sports business you call your own, there is something for everyone in this book. The ideas and examples speak directly to managers working in marketing or ticket sales but also provide a great deal of insight for entry level professionals trying to come up with that next best idea that will get them noticed. For team administrators at the VP or Director level, Marketing Outrageously Redux: How to Increase Your Revenue by Staggering Amounts (affiliate) gives you concrete advice on how thinking outside the box translates into bottom line results that generate positive outposts of memories in your customers’ minds without damaging your public image.

Jon lays out his ideas for marketing outrageously with 17 “Ground Rules” that cover topics such as “Ground rule #1: If you aren’t willing to take a few risks in marketing, become a bean counter” (page 19) and “Ground Rule #6: If you mimic the market leaders, you’ll just add to their dominance.” (Page 97) In addition to being an accomplished NBA executive and established author, Jon Spoelstra is probably also famous for developing the “rubber chicken theory” as well.

The rubber chicken theory is an application of basic advertising principles that finds a way for your message to be not only delivered by also consumed by your target audience. The purpose of a headline is to get someone to read a subheadline whose purpose is to read the first paragraph, whose purpose is to read the second paragraph and so on and so forth. Basically a way to get attention and keep your customers moving along the sales escalator. If you want attention, you need a headline (something that will transmit a rubber chicken like a round poster mailing tube), a subheadline (a rubber chicken) and a message (a letter or message to your customers). I won’t give away the punch line, but the story gets really good right about here. To learn more about the rubber chicken theory and how awesome it is, buy Marketing Outrageously Redux: How to Increase Your Revenue by Staggering Amounts (affiliate) and see for yourself! I promise, you won’t regret it. Even if you think your organization might be caught off guard by “outrageous thinking,” you can’t not be entertained by some of Jon’s real life examples. He’s intelligent, witty, entertaining and an excellent teacher in this book.

I highly recommend Marketing Outrageously Redux: How to Increase Your Revenue by Staggering Amounts (affiliate) and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Go Forth!

Here’s the link one more time – thank you for supporting Bill’s Sports Business Blog!

Sports Advertising

UM Email - Sports Advertising
University of Michigan Email – Sports Advertising

What makes good sports advertising? First of all, “good” is a dead word, so I shouldn’t have used it at all in the first place. Good means that something is positive or attractive; not necessarily over the top or something that really catches your attention, but just a little bit better than something that gets overlooked or at least leaves some kind of mark on your brain enough to want to remember. That’s what good means…so let’s go with what is great sports advertising?

Great sports advertising tells you about what it is that you were looking for or fill in the gaps of your life where you were previously missing something. Good sports advertising should: be intriguing, connect with fans, be memorable, be informative and have a call to action. The purpose of advertising is to get your fans to act in some way, whether that be to make a purchase now or in the future or to build a connection with your fans by solidifying how you fulfill their needs with what sports provide. Let’s dive a little deeper into what good sports advertising means.

Intriguing
I love advertising. Wait – let me rephrase…I love good advertising (just can’t seem to get away from that word). Yes, I really do. Never should an advertisement try to reach every person who might come across that ad. The purpose of advertising is to convey some sort of message to the audience the organization doing the advertising is trying to reach. Therefore, with your mission, vision, values and goals in mind, your ad must be something worthy of my attention. In some way it must make me want to stop whatever it is that I was already doing to pay attention to what you have to offer or whatever you are saying. Good sports advertising can be intriguing for many reasons – just look to your athletes and fans and listen to what they are saying. The stuff that gets talked about, shared and liked is the stuff that is intriguing. Use that stuff for good sports advertising.

Connect with fans
Good sports advertising makes connections where there were none before and strengthens the ones that already existed. For the fans where there was no previous connection, this is the “a-ha” moment where you finally did a good enough job of telling them what it is that you can offer them. This is the part where you finally did enough to be clear about what it is that you offer to your fans so much so that the news ones realized what it is that you offer is what they needed in the first place. For the fans that already had a connection with you, you are reaffirming their affinity for your brand by reassuring them that it’s really you. They nod their heads in agreement – yes, this is my team, my community, my school. This is what I live for and what makes me more of that which I already am – a fan.

Memorable
No one remembers anything that wasn’t memorable. That’s why you don’t remember anything that you don’t remember – it either wasn’t important or it wasn’t memorable, one of the two. Confused yet? Here is it: Don’t be ordinary and don’t be average. No matter who you are, there is something you offer that can be memorable. Think about your favorite or most exciting moments as a fan or student or what it is that you hear people talking about after games. What was that one thing that made it all worth it to be at that game? I can tell you at least a handful of sports memories that I’ll never forget – some good, some bad – that could be used as sports advertising. Your sports ads should include some element of the unforgettable. Here’s an idea: while showing old video clips a voice actor can narrate, “Remember when player x make that great play? Don’t miss the action this weekend and get your tickets now,” or whatever the case may be. Don’t be forgotten – there’s no excuse for not being memorable when you work in sports.

Informative
Good sports advertising is informative in that it lets your fans know exactly who you are, what it is that’s being presented, and what the purpose is of you talking to them in this way. Good sports advertising is concise and communicates what it is that you represent to your fans and everyone else looking for what it is that you have to offer, regardless of the Win/Loss record. In sports, winning isn’t everything, but it sure is fun to win. Sports advertising will have a very specific message that relates to the bigger picture in some way and will not necessarily focus on the wins and losses.

Call to Action
This is the part of the advertisement where you specifically ask them to do something – buy tickets now, visit our website, follow us on social media, or invite someone to the game with you. This is the part where you ask them to take the next step in your relationship as a team and it’s fans.

Sports advertising should be intriguing, informative, connect with fans, be memorable, and include some sort of call to action in order to be effective. Pool your resources and give your fans what they want.

GO Forth!

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Team versus Program – A Sports Marketing Approach

When it comes to figuring out the 50,000 foot view of sports marketing, there are two angles to take – do you sell the team? Or do you sell the program? Sometimes it is appropriate to do both. Sometimes its better to just pick one and run with that. If your program is doing outbound sales, it’s a good idea to make sure they are aware of both ways of approaching their conversations with potential clients.

TEAM
The team is the group that plays right now. The current roster. Sometimes, these are the people that your fans are paying to see. If you don’t have anything else, maybe you’ve got a couple of superstars or a group of seniors that dominate or a new transfer or trade that makes your team worth watching. Maybe you’ve got a couple of one-and-done type of players that you just can’t miss or “see them while they’re still amateurs” kind of players. That’s the team angle of sports marketing – selling your current roster and the people playing right now.

PROGRAM
The program is who you really are – what you and the people before you have worked to develop over the years and what you stand for as an organization. When you think of certain sport organizations from around the world, these are the ones that immediately come to mind; these are also the programs you have to stop and think about any famous players that may have come from their sidelines. These are the ones synonymous with greatness (or worse in some cases…). Sure, there are great players that rose to the occasion of playing for one of these teams and became famous, or better yet, legendary, but it’s really the program that comes first in this scenario. Regardless of your history, the essence of your program is worth being a part of – if you’ve taken the time to figure out your mission, vision, values and goals. If you have, you know what you stand for and what kind of “program” you are selling. In this case, the program angle of sports marketing is the bigger picture of getting people who want what you’re selling.

Team vs. Program – Figure out which angle your sports marketing is going to go and get everything lined up consistently.

Go Forth!

Experiential Marketing

Experiential marketing for Seattle Mariners 2014 Fan Fest
Experiential marketing email from the Seattle Mariners for their 2014 Fan Fest. Yet another way to market your team and build connections with fans by selling experiences.

Experiential marketing is about selling experiences, rather than just stuff. Before I get into that though, sports business organizations generate revenue in only a few ways, while their expenses are numerous. Here are the types of revenue generated by colleges and universities, according to the NCAA’s 2012 Fulk’s Report(.pdf): ticket sales, NCAA and conference distributions, donations/cash contributions, concessions/programs/novelties, broadcast rights, sponsorships/advertising/royalties, sports camps, endowment/investment income, direct/indirect institutional sport, and misc. revenues.

Although some of the numbers for these areas can be quite large, the potential options for generating revenue are limited, while the list of expenses can go on for days – everything from the salary of the head coach of your most prominent to team on down to the type of cleaning products and paperclips you use. In terms of finding unique ways to do more with what you have, take a look at this YouTube video to see what the University of Arizona is doing this year with experiential marketing. I’m not entirely clear on how they find the people who get to be a part of this type of event, but it is very clear that the people who get to be a part of the gameday experience at Arizona Wildcat football home games are self-proclaimed fans for life.

It seems to me there are a few that get to be a part of the pre-game ritual, hanging out in the locker room with the team, being there for pre-game drills and warmups, being there for coach’s pre-game speech and finally running out onto the field in time for the game to begin. At that point, that person’s experience is over for that fan. After the game, sometime during the 4th quarter, it then seems that the next lucky fan gets to come on down to the field for the post-game activities – only this past weekend’s lucky fan got to be a part of an Arizona victory over the Oregon Ducks! What a game to be the lucky recipient of an experiential marketing experience for your favorite team! Obviously you can’t count on something like this happening, but what a great bonus! This lucky fan was able to rush the field with the team and the entire stadium as well as continue celebrating all the way into the locker room and coaches post-game press conference. Once the excitement mellowed out a little bit, he also had the opportunity to talk to and take pictures with all of his favorite players – a day he “will never forget as long as he lives.” Wow – what a great testimonial to have caught on video!

Now consider how you might implement something similar with your own organization and do experiential marketing. Perhaps you auction something like this at charity event or through your letter winner’s organization. Perhaps you do something like this as part of a sponsorship agreement or high-level donor activation. Or perhaps you hold a sweepstakes over the summer, generating buzz and some healthy PR during the traditional off-season for most colleges and universities. Or perhaps this is the premium reward you give to the top points earner in your fan rewards system (a system that rewards users with points for performing certain actions like making team purchases in addition to interacting on social media, among other things). Whatever the case, this is a fan reward that doesn’t cost much more than the time of your student videographer and an escort – in exchange for a lifetime fan made over a few hours spent with your team.

The next time you are looking to expand your long tail reach into the hearts and minds of your fans, consider experiential marketing and how you can do more with what you already have.

Go Forth!

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