How do I break into sports marketing & events? Which pathway should I take to gain further experience and change the trajectory of my career within the sports realm? Should I work for a sports property, or do I consider working at an agency? These are questions that you may ask yourself during pivotal points of your professional lifetime and the rudiments highlighted below may assist in your next adventure.
Working with a Sports Property or Team:
There are 151 Major League teams across the Big 5 (MLB, MLS, NHL, NBA, & NFL) and over 250 Minor League and sports properties across the United States. Working with a franchise property provides a focus on your specific brand (the team). That brand is the center to everything you & your team do throughout your marketing, PR, sales, and operational planning & execution. The end goals surround driving fan affinity and aligning your brand with corporate partners, providing both revenue and marketing opportunities.
The opportunities are extensive when working alongside a sports property. The internal organization that you work with is tight knit and you most likely will have opportunities to work alongside those in different disciplines, from finance to operations. Everything you or your team develops & activates has an impact on others within the organization, which provides a lot of collaboration amongst the groups. As someone who may just be starting their career or even making a change, this setting can be beneficial as it allows others to learn from those around them.
Sports organizations are well-oiled machines in that, for many, you may have multiple events going on at any given time; with planning for future events occurring in the background. Your “rehearsals” of activation for game & event times are frequent and there is usually never a dull moment. In tandem however, one thing any sports professional will tell you is that you do not come into this world expecting to work a 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. shift. The hours will fluctuate based upon your team’s schedule of activation and some days will be longer than others. When that clock hits zero, your guests & partners have had a successful event and your team comes out on top; the feeling of accomplishment is extraordinary.
An additional aspect of working inside a sports organization is the venue itself. These venues are multi-million dollar, top of the line event locations that work for an abundant amount of additional revenue streams. From major concert series to local banquet hosting, leveraging your team’s largest asset to entertain the community provides a whole other level of activation opportunities, as well as opportunities for you to be a part of different event planning aspects that may not be the same as a sporting event.
Working with an Agency:
The number of Advertising & Marketing agencies within the United States greatly exceeds 6,000. From digital advertising to experiential marketing, the breadth of agencies across the space is extensive.
When working for an agency, your focus may be on one major brand / client or multiple at any given time. All of which having their own specific goals. As an agency partner, these clients look to you to be the subject matter expert in their respective discipline and the category in which they are activating within. You become an extension of their company.
Clients align with agencies to ensure that the investment level they are making is the correct mix for their overarching goal. As an agency partner your job may entail assisting in negotiating deals, managing the deals & assets, producing onsite activations, creating digital assets, and running analysis for post-mortems that highlight if the investment is producing the correct results.
Your client base, like a sports organization, could range across different realms. This could be a medium sized clothing brand looking to grow brand awareness to a Fortune 500 tech company with a focus on providing additional value adds for their existing clients. The range is significant but can be exciting and allow you to experience elements that you may not be able to experience on the sports property side.
If you choose to work for an agency, understand what their specific expertise is within. Some agency partners solely focus on the digital ad side of the business, while others may be more creative. You will find there are an abundant number of global agencies that have multiple focuses as well. Each will provide you an opportunity to learn things you may not have had the chance to experience in previous roles.
There is not a scientific formula that states whether working on the sports property side or with an agency organization is the best path for someone. Each opportunity provides significant growth areas and will allow you to experience many different things, while working in a team environment. As stated above, the key learnings I would share having worked in both realms are to always be client focused, always be open minded & collaborative and always be willing to put your head down and put in the work. It will require some long days but the rewarding feeling coming out of the successes with a great team around you will make it all worthwhile.