Having spent the last 16 years working in the National Basketball Association and spending my career in the Community Relations field with 4 different franchises, I come across many aspiring professionals who want to know, What is Community Relations? It sounds fun, but what is it like working in that field?
What is it?
Community Relations is defined as establishing and maintaining a beneficial relationship within the community where a company conducts business. In the sports world, that means supporting the community that supports our team. If we want the community to cheer on our team at games, we need to be doing the same for the community and their successes. This can come in many forms such as celebrating historical anniversaries, cultural milestones, honoring local heroes, providing programming opportunities for advancement and experiences, ticket donations, in-kind merchandise donations for fundraising and much more. Community Relations also plays an important role in community support and healing during unfortunate events such as natural disasters or tragedies. Fans should know the organization is here to support them through good as well as challenging times.
Another main channel for Community Relations efforts is to empower the players on your team to pursue their own personal programs and passions. With your diverse roster, you will have a variety of players that are passionate about different causes. It should be the goal of any department to help their players to succeed with their personal community improving passions.
Building and sustaining relationships with community organizations is at the heart of success in Community Relations. The strength of this relationship will be a direct reflection of your work, and how your organization is viewed. A key element of this relationship will be how authentic and genuine you really are about the cause. A relationship is a two-way street, so ensure you are staying current with events and challenges your community organizations are experiencing. With strong connections, communities and teams have the power to make real change.
There are many positives that can arise from successful Community Relations Programming, but some of them are harder to track and quantify than others. This can be a challenge when showing your department’s value to the overall organization. So prior to creating a community program, make sure you have measurables in place to define its success. Sure we can see how many community members participated in a program, but it’s a challenge to quantify the value of a smile or the positive brand affinity shift someone may have towards your team. A pre and post-event survey might be the answer!
Community Relations departments often have a different cadence than other departments in your organization. You will find that community and organization player appearance management will often flow through the department. So you can count on your typical 9-5 days, gamedays, but then throw in your department event days, and any player appearance. These can be on the weekends or even during a holiday. To be a successful employee in Community Relations you need to understand that you will have to sacrifice your time for others. This can mean working on Thanksgiving day passing out turkeys to ensure everyone has a great Thanksgiving, but sacrificing the time you would have spent with your family.
It is a true pleasure and blessing to be able to improve the lives of others through the power of sports and authentic programming. It would be hard to find a more rewarding role on a team!