By Mark Tudi |
How do you position yourself for a career with a professional sports team? Knowledge of the sport or team does help but is far from being the primary qualification for an entry level position. A job with a team in the four majors (NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball) is more competitive than with teams in less visible professional leagues. What are teams looking for in a job candidate? The focus will be on marketing, finance and public relations.
The job of a marketing department of a professional sports team is to find new markets and develop campaigns for existing markets. There are many duties that need to be performed to accomplish this. Some duties may include developing a sales promotion letter or brochure, coordinating programs to help promote the team, licensing team logos or helping with clerical assignments. In large part, a team in the four majors will be looking for someone who can do specific duties as jobs open up. Their marketing campaigns are more involved and are often year round; as a result, their employees can work specific duties routinely. It’s an advantage to have experience in a variety of marketing areas to prepare for job openings. Marketing departments with teams outside of the four majors may consist of as little as two people. Consequently, the job may require performing all or most of the duties, although their campaigns are less intense and therefore have fewer duties to accomplish. For example, a campaign for a minor league baseball team may consist of posters and a radio spot in the summer and a ribbon cutting ceremony by the coach in the off season.
Jobs with teams in the four majors are hard to get and turnover is low. A four-year degree, preferably in marketing, communications or sports administration does help but experience is the key. A background in sales makes a great foundation for marketing. Many universities have arrangements with teams for internships through their sports administration or marketing departments. An internship with a company will also get much needed experience as many hires come from non sports related fields. Check on jobs with teams in lesser known leagues such as Arena Football, Minor League Baseball and Hockey, Major League Soccer, etc. There are more job opportunities with less visible teams and the experience can lead to a job with a team in the four majors. If you are or will be attending college, it’s a good idea to inquire about marketing positions in the school’s athletic department. Take classes in creative and technical writing.
Usually the business manager handles the financial and business matters of a team. Such duties include confirming signed contracts from athletes, concessionaires and food service companies, obtaining bids for services used by the team (hotels, insurance, office and training supplies, etc.), paying bills, working with stadium or arena officials for games and practices, arranging training camps, rookie tryouts and drafts. Outside of the four majors the duties may also include dealing with problems regarding fans or staff, employment applications and payrolls.
An entry level position would be as an assistant business manager. The number of assistants varies from team to team. A four-year degree in business administration, sports administration, marketing or finance is preferred. Degrees in communications, accounting, purchasing and liberal arts may help also. An internship with a professional team is always good; however, interning with a company is useful since teams function much like a business. A sales background is looked at favorably here as well. Making contacts in the sports industry through internships and attending seminars will aid in finding a job with a desired team. Explore opportunities to be a manager for a school sports team.
The main focus of a team publicist is to create interest in the team and its players. The job is almost always made easier when the team is winning and can seem near impossible after a few seasons of futility. Some duties involve preparing and writing press releases, assembling press kits, arranging and conducting press conferences and constructing a team yearbook. A publicist deals with all facets of the media when informing them of trades, deals, hirings and firings. A team in the four majors will have regional and national media interests, and sometimes even worldwide interest. A publicist with a team outside the four majors will deal mostly with local media outlets.
More so than other jobs, it helps to know the team and the sport they play in. Four year degrees are comparable to marketing with an emphasis on experience. Check into an internship with the sports department of a local television station. Try for a job as an assistant or trainee to do some clerical work. Consider work as a sports reporter for the school or local paper. Check with the sports information director of the college you are or may be attending. Good writing skills are important and the opportunity to gain experience in writing is valuable. Write up a public relations idea for a team. As in marketing, to be able to think creatively and express those thoughts on paper is essential.
A career with a professional sports team can be exciting but you have to know what they are looking for. Experience in sales, marketing, finance and public relations provides a solid foundation for many jobs in the sports industry. Opportunities are better with teams outside the four majors, but if your desire is to work with one of those teams then consider gaining experience by working for a company or less visible team, and keep informed of possible openings with the teams you like. Send a cover letter and resume to the right people when inquiring about a job. Ask them to hold your resume if they are not hiring. Starting any sports career can be tough, so make contacts when possible and be patient but persistent. Good luck!