Sports Employers Struggle to Find Talented People to Fill this High Demand Sports Job
Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for WorkinSports.com
It’s a Monday QA session! Before we get rolling I want to remind everyone about our private facebook group for the podcast
, but really it’s full of people who are or want to work in the sports industry. We’re creating a pretty cool little community over there, and you can be a part of it too.
Search for “The Work in Sports Podcast – Private Group”
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Since this is a Monday QA session we’re going to answer a question… but to be honest, I’m going to answer my own question…so I’ll give myself a free month at WorkinSports.com
Last week on the podcast I Interviewed Dan Rossetti, President of Prodigy Sports Recruiting agency
and there was a very interesting part of the interview. If you haven’t listened to it yet – go back and do so – there is a ton of great information in there from Dan. If you have listened you probably remember me asking Dan about the jobs he has the hardest time filling.
Dan said sports jobs in sponsorship sales are in high demand but difficult for him to find talented people to fill the roles.
I got to thinking afterwards, there is more we need to know here, more that needs explaining. What is it about sponsorship sales? What do you need to do to go down this sports career path? What kind of training or expertise?
Let’s get this out of the way first – a definition. Sponsorships are investments by corporations in a sports property to help support the firms organization, marketing and promotional objectives or strategies. h
Anything from a name on the back of the local little league baseball team, to the multi-million dollar naming rights deals for arenas or events.
It’s funny when Dan talked about sponsorship sales there were two examples I thought of from my career, even though I was never connected to sponsorship sales.
When I was at CNN Sports/Illustrated I had an assignment one day, I was to watch every Chicago Bulls game for the last 3 years and chart how many times United Airlines was mentioned, or shown on the screen.
The reason was, next door from CNN center, a new arena was being built, and the Atlanta Hawks ownership group wanted more data on the reach and impact of sponsorship on a business. They wanted to be able to go to businesses and say – sponsor our arena for millions, and you’ll get this kind of recognition and brand impact.
And two – when I was at Fox Sports, we had a delegation from the Seahawks come to our office and pitch us on the merits of purchasing the naming rights for the new stadium in town, now known as CenturyLink field.
Now these are huge sponsorships – they also come in much smaller packages – firms purchase sponsorship deals not just to support the local team, it is to get exposure for their brand. So when the opening pitch at 7:11pm is brought to you by 7/11 convenience stores. Or the end zone bar and grill is brought to you by Draft Kings – you can credit someone in sponsorship sales
Now, let’s talk about the job itself.
Circling back to my dealings with the Seahawks naming rights - the person who came into our office was masterful – they sold us on the reach, the benefit, the prestige, the brand recognition and power that comes from the association. They had projected values, numbers and metrics. This wasn’t a feel good story about supporting the local team, it was a shrewd business proposition.
The guy had me willing to fork over 20 mil a year for the next 10 years.
And right there is the huge difference between typical sports sales jobs and sponsorship sales. When you are selling tickets, you tap into the end users emotional fandom. They are buying a ticket, or a group of tickets, or a suite, to support their fandom and see the games.
Sponsorships are different, this is a business decision in which the buyer wants to achieve a business objective.
That makes the approaches completely different.
Sponsorship deals often have much fewer prospects. Not many businesses are willing or able to hand over the money necessary to gain this type of exposure. According to sponsorship.com in 2014 there were 12 companies who spent over 100 million in sports sponsorship in 2014 and they are all the big hitters – Pepsi, Annheiser-Busch, Nike, GM, Verizon, fed ex – you get the idea.
Now remember you aren’t the only one competing for these dollars, every other team and stadium is doing the same.
Sponsorship deals take much longer to close. It takes a while to work the numbers, get the enthusiasm behind a project, get through the organizations budget and all of their red tape – deals like this take a long time to come together, hours and hours of work sometimes falls apart.
Sponsorship sales people need extreme business acumen and creativity. This isn’t just selling inventory – “I have a bar that needs naming, or a spot on the left field wall, let’s go fill it” – this takes projections, impact studies, needs analysis, exposure rates, pricing models, presentation skills, relationship building.
But, the payoff is huge.
Imagine the commission on a multi-million-dollar deal. Imagine being able to coordinate the sponsorship of some creative idea you came up with from scratch.
The reason more people don’t advance to this job is because they start out in a more traditional sales role and aren’t able to change their approach to a different motivation.
That isn’t to say ticket sales doesn’t include forecasting and other related business principles, but the transaction itself, the ability to close a deal, is 100% dependent on factors outside of fandom and emotion. A good ticket seller can be able to connect with buyers on an emotional level, a good sponsorship sales person needs to connect on a purely business level – what positive impact can you achieve for my organization, what price, what reach, what brand exposure.
That is the major difference.
How do you prepare for these jobs – I would read Dr. David Pierce’s book “selling in the sports industry”
which covers all types of sales jobs in sports – I would follow Dan Migala
who is one of the most respected voices in sports business and the idea man behind the White Sox opening pitch at 7:11 being sponsored by 7-11 – I would get a business degree or a minor in business and learn the metrics and calculations of selling.
That’s a pretty good start. And if your first job is selling tickets – that’s great! Just know what it will take to transition into sponsorship, talk to your superiors, tell them how you’d like to train, what you’d like to know and how you’d like to improve your business acumen. Find a mentor in sponsorship sales, learn from them.
This is all very possible people, and if you listen to Dan Rossetti – the sky is the limit once you get in.