Dan Kaufmann, New York Jets Director of Corporate Partnerships

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning at WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast…

There is a moment that sticks out to me from today’s interview with Dan Kaufmann, New York Jets Director of Corporate Partnerships...well, there are actually a couple, Dan is really great and shares a ton of insider advice, but one, in particular, was Dan talking about his early career and how he failed a lot. 

You’ll hear him discuss it first hand in just a bit, but I think it is really valuable to highlight. Dan comes right out and says, I tried a lot, I failed a lot and I learned a lot. Dan Kaufmann New York Jets corporate partnerships

This is an attitude that most people don’t have. Dan says it very normally like this is just a pattern everyone goes through, but in reality, most of us are afraid to try because we are afraid to fail...and that holds us back

When I say most of us, I definitely mean me. 

When I was starting in my career, I was so afraid to be judged by my peers as inferior that I didn’t ask questions, I didn’t take any risks, I didn’t try anything in the grey areas- and in turn, I didn’t really push myself into uncomfortable areas. 

I thought if I did my tasks, and hustled around that would be enough. And it was just fine. But looking back, my own fears of judgment, stunted my growth. 

I see it now with my kids first hand -- they learn best by trying and failing and I let them! My daughter was trying to make a pizza the other day, and she said hey dad can I try to make something else with the extra dough. Yeah, go for it!

She made this calzoney type thing, stuffed it with too much sauce, it burst in the oven...and she said to me after, if I was going to do that again, I’d make these three changes to my approach. 

She’s 12.

I was 22 years old at CNN Sports Illustrated trying to play it safe all the time, OR being faced with something I didn’t know how to do… and faking it, instead of just asking someone else a question on how. 

This is EGO. And I’m not the only one that suffers from this affliction.

Failing is OK, in fact, it’s better than OK, it’s the best way to learn. Just to be clear, I mean failing by trying things that maybe don’t work out… not failing because you are lazy and miss deadlines, or do sloppy work. 

Dan Kaufmann joined the New York Jets a little over 5 years ago and as you’ll hear in this interview, really loves his job in corporate sponsorships and is excited by his day to day involvement. 

Before we jump in -- this interview was conducted a few weeks ago, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, so there is no reference to our ongoing struggle, the NFL season, how the Jets are operating as a business. Just a good old fashioned pre-corona perspective on getting going in the sports industry -- 

Here he is -- Dan Kaufmann, Director of Corporate Partnerships with the New York Jets.


Questions for Dan Kaufmann, New York Jets Director of Corporate Partnerships 


1: Before we get into your world of corporate partnerships in the NFL and all the steps you took to get there – lets go back to your beginning --- did you always dream of working in sports?

Follow:  how did you discover your fit in sales and marketing?

2: Over your career, you’ve worked for a multitude of different organizations of varying sizes.

Minor league hockey with the Pensacola Ice Pilots, mid-major college at the University of Toledo, Major college at the University of Wisconsin and now in the NFL with the Jets.

Other than the obvious bigger budgets and larger staffs – what are the main differences you experienced in the varying work environments?

3: Your first role after undergrad was with the aforementioned Pensacola Ice Pilots selling minor league hockey in the south. That can’t be easy, but you led the org in revenue that year. What did you learn about sales and marketing early on and what it meant to be successful?

4: It’s funny I talk with college-age students throughout the year and if you talk about sports sales careers, they roll their eyes at you, but if you say sports marketing they perk up – the truth is, the line between the two is pretty blurry right? They really go hand in hand, don’t they?

5: What would you say is the most misunderstood part of working in sales?

6: You’ve obviously seen education as a major component of your success – after Pensacola, you land a role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and at the same time go back to get your Masters. Now you are with the Jets and you are getting your Doctorate. Why was an advanced education part of your plan?

7: Let’s talk about your role with the Jets as Director of Corporate Partnerships – explain the main thrust of your role and what you like best about it.

8: Relationships matter in sales and marketing – but it isn’t just with prospective clients it’s also within your organization. I read a recommendation of you from Clay Hampton Director of Operations with the Texans who said, “From the very first time I met him he immediately made an impression on me as someone who would be a great teammate.”

How important is it to be likable, collaborative and have a good attitude?

9: You wrote on your LinkedIn profile that “Over time you have learned that listening, being detailed, and unique have benefited me to being successful in my career.”

Let’s focus on that last one, being unique, why is that important and how do you embody that trait?

10:  Whenever I talk to high ranking executives, they all talk about the importance of “establishing a great company culture” when you hear that word, culture, what does it mean to you?

11: 2016 you are the top revenue producer for the New York Jets organization – that has to get you a parking spot upfront or at least a key to the executive bathroom – in all seriousness, that’s a major accomplishment – do you get to enjoy that success, or is immediately on to the next challenge?

12: We’ll finish up with this – at least 50% of the jobs in the sports industry are connected to sales, and as we both know if you can show a history of generating revenue, you’ll never struggle to find work.

How do we convince the young people in this audience that sales roles are worth pursuing?

By Brian Clapp | April 15, 2020
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