Evan Feinstein: Marketing College Athletics in the ACC - Work in Sports Podcast e112

Sports marketing takes on many forms, in this episode we delve into the marketing efforts behind big time college athletics, from'dorm storms' to data mining, with Evan Feinstein Wake Forest Assistant Director of Marketing. 

Hi everybody I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for WorkinSports.com and this is the work in sports podcast!

I have to deal with a pet peeve off the top of this episode, and I know I’m not alone in my hatred of this cliché…

When people say ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ it makes me want to throw up.

This to me is the classic old school thinking, that if you network and schmooze and have the brightest smile in the room you’re the one that’ll get the jobs.

I think this is crap.

Back in the 90’s when I first broke into the sports industry… yes, that long ago … this saying way kind of true. I worked with at least 10-15 people who were related to famous people in the industry. Former players kids, sports columnist kids, sports executive kids.

You know what… they all stunk at their job. They didn’t last – they stunk and they flamed out. Their parents worked hard to get where they were, and earned their success, but not the kids. Just knowing someone back then, got them in the door… but they failed.  

All of us nobodies were the ones who worked hard, scrapped and clawed for everything we got, worked long hours and proved ourselves day in and day out.

We survived, but more than that we thrived.

Maybe I’m giving too much credit to employers, but I think they began to openly question at some point… why are we treating hiring as a favor? We need staff that can achieve, we need staff that will work, we need staff that has talent.

I saw this change take place first hand. No longer were people being hired based on who they knew…they had to prove they could do the job or else.

So again – this theory of who you know superseding what you know is complete bunk – shared endlessly by old school thinkers.

The truth, as it is with most things lies in the middle. The saying should be “learn the right skills and meet the people – that’s the formula for success” but that doesn’t fit as nicely on someone’s seascape meme in airy cursive print.

I didn’t know anyone coming out of college, and I was hired by CNN. Why? Because I had the skills they needed.

Every employer I talk to says they are looking for people with “it” – and when they say that, what they mean is the intersection of skills and passion.

That is the formula.

I can’t deny that networking is important and getting to know people in the industry is invaluable… but unless you combine that with the right skill and experience, it just doesn’t matter anymore.

Just networking isn’t enough.

Just having a parent in the industry isn’t enough

Just knowing a guy in the sales department at team X…isn’t enough.

You need all of it.

So to say it’s not what you know it’s who you know just makes me angry. Because it is what you know. And it is who you know. And in most cases neither survives very long without the other.

This weeks guest Evan Feinstein Assistant Director of Marketing at Wake Forest University knows this better than most – he was fearful he’d struggle to get a job in college athletics because he didn’t have the contacts… but you know what he did have? Internship experience, passion and a willingness to put in the work.

I’ll let him tell you the rest of his story…

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And now... Evan Feinstein, Wake Forest Assistant Director of Marketing


1: I want to start out talking a little about focus and specialty.

You’ve been in various collegiate athletic departments, working in marketing, since graduating from Temple in 2015. Marketing is such a broad term, it can mean so many different things, so many different techniques, and have so many different specialties.

What was your approach while in school – did you focus in deep on a certain type of marketing, or get a broader understanding of marketing on many levels? Dorm storm

2: All of your experience to date has been in college athletics, including your internships while you were in college – clearly you have a pattern, what was the draw to the college side for you? 

3: The first job is always the hardest to get. Take us through your experience, you graduate from Temple with a degree in Sport and Recreation Management, you have internship experience and then you hit the market looking for jobs… what was the process like and what led you to your role at University of Maryland?

4: You land at a power 5 conference school as your first job – not bad! What was that initial role like and what were the demands of your job?

5: From Marketing Assistant to Assistant Director of Marketing at Wake Forest in under a year and half – don’t be humble be honest – why do you think you made such a fast jump up the career ladder?

6: how much different is your role at Wake Forest than the previous role at UM?

7: Let’s talk specifics – where are the priorities of your day? Do you have multiple teams you work with? Are you focused on social, digital, content, display…or complete different things?

8: What’s the biggest challenge of marketing on a collegiate level? Especially with the teams that deserve attention, but don’t have the same natural draw as let’s say football.

9: You hear all the time that social media and digital in general has cluttered up the conversation – there is so much being said so fast that attention spans have diminished – in this environment how hard is it to get your events and your athletes stand out?  

10: Marketing has become very granular – you’re able to collect and access data on individuals at such an intimate level that you, as a marketer, can know the most likely people to react positively to your event, and target on a very specific level

What do you think about that trend… intrusive, or the future that people need to get on board with?

11:  Final one! As you look back at your college career and getting started in the sports industry, what’s the best piece of advice you can give someone in school who aspires to work in the industry like you someday soon?

Thanks again to Evan Feinstein from Wake Forest – what a great experience to be just a few years into your career in college athletics, but already having worked for two power 5 conference schools.

One of my favorite parts was when Evan talked about the moment that convinced him a career in sports was what he needed. Not just wanted, needed.

We all have that moment where our career ambitions come into focus… it was pretty cool to hear Evan talk about that Villanova Temple football game just opening his eyes to the potential of creating an environment around sports events.

Very cool – thanks again to Evan…coming up next week – SUPER AGENT Leigh Steinberg. For real, Leigh Steinberg is coming on the show, and it is awesome.

Talk to you all later!

By Brian Clapp | August 22, 2018
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