What it's Like Working for a Sports Marketing Agency

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Sports marketing agency Old Hat Creative works with over 80 clients like the University of Utah to develop their image and brand
The moment isn’t always identifiable or predictable, but everyone has a juncture in life when something big could happen.

What would you do in that moment? Would you pounce and seize it, or would you wonder and calculate?

For Ashley Allison, client service representative at sports marketing agency Old Hat Creative, the moment came while getting her Masters in Sports Administration from Northwestern.

“Tracie Hitz, former Director of Business Development for Old Hat Creative, was a teacher’s assistant in one of my graduate classes at Northwestern,” recalls Allison.

“She had us submit our resumes and then provided feedback. One of the comments she left on mine was 'what experience am I getting now?' I didn’t have a good answer, so I emailed her to follow-up and see what kind of experience she would look for in a future candidate. She said she actually had a graduate assistant opening if I wanted to interview for it.

“Two days later, I helped out at a football game, met the crew and Tracie offered me the job the next day. It was an amazing break and I am so glad that I jumped at the opportunity.”

Since that initial break Allison has refined her skills in sports marketing and become a valuable asset to Old Hat Creative, a powerful sports marketing agency with over 80 clients in pro and collegiate sports.

For more on what it's really like to work for a sports marketing agency, here’s Ashley Allison:

Take us through what the process is like when a new client comes on board - Is it anything like "The Pitch" on AMC - which makes every client interaction seem like an all hands on deck brainstorming session that lasts for days without food and water?

Allison: Haha. It depends on what type of project we are working on, but typically, it starts out with the client reaching out to us with an idea or a project. We will jump on a call or communicate via email, whichever the client prefers, and then provide a price and expected delivery date for the project.

Next, we talk with our client about the goals and ideas they have for the project and collect all the materials, like photos and logos. Our creative team takes all of that and develops an comprehensive project that we ensure addresses all the needs of the client.

sports marketing agency old hat creative christian ponder
Sports marketer Ashley Cross says to be successful in sports marketing you need to find creative ways to tell stories about athletes, like this Heisman campaign for Christian Ponder
Clients then have the chance to provide feedback and we revise the project until it is perfect for them.

It isn’t exactly like that show, but just as much of the work and thought go into it, but without the intense pressure. The more we work with clients, the more we understand what their brand is about and what they want, so the process always seems to get easier the more we work with them.

For you personally, what is a normal day like?

Allison: I have a unique position in that I work from home for Old Hat Creative. I moved from Norman, Oklahoma a little over two years ago to get married, while also transitioning into the client representative position here at Old Hat.

I work with a majority of Old Hat’s Midwest clients. Most of my time is spent emailing and talking with clients about projects we are working on. I collect the project info, create a job for our print manager to assign and work with our client to make sure they are happy with the product.

While I manage current clients, I also work to get new clients.

This involves reaching out to potential prospects via email, connecting with them on social media, or stopping in their office to discuss ways we could work together.

If a high school aged person came up to you and said, 'I really want to work in sports marketing' - what would you advise them to do?

Allison: I would tell them to try and get all the real world experience they can as a student or young professional. Reach out to a local sports team or college athletic department and see if there are any available internships.

If a sports specific position isn’t available, getting any marketing or sales experience is a plus.

As a student, you have a huge opportunity to connect with almost anyone in the industry. Most professionals are happy to do a job shadow or informational interview, where students can learn more about their jobs and develop a contact in the industry.

Take advantage of being a student and utilize your school’s professional network. Remember to always send a thank you note after opportunities like that.

Once you have the job opportunity, make sure to take advantage by asking for more responsibility, staying late to help without being asked and coming up with solutions wherever you can.

What do you believe are the three most important skills for someone who wants to work in sports marketing?


1: Creativity- I think creativity is the most obvious skill a marketer needs, but also one of the hardest to find. Being able to come up with new, result-driven ideas is tough season to season. Great marketers know how to utilize the strengths of their team members to help provide ideas. Social media is an important source for marketers today to find out what works and what doesn’t.

sports marketing agency jobs old hat creative
Getting clients takes creativity, keeping them takes stellar customer service
2: Ambitious - Working in sports involves a lot of long hours. If you do not have the passion and drive to want to succeed, you will see your dream of working in sports fade. Time management and making sure to have a good work/life balance are an important part of dealing with working in sports.

3: Positive Attitude - Being a friendly, positive co-worker is one of the most important skills a marketer can have. It is also the easiest to change and improve on. Those long hours bring you very close to your co-workers. If you let the long days get to you, you will not be a very fun person to work with, and create low morale which might make them less likely to help you when you need it.

Did you do any internships while in college and if so did they help you focus in on the marketing side of the industry?

Allison: When I was a junior at the University of Illinois, I did a summer internship with the Peoria Chiefs, a minor league baseball team in Peoria, IL. I was a promotions intern, which meant I was in charge of coming up with marketing ideas for the entire season and executing on-field promotions.

It was a lot of work, with a lot of long days and hours, but it helped prepare me for what working in sports was like.

Following my senior year, I did a public relations internship at a small PR firm in Chicago. It was a great experience to learn more about that side of the business.

When I began attending Northwestern University for my Master’s, I worked as a graduate assistant in marketing in the Northwestern Athletic Department for two years. It was such an amazing experience, one I could not recommend enough. Being an athletic intern really gets your foot in the door and allows you to show off what you can do.

I worked with some of the best minds in the business. They taught me about marketing plans, setting goals and creating strong strategies and tactics to reach these goals. They allowed me to have a lot of responsibility and it was exciting to see what working in an athletic department was really like.

It is mentioned on your website that the very first clients of Old Hat Creative - Michigan, Florida State, North Carolina and Syracuse - are still with you as clients today. Obviously creativity and delivery are a big part of keeping clients,but how big of a role does relationship building and customer service play?

Allison: It is by far the biggest factor for Old Hat Creative.

Customer service is how we have distinguished ourselves from other businesses in the industry. Our clients have a number of options to choose from to develop their creative materials. We feel that clients come back to us because we have made a real connection with them, one where we CARE about how their team does and how our work was received.

We keep track of client birthdays, send holiday gifts, interact with them on Twitter and cheer them on when their teams play. We are available 24/7 for all of our clients. We don’t miss deadlines. These are just a few of the principles that guide everything we do. That Michigan, Florida State, North Carolina and Syracuse are still with us today says something about the level of quality and service we provide our clients.

We are lucky to have the greatest clients in the world and we work very hard to keep them part of our family.

If anyone has any questions about services Old Hat offers or careers in sports, please feel free to email me at ashley@oldhatcreative.com.
By Brian Clapp | October 28, 2013
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