Want To Work In Sports?

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it’s like to work in sports and what will help open doors to opportunities. So often, people have a notion of a “dream job” that is either unrealistic or makes them blindsided to other fantastic options out there. After more than 13 years in the industry at various types of organizations throughout sports, there are a few key things I’ve learned. So, you want to work in sports? Here are my five most important pieces of advice. 

1) Don’t chase logos.

Early in my career, I interviewed at Nike, and I cried when I got on to campus (yes, literally). Why? Well, first, working for Nike was a dream as a marketer, and it felt like the pinnacle of sports advertising. Second, as a runner, I saw some of myself in their brand. The emotional attachment to working there was a bit irrational.

Having worked across so many organizations now, I realize how silly it is to place a company I’ve never worked for on a pedestal. Yes, that job might have been incredibly fulfilling, but putting a belief on a logo and not the work environment can easily set you up for disappointment.

The jobs where I felt most fulfilled throughout my career have often been the most unexpected. Why? Because the logo doesn’t matter if the environment isn’t right. Putting organizations on a pedestal will only set you up for disappointment. 

In sports, it’s important to throw away the notion of a “dream job”. Don’t chase logos. Chase the right role and environment. 

2) Be open to all opportunities.

Too often, when people say they want to work in sports, it means the team side. People often overlook the endless opportunities well beyond teams from agencies, brands, sporting goods, leagues, and tech partners.

Limiting your search to the team side (or one particular silo in sports) limits your opportunities. Sports jobs are few and far between, so it’s essential to cast your net wide. 

One of my first jobs in sports was with a nonprofit called the Atlanta Track Club, a running organization with a membership with more than 30,000 members and 40+ events a year. While it’s not an organization most people think of when they say they want to work in sports, it was exactly what I needed. Being a smaller organization meant that everyone had responsibility, no matter their role or level. As a result, I got to take on big projects early on that working for a bigger team org may not have offered, from owning the social strategy to going through a complete website redesign.  

Too often, we close the door on organizations because they aren’t the bright and shiny choice. What I’ve learned, though, is that there are so many fantastic opportunities well beyond the traditional sports mold.

Be open to the doors that crack open. Leagues, tech partners, agencies, brands, nonprofits, teams — all of these can be great options. 

3) Be open to moving if you can. 

Since graduating college, I’ve lived in DC, Atlanta (2x), Indianapolis, Baltimore, New York City and now Charlotte. None of these cities were exactly on my list of dream places to live, but it’s where the job opportunities came open, and I took a leap and said “yes” each time an opportunity came my way. And always, the cities I moved to surprised me in the best kind of way. 

If you want to work in sports, it’s tough to look at a map and say, “I want to live here.” Sports roles can be far and few between, and jobs simply don’t open all that often. Being willing to relocate is a significant advantage, not just at the start of your career.

One of my mantras is that nothing is permanent. When you realize that, it’s freeing. Don’t be afraid to take leaps to places you’ve never thought of.

4) Don’t get discouraged.

When you look at someone’s resume, you only see the yeses. You don’t see all the nos, the time, the doubt, the failure, the sacrifices. 

Trying to break into sports and move up can be brutal. I’ve heard hundreds and hundreds of nos throughout my career, but I’ve tried my best not to get caught up in them (even the ones that have felt devasting). 

It often takes a lot of nos to get to that yes eventually. This is true for your first job and every job after. Nos are part of the process, but they don’t define you. Be gracious, know your value and keep on.

Patience and persistence will eventually pay off.  

5) You MUST learn to love the industry. 

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet, although it’s probably the most important on the list: You must learn to love the industry more than you love sports. 

At the end of the day, this is a business. Long-term success requires understanding organizational goals and ensuring the work maps back to that. Fandom alone won’t do that. Become a student of the business.

What advice would you share for someone looking to work in sports? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Why The NFL x Nickledon Collab Should Be Celebrated

The NFL and CBS Sports recently announced that they are using the Wild Card game on January 10 to get kids and families into the game. How? Through a kid-friendly broadcast on Nickelodeon. 

Yes, this one-on-a-kind broadcast will feature plenty of slime, kid-focused content and Nick-themed elements throughout, including a special halftime presentation, guest reporters, etc. original on-field graphics, virtual filters and more. The NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon will air alongside CBS Sports’ broadcast of the game on The CBS Television Network.

While I’m sure this move is polarizing and sure to elicit some eye rolls, I absolutely love the idea. Here’s why I think this move is something to celebrate:

It’s focused on the next generation of fans. 

There has been conversation around a Gen Z problem in sport. This should raise some alarm and concern for anyone that works in sports. Losing an entire generation of fans poses a risk for our industry, and it’s time we get serious about the challenges. We can’t take for granted what it takes to captivate interest and cultivate fandom in this era of endless choices. 

There is one thing every team and league should be focused on: How do we cultivate the next generation of fans? This idea from the NFL and CBS focuses precisely that. It’s about bringing the game to a young, new audience in a way that that they can relate to. The reliability and accessibility are key. 

There is a really good chance that people that hate this idea are not the target audience. And, that’s a good thing. They can watch their standard broadcast on CBS while the next generation of fans learn about the game.

Big ideas breakthrough.

The only way to truly break through the clutter is to do something different. The best projects and ideas I’ve been part of are the ones that have made myself and others a little uncomfortable. Why? Because bland ideas don’t get noticed. It’s bold ideas that get seen. 

Any team or league looking to stand out about the noise will need to take some calculated risks. Today, you have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and create an environment where people feel like they can test and try.

This Nickledon collaboration is unlike anything we’ve seen in sports before. And because it’s fresh, different and unexpected, it might just stand the chance of breaking through in a big way.

It gives a chance at growth.

It’s not too hard to understand what a team or league must do to cultivate and sustain their relationship with current and diehard fans. It’s much harder to find those ideas that truly transcend a team, league or sports and go beyond our bubble. 

For growth to happen, our industry cannot keep doing the same old thing. We have to think big and find partners that bridge gaps and connect with an audience we don’t already touch. The NFL partnering with Nickleldoen to broadcast a kid-friendly game is an excellent example of a strategic partnership focused on driving growth.

Growth does not happen by playing it safe. It does not happen by tapping into our existing audience. It does not happen by doing the same thing. Growth happens when we find those big ideas that make us all uncomfortable because it transcends our bubble. This idea does that and gives the NFL an opportunity for growth.

The NFL x CBS x Nickelodeon partnership is a great example of an idea focused on solving a key business goal. It’s smart, bold and maybe a little insane — but it’s looking to solve a challenge in an exciting way —and that’s why it should be celebrated. Only time will tell exactly how this concept pans out, but either way, we need more of this thinking in sports.

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The Masters Put On A Masterclass In Leveraging Video

Digital channels have played a key role in how teams, leagues and other sports properties have stay connected to fans in a year that has been anything but ordinary. Priorities have shifted with no fans in stands — and it’s brought about unique challenges that have propelled new focus on content and digital.

In a tournament unlike any other year before, The Masters used their channels to elevate their brand and bring fans closer to the event. They put on a masterclass on the power of the platforms. There are many things to take away from their approach, from an excellent AR activation to beautiful photography on Instagram. Today, though, the focus is on their video approach.

So often, video is produced for video’s sake. And in a medium that requires a lot of time and resources (usually), it’s essential to know when to leverage video and how to create pieces that engage your audience. It’s rare to see a brand crank out video at a high volume and consistently nail it.

The Masters is one of these rare exceptions. They did an incredible job leading into and surrounding this year’s tournament with video that consistently delivered. The tone, the narrative and the attention to detail was second to none. So, what worked so well about their video approach? A few things that stood out to me:

They produced oddly-satisfying content.

First, The Masters had a series of video vignettes leading into the event that focused on all the prep details. The content gave a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to prepare for the Masters. The real beauty of the vignettes, though, was that they were oddly mesmerizing. And oddly, satisfying content pulls people in and keeps them engaged.

Not only were these videos oddly mesmerizing, but the pace and tension fit their brand. There’s something beautiful and classic about golf, and these videos were able to evoke the beauty in the game and the event without even seeing a single swing. They built anticipation for the coming event in a tone and pace that they could distinctly own. Take a look at a few of them:

They found the right narrative.

Second, the Masters did an incredible job with their storytelling pieces. They found a way to tell the narrative around this year’s event and in a way that was not ad-like or manufactured. The script and VO, paired with the beautiful visuals, pulled you in and placed you in the moment. The pieces felt like a Tom Rinaldi feature on College Gameday — a blend of journalism, storytelling and a whole lot of emotion.

These videos also struck the right tone in a year that has been unlike any. They walked up to the unprecedented year when they needed to and found the right balance of somber and opportunistic. The videos allowed their audience to feel the excitement of the event that was to come while still acknowledging the adversity and challenges face. I believe that sport is a great connector for people — and often a provider of hope — and The Masters used their platform and their storytelling pieces to do just that (without being tone-deaf).

They tapped into a creative format that felt intimate.

Video style and execution plays a key role in what fans take away from the piece. And, I love it when I see teams and brands experiment with different formats to convey different emotions and scenarios.

On Instagram, The Masters experimented with a creative style of video that felt intimate and brought fans inside the moment. The videos were black and white, had some stop motion and were shot in a way that made the viewer feel like a fly-on-the-wall. While they didn’t lean heavily into this execution, it’s a good example of how you execution matters. Testing, trying and experimenting is key.

This post scratches the surface on everything The Masters did leading into and during the event on social media. Hopefully, though, it spurs some inspiration as your thinking through video ideas and concepts.

Video can be an incredible tool for brands to articulate who they are and what they stand for, but the vision and purpose must be clear. Video can’t be created for video’s sake. The Masters did an incredible job leveraging video to pull their audience in and place fans in the moment in a year where everything was virtual. And, it was clear they had a why for creating.

What stood out to you about The Masters’ approach on social this year? Please share below.

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Why The WNBA x Glossier Partnership Is Smart

The WNBA has its first beauty partner in Glossier, launching a new chapter of their Body Hero campaign centered on a celebration of bodies and individuality. 

Glossier introduced Body Hero in 2017 with two products and a large-scale OOH campaign in NYC and LA. The campaign’s goal was to inspire and spur conversation “around beauty, self-care and individuality.”

Three years later, the Body Hero campaign is in its next evolution by introducing two new products and a new exploration of what Body Hero means: Exploring what our bodies do for us and what we do for them. Through this campaign, they’re celebrating Body Heroes’ stories ranging from a nurse to an artist to a student.

As part of this next chapter in the campaign, Glossier partnered with the WNBA and eight of its stars to use their voices to deliver a message that “all bodies are beautiful and each body is a hero.”

Throughout the campaign, WNBA and Glossier fans will see WNBA players’ daily routines, self-love reflections, and an embracement of their beauty. The content will live across social and Glossier’s editorial arm, Into The Gloss. 

This is an excellent example of a partnership well done.

Digital partnerships are a significant focus for teams and leagues as an opportunity to drive revenue. Too often, though, partnerships lack synergy. The WNBA x Glossier collaboration is an example of a partnership that’s firing on all cylinders. Here’s why:

There’s natural brand alignment. 

Some of the strongest brand partnerships are those where there is synergy between both brands. It’s not always easy to do, but going beyond a logo helps build a memorable campaign that drives messaging and value for all parties involved. 

The WNBA and Glossier may seem like an unexpected partnership at first, but it’s easy to see how this partnership is a natural fit when you dig a little deeper. Both brands have a key focus on championing equality and challenging the status quo. While the vehicles may be different (sport and beauty), the two brands share similar values. There’s synergy in what they want to communicate to their audiences, and that’s key. 

The concept lends itself to content.

The Body Hero campaign is about more than a product and two brands joining forces. It’s about body care, using your voice and changing how people view themselves and beauty. These are all thematics that emotionally connect and resonate with both Glossier and the WNBA’s audiences. The videos, quotes and content coming out of the campaign are content the brands would share naturally — and that’s the beauty in it. 

The best partnerships help elevate what brands would already be doing. If content feels forced, phony and inauthentic it’s going to fall flat. Body Hero is an excellent example of a campaign that not only offers synergy but a platform to tell good stories. Win and win.  

Both brands have something to offer.

This partnership is a two-way street where both brands offer something to each other. Glossier benefits from the stories and voices that the WNBA players provide. There’s a natural connection to Body Hero for the athletes involved and the authenticity is key. Working with athletes like Sue Bird, Lexie Brown and Gabby Williams helps to humanize the campaign, pull people in and create a powerful message and platform for Glossier. It also probably pulls in new people to the brand. 

For the WNBA, my guess is one of the key benefits is the audience that Glossier offers. As a digital-first, DTC brand Glossier has built a cult following of brand evangelist — and it feels safe to assume that their core audience is a key demographic the WNBA is targeting. The partnership not only aligns nicely with the WNBA’s values, but it helps them reach a new audience that’s a key demo in a fresh, elevated and authentic way.  

Creating strong, authentic and unexpected partner platforms that generate buzz is not an easy thing to do. This partnership between the WNBA x Glossier is a great example of a partnership well done. It benefits both brands and their audiences, and I’m not sure there’s much more you could ask for. 

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To Make An Impact, Social Media Needs Focus

Ten years ago, you couldn’t share photos or videos on Twitter. Facebook was dabbling in ads, but it wasn’t sophisticated. And Instagram wasn’t even around. Look at tweets from teams back in 2010 and it will give you a good glimpse into how different things were.

Teams, leagues and brands had little understanding of “why” these channels mattered to the business when they first started investing in them. It was a grand experiment that was extremely unsophisticated (reflecting the newness of the channels).

Is social media marketing, communications, ticketing, community, etc.? That was the question back then. Eventually, if you throw enough things at a wall, the hope is that something sticks. Social media dabbled in a little bit of everything because there wasn’t a defined purpose yet.

It’s no longer 2010, and social media is no longer a new kid at the table. The platforms support media of all forms. Consumers have endless options with where and what they consume. Ad platforms are sophisticated and actually play a part in driving revenue. Innovation and competition is everywhere for teams, leagues and brands.

As the world of social media has grown more sophisticated, there’s been a tendency to pile on to social teams. These channels offer more now, so why aren’t we doing more? We can produce more. We can service more. We can publish more. We can drive more engagement. We can hit more goals. More, more, more.

In the quest to do more, social media has become muddled. Instead of taking a step back and reflecting on what we’ve actually learned about these channels and their purpose the last 10+ years, we’ve kept piling on.

Just because social media can technically “service” across the entire business doesn’t mean it’s moving the needle across every touchpoint. We are no longer in the grand experiment of social media, and the idea that it should be everything to everyone is nonsense and has to stop.

These channels have grown up. We should understand the role that social and content plays in business. Instead of focusing on the meaningful work, though, we’ve turned social media into a dumping ground. We’ve added more clutter. We’ve burnt out teams. We’ve lost focus.

If we want social media to impact the business truly, we need to permit teams to focus. This starts with defining the things that matter:

What are our two to three goals?
Focus starts with defining how social media ladders back to the broader organization and business. Beyond vanity metrics, teams must understand how their work plays a role in the business. Set two to three clear and distinct goals for the channels that help drive meaningful business results.

How will we get there?
Defining the “how” helps guide the work that needs to get done. Instead of aimlessly clicking, posting and creating, the “how” gives a clear path for where to invest energy. It is crucial teams don’t get bogged down in a bunch of tactics. Define the why AND the how.

What will we say “no” to?
Part of focusing as a team means understanding that you can’t be everything to everyone. If we’re going to break the cycle of more, more, more then teams need to be empowered to focus. The goals should be the North Star for where the team will spend its energy.

When teams feel like they have to say yes to everything, they get caught doing a lot of “stuff” but not actually driving meaningful work forward. Teams should be empowered to say no to certain things. Not because they don’t want to do the work, but because it’s not part of the strategy and won’t drive meaningful results for the business.

What will it take to execute?
One of the most misunderstood aspects of working in social media is what it takes to execute and execute well. Behind every post is some level of concepting, creative thinking, copywriting & [often] production. It’s rarely as simple as just “making a post”. Every team needs to have the hard conversation on what it takes to execute and execute well.

Why do our fans care?
Just because you can technically put anything and everything on social media does not mean that is what your audience wants and why they follow you.

You’re lucky if your social content makes people pause. You’re even luckier if your social content makes people take action. You’re the luckiest if it helps build real affinity. On the crowded internet, none are easy. We have to understand why our audience cares and focus on the things that drive our business while also capturing fans’ attention.

These questions scratch the surface of what it takes to get to the core of actual, meaningful work. If we want social media to impact our businesses truly, though, we need focus. Imagine the work that could be done if we permitted ourselves to put our energy into what makes an impact.

Focus over daily churn, always.

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