How can I make the first step?

How can I level up in my sports marketing career?

To those seeking for job opportunities in sports business, this is for you.

Rather than a playbook, which doesn’t exist, here are some insights from experience that could help.

We do marketing

Rihanna’s Super Bowl half-time show was watched by 118M viewers, a higher audience than the game itself, one of the major sports events in the globe. It is vital to understand what industry we are in.

Sports marketing is ultimately about marketing, and marketing has evolved from making products to telling stories. So, helping sports organizations to connect with society is at the core of our job.

Fans are people like us, with constant-changing behaviour and attitudes towards brands that compete for our attention. Getting good at the tactics is fine, but a clear vision on the business makes us remarkable.

Either if we are trying to increase revenue, launching projects for partners and fans, or positioning the brand, we will need to build our projects on the essential marketing pillars: who’s it for and what’s it for.

There is no map

Not only in sports but across life, what we define as success comes without a manual. Actually, that is what makes it interesting, we get to decide what projects are worthy of our time.

We tend to idealize career paths that seem to follow an organized structure. For example, moving from a club to a national federation, to ultimately join an international confederation.

We get better at what we do every day, making us grow faster or slower. So, let’s look for projects where we can have a direct contribution on its results while being captains for its management.

In my first years, it was incredibly enriching joining a small organization, a second division football club. It was an accelerated learning about areas like commercial, activation, branding, communication, and merchandising.

Be looked for

What propels us forward from good to better projects are results. Becoming the best option, not to be found but looked for by people who share a common vision in sports marketing.

And this is the fundamental question. What does it mean to be the best option? The best doesn’t exist, it depends on each one’s view. Let’s see some practical examples:

For a small football club, the best marketing executive could be the one that combined a complete skillset, not too specific but general know-how. For instance, in a fast-paced club, someone that had experience in attracting new sponsors, activating rights, events operations and brand strategy.

For a big federation, the best marketing executive could be the one that had a connection with clubs and regional federations, providing a faithful vision of the ecosystem, as well as the one with experience in dealing with reputed international agencies in the areas of commercial and broadcasting rights.

For an agency, the best marketing executive could be the one that brought a solid knowledge in a concrete area like e-Sports, to develop new business opportunities in a given market. Or someone that could connect athletes to a portfolio of local companies, providing a positive result in the short term.

Focus on thirst

It’s much easier to sell water to thirsty people than to someone who just had a glass of water. Let’s focus our efforts on organizations, clients and projects that want to be changed for the better.

Today, the challenge many sports properties face is generating sustainable income in an ecosystem disrupted by digitalization, entertainment, and technology. Again, with the fan at the centre.

Professionals we admire in the top sports stakeholders are human like us, they successfully managed to be seen as relevant and contribute effectively to specific challenges over time.

However, helping to solve problems isn’t enough, we need to be able to communicate effectively, both written and verbally. The way we tell stories about us and our projects is as important as the content.

Your brand

Your brand isn’t a logo or a blog, your brand is the promise you make. That footprint you leave on projects, people and companies. What is that your colleagues or clients will miss from you?

Our brand is not the companies we work for or the projects we participate, but the impact we make. We need to position ourselves above our employer, focusing on results. For example, here is my projects portfolio.

Network is important, as we work with those professionals we like, trust, and learn from. But sometimes we try to get that magical contact that will make it happen. Maybe, but the journey starts within us.

The first, the best and the only. Traditionally, these have been the most powerful marketing positionings. Commonly, the best candidate has to do with unique ingredients that makes her the only one.

It doesnt seem fair

Seeking to get into the industry, I spent three weeks preparing a project for a club that didn’t even answer my email. They weren’t wrong, it was probably not good enough for them.

In nine years, I probably reached out to 400 companies with the aim of attracting commercial partners, the success rate didn’t exceed 5%. The 95% weren’t wrong too, projects didn’t connect enough.

Still, approaching potential clients and employers with specific projects to solve real problems is one of the most useful ways to show your value. It could be a project, benchmark, or new insight.

As Malcom Gladwell explains, 10,000 hours of work is what separates average from top performers. Persistence, learning and optimism will make it inevitable to reach the next level in your career.

Free your boat

We want to believe we are right. That all the time, effort and resources dedicated towards an opportunity, job or project are worthy. But, sometimes letting go of the past leads us to a future of real possibility.

It’s difficult to risk all we’ve worked hard for a long time or to consider new paths. The true risk lies on staying at safe zones where we limit potential professional and personal growth through discomfort.

I always wanted to work at Uefa competitions. In 2017, I had the chance to assist the Uefa Venue Marketing Manager during the Uefa Women’s Euro, helping to implement all marketing and commercial operations.

A huge effort since 2017 led me to be selected as Marketing Manager for Uefa Euro 2020, a reward after years of hard work. Finally, I risked that past for a potential bigger opportunity at CBF and, luckily, it worked.

Making it

Most importantly, what happens after you get that job?

Why did you want it in the first place?

We often discover that who we become along the journey is the biggest trophy.

Let’s do work we’re proud of.

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