You’re the Director of Marketing – Not the Coach

When the person who runs marketing for your team talks about wins and losses as part of the team’s marketing plan, call Donald Trump and have him say, “You’re Fired.”  Wins and losses are not part of the equation when it comes to writing an impactful marketing plan. Regardless of a team’s performance, it is a marketing group’s responsibility to create a strategy to build the brand and revenues. The problem is that many folks get into the sports business because they are a fan of the game. This can be catastrophic for a team’s bottom line.

Yes, winning games is helpful to your efforts, if you are running the business side of the team. But, “winning” should not be the marketing plan. When I attended NFL marketing meetings and asked folks in marketing, “How’s business?” I’d chuckle (to myself) at the answer, “Well, the team looks good this year; we have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs.”

HELLO! You are in marketing, numb-nuts. Let the coaches and ownership worry about what happens on the field. That is so far outside marketing’s scope of concern, that it should not even be a factor in the thought process.  Anyone in marketing who operates that way is wrong for the job. You need to understand your job as it relates to the organization’s goals.

Here’s the good news for recent grads worried about getting a job in the sports industry. There are so many folks working for teams who are just happy to be there, that while they are floating through their wonderment of working for a team, you should be able to easily soar right past them. Oh, and the folks who are “just happy to be there” are plentiful.

So, here are a few tips for you young, hard-hitting sports job seekers, from a guy who hired and promoted folks who got the job done:

1)      If you are a fan of the team or sport you are applying for, check your team jersey at the door. Being a fan is not an issue, you should be a fan of the brand you work for; it also increases the likelihood of your passion for your job. But, it’s crucial to remember that your focus should be on your job description, and not the performance of the team.

2)      NEVER think that when you work for the team, that you are a co-worker of the players on the team. If you focus on the athletes in your organization, you are most likely not focusing on your job. Getting all caught up in, “oooh, Tom Brady said hello to me – let me befriend him” is just ridiculous. That’s a sure sign that you are in the job for all the wrong reasons. Players shouldn’t matter to you in the work place. When you are at home, cheering on the team  while they are on a road trip – sure, love them, cheer for them, wear their jerseys to bed. But leave it at home, and keep it on the down low while at work.

3)      If someone from the Team side of the organization asks you to do something, do not jump to attention. Be respectful, say, “Okay;”  then run to your boss and ask for direction. It’s one thing to be helpful, but your excitement for the person asking you to complete a task should not trump the person you work for, just because he catches footballs in front of 70,000 people on Sundays. Be in tune with the structure of your organization. If you worked for a Pharmaceutical company in sales and someone from R&D asked you to do something, you would look at them like they were crazy. So don’t get all weak in the knees when the coach asks you to run and fetch him coffee.

4)      Know your role. When I first started with the Pats, Dan Kraft used to frequently quote Bill Parcells for saying, “Know your role.” You are employed for a reason; embrace that function and do it to the fullest. This is true in all departments of a team, not just on the field. For example, the coach could tell a player that his job this week is just to focus on “73” – no matter where he goes, what he does – put him on his back. Forget about the ball, other players, and what’s going on around you – focus on “73”. The coach has a game plan, and that player has a specific role. There is a misconception of “teamwork”. Teamwork is not being there to help everyone you can at all times. Teamwork is first and foremost all about making sure your function and role is done to, and beyond, the highest expectations. Then, and only then, can you fill another gap. Do the job to the best of your ability in accordance with your supervisor’s direction.

These are just a few tips to help you to perform at the highest level as you embark on your career in Sports. Understand your role in relationship to the organization, embrace it, and then you can enjoy getting paid in an industry that, most likely, you would work in for free.  As you make your way up into the higher ranks of management, remember, you are the director of marketing, not the coach.

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