Millions of people aspire to a career in sports because of their passion for athletics.
That’s a valid motivation, but a love of sports is only one facet of the game.
If you’re hoping to cultivate a career in sports public relations, or in virtually any communications function in the field of athletics, remember these four things:
1. Master a specific area.
Fandom will get you only so far. To deliver irreplaceable value to your client partners, you must develop a thorough understanding of all aspects of a sport. That includes amassing deep fan insights, identifying key influencers—from executives to athletes to journalists—understanding how and why different sponsors approach major sports properties and grasping the economics of the game.
About 20 years ago, I began working with a client in the bowling industry. What did I know about bowling? Like a lot of folks, I enjoyed the sport on occasion, but that wasn’t enough. I immersed myself in the business of the industry.
This involved building relationships with marketers, athletes, journalists, equipment manufacturers, the people running the sanctioning organizations and even individuals on the technology side. I learned more than I ever cared to about the viscosity of lane oil and its effect on the ball’s angle of impact.
The work paid off. I gained credibility as a subject expert. A national industry magazine even interviewed me, and I was later named to its list of the most influential people in the sport. Most important, I was well positioned to counsel my client and other key constituents in public relations and marketing tactics.
2. Communicate effectively.
A crucial difference between followers and leaders is verbal acuity.
Whether you’re selling a creative concept or articulating program results, clear, concise communication enhances your position as a trusted and valued counselor on any subject. It’s essential for gaining someone’s attention, trust and confidence.
The ability to navigate diverse landscapes as a respected and trusted communicator on behalf of your agency and client partner is a true measure of your professional success.
Some seem born with this skill; some develop it over time under the proper tutelage. Becoming a better communicator often requires investing time, energy and practice, but it’s well worth it.
3. Keep your interests diverse.
Even if you spend your entire career in sports, it’s important to broaden your horizons.
If you’re on the agency side, don’t limit yourself to sports-related accounts. Support accounts in other consumer categories, be they entertainment, tech or travel. Working across a spectrum of industries will force you to learn things, meet people and solve an array of challenges. You’ll learn new ways of thinking and develop into a more well-rounded person and professional.
4. Stay curious.
Throughout your career, learning about a range of subjects can propel your growth and keep you energized and motivated. Without curiosity, you’ll hit a wall, become bored and wind up trying another profession.
Find a mentor you can learn from, pose hard questions to and bounce ideas off. Seek someone curious, wise and well-rounded.
As you plan or navigate your career path, ask yourself: Do you want to be a leader in a hyper-competitive field, or are you most comfortable just grabbing a beer, kicking up your feet and watching a good game with friends?
The gap between the two can be as wide as the outfield at Yankee Stadium.