On Working in Sports

One of the things you’ve got to be careful of when working in sports is the fact that your perspective might be too close to what it is that you’re doing. This is the case for people in many professions and applies to sports as well. When you work in sports, it’s easy to get caught up in the unique aspects of what makes the job interesting but also sometimes mundane. Remember that even though what you experience on a regular basis is your “normal,” those same things may be, and likely are, a completely new world for others. Don’t be tricked into thinking you know what fans want or what people are looking for in a sport entertainment experience. Don’t be fooled into thinking people will love your teams because of cheap tickets, free popcorn for early arriving fans, or whatever it is that you think you do for them. If you want true connections and want to stay relevant, don’t let up in the development of your team-fan relationship building.

Here’s an example of what I’m trying to get at here – I was listening to a podcast today (I do that a lot by the way and suggest you do the same) where the host and his guests were talking about how they happen to be very tech savvy people and adjust and manipulate their mobile devices to the exact way they know is maximizing the device’s full potential. This particular conversation centered around Apple’s Passbook app on the new iPhone iOS 6 and how it integrates with various loyalty programs from brands around the country. In this example, it was easy for these tech savvy marketers to talk about how they personally go out of their way to make sure their phones and iPads are fully dialed in, but how can we say the same for the general population? Applying this to sports, how can we as sport administrators and executives say with any confidence that we truly know who our fans are and what they want?

Well, to give a brief answer – first by asking and second by observing. And honestly, observation is probably the best way to go. It’s great to ask people what they want because hopefully they’ll be honest and actually know what it is that they want. Studies have shown though that people often think differently than they act though. Because of that fact, you should be constantly observing what it is that your fans are doing (and saying on social media). As the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words.

So even though we work in sports (and it’s awesome to be able to say that), don’t get too comfortable in your job and think you know what people want – especially if you are in an external role. In some ways external operations are the most difficult positions of a department – having to balance the push for revenue with the sometimes seemingly constant requests from fans about what they say they want and what they may actually be trying to say instead.

So here’s the moral of the story – have fun working in sports, but don’t get too comfortable.

Go Forth!

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