Sports marketing professionals recently shared their career journeys, employment advice, some do’s and don’ts of job searches and a myriad of other career-guidance nuggets with students attending a seminar organized and moderated by Delancy Bennett, assistant professor of marketing.
The six-member panel of Clemson University alumni who pursued careers in sports marketing delved into their experiences in sales, social media and other promotional endeavors in Major League Baseball, the NBA, professional hockey, college football and fan identity technology.
Titled “An Insider’s Guide for Working in Sports,” Bennett said the hour-long interactive discussion allowed students to gain insights on what it takes to get into the highly competitive sports marketing industry.
“A great thing about this panel is that it showcased how many opportunities exist within the sports industry,” Bennett said. “And, hiring managers often note there is a gap between what is taught in the classroom and what is needed by managers in the field. Events like this help shrink that gap by bringing together the classroom and field.”
Most presenters emphasized the importance of internships and networking in entering and advancing their careers, but they covered a multitude of topics important to students’ career endeavors. The event was co-sponsored by the Minority Business Student Association.
Josh Muirhead ’03, Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays director of season ticket services:
Muirhead said one of the most important marketing classes he took dealt with branding principles. “That class made me think bigger picture. Whether it’s sales, customer service or marketing, everything I do is about improving the franchise’s brand,” he said.
On resumes, Muirhead said: “Communicate clearly, pay attention to detail in grammar, punctuation and structure. Don’t eliminate yourself before you even get started. And, put some effort into researching your prospective employer. Stand out from the rest of your competitors, and don’t be afraid to get creative.”
Shawn Lynch ’03, senior vice president of the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers:
Lynch turned an internship with the Checkers into what is becoming a long-time career.
“I love my job in the sports industry and I can’t overemphasize the importance of selling yourself whether entering a career or moving on to a better position.” When asked about making lateral moves into different sports within the industry, Lynch said: “You’re still marketing an organization’s product. The skills you’ve honed at one organization are very transferrable to others.”
Kenneth Cleary ’07, New York Yankees manager of season ticket sales, service and retention:
Cleary started his career with the Yankees at the ticket window.
“I kept asking for more responsibilities, and a full-time position opened. Whether you’re looking to get hired by an organization, or advancing from within, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of networking. Never stop networking inside and outside of your workplace. You never know when someone may know someone else who may have an opportunity for you.”
Andrea Young ’08, Chick-Fil-A College Football Hall of Fame activation and marketing manager:
Young studied graphic communications while at Clemson and began her career in the printing industry, but she eventually wanted to get into sports.
“A big takeaway from my time at Clemson, and in graphic communications, is the importance of networking. I wasn’t shy about communicating my confidence and abilities. Once I broke into the industry, I worked hard at showing my worth and the value I could bring to their organization.”
Morgann Mitchell ’12, NBA TV’s social media assistant manager:
Mitchell worked for IPTAY and took psychology classes while at Clemson, both of which helped her in working with people, and taught her how to “communicate upwardly.”
“When I graduated, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My best advice is to be humble in whatever you get into. Be proactive about meeting people and be willing to adapt. It’s not always going to be pretty. What you start with may lead to something better. You have to be patient but eager about meeting and engaging with as many people as you can.”
Nicole Eppig ’17, is sports partnership coordinator for CLEAR, a biometric identity company:
Eppig’s internships with Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays instilled confidence in her abilities and opened opportunities for meeting new people.
“When I got started, I was willing to do anything and everything and go anywhere. And the internships really validated my abilities because much of what I was being asked to do, I had experienced before,” Eppig said. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of proactively reaching out to people, including the Clemson Family. You never know when you might engage someone who can connect you to your next opportunity.”
Bennett said the diversity of panel’s members was one of its strengths.
“Students were exposed to a diverse group of professionals. It allowed them to better see themselves in similar roles,” Bennett added. “Among the many interesting exchanges came from a student asking female panelists about the challenges women face within sports businesses. The responses on that topic and many others gave all students a better understanding of what lies ahead.”
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