Archive for September, 2011

The sports industry is a competitive business. There are no surprises here. What kid would not want to work for his favorite sports team he has been following his whole life? I know I would.

Too often, people hold themselves back from chasing their dreams because of fear. It sucks to fail at something, and this leads us to take less risks. We settle for second best and often live with regrets and wonder what could have been. While I can empathize with this mentality to some degree, I realize that you only get one chance at life, so you might as well make it count. I would rather live having tried and failed at something than not having tried at all.

I think what it all boils down to is the attitude you bring to breaking into the business. You need to develop a winning mindset that will not allow you to take “no” for an answer. This is no easy process, but it is one you need to dedicate yourself to perfecting. You are bound to make mistakes along the way, which is all part of the learning curve.

Based on my experience so far, I would recommend the following pieces of advice to help you develop that winning mentality that will propel you to the career of your dreams:

1. Surround yourself with positive people. Latch on to peers and mentors who are ambitious, honest, trustworthy, and confident.

2. Set goals for yourself, both personal and professional. Develop a plan to accomplish them and make sure you execute. Have your friends and family hold you accountable to them.

3. Accept that everything happens for a reason. If things do not go your way, do not complain or let failure deter you from pursuing the job of your dreams. Learn from your mistakes and get better.

4. Read books about successful people and/or the subject mental toughness. I just finished The Greatest, a biography of Muhammad Ali. Talk about a guy who overcame adversity and became one of the best champions sports has ever seen. In the past, I read Jim Murphy’s Inner Excellence, a book that helps you get in the zone and develop that winning mentality that sets you up for success.

5. Believe in yourself. The only thing holding you back from attempting to do the impossible is yourself. Perhaps Muhammad Ali said it best, “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

Todd Crannell

For all my readers out there, I want to let you know that my posts have decreased in the past few weeks as a result of my preparation for the LSAT and simultaneous start of my senior year at Georgetown. After October 1st, I will return to my normal dose of 2-3 posts per week. I hope you have found the insights from my professional interviews helpful as you begin to launch your sports career. As always, feel free to reach out to me for any advice on breaking into the business. Expect more sports agent interviews to come out in the near future. From Expert Interview with Todd Crannell: Life in the Fast Lane, NFL agent Todd Crannell taught us the following:

1.Pursuing advanced educational degrees such as an MBA not only make you more marketable to sports companies but can also be of assistence when starting your own business.

2. Not everyone breaks into sports directly after college. Some do not realize their calling until later in their career. It’s never too late to follow your passion.

3. If you are seeking an internship or job in a particular area of sports, play the numbers game by applying to as many companies who can potentially fulfill your career aspirations.

4. For cover letters, communicate tangible skills to an employer to show them what you can bring to the table that will add value to their organization. Be specific.

5. Treat every day of an internship like a job interview. Dress for success.

6. Focus more on the quality of the connections you make as opposed to the quantity. Try to make a lasting impression on a few people who might remember your name when they hear of a job opening within the industry.

7. Participate in as many sports internships as you can. Diversify your experiences and leverage them into job offers. Sometimes you might not even need to pursue an advanced degree. Everyone’s path into sports is unique.

Todd Crannell

I worked with NFL sports agent Todd Crannell at Q2 Sports & Entertainment for over a year. After seeing an internship posting for his company on SportsAgentBlog.com, I reached out to him via email. By early summer 2010, I began as an out of office intern. Over my time at Q2, I learned a lot of things, from the college football recruiting process to client management to the importance of phone communication. I highly recommend interning for an agent if you are interested in pursuing a career in athlete representation. Thank you, Todd for participating in this interview.

Michael Riley (MR): What is your official job title? 

Todd Crannell (TC): I am the President and Founder of Q2 Sports & Entertainment.

MR: Where did you go to college as an undergraduate? What was your major(s)/minor(s)?

TC: I attended Florida State University as an undergraduate, where I majored in Economics and minored in Sociology.

MR: Did you pursue an advanced degree(s) to further market yourself to the sports industry? If so, please elaborate.

TC: As a matter of fact, I did pursue an advanced degree to make myself more marketable in the sports business. I traveled overseas to the University of Oxford, where I earned my MBA. Even though I strived to get an MBA one day regardless of my career choice, I definitely went after it knowing that I wanted to be a sports agent.

MR: When did you know that you wanted to “break into sports? Was there one specific moment that you can recall when you knew you had to work in sports? Was it an industry you always saw yourself working in? Or did you just kind of fall into it?

TC: Sports was always a passion of mine. In college, I was top 3 in the ACC in pole-vaulting as a member of the Seminole Track and Field team. Coming out of school, I did not know exactly what I wanted to do. Two things I did know were that I liked numbers and that an MBA degree could be applied to variety of disciplines. The only thing I was missing was experience.

I ended up landing a job in the nation’s capital as an economist. I worked in the Division of the Department of Labor that produced the Employment Situation (aka Jobs Report), which is a monthly economic indicator. While in DC, I met a female tennis agent who worked at Octagon. She exposed me to the sports agent’s lifestyle. During one tournament, I knew that she was at center court. At the same time, I was crunching numbers in a cubicle. I experienced that Aha moment of clarity that made me realize that I needed to work in sports. Something had to change. I knew a little bit about the sports agent profession, especially how competitive it was. I believed I could do it, and I really thought heavily about a JD vs. MBA degree. I ultimately went with the MBA.

MR: How many internships did you participate in before you landed your first job? Where did you intern?

TC: I participated in only one internship before I landed my first job. In between my first and second year of the Oxford MBA program, I interned with Irene Marie Agency, a talent agency that specializes primarily in models. However, they did have a niche sports practice, where a great deal of my internship was focused. One of my duties was to help the marketing agent that worked with football players Tony Gonzalez, Jeremy Shockey, and Ricky Williams when they were at the height of their professional playing careers. Whatever projects I could get my hands on, I participated in, whether or not they were sports related.

MR: How did you land your first job in sports?

TC: My first job in sports evolved from my internship experience at Irene Marie. I basically got my foot in the door there by playing the numbers game like someone who works in sales. Going into this process, I knew that I had to have tough skin when facing rejection. After targeting 60-70 sports agencies, I emailed each and every one of them a very professional cover letter that expressed my interest in interning. My message was concise and clear. I offered my services for free and laid out for them tangible skills that I could bring to the table to add value to their organization. Making a solid first impression was essential, so I worked tirelessly on the letter and included specific examples that highlighted my skill set.

At the end of the day, I landed the internship at Irene Marie. It lasted 6-8 weeks. I viewed every day of my experience there as a job interview. At all times, I made sure I was on top of my game in terms of quality and presentation. Wearing formal business clothes was the norm for me. By summer’s end, I landed my first sports job.

7. Can you comment on the importance of networking in the sports industry?

I am a big fan of quality networking as opposed to quantity networking. Quality networking is all about developing strong, meaningful relationships with a smaller number of people. The connections you make this way are the ones you will feel comfortable calling on the phone and the ones who might get you a job some day. Quantity networking is more about becoming acquaintances with people in the business. It is more volume driven. While you may end up with a lot of business cards through this style of networking, you will probably only follow-up with some people. Your odds of getting a job this way are lower. You should focus more on making a lasting impression on a few people who might just remember you when the next job opening rolls around.

Overall, I feel that people focus too much on networking. Do not get me wrong. The people you know can definitely make a difference in helping you get your foot in the door. However, at the end of the day, it is more about what you can do for an employer. How are you going to help the business make money? Make sure you are able to show them a tangible skill that will give them a bang for their buck. Anyone can get your foot in the door, but if you cannot deliver, then that is on you. Do not let networking overshadow the skill set you can bring to the table. A good analogy would be a football player trying to make an NFL team. Someone his agent knows might get him a tryout. Yet, if he does not perform on the field, then you cannot blame the team for letting him go. Show off your skills!

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

TC: In terms of mentoring, I am a big proponent of industry specific education. Latching on to a mentor in the sports industry who can show you the ropes is just one way to increase your chances of a successful sports career. Other methods include the knowledge you gain from internships and reading books by sports business professionals whose careers you admire. However you continue to learn about the sports business, it is important to not lose sight of the big picture. Seeking the advice of mentors will be useful as you chart your own career path. Take advantage of the people out there that are willing to help you out.

MR: Could you take me through a typical day at work? If no day is typical, what did you do yesterday, or what are you doing tomorrow?

TC: As a sports agent, the work that I do is very seasonal by nature. The pattern in which I do things is similar to the job requirements of a college football coach. For example, a college coach will spend part of the year recruiting, part of the year visiting boosters, and only a very small part actually coaching. This smaller piece is comparable to the time I spend negotiating contracts.

Recently, I just came back from a 10-day business trip. I attended two Steelers pre-season games, one against the Redskins and one against the Eagles. During this time, I spent time with my client Anthony Gray, attended training camp, and ate dinner with the team.

MR: What is the most rewarding aspect about working in sports?

TC: It really depends on what your job in the industry is. For instance, someone who negotiates contracts for a football team would find it rewarding to use his salary cap knowledge and skills to save his organization money by getting the best bang for its buck. On the other hand, I find it fulfilling to be around a player in college and see them develop as a young man when he makes the jump to the NFL. Watching a client achieve a lifetime goal while I am at their side is pretty special. For an athletic director, it would be satisfying to see your players extrapolate the values and ethics instilled in them as a varsity athlete into the real world (after their athletic career is over). It all really depends on your specific job type in the sports industry.

MR: If you had to give advice to someone looking to break into the sports industry, what would it be?

TC: In general, I would recommend participating in as many sports internships that you can get your hands on. While pursuing a JD or MBA can be useful, your best bet for landing a job is to diversify your experiences as an intern. One of the more successful interns I had did not purse an advanced degree and was still able to land a job with a top sports agency due to his wide array of internship experience.

If you are looking to become a sports agent, my best advice would be to run the numbers. What I mean by that is to make sure you understand the likelihood of your future earning potential. Set reasonable goals for the amount of players you think you can successfully sign as clients. Map out what you would spend on them and how long it would take for you to actually make money. Realistically, this may take a few years. Be sure to take into account travel expenses, training costs, etc. Overall, you want to understand what you are getting yourself into as a sports agent. Ask yourself if it makes sense for your career. Projecting your future potential earnings can definitely put things in perspective for those looking to become agents. Run those numbers! 

MR: What do you do for fun when you are not at the office?

TC: When I am not in the office, I enjoy running and lifting weights. To be completely honest, sports agents do not have much free time, especially if they are running a boutique shop like I am. Being only a few years old, my business is still in start-up mode, so the hours are pretty much non-stop.

Nicola Murphy

I hope you enjoyed Expert Interview with Nicola Murphy: Hard Work Pays Off. At this point, I have given you a good feel for the sports marketing side of the business, whether it is sponsorships, philanthropy, events, or in Nicola’s case, athletes and properties. Marketing is a large part of the sports business and a great way to break into the industry. However, looking forward, I hope to diversify my interviews in terms of different aspects of the industry and levels of experience. Be on the lookout for upcoming interviews with sports agents. From Nicola Murphy, Director of Marketing, Athlete & Property Marketing at Octagon, we learned the following:

1. Working in sports is not just limited to internship and job opportunities within your home country. Develop a global perspective and be willing to take risks.

2. The skill set you develop does will not necessarily confine you to one particular industry. Make your skills transferable, and you can find a back door into the sports industry.

3. Although Nicola recommended three internship experiences, you can still break into the industry having worked in other capacities that may not be directly related to sports. It depends on how badly you want it.

4. Invest the same amount of time in networking as you would a friendship. Commit yourself to developing genuine connections with people, and sustain those relationships.

5. Treat internships as a trial job opportunity and deliver impressive work product every day.

6. Always take advantage of saying hello and learning a little about the executives you meet along the way.

7. It is okay to try out different things. You will end up carving out what you do not like and focusing on what appeals to you along the way.

Nicola Murphy

                                       

It’s been a little over one month since my last Expert Interview with Rachel Mech: Taking Chances with No Regrets, but I am excited for my latest Q & A session with Nicola Murphy from Octagon. She and I met last October at a sports career event held at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. I continued to check in with her every now and then over the winter and course of the second semester. We were fortunate enough to reconnect back in March at the Sports Events Marketing Experience (SEME) conference. Nicola’s answers to my questions are particularly interesting given her international background. I thank Nicola for agreeing to do this interview.

Michael Riley (MR): What is your official job title?

Nicola Murphy (NM): Director of Marketing, Athlete & Property Marketing at Octagon.

MR: Where did you go to college as an undergraduate? What was your major(s)/minor(s)?

NM: I received a Bachelor of Business from Charles Sturt University in Australia, where I majored in Marketing. I didn’t have the typical college experience. Instead, I worked full-time and studied primarily during the evening for several years. I even studied a little in the US when I first moved to the DC region more than eight years ago.

MR: Did you pursue an advanced degree(s) to further market yourself to the sports industry? If so, please elaborate.

NM: In addition to my undergraduate degree, I have completed a Strategic Brand Management course at George Washington University as well as a diploma in Event Management, a diploma in Marketing and a Certificate in Advertising at other institutions in Australia. None are graduate degrees per se, but all are part of a valuable education. I have also been part of the Graduate Sports Industry Management faculty at Georgetown University since September 2009 and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

MR: When did you know that you wanted to “break into sports? Was there one specific moment that you can recall when you knew you had to work in sports? Was it an industry you always saw yourself working in? Or did you just kind of fall into it?

NM: Although I played every sport under the sun growing up, am a fan of many sports across the globe, and worked largely in sports sponsorships when I started my career in Sydney, I classify myself as more of a generalist. I believe my skills are more business-based with a marketing focus and are transferable across industries. In other words, my skill set would be just as relevant working for a global sports and entertainment marketing agency as it would be for a brand or even a non-profit organization.

MR: How many internships did you participate in before you landed your first job? Where did you intern?

NM: As alluded to above, I didn’t have the average college and, therefore, internship experience(s). I have worked in one capacity or another continuously since I was twelve or thirteen years of age and had several work experience placements before landing my first full-time job. I do, however, recommend that students try to obtain about three internship experiences that vary in nature during their undergraduate days. I think this provides a well-rounded experience base from which they can draw when looking to enter the workforce.

MR: How did you land your first job in sports?

NM: My first job in sports… I guess you could say that was working on the brand side for Australia’s second largest Internet company at the time. For a majority of my four years there, I worked in a sponsorships and promotions capacity, finding some of the most suitable and visible teams, leagues and properties to be associated with. Partners that would help us grow brand awareness and ultimately the number of consumers using our services. I got my foot in the door by knowing the wife of a guy who worked there. It’s one of those stories…That old adage is true, it’s (partly) who you know.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of networking in the sports industry?

NM: Networking is important, in any industry, sports or otherwise. I think it’s especially important when looking for employment and when you’re in an external facing role. Developing relationships with other industry members doesn’t happen overnight, but, with genuine interest and a real connection, you will likely achieve more than just learning from others, gaining contacts, or building business. I could debate the importance of networking for some time but will spare you an unbearably long response here. I will add, however, that it’s a skill that’s not always easy to master and one that takes time and commitment, similar to what you would need to invest into a friendship to sustain it. It’s not to be approached as a quick hitting one-time event. This response is reminding me of all the folks I need to reconnect with, thanks for the prompt :).

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

NM: I think mentors play different roles during anyone’s career and life. When I started out working, I was lucky enough to have two individuals who helped steer me in the right direction and who provided the necessary knowledge and experiences that enabled me to develop and grow. To this day I am still in contact with them. I also find that, no matter your age or the stage in your career, having a mentor, whether at your workplace or elsewhere, is important. This is someone whose opinion you respect, who communicates openly with you, who you feel you can learn from, who you can bounce ideas off, and who you like spending time with. I’ve found that it’s usually a two-way street as you may also influence them, and you, too, will likely be called on one day to be a mentor. In this case, try to remember some of the aspects that made your mentors seem so helpful and successful, and consider building those qualities into your own efforts.

MR: Could you take me through a typical day at work? If no day is typical, what did you do yesterday, or what are you doing tomorrow?

NM: No day is typical here at Octagon, or in any of my past places of employment. In fact, does anyone have a typical day anywhere anymore I wonder? There are several constant responsibilities I have that span throughout the year, but I generally break my role into three buckets. The first is general marketing for the firm, which includes top-line marketing strategy, the creation and distribution of global marketing materials, and development of company-wide resources. The second bucket involves the marketing representation of clients and includes anything from the development of a customized marketing plan, to research and prospecting, to scouring the market for endorsement, appearance and speaking opportunities. The third bucket is more of a catchall, where we take on properties or projects and either provide consulting, sponsorship sales or business development capabilities. This includes such tasks as selling naming rights to arenas or teams, finding partners for an annual culinary event in Vegas, or managing a national running program for the country’s leading athletic retailer.

MR: If you had to give advice to someone looking to break into the sports industry, what would it be?

NM: This is always a good question and having an assortment of different answers on your blog is a great idea. I would suggest several things:

– Gain professional work experience and even volunteer where you can within the sports industry.

– If you request informational interviews, come prepared.

– Network and develop relationships with people who you gel with and whose work is of interest to you.

– Treat internships as a trial job opportunity and deliver impressive work product every day.

– Always take advantage of saying hello and learning a little about the executives you meet along the way.

– Understand that sports is an industry and a business like all others and that being a fan of sports or an athlete only gets you part of the way there.

– When reaching out to a contact for a job, it’s best to inquire about a specific position rather than deliver a blanket “I need a job or want to work for your company” statement.

– Don’t be afraid to ask your contacts, friends and family for help connecting you with people and companies of interest.

– It’s okay to try different things – you’ll end up carving out what you don’t like and focusing on what appeals to you along the way.

MR: What do you do for fun when you are not at the office?

NM: I’m a sucker for great food, wine and travel and am constantly trying new restaurants or returning to old favorites, as well as planning, or at least thinking about, upcoming travel adventures. I started to play soccer as part of a recreational league a couple of years back and jump on the field most weekends, whether it is for a competitive game or pick-up at Georgetown. I am also three summer’s deep into learning golf… and loving it!