Expert Interview with Nicola Murphy: Hard Work Pays Off

Posted: September 1, 2011 in Expert Interviews
Tags: , , , ,

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!

  1. […] 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 […]

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