DUAL INTERNSHIP: A GLIMPSE OF THE SPORTS INDUSTRY FROM TWO ANGLES
by Julianna Alex
The goal of any internship is to provide the intern with a preview of the career they want to pursue by working at a company in their desired field. In the sport industry there are a multitude of different areas of concentration, which means the area of the industry you see yourself in might not turn out to be the best fit at the end of the day. Although there is this type of uncertainty within the industry, an internship also encourages personal growth and provides a new perspective on the challenges that will be faced after graduation.
In pursuing an internship I was fortunate enough to find myself in an unusual position, I had two internships available - one with a marketing firm, Black Bears Sports Properties, and one with the University of Maine's Director of Hockey Operations after many months of looking and submitting resumes. I had a dilemma on my hands. I have always pictured myself working in team operations but again could I be certain that was the sport industry field for me? The answer to that question is no and there lied my predicament. The solution came during my in person interview with the General Manager of Black Bear Sports Properties (BBSP) when he suggested that I try to do both. With each of these businesses located on the University of Maine campus I was able to work with UMass to create the dual internship for the fall 2010 semester.
My basic schedule this fall has been Hockey Ops in the mornings and BBSP in the afternoons with the only changes to this schedule occurring on hockey game days, other sports game days, and other types of events. This has kept me busy - in sports there is always something going on.
At my morning internship with the University of Men's Ice hockey team's director of operations I am being taught the ins and outs of all the work that goes on behind the scenes. Never having worked for a division I hockey team in this type of capacity (at UMass I had a work-study position with the hockey office) I was unsure about what to expect. As the weeks have gone by one thing that stood out to me about this position is the fact it involves a lot more preparation and paperwork than you'd imagine.
Since the first day I learned that in order to accomplish/do anything one must first fill out the correct paperwork giving new meaning to the phrase "there's a form for that". Even with saying that I have really enjoyed the experience and find it a very interesting position. Some of the jobs I have been doing there include: keeping track of purchase orders, learning how to fill out and file all the different forms, organizing the team travel folders, taking charge of pregame/postgame meals during home games, and lastly doing the research for a budgeting project taking place. There are also some not so glamorous jobs such as doing the laundry, which there is a lot of it, and someone has to do it.
Out of all those jobs the forms take up the most time and are a big responsibility. Over the weeks working there I have been taught how to fill out each different form. I am happy to report that although I've made mistakes on all of the forms, many times, my boss can now tell me to fill out such-and-such form trusting that I will get it done right. Of course he still looks over them (he has to sign them) and there are still times when I mess up something on the form, that's part of the process and I continue to learn from it.
Now as for game days, usually having the longest work hours, they are my favorite days. I am at the rink 5 hours prior to the game's start and leave the rink an hour after the game finishes. My main job is to check players into the pregame meal and to facilitate the postgame meal drop off at the arena. Once those jobs are done my work becomes assisting wherever help is needed and observing the game day operations. It is one these days you see all the hard work you put in during the week come together, smoothly you hope, and confirms the importance your work is for the team. The best way I can sum this up is with a quote from my boss on the first day of my internship, "If we do the job right no one knows we exist, but when we mess up - then all eyes are on us."
Lastly, the most interesting and intriguing part of my internship has been the budgeting research project. It is a project designed to look at the budgeting numbers of all the top state schools and compare them to the current budget at the University of Maine, which of course is to try and help gain a budget increase for the following year. It has been pretty difficult to get this information and has taken a lot of reaching out and contacting different people to compile this data. Once complete, this project will be used by the Coach Whitehead, head coach of the UMaine hockey team, and presented to the athletic department during the budgeting talks for next season. For me this budgeting project has also given me the topic for my thesis project, comparing budgets to team success and overall program developments whether there is any effect or not. It is very intriguing and I am looking forward to doing more research on the subject.
So overall, this internship with the University of Maine's Director of Hockey Operations has taught me a lot about this area of the sports industry. I have learned that any team is a business, whether it's at the professional level or college level, and each one is trying to be more competitive than the next. Many people might find the behind the scenes job boring due to the type of work that needs to be done. It does require many hours behind a desk and on the phone, as well as many weekends lost to games. This job is never in the spotlight, but these are the things that have to be done and without someone doing them the reality of the situation is there'd be no team.
At my afternoon internship I have to switch gears from hockey operations to sports marketing, which is a completely different field of work. Black Bear Sports Properties (BBSP), a property of Learfield Sports*, is the official multimedia rights holder for the University of Maine Athletics and is a very small company that is administered by a General Manager and one other full time staff member. BBSP has control all marketing, advertising, promotional and sponsorship opportunities connected to UMaine Athletic events, which include: a statewide radio network, network television, event impact and game-day marketing, signage, corporate marketing and sponsorships, along with print and Internet advertising.
Through my internship with BBSP I have experienced each one of these aspects and gained more knowledge about the marketing side of the sports industry. The outline of my internships at first was to give me a broad overview of what BBSP does by having me do a little bit of everything and sort of fly by the seat of my pants as the expression goes. In the first couple weeks I would be told to do things but not how to do them. It was difficult at first but after awhile I learn that if something I did needed to be fixed it wasn't a bad thing or a failure just an opportunity to learn from it and do better the next time.
My job description is not exact, although I am the head intern there, I have done everything from organizing the promotional items to getting sponsor's season tickets ready to helping set up on game days and everything in between. Each day is different and with it comes challenges, as well as chances to gain new experiences and knowledge. Some of the things I have been placed in charge of include: ticket logging, the Facebook page, running the radio coaches shows and making the new media kit. While these are the major projects I work on other jobs such as prospecting, answering emails, and taking care of any office needs are also things I do as a type of time filler throughout the day.
I was also put in charge of creating and maintaining the Black Bear Sports Properties Facebook Page, which is a new concept for them and trying to give them more exposure. It is an attempt to use the ever-growing social network to stay competitive and up to date in the sport industry. This has been a hit and miss project because not all clients we work with use this type of network. I hope that it will be able to develop into a more readily used tool between our present partners and potential clients. If nothing else it was a fun project and something new even for me. Another new experience for me was "producing" both the Coach Cosgrove and Coach Whitehead Radio Show that were aired live from a local restaurant that partnered with us and this is part of their sponsorship package. I had to arrive early to the restaurant and with help from the other interns set up all the radio equipment and throughout the show turn the speakers on and off during commercials. Nothing glamorous but it was again another aspect of sport marketing I hadn't thought of before. I have been surprised by the things that to anybody may not seem like it should be part of marketing but becomes obvious once you have the inside view.
Lastly, the work I did that seemed like the "normal" sports marketing things you learn about or think about were creating a media kit to give to potential clients and putting together sponsorship proposals that are used in pitching the sale to a potential client. These both were very labor-intensive projects that took many weeks to complete and master. The media kit itself took me 3 weeks of editing and redoing to get just right before the GM signed off on the final draft to be used for the next sports season. Basically, I had to write an overview of everything BBSP had to offer and make it us look appealing to a potential company. It is very hard to present the best of a company in 10 PowerPoint slides but I did it and I learned that sometimes less really can be more powerful and persuasive. As for the proposals, these have been the most recent projects - I am giving a potential company and a list of what we are pitching them, anything from print advertisements to signage and game promotions, and it must then be turned into a presentation that will convince the company to contract with us and associate their brand with UMaine Athletics. In short this is the most important work I do at BBSP it is what keeps the company going and it has taught me a lot about this side of the sport industry.
I admit it, I knew very little about sports marketing coming into this internship, the only previous knowledge coming from a class I took my junior year, but I like to think I now know a lot more. Interning at BBSP has been one of the most insightful positions allowing me to step outside my comfort zone and take a look into an area of the sports industry I never really considered before hand. I can honestly say my favorite part of sports marketing is the fact that creativity is encouraged and your ideas can become building blocks to future developments.
As it turns out I really do enjoy the operations part of sports more and hope to find a future career working for a hockey team somewhere, but I can also see myself potentially working in sports marketing as well. The last part of that statement is something I would not have been able to say without being on this dual internship. This dual internship has been the best introduction to the sport industry I could ever have asked for. Both have provided me with a lot of new experience and knowledge, which is the reason I now have more doors open to me for whichever future career path I pursue. I know this is a unique situation that I have found myself in but it is not impossible to do. Just remember these two keys to working in the sports industry- 1. You must be flexible and 2. You can't mind working on the weekends - if you are unable to do these things then you probably shouldn't work in this industry.
*If you're interested in collegiate athletics marketing, or just wanting to experience this aspect of the sports industry, I would highly recommend checking out Learfield Sports for potential internship/job opportunities. Learfield Sports, leader in the world of collegiate sports marketing, has a powerhouse portfolio that is comprised of more than 50 collegiate institutions (like BBSP), conferences and associations, located in 31 different states across the country. (website: www.learfieldsports.com)