Welcome to Sports Biz Advisor

I wasn’t a sports management major in college. My alma mater didn’t offer it when I was there. There wasn’t a sports leadership major, sports marketing, sports administration or anything else of that ilk. In some areas, your schooling directly relates to your profession, like it does for doctors, lawyers and engineers. Good thing the sports business isn’t one of them. I was a Speech Communication major with a focus in PR and I was still able to snag a job in sports out of college. Here are a few things I picked up in college as a non sports marketing/admin/management major that I put to use in my career.

  1. How to write well. Not that they don’t teach you this in the sports management department (or all other departments, I hope). But I’d rather work with someone who writes well but doesn’t know the intricacies of player contracts or stadium operations than the opposite. Thankfully, I had my writing style critiqued and cultivated for four years by some smart professors and classmates.
  2. You’re always selling something. Whether you’re trying to get someone to buy season tickets, secure a big brand for arena naming rights, pitching a story about your team to a big news outlet or trying to land a job for yourself, you are always selling something. I realized this when I’d ask for an extra credit opportunity or convince a colleague to switch shifts with me at the pool.
  3. Stories sell. You need a hook. Tell a story that the client/reporter/player can relate to and sticks with them and you’re off to the right start. Facts are important, so don’t forget those, but stories that hit the heart make a big difference.
  4. Relationships matter. Stories/content are king (see above), but making a pitch to a person you have good rapport with is always better than a cold call. Find something in common with a prospect, reporter or client and start from there. People like dealing with people they like, sometimes that’s the difference between a sale, a story, an upgrade and a “no thanks.”
  5. Never stop learning. I like to read. Reading is great because it engages your creative side more than watching TV or listening to a song. The internet, podcasts and trade publications are other fantastic resources to help further your education. Read a book, thumb through the Sports Business Journal or take a class at the local college or online. Coursera and edX have hundreds of classes that will educate and entertain you – even ones of a sports management variety!

Name one negative thing you’ve heard about PGA golfer Jordan Spieth.

Can’t, can you?

Following his 2nd-place finish in the PGA Championship, golf’s 4th and final major of the 2015 season, Spieth took over the number one spot in the world, slipping past Rory McIlroy, and closing the book on one of golf’s finest seasons ever when it comes to major championships. He won the Masters. Won the U.S. Opengolf-new-desktop-wallpaper-of-high-resolution2. Finished 4th at St. Andrews in the Open Championship. Even as runner-up to Jason Day in the PGA, Spieth was always in position to win, but Day, deservingly so, never took his foot off the gas and didn’t leave the slightest crack for anyone to surpass him en route to the Aussie’s first major title and major record-setting 20-under-par finish.

Spieth’s $10.4 million in winnings this season is nothing short of astounding, either.

But all that’s on the course. Off the course, Spieth appears to be a role model’s role model. It’s no wonder he has locked up multimillion-dollar endorsement contracts with Under Armour and AT&T, and now ranks No. 5 when it comes to endorsement value among nearly 4,000 celebrities tracked by The Marketing Arm. And when it comes to “I want to be like him,” only Tom Hanks, Bill Gates and Kate Middleton track higher.

Spieth seems older and more mature than his age, having turned 22 on July 27th.  On the podium following the PGA Championship, he first pointed out that Day deserved to win, which was the right thing to say. Partly because it’s true. Partly because that’s simply who he is. In every interview I’ve seen, there is a humility that often is missing in professional sports. You always get the sense that he’s honored to be playing the great game of golf. That golf doesn’t owe him anything.

I hope that continues. I hope we’re seeing the beginning of the best in professional sports.

Want your kids to look up to someone? Here he is.

Want a case study in professionalism, maturity, humility, grace, and class? Jordan Spieth is your guy.

One fine season. One finer dude.

There are significant dates throughout the course of history that are permanently etched in the minds of every American in our country and the same is true in sports.

August 4tnfl-footballh, 2011 is one of those significant dates in sports. On that day, the National Football League and NFL Players Union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement and avoided a work stoppage at the beginning of the 2011 season. While the start of the 2011 season was significant for millions of avid and casual NFL fans around the world, the real significance proved to be the granting of ultimate power and authority to the NFL Commissioner to rule on player related disciplinary issues. One would think that with ultimate power and authority, comes an obligation to be fair and objective when ruling on player related disciplinary issues. I believe that most current NFL players would argue this has not been the case since the last CBA was signed and that the NFL Commissioner has significantly abused his power and authority in most cases.

Since 2011, there have been a number of very high profile disciplinary issues involving NFL players. In fact, the NFL leads all leagues where a player has been either suspended or forced into early retirement due to a significant violation of the law. While I do not condone the actions of Ray Rice, this case is an example of how inconsistent and unfair Roger Goodell has been in handling the situation. Especially, when you compare the Ray Rice situation to other NFL players like Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson. Both will continue to play in the NFL following suspensions for their domestic violence actions, while Ray Rice may never play the game again.

On August 12th, a federal judge rules on the latest abuse of Mr. Goodell’s power and authority in the pending four game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. A federal judge is urging both parties to settle out of court but it doesn’t appear likely. It is unfathomable to me that Mr. Goodell had the authority to hand down the initial four game suspension, then hear the appeal from Mr. Brady and again rule that the four game suspension will stand. I am not even going to broach the subject of how the NFL had very loosely written rules around the amount of air in the footballs as well as how the footballs are handled prior to the game. To me it appears like the intent of the August 4th, 2011 collective bargaining agreement specific to the Commissioners authority has been significantly over extended and the ultimate result in the Tom Brady case will be a reversal of the suspension by the Federal Judge. This should serve as notice to Mr. Goodell that it is time for him to move on as the NFL Commissioner and the owners will need to realize that they must work with the players to develop a more equitable system to address player- related disciplinary issues. If these two moves are made, then I believe the league will benefit greatly in the future.

That is the question.  In fact, that’s the question on the mind of many rookie pro athletes.

Of course, they use Twitter in their “personal” lives, not realizing the line is not blurred between their private persona and  on-the-field life. However, now, they debate using this social media tool in the age of TMZ.

My advice to these athletes is direct.  Twitter is an invaluable tool to convey your personal brand, who you are and what you stand for. To avoid it is to leave a lot of promotional value on the table. You have to use it.Tweet

How should you use it?

Avoid the common mistakes. Don’t use it to trash talk. Don’t use it to let the world know what your breakfast looks like.

Use it to:

  • Talk about events or issues that matter to you;
  • Give fans a behind-the-scenes look at your sport;
  • Provide insights about your life’s journey, your goals and your aspirations; and
  • Offer leadership to any one aspiring to achieve their dreams (like you have).

Be respectful. Be courteous. Be smart about confidential information involving other people, your team and your sport.

And, when in doubt, don’t. Don’t tweet, post or comment.  The Internet can be a very unforgiving place.

However, using Twitter isn’t just a smart decision for pro athletes building a brand . . . it’s the only decision.

One of the most significant storylines in sports business today is the ever changing landscape of sports apparel contracts within professional, collegiate and amateur sports. Each of these distinct levels require varying degrees of commitment for the apparel supplier and are agreed upon to achieve different goals. These deals range from thousands to millions and even billions of dollars.

In June, it was announced that the NBA would follow the NFL in switching from adidas to Nike as it’s official apparel supplier. The deal is expected to run for 8 years at an approximate cost of $1 billion. The deal is significant because it will be the first time in league history that the company logo will be featured on every jersey on court. Virtually every player in the NBA has a deal with a shoe company whether it be Under Armour’s lucrative deal with Steph Curry or adidas’ Derrick Rose. These players will now also prominently feature the Nike swoosh on their jersey and in turn be associated with the brand in the mind of consumers. In addition to the association with basketball’s superstars, the deal could be a huge financial windfall for Nike. Industry experts have estimated that Nike’s NFL deal could bring in additional $500 Million in revenue in addition to the exposure value.

College and amateur athletic contracts have also been in the news of late with deals such Notre Dame’s 10 year $90 Million contract with Under Armour and Michigan’s announcement that they will leave adidas for Nike. In addition to sponsoring collegiate athletic programs, these companies are also beginning to plant their roots with players even younger through events such as the Under Armour All-American camp for the nation’s best young football players or the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League for the top amateur basketball teams. In contrast to the NBA and NFL deals, these deals are mainly for exposure value for the brand rather than direct revenue from things such as jersey sales. The high stakes battle for the eyes and pocket books of consumers continues to rage on and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.