By: DaWon Baker, @dawonbbaker
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Troy Goergen, Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Operations at North Dakota State University (NDSU) and Sports Administrator for women’s soccer and both men’s and women’s golf. He oversees more than forty corporate partnerships for the Bison, and administers the Bison’s license and trademark program. Troy has been a marketing professional for years, and has taken the time to sit down with us to explain his career, his favorite marketing campaigns, and to give advice on excelling in the sport industry.
How do you see sports marketing evolving today in your position?
The change in technology is the biggest thing. In terms of advertising, social media is growing of course. Everything is so data driven now and fan engagement plays such a large role now. Conventional forms of media are taking a back seat to data driven targeted marketing, but it’s exciting. Marketing is all about data, and having those tools at your fingertips is exciting.
You used to work in professional sports and in the fitness industry, correct?
Yes, as my first job out of college, I was a marketing consultant role for a company that did market sales and consulting for fitness clubs. I then worked three years for a minor league independent franchise, which eventually transitioned to a collegiate summer wooden bat league in the Northwoods League. These were entry-level positions. The first job really reinforced the principles of marketing, like what I learned in school.
I cut my teeth in sales in the consulting world, teaching sales techniques to the fitness club managers. The second job gave me a lot of good experience, in concessions, merchandising, facility management, marketing, and overall administration. It really prepared me for the administration role I am in today. My background and experience in the overall operations with the baseball club definitely prepared me. I can focus more now on the administrative role and external relations now in my current role.
With you being in the industry for quite some time, what impresses you now? Is there anything as an employer, fan, or administrator that comes to mind?
For me in my current role, I’m impressed with the student athletes at NDSU. They’re great on the field and in the classroom, and that’s not the case everywhere. Fargo, North Dakota is the most passionate fan base in the country in my opinion, and Fargo has a great college atmosphere. Obviously we’re a bit smaller, but we’re becoming a bit better known thanks to ESPN College Game Day and our national TV appearances during our championship games. We pack 19,000+ in a dome on Saturday’s, so it’s a great thing and keeps me engaged.
As far as the industry goes, the entire sophistication of sports is impressive. It used to be where you would go to a minor league game and see good promotions and entertainment. Now, if you go to a division 1, 2, or 3 game, MLB, basketball, minor league, or any other sporting event, you will see a great and well-rounded sport entertainment experience. Every sport has really stepped up to please fans and have great fan engagement. Every one is trying to get better and entertain their fans more.
What are the most creative promotions and marketing ideas you’ve seen?
There have been so many, and that’s what keeps people like me going in the industry. One recent promotion that comes to mind in particular is the Ole Miss basketball coach. He did somewhat of a DirecTV spoof ad, with an alter ego to sell season tickets. It was a fun and creative way to sell tickets. We have our own promotion that we launched last year that I’m in the middle of. I may be a bit biased but I enjoy it. We started the Bison Pride Flag Project.
We bought about 1000 flags and have been sending them to fans across the nation, and we have them take pictures of them at landmarks; it’s kind of trended into a social media phenomenon if you will. We get pictures every Friday. We’ve seen pictures in Europe, London, on army bases, etc., so it’s nice to see how our fans span across the world. Any promotion that involves social media these days can be impressive and can be creative by tying fan engagement into it.
Since you’ve worked in sales and marketing, as well as college athletics, do you think it is more important to have sports experience or sales and marketing experience?
A lot depends on the entry point. If it’s someone who is more seasoned and looking for the next job, both are important. Someone fresh out of school should probably have sport experience, not necessarily on the field but definitely at least have an interest in sports. For example, sport marketing is all about the product. If you don’t have interest in the product, it won’t translate to what you’re doing on your job. As far as marketing goes, you want to have a good understanding on the core principles of marketing and advertising. In sports in general, definitely have the interest, have the basic principles of marketing, but the interest is really important.
Finish this sentence for me. “When I first started, the thing that I know today that I wish I would’ve known in the past is…”
There are more opportunities than one might think. In college athletics for example, there are multiple positions such as in ticket operations, compliance, marketing, and facility management. A few years back when sport marketing and management wasn’t as prominent, coming out of school you may have been looking at a job or position that did not come along too often. Even back then there was minor league baseball and arena football, but there are a ton of organizations and opportunities available. Every organization has a variety of positions and opportunities. Realizing there are plenty of opportunities and not panicking is important, and you should just stay the course.
Any last remarks for the readers?
Early in my career, my intern supervisors ingrained three things in me. Work hard, be assertive and be decisive. I think the importance of these three things will get you a long way. Know the importance of character and building relationships. Of course it gets to a point when it’s not what you know but whom you know, and its definitely true. I’ve also taught this to my past interns and employees, but always pay attention. I don’t mean that in a condescending way, but there is just so much going on around you every day, whether it’s a new job, keeping up with reading, journals, or the next opportunities for jobs and learning. I think always paying attention to the industry is valuable advice I learned early and I like to share that with others.
We would like to thank Troy for his time and insight and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors!