Hope is Not a Strategy

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This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

By: Chase McCaskill, @itsmechase

Rob Sine, President, IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions

For Rob Sine, ticket sales and revenue generation is life. Ok, not literally, but what if I suggested that a career in ticket sales began before you even started college? What if I contend that a career in ticket sales began the day you started high school, junior high, or even elementary school? Sine, currently the President of IMG Learfield Ticketing Solutions, believes that everything we do in life is about sales.

“Whether it’s selling somebody on where you want to have dinner that night, selling someone on dating you, etc. there is always sales out there. Many of us don’t understand how we sell naturally in our everyday life.”

Sine, just as many that have come before him, began his career as an intern in marketing and promotions. After quickly realizing that no matter how hard he worked, he had no control over his paycheck, he turned his gaze to sales and never looked back. Beginning his career as a Ticket Sales Account Executive for the Cincinnati Cyclones Hockey Team, Sine immediately began to learn.

“In selling minor-league sports you learn a whole lot, I believe [you learn] more than starting out at a professional team, because you get so much hands-on experience selling all sorts of products.”

After three years with the Cyclones, Sine made his way to the Lone Star State where he assumed the role of Sr. Director of Marketing and Promotions for the Fort Worth Brahmas Hockey Team. This provided Sine with a well-rounded opportunity to do ticket sales and also lead the team’s advertising and marketing efforts. Learning everything he could in the minor leagues, Sine’s mentor gave him a nudge and some encouragement to pursue a position in major league sports. He quickly accepted the role of Group Sales Manager for the Milwaukee Bucks. He was uniquely one of four people in the NBA that, at the time, did Group Ticket Sales year-round for their team.

“I was really at the forefront of seeing Group Ticket Sales become more prevalent. Now you see it in the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL, etc. It really has become so important to driving revenue and optics. Revenue is king and all organizations want more. Optics helps the perception in the community, at games, and on TV as to how valuable owning tickets can be.”

When asked about the value of the ticket sales team to a sport organization, Sine did not hesitate to share its emphasis.

“[Ticket Sales] can represent tens of millions of dollars in revenue. In pro sports, ticket-sales is probably the biggest revenue-driver annually for a team. Often times, ticket sales is the lifeblood of any organization. If you can sell and you can help move the needle, you are going to have a job for a very long time.”

Sine was later recruited by the Seattle Supersonics to help build out Group Ticket Sales and eventually handed the opportunity to take over all of the team’s ticket sales operation. This was his first foray into managing a large ticket sales team.

Continuing on his NBA track, Sine was brought on to work for the Portland Trailblazers in a very difficult time for the organization. In an era when the team was infamously dubbed the “Jailblazers” due to their off-court issues, within two years Sine still managed to take the 29th ranked ticket sales department and mold them into the 13th best department in the NBA.

After almost three seasons with the Trailblazers, Sine moved on the idea of creating his own consulting company, Hands on Sports. Contrary to most consulting firms, Hands on Sports took a slightly different approach. Deviating from the model of identifying a problem and presenting it to an organization as the deliverable, Hands on Sports devoted itself to identifying problems and also driving solutions.

It was this approach that caught the eye of the Pac-12 Conference who offered Sine the position of Vice President, Ticketing. So after six years of growing his company, Hands on Sports, Sine began consulting the Pac-12 schools on how to enhance their revenue generation through ticketing, fundraising and marketing.

“I jumped at the chance to work with Larry Scott (Pac-12 Commissioner) almost four years ago because of how aggressive he’d been in building the Pac-12 and making it a stronger conference.”

After his three years with the conference, Sine had helped the Pac-12 go from just four schools with an established ticket sales team to all twelve schools.

Following his time at the Pac-12 Conference, Sine moved into his current position as President of IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions with an endeavor to change the way that particular market operated.

“The idea was to come in and change [the model] to bring in technology and superior sales and optics results to really put the schools first. I wanted to be able to show these schools that we were an attractive option, and help them see the return of working with us. So far [our schools] have been very successful.”

From being a marketing intern, to a group sales executive, then a consultant, and now landing back in ticket sales, Sine truly has spent the bulk of his career in the ticketing industry. However, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I ask everyone what their ‘why’ is, why do you do what you do? I love doing ticket sales for a living because you get to walk into a venue on game day and see the fruits of your labor.”

For many sports business professionals, a career in sports begins in the ticket office. Front Office Sports asked Sine what stand-out qualities do the most successful entry-level employees possess?

“You have to be a master at some discipline, how do you stand out from everyone else that you work with? Are you the number one person at talking to businesses? Are you the number one person at renewing accounts? Are you the number one person at selling groups? The second piece is how goal-driven are you? The most successful entry-level hires are very, very goal driven. They can visualize what they want to accomplish.”

It is clear that successful sports-business professionals do not waste their time. Successful professionals do not spend their days hoping for something to happen, hoping to find success. The most acclaimed professionals are motivated to drive their own results. It’s of this mantra that Sine left us with one more integral piece of advice for professionals in any industry.

“Hope is not a strategy. You have to figure out how to make your own success, you cannot wait for somebody else to give it to you. You cannot hope to hit your sales goal, you cannot hope to get a certain job, you cannot hope to meet the right contact. You have to go out there and get it done yourself.”

Front Office Sports would like to thank Rob Sine for sharing his time to speak with us. You can follow Rob on Twitter here or connect with him on LinkedIn here.

This interview was presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration