In Their Own Words: A Letter to Aspiring Sports Professionals, “Enjoy the Wonderful World of Sport”

Front Office Sports is proud to present the first letter in our new series “In Their Own Words” in which we will have professionals we have interviewed before write letters to aspiring sports professionals to build upon their interview on a more personal level. We hope you enjoy this new series and are able to gain even more insight into what it is like to be a sports professional in the 21st century.

The Wonderful World of Sport

Now this isn’t a vague reference to a programme that perhaps a lot of you will not know about — Shells Wonderful World of Golf. I am actually talking about the Wonderful World of Sport in which we are operating or some of you are aspiring to work in.

Having loved all sports since I was a kid, I always wanted to be involved in sport in some capacity growing up. Whether this meant playing it professionally or behind the scenes for a professional sporting team, I was determined that I was going to make my mark on the sporting landscape.

Not quite good enough to make it professionally at golf, although I gave it a very good go in the winter of 1998 down in Palm Springs for a few months. Certainly the weather there beat being back at home in the UK by a long stretch.

Upon returning, I enrolled in an MSc Masters course in Marketing, which, I thought coupled with my sporting background and knowledge, would be a perfect fit for the world of Sports Marketing or an Agency (I had been inspired by the film Jerry Maguire a few years previously). The funny thing about Jerry Maguire is that it does highlight the often volatile world of sports behind the scenes perfectly and what you need to fit it.

My first role straight out of University was with the professional rugby team the Ospreys, based here in South Wales. I was lucky enough to start at the very beginning of their first year in existence, very much a hands on role and expected to hit the ground running.

I was put in charge of not only the Marketing of the Ospreys but also the CRM management of the website as well as the editing of the entire match day programme and ensuring that it was printed on time for every game. This also coupled with jumping across into the Commercial Department, to help with the occasional selling of advertising hoardings, programme adverts throughout the season. It was most definitely a hands on role and one where I had to learn everything and learn it quickly.

From that point of view, it was a fantastic experience in that I now had several new strings to my bow and was not focused just on one area, which would have been the marketing of the team. Certainly this is one thing I would say to everyone aspiring to be involved in sports –Learn as much as you can and in fact never stop learning and never stop listening. You will be surprised at when the knowledge may come in handy and how often it will help you out, having more than one particular piece of expertise.

It was great for me learning how to build a brand from the bottom up, however also learning how to sell effectively, gave me a greater appreciation of what was needed from the marketing to make the selling easier. Dealing with the website and match day programmes, also enabled me to appreciate the finer details in everything and put my knowledge and copywriting skills to the test.

An important point as well is, do not allow your sporting fandom to overtake your ability in the job. Too often you see people, who are massive fans of the particular sport they work in or fans of sport in general, think it is more of a pastime rather than a job because they have always watched that particular team or sport. The bottom line is that you have to treat it as a job first and enjoy it later, the rewards are fantastic and it is very much a case of you will get out of it exactly what you put in. Remember that your knowledge of the industry, if you are a fan, will certainly hold you in good favour, just do not let it run away with you.

In brief, use every opportunity you have to learn and to soak up knowledge in every department that is relevant to you. I even spent 6 months in an unpaid position within a local Sporting team during my University term working with their Marketing and Admin teams to gain further knowledge. It has all helped me substantially in my career.

Finally I should say — Never Be Afraid to ask questions, every person you come across is a contact and has the potential to help you in your career path. They may have years of experience in the field you are hoping to work in. Don’t be in awe of them, just ask them politely the question you have been dying to ask, or alternatively ask them for five minutes of their time so that you can question them a bit further about their experiences, you will certainly gain a lot — I know I did when I had the chance.

If you have any questions for me, please just contact me through email or via any of our social media links — I am always just a click away

Good luck in your Sporting career.

Mark Selby, Founder of @Sportscoutnet