What was once seen as a “foot in the door” for many recent college graduates looking to work in sports, ticket sales roles have become a major pillar in the vast machine that is the sports industry. As we continue to navigate through a global pandemic, we are witnessing the major impact of fans in the stands (or lack thereof) and how it affects nearly every area of revenue generation in the sports world (partnerships, retail, F&B, etc.)
A full stadium is always a great indicator of not only the quality of the product on the court, but of the organization’s overall efforts and productivity when it comes to generating revenue in more areas than one. With that being said, the demand for great ticket sellers with new ideas and an understanding of buyers’ needs and behaviors is at an all-time high!
Here are three pivotal ways to not only break into the industry, but to also some tips on how to grow your career once you’ve checked into the game!
Network...network...and network some more.
The sports industry is an extremely small one. There are a finite number of professional, minor league and collegiate teams that have the need for a ticket sales department across the country. Think about the big four leagues alone (NFL, NBA, MLB & NHL), there are only 123 teams between them all! The first (and most important) way to begin your career in sports is to grow your network.
With the industry being as small as it is, sports executives across the country are constantly sharing information and top candidates amongst each other, making it vital that you stick out amongst the field. An impactful and organic way to do this is by utilizing different mediums to set up informational interviews with people who are in positions that you one day hope to occupy.
While the once popular in person career fairs are not as common amidst a global pandemic, utilizing avenues such as LinkedIn, email, phone calls and even video calls are a great way to get in front of sports professionals who would be glad to offer insight and wisdom they’ve gained along their career journeys.
"Dedicating the time and effort to fine tuning your skills is imperative if you want to continue to climb the ladder."
In addition to jump starting your career in sports, networking is also a great way to elevate your career once it’s begun. Being able to build a positive brand with your colleagues and fellow professionals at other teams is a key to finding success. When the time comes to fill openings, people tend to recruit and hire those who they are familiar with and know what skills they bring to the table, or someone who can get a solid recommendation from a trusted source.
Having a strong network and brand across the industry is a great formula to finding success in the long run when it comes to continual growth. We’ve all heard the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, well I like to take it a step further and tell myself, “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”
“You play, to win, the game” … PRODUCE!
This one is pretty simple. We all work in sports, and as we know, it’s a business where PRODUCTION matters. As fans of our respective teams and players, we are most excited and cheerful when they are producing at a high level on the field of play. Pro athletes’ careers tend to last longer when they find themselves being top producers year after year (surprise surprise). Now, while some of us might not have reached our childhood dreams of playing professional sports, we are still working in
sports and guess what... the same applies to us! (kind of cool, right?) Those who are in ticket sales and are consistently amongst the top producers for their teams will find themselves advancing and most importantly, lasting, in the sports industry.
Just like pro athletes do to stay on top, we must consistently train and master our craft to be considered one of the best. This can be done by role playing, reading books centered around sales and leadership, collaborating with colleagues to stay up to date on best practices and much more! Dedicating the time and effort to fine tuning your skills is imperative if you want to continue to climb the ladder in ticket sales, as teams are ALWAYS (yes, always) looking for individuals who are polished in sales and will bring a fresh new perspective on how to generate revenue through ticketing. So, when you’re talking to your friends back home about your cool new job in ticket sales, you can tell them that your job is kind of like a pro athlete’s too...just minus all the cool highlights on SportsCenter.
"Staying coachable is a great way to guarantee that your approach to ticket sales, which is a rapidly evolving industry, will never get stale."
Put me in, coach!
Last but certainly not least, staying coachable is essential if you want to find success in ticket sales (and life in general!). When I say the word “coaching”, I’m sure the first person you picture in your current role is your manager or director, someone who is in a higher position than you. Obviously, these are going to be your go-to’s for knowledge and insight about the ticket sales industry but, keep in mind that your colleagues are also an amazing source for fresh ideas and constructive criticism. No matter how much experience you have or the amount of success you’ve attained in your career, there will always be someone who knows a little more than you or who can offer a new perspective that will improve your overall approach to certain things.
Staying coachable is a great way to guarantee that your approach to ticket sales, which is a rapidly evolving industry, will never get stale.
The day we stop learning is the day we cease to grow. Keep learning and keep growing!
To recap, here are three ways to help you continue to grow your career in ticket sales:
- Stay coachable
I hope this helps you as much as it is currently helping me while I navigate this industry along with you all! Sports is supposed to be fun at the end of the day, so make sure you enjoy what you’re doing and are always putting your best foot forward, and somehow, the growth will come to you before you realize it. Best of luck!
Sam O'Babatunde is a Manager, Premium Club Seats with the Atlanta Hawks. In his role, Sam focuses on generating revenue through various premium seating options and fostering mutually beneficial B2B relationships in the Atlanta area. Sam is coming from the Miami HEAT where he was a top producer as an account manager for 4+ years, finishing number one overall in revenue for the 2020-21 NBA season. Prior to joining the HEAT, Sam worked as a Membership Associate with the Atlanta Hawks. He graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2015, where he played Division I football and graduated with a degree in Sport Management along with a minor in Business.