Austin Claiborne is the Coordinator of Investor & VIP Services for the Golden State Warriors & Chase Center. Austin has a wealth of experience from 6 different pro teams ⚾and a collegiate athletic department. From working at the University of California to his current role with the Golden State Warriors, Austin is the epitome of what it takes to thrive in the sport industry. Armed with a degree in Business Administration, Management, Marketing, and Related Support, Austin’s experienced as many aspects of the sport industry that his university diploma has to offer and more. He’s worked in marketing, fan experience, game day, audio coordination, events, arena operations, and sales. In those areas of the industry, Austin has had multiple internships, juggled numerous roles at once and never seems to waver one bit! That’s why every single part of our conversation is my favourite. Austin Claiborne is really special and offers many insights to our SPort MAnagement Hub. Enjoy!
Please note: The interview was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Coordinator of Investor & VIP Services for the Golden State Warriors & Chase Center.
So, my role as a Coordinator with our Investor and VIP Services department consists of working closely with all 34 people of our Investor group (NBA recently changed the term ownership to investor). My department oversees all the logistics for arrival, tickets, security and experiences for our Investors and all VIPs that attend any event at our arena. Because of our clientele, we are extremely well versed in everything around the arena, which makes us the go-to for all departments who need important clients taken care of.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me starts by checking our calendars for any upcoming concerts/games for the coming week. From there I send out confirmation emails with details about each event to whichever Investor, VIP or guest will be attending the upcoming events. As responses come in, I follow up with instructions pertaining to parking, tickets, hospitality spaces and the entrance they will be entering in. I also spent time during my day creating collateral of directions, paths of travel, and schedules for guests when they visit the arena. Since we just opened Chase Center we’ve been constantly working on ways to provide exceptional customer service for our guests that comes to visit the arena.
What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of your role.
The most challenging aspect of my role is managing and planning the schedules of all the events at Chase Center. With there being 41 Warriors home games, 60+ concerts and numerous miscellaneous events around the arena, it can look overwhelming organizing those 100+ events for our 34 investors entities and their families. While it is quite challenging, I love every second of it and greatly enjoy planning out these events.
“The most rewarding aspect of my role is definitely my staff. Our department has a lot of long nights since we typically work every event from beginning to end, and so, it’s been amazing having such a strong staff.”
My job would be extremely difficult if I didn’t have great people who are extremely detail-oriented as well as committed to making our guests have an exceptional time. It’s rewarding coming to a job where everyone is on the same page since it allows this pretty strenuous job to be enjoyable and fun.
If you had to choose which of your internship opportunities was most beneficial, which would you choose and why?
I’d say my most beneficial internship was my first one with the Washington Redskins and their radio station “The Team 980”. It was the first position where I learned how to keep my composure around athletes and sports personalities since I would see them around the office all the time. I feel that one of the hardest things to learn in the sports industry is understanding that the people you see on television are people too and they are just doing their job as well. This was something I always knew, but it really came into perspective in this internship as I would see people I grew up watching on TV all the time in the office. This was important because it prepared me for my current position with the Warriors. Without my internship in Washington D.C., I would’ve never learned the important skills of being professional and knowing how to separate being a fan from being a sports professional.
You have experience within the WNBA, the NBA, the MLB, then AHL and the NFL. What stood out to you as the main differences between the leagues? What were some similarities?
In working with 5 different leagues, the main discrepancy I’ve noticed is certainly the difference in schedules. This seems obvious but after working in all of them, it’s a huge point if you are looking to make a career in any one of these leagues. When you work in the NFL, the season is pretty quick from September to January and then you have a pretty long off-season. In the NBA the off-season doesn’t seem too long but you do typically work through many of the major holidays from October to April. The same can be said for the AHL as well. The MLB season is the longest in terms of games, so really have to learn to pace yourself throughout the season. And lastly, the WNBA goes by quite fast, which leaves you with a long offseason as well. It was important for me to understand this because knowing how the season affects your life outside of work is one of the biggest factors in what sport you choose to make a career in.
The biggest similarity I’ve noticed working in all these leagues is that all home games are a huge production with so many moving parts. While on television we see athletes playing a sport, there is so much more going on behind-the-scenes that you see once you work it in person. When I would work games, I would notice so many groups performing their duties like producers setting up cameras, group sales preparing kids for a performance, game entertainment getting ready to cue t-shirt tosses, etc. No matter the league or team, all organizations have multiple departments with in-game activations that have to be precisely planned and executed to the second.
What is something you learned at UC, Riverside that you found to be most valuable in the workplace setting?
One of the most valuable things I learned from UC Riverside was being organized and knowing how to manage multiple tasks and assignments at one time. Like any school, we all learn to balance school and work but at UCR there was such a big push to be involved on campus and I certainly did that with working two jobs, joining a fraternity and an executive position for a club. With so much on my plate, I always had to make sure I was extremely efficient with my time and had everything scheduled out. This is essential for what I’ve done in the workplace as there are constantly projects and assignments thrown at me at any minute and I have to be organized enough to complete everything correctly. Since my current role has me in charge of managing 5 different calendars, I can personally say I wouldn’t have had the skills to do so without UCR. So, to all the students looking to get into sports, embrace the challenges of multi-tasking in college since it’s pretty essential to being successful in the workplace.
What advice would you give to someone struggling to succeed in the sports industry?
To the person trying to get into the sports industry, don’t get discouraged. It takes a while to get where you want to go and while a few out there may have their dream job lined up directly after college, most of us don’t. The key is not to get down on yourself when you see others landing positions. We all have our own path to getting to where we need to, and some may take longer than others. While I did work a lot of great jobs over the years, it took me three years after graduation to get to where I am today in a full-time position. So, don’t let other’s paths deter you from continuing to apply to positions and break into the industry. You’ll get there soon enough.
Tell us about your top five biggest accomplishments throughout your sport business career.
1 My job offer from the Warriors from Arena Ops to Investors
This is probably my biggest accomplishment because it was me accepting my first full-time position with a sports organization. At this point in my career, I had worked with 6 sports organizations and every one of the positions was either unpaid or part-time, so the day I received the news from the Warriors that I was going to be promoted to full-time was one of my proudest moments. I had moved to a new city and in just a short time, secured a job with not only an NBA team but a world-class organization.
2 Receiving a job offer from the Warriors
This is one of my favourite accomplishments because I made a gamble on myself for leaving my paying sports job with the Reign to move to the San Francisco/Oakland area to work an unpaid internship with Cal Berkeley Athletics. Over the course of two years, I worked several part-time jobs until I eventually got the job with the Warriors in their Arena Ops department. Ever since I was a teenager my plan was to work in the NBA and, so the day I got this position was a huge accomplishment for me.
3 Oakland A’s Employee of the month
I received this award a few months into my position as a Marketing and Fan Experience Representative. This was my first award from sports teams, so this was definitely a huge accomplishment for me.
4 My first official sale when I worked for the Reign
My position with the Reign was as an inside sales rep and so my responsibility was to sell season tickets. One of the biggest sales I made was about a month into the job where I helped make a corporate partnership deal from a local gym with our hockey club. If you ask anyone of my old coworkers, I wasn’t the best seller, so this was personally one of my biggest accomplishments as I was able to make a big sale after putting in a lot of work coordinating the sale with our Corporate Partnership team.
5 Having the experience of working with 6 sports organizations and 1 college team
Many people work for a sports team and may get the chance to work with a couple, but the fact that I got to work with so many before my first full-time position is something I take pride in. Being able to see how so many teams and leagues work and getting to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Washington D.C. is something I consider a personal achievement that really shaped the kind of professional I’ve become.
Thoughts from Anthony
Austin Claiborne, from the Golden State Warriors’ Investor and VIP Services department, has ample experience in the sport industry. He’s traveled across the United States and across 3 out of 4 of the major sport leagues in North America. He’s an impressive member of the sport industry by anyone’s standards.
What stuck out most to me in my discussion with Austin was his humility. He was very down-to-earth, and genuine in his responses. Austin Claiborne also seemed aware of and very grateful to the staff in his department of the Golden State Warriors and their hard work. Austin’s sport industry journey is one that we can all learn from; whether it be his experiences or his attitude towards those experiences.