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Throughout our organization, we always identify a company that partners with us as a true partner, rather than just as a sponsor. We see the relationship as a two-way street, and always do everything we can to make sure they feel they are receiving the best customer service available.

Devin Beahm

Senior Manager, Partnership Marketing

Pittsburgh Penguins

× The interview with Devin Beahm was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

1Tell us about your role as Senior Manager of Partnership Marketing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. What does a typical day look like for you?

There is never a typical day in the world of sports, which is what makes working in this industry so great. Overall, the main responsibility of my job is to activate assets with our corporate partners. Activating can mean a variety of things, whether that is coordinating signage, radio spots, social media integration, ticketing or hospitality, you name it! This means we not only work very closely with our partners on a day-to-day basis, but we also work with a lot of internal departments like game operations and marketing to make these assets come to life.

We have 41 regular-season home games, so there is never a shortage of things to do and plan. We begin to collect assets from our partners in August and September, with our season running from October through April, and playoffs running April through June.

Whether it’s at the end of the season in June and July, or during the season, I am also responsible for growing partnerships through the renewal negotiations at the end of their terms. We’ve got a ton of great long-term partners, so I may only have 3 or 4 partners to renew each season. 

While a negotiation doesn’t need to be done every year, we do stay on top of our partners’ objectives and are always trying to make sure we achieve their goals. We utilize data and metrics for our partners to make sure they feel good about the money they are spending with the Penguins, showing a return on investment but also wanting them to continue as partners with us for years to come.

2Partnership marketing is all about driving business value for partners. What is your process when brainstorming potential ideas that may benefit partners? How much data, analytics and research do you execute prior to pushing an idea?

In partnership marketing, we love to think of ourselves as an extension of our partners’ brands. We keep tabs on what they are doing in the marketplace (both locally and nationwide depending on their footprints), as well as what they might be doing with other sports teams. We also are sure to take a look at what their competitors are doing in the marketplace to see if there are ways we can continue to push our partner’s brand and elevate their exposure.

If the organization is fairly new to being a partner with the Penguins, we love to collaborate as a department on brainstorming ideas to benefit the brand. There are no ideas that are too crazy in a brainstorming session because often times it leads us to some one-of-a-kind ideas! We also love to bring in other departments when brainstorming, because as an organization we take pride in having subject matter experts.

We love to have data behind our ideas so that we feel that we can achieve our partners’ goals. We also take into consideration things like primary target audience, both geographically and demographically such as by age, as well as understanding their objectives. For example, if your goal is to increase foot traffic, we can build a campaign with in-arena and digital assets to help that objective. Or, if your goal is to tie your brand to the Penguins brand in a positive way (brand exposure), we would likely tailor our ideas a bit differently!

3In your role, you work with partners to help build and promote the Pittsburgh Penguins brand. How important is it to focus not just on the original deal, but in retaining and building the relationship with partners?

It is critically important for us in the corporate partnerships realm to build relationships with our partners and be as fluid as we can be when it comes to their partnership.

Throughout our organization, we always identify a company that partners with us as a true partner, rather than just as a sponsor. We see the relationship as a two-way street, and always do everything we can to make sure they feel they are receiving the best customer service available.

There is no job too big or too small for us in the partnerships’ world. We always value having a direct connection with the CEO and CMO of an organization, but we love to have as many touchpoints within each partnership to ensure that everyone is on board with keeping the partnership.

For example, we were hosting one of our partners at a morning skate, and our day-to-day contact mentioned that one of their employee’s mother’s dreams was to ride on the Zamboni. We made sure to deliver on that dream and the 72-year-old woman had the time of her life! While this didn’t directly impact a C-level executive, he heard about our extra effort for one of his employees, and he appreciated it more than anything we may have done for him directly. Long story short, we love to provide valuable and memorable experiences to our partners, whenever possible!

With our commitment to customer service, we have a lot of partners who will sign long-term deals (5+ years) with our organization. Over those years, a company’s goals may change entirely. As long as it doesn’t interfere with another partner, we are always flexible to change assets throughout the partnership to ensure we are providing a return on their investment.

4In marketing, working with different departments (sales, social media, in-game hosts, etc.) is typical in driving revenue. How are you able to work cross-functionally and why is it so important to work as a team when trying to achieve strategic business goals?

I think the best way to work cross-functionally is always trying to be on top of your “asks” when it comes to your partners. Especially when the Penguins are in season, there is no shortage of work, so if you can plan ahead with our game operations, digital and creative teams, it helps everyone in the long run.

While there is a fire drill every once and a while, where you need a quick turnaround, having a strong rapport with your fellow colleagues, makes things run much more smoothly.   

Our organization’s mission is to be the best team in sports on and off the ice. We can achieve that goal by all working together to drive revenue. The more we are able to bring in, the more we are able to spend towards the salary cap, which gives us the best talent on the ice. If we have the best talent on the ice, we are more likely to win the Stanley Cup, and ultimately if we are winning, more businesses want to align their brands with us.

5So many marketing activations nowadays revolve around digital platforms and fan engagement. Now more than ever, how do you keep up with emerging technologies and new opportunities in marketing?

I think it is always important to continue to network and have conversations with your fellow sports colleagues. Whether that is attending conferences or setting up a time to chat by phone, it is imperative to set aside time to keep learning.

If you’re stuck on finding a new and creative way to activate with a partner, picking up the phone and talking it through with like-minded industry experts can be a great way to find out about new ideas. Sometimes, re-inventing the wheel isn’t always necessary, but rather learning from others successes (and mistakes) in the marketing world can really help set you up to continue to grow.

6The world of marketing is immense with many opportunities in different sectors – partnerships, social, digital, email, activation, etc. For those interested in sports marketing, do you suggest they become a jack-of-all-trades or specialize and become a master in a singular function?

I think you need to be a bit of both!

When entering the sports world, I do think it gives people a competitive advantage if they have honed in on a skill set that they have mastered. It is great when you can identify a gap that is missing in an organization or in a department and figure out a way to capitalize on having a particular skill set.

That said, I do think it’s extremely beneficial to be a jack-of-all-trades because it shows that you are willing to try a variety of things and are passionate about the role you are applying for or are working in. When I was in graduate school, I did my best to try out the fundraising and digital media space. What I realized is that I was more passionate about the corporate partnerships’ world, but had I not had experience in those places, I don’t think I would be as good at my job.

As you grow in an organization, many VPs oversee multiple departments, so having an understanding or experience in those spaces throughout your career can help aid in your future success.

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