1Tell us about your role as the Manager of Marketing & Communications for the Department of Athletics & Recreation at Wilfrid Laurier University and what does a typical day looks like for you?
Looking at my role from a high level, my job is to help tell the story of our athletics and recreation programs.
The obvious stories are the ones of our high-performance athletes competing at an inter-university level. But there are stories all throughout our programs that might inspire someone to pursue a dream of their own.
It's not so much about creating the stories, as it is about uncovering them and then finding an interesting way of telling them.
More tactically, my role involves working with our team to develop content for our website and social media channels. It involves building relationships with other groups; both on-campus and off-campus. Also, it involves helping to raise funds for the department through sponsorship and ticket sales.
Being so new to the role, it’s somewhat cliché to say, but no two days have been exactly alike. But as I get more settled into the role, I’m sure I’ll get a better sense of the regular cadence of the department and my role.
2Why did you decide to work in the sports marketing industry?
Growing up, sports were a huge part of my life. I considered myself an athlete throughout high school, playing multiple sports.
Then, like all of us will face at some point, I was told I could no longer play. Not in so many words, but the truth was I wasn’t talented enough to continue playing at a competitive level.
So, wanting to stick around sports I started looking for careers that would fulfill that.
3What were the steps you took that led up to earning your current position?
I like to think of the path as a series of trades.
In the early days of your career (could be while you’re still in school), you don’t have any experience. So it’s the classic chicken and egg problem. You need the job to get experience, but you need the experience to get the job.
But in this case, the direction of the problem is much clearer. You have an asset that sports organizations need. Time.
The Sports industry relies on volunteers quite a bit.
So early on in your career when you’re trying to gain experience, you can trade your time for experience through volunteering.
The key here is to be a reliable volunteer. If you can be relied upon, you’ll be trusted with more important tasks, and gain even more valuable experience.
Along the same lines as volunteering is internships. If your program offers an internship opportunity, do everything you can to take advantage of this. The same principle applies. You’ll trade your time for experience and will also build some valuable connections at the same time. I was fortunate to start my career at Cosmos Sports & Entertainment as an intern.
Then, when you’re done school, hopefully, you’ve been able to complete an internship or two. And hopefully, you’ve volunteered a fair bit. Now you’ve got the education (the pre-requisite), and the experience that you can trade for a paying job in the industry. Now it’s important to be humble in the beginning. Take an entry-level role and be thrilled about it.
Once you’ve broken in, the hard work doesn’t stop. You’ve constantly got to show that you are a good teammate and can be a valuable contributor to the team.
This path is probably applicable to lots of competitive industries. But it’s the only way I know can work having taken it myself.
4Can you discuss the most difficult and frequent challenges you come across in your position?
Being so new to my role, I don’t feel I’ve uncovered what the most frequent challenges are yet.
But speaking from my experience so far, I’ve found one of the most frequent challenges to be competition.
In sports, we are not just competing with other sports organizations. We’re competing for the discretionary dollar, and more importantly, discretionary time.
People have almost limitless demands on their time. To earn someone’s attention and grow them to maybe even care about your organization as a fan is an ongoing challenge.
5What would you tell someone that is pursuing a career in the sports marketing industry?
I’d say if it’s something that you are truly passionate about, give it your all.
There are tons of people who are passionate about sports as fans. But does that passion translate to what the job of working in sports entails?
In the early days of your career, you’re likely going to need to make sacrifices. The most obvious is earnings.
Sports typically pay lower than other industries do for similar types of work. That’s just reality. So is that going to bother you when you’re friends are making more than you?
You’re also going to need to sacrifice time with friends and family. Sports tend to happen on most people’s leisure time (weekends, evenings, holidays). Are you going to be ok saying no to your friend's birthday party because you have to be at a game?
Once you’re in the industry, try to keep perspective and gratitude. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of people who would take your position in a second.
This gratitude can help you push through some of the tougher times that come with working in this industry.
Oliver's Final Thoughts
Wilfrid Laurier University's manager of marketing & communcations for the department of athletics & recreation Evan Colborne has given us a detailed look on how to become successful in the industry. Evan talks about what he's experienced in the industry so far, and why he chose to be in the sport marketing industry. Evan also discusses his journey on reaching where he is today and some of the challenges he faces in his position. He outlines the importance of volunteering and gaining experience in the industry to be successful in the sport marketing industry. Lastly, Evan provides valuable advice for any aspiring marketers who want to be successful in the sports field of it.