I always knew I wanted to work in sports, but it was kind of a pipe dream...I was lucky to get my foot in the door four years ago and haven’t looked back. Through my journey, I learned that you can’t do anything in your professional life alone.
Manager, Event and Game Presentation
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
The interview with Jeremy Benjamin 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 the Manager of Event and Game Presentation for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. What does a typical day look like for you?
Within my role, and through collaboration with my amazing team, we manage all in-stadium fan-facing, promotional and technical content including videoboard and LED content, audio, concourse visuals, and pyrotechnics, from conception through to planning and execution.
At the same time, we produce and direct match-day stadium scripts and run of show to drive forward the best sporting atmosphere we can provide for our fans and supporters.
In essence, I think of us as storytellers that want to provide memories for everyone that comes through our stadium every game while providing revenue generating opportunities and tying in larger brand objectives for the club.
Every day presents its different challenges so I would say that there is never a “typical” day.
Whether it is figuring out how best to activate at different community and theme nights, building scripts, looking at how we can take something to the next level, drive revenue, or getting assets ready for the stadium, each day is different and exciting.
That is what makes this job unique!
2Take me through your journey leading up to your current role with the Whitecaps. What were some important moments and lessons you learned from the countless roles you've held? Any specific people you want to highlight that helped with your career development and overall comfort with your current managing game day events and presentation?
I always knew I wanted to work in sports, but it was kind of a pipe dream.
After university, I was convinced I was going to go into law school because my degree (Major - International Relations), lined up perfectly for it. I was fortunate enough to travel right after graduating and it inspired me to come back and at least try to work in sports.
Whatever the job was. I was lucky to get my foot in the door four years ago and haven’t looked back.
Through my journey, I learned that you can’t do anything in your professional life alone. Whether that is through my support system like my family and friends, or my colleagues and mentors that inspire me and drive me forward daily, it is something I am beyond grateful for.
I owe the position I am in now to a lot of amazing leaders that I have been lucky enough to work with from day one.
Each person I have worked under has had different unique approaches that I look to incorporate into my leadership style. I really think you are a by-product of those that have come before you and I am lucky to say I have worked with some of the best.
Today, I am fortunate to work under a mentor and boss who is trusting, supportive, listens, and I know always has my best intentions at heart. A prime example of how I to try to lead today and how I aspire to be like in the future.
3You started in grassroots and community driven marketing, where you were involved in lots of hands-on fan engagement and events. How important was that experience for you now that you manage game day events and presentation? How important is it for you to learn and understand more about the Whitecaps fanbase and community?
As I mentioned, when I first started with the organization, I was just trying to get my foot in the door. I started the week after coming home from travelling.
In my first role as Coordinator, Grassroots Marketing the objective was to get out into the community at different events, look to generate quality leads, and to educate people on our brand. As a lifelong fan myself, it was easy for me to be excited about sharing how fun it was to be a part of the ‘Caps community.
Being on the ground was very important for my career development as I was able to have firsthand conversations of what fans wanted to see when they came to games. I learned what they liked and didn’t like.
Little did I know then, but it helped provide a base for when I moved over into Game Presentation. I learned that Vancouver fans are passionate and that matches were a place where everyone felt welcomed.
Today, I carry that over and try to create as inclusive a space for all our fans to enjoy. To this day, I still learn from our fanbase and do my best to integrate our supporters and different communities for our theme and community nights. Our club is really nothing without our fans so learning and understanding more about them is essential to driving attendance and excitement.
4How difficult was it dealing with Covid the last few seasons? Obviously at first, sports were effectively shut down, but when MLS resumed play there was months of empty attendance. As someone who works in game presentation and gameday events, this must have been an awkward dynamic. Can you take us through some of the challenges and unique strategies you and your team employed (including hosting home games in other teams stadiums)?
During Covid, we played home matches out of three different stadiums, in three different cities. From MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, to Portland and finally Salt Lake, we had a fair share of challenges looking to integrate our show into different stadiums. Completely empty stadiums for the most part at that.
Each stadium along the way, we pivoted to provide premium advertising space and opportunities for our partners, delivered excitement and energy for our players and staff, and integrated a show that would be impactful for both audio and visual on broadcast.
Every stadium provided its different set of challenges as they were all different, with different capabilities, but we rolled with the punches like we always do.
As a team, we did our best to always be adaptable and open to new ideas. That was probably one of the best strategies and approaches we took in a very difficult situation.
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5How refreshing was it to see fans back in stadiums and being able to fully engage with the city of Vancouver after so much time away? Were there any challenges created from being away from home for so long?
Coming back home after so much time away was an exhilarating feeling.
I missed being back in the booth, working with my team, and putting on shows for our fans in our stadium.
That first game back, I won’t forget that feeling of live events adrenaline returning and having the biggest smile on my face.
In terms of fan development, we pivoted a lot of our show to tell the story of what it was like being away for so long.
Educating our fans on what life was like on the road and from there, taking the story to feed into how good it felt to be back in front of our fans. We wanted to tell the story of how important our fans are for our team and build that connection back between fans and team.
It wasn’t an easy process having fans return. There were a lot of restrictions to our on-field activations, stringent measures for personnel approval, and a desire to make our space safe, while fun, for everyone. But, like we always try to do, we pivoted and again took the punches as they came.
Over time, we were able to add more and more elements back into our show and it was exciting to see more and more fans return.
6How has the lasting affects of closed-door sports games and limited attendance changed the way teams have gone about game day presentation? Were there any unique strategies or practices that remained even after the lockdowns ended, or is it your goal to get things back to the way they were before as soon as possible?
The pandemic made us review and think critically about every part of our show. Not only from a budgetary sense, but a deep look into how we connect with our fans.
It was an exercise of kind of starting from scratch and seeing what traditions we wanted to keep and ones that we knew we wanted to start. We continue this practice today.
We brainstorm ways to provide more traditions with our fans and supporters while thinking about ways to heighten current ones. It is a constant reflection about what parts of the show really matter, how we can improve those parts, and remove other parts that aren’t really moving the needle.
Therefore, I would say we aren’t looking at just creating the same show pre-pandemic but have gathered more information in these last couple years to produce a new and improved show for many years to come.
Bilal's Final Thoughts
Jeremy Benjamin, Manager of Events and Game Presentation for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC details an important lesson for anyone trying to make a splash in the sports industry. It doesn't matter what your background or experience is, as long as you have the commitment, creativity, and most importantly, the dedication to push forward, you can make an impact in the world of sports. Jeremy's education may have pointed him in one direction, but his passion for sports told him to pursue something much more fulfilling, even if it felt like 'a pipe dream'. Working his way up from a coordinator position in grassroots marketing to now directly impacting the Whitecaps operations as a Manager for gameday events and experience, we can see how anyone with the right personality, ideas, and work ethic belongs somewhere in the world of sports. A chance to celebrate with the Voyageurs Cup was a fitting reward for him and his team's tireless work navigating game events throughout the pandemic.