My goal is to stay connected to our staff and the initiatives and campaigns that are ongoing, support my teams in any way possible and offer advice and guidance to ensure we are working to achieve goals and targets.
Director of Ticket Sales and Service
Toronto Blue Jays
The interview with John Santana 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 Director of Ticket Sales and Service for the Toronto Blue Jays and what does a typical day look like for you?
First off, thank you for reaching out and for providing the opportunity to share a little bit about myself and some thoughts/advice for our future sport management professionals.
In my role I oversee our sales and service teams, helping plan and strategize retention and new business for season tickets, luxury suites, smaller ticket packs and group sales.
A typical day involves working together with not only the sales and service teams, but with other key teams around the organization, to develop ticketing and servicing strategies that fit the needs of our fans.
Generally, each day is filled with meetings ranging from one on one chats to team huddles to larger working groups conversations.
Even in our new, virtual world, sometimes it’s challenging to find the time!
But overall, my goal is to stay connected to our staff and the initiatives and campaigns that are ongoing, support my teams in any way possible and offer advice and guidance to ensure we are working to achieve goals and targets.
2You have been very successful in your role as the Director of Ticket Sales and Service, with over 10 years of success with the Toronto Blue Jays, and strengths in developing strategic ticket sales plans, planning and executing sales campaigns, generating revenue and ticket sales growth and managing, training, and coaching your sales team. What are the main skills that you use to ensure that you are always performing at your full potential in this role?
Our general philosophy across the organization is that collaboration, teamwork and strong culture will allow our entire team to perform at its full potential. And I couldn’t agree more.
Over the years I have found that making decisions in a vacuum is not effective. Too often when we feel we are the only ones that have the answers it means we have not fully and thoroughly considered all solutions.
I feel that I perform at my best when I am actively listening to ideas and strategies, providing constructive feedback when needed and ultimately making decisions together with the group I am working with.
This approach empowers everyone involved in the process.
And the most effective and highly productive teams I have worked with all have one thing in common: a strong culture.
I know that term is overused at times, but I know firsthand, what a respectful, transparent and values-driven culture can accomplish.
When a group of talented people work together and decide that it doesn’t matter who gets the “credit” for work, the results can be truly amazing.
3What would you say are your 3 secrets to success?
I wouldn’t really call them secrets, but any success I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy has come from building relationships, working together and being flexible and adaptable.
I have been fortunate to be part of the Blue Jays team for many years and have seen organizational priorities and objectives change over time. Many times, a change in leadership is accompanied by a change in direction.
But regardless of what direction our business takes, I have always prioritized creating and maintaining meaningful relationships with colleagues.
Taking some time to know the people that you are working with, understanding what personally drives them to succeed and how you can be a positive influence on them – building long-lasting relationships helps drive success.
And as you begin developing those relationships it makes working together so much easier. Teamwork and collaboration are more than just trendy words.
I believe that including many voices and opinions in the decision-making process leads to stronger and better ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come from someone whose expertise is in another area of the business. And that kind of teamwork feels the most rewarding.
Finally, I’ve worked hard to remain as flexible and adaptable as possible. Many times, it feels as though the only certainty in the world of sports is that things will constantly change.
I’ve done my best to be open to new ideas, new ways of thinking and new processes that can help our team get better every day. The circumstance we all find ourselves in today is the perfect example.
I’m not sure anyone was ready for being a sports professional during a pandemic. Our industry has changed and will continue to change over the coming years. Embracing that change is key and ensuring that you are prepared and open to change, will help lead to long term success.
4How did your education in Sport & Event Marketing and Commerce, Economics & Finance prepare you for your current role as a Director of Ticket Sales & Service?
Both educational opportunities were helpful to my personal development in different ways.
I was able to build a foundational base of business knowledge at that I still tap into today. Working through sales plans, sales projections and budgeting considerations would have been challenging without many key learnings.
The Sport & Event Marketing program was my first real introduction to the business of sports. In a short period of time, I was able to apply what I learned to real life scenarios through internships. I learned the value of connecting with people and have developed both professional and personal relationships that I still maintain to this day.
The Sport & Event Marketing program holds a special place in my heart. It’s there that I was fortunate enough to apply for an entry-level sales role with the Blue Jays. It allowed me to get my “foot in the door” and I haven’t left since!
5It is evident that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major change in all aspects of the sport industry. How has your role changed?
Adapting to working from home has been challenging, but also rewarding.
Connecting virtually with the Team and with our fans has been different, but we have transitioned smoothly and without issue. Like everyone else, Zoom calls have replaced face to face meetings, but it’s also provided with an opportunity for our Team to connect and get closer.
We’ve made a lot of strides improving levels of engagement and communication and plan on implementing some of our new team initiatives (daily check-ins, huddles, etc.) when things begin to normalize.
Over the course of a normal year, planning and strategizing has also involved cross-functional teams/support, where data-driven analysis has been extremely helpful in guiding decisions.
In this not so normal year, that level of teamwork and data has been elevated. To ensure that we are fully prepared in such uncertain times, so much additional scenario planning is required. And even though many of the scenarios we are planning for may not materialize, it’s been rewarding to see all the effort going into providing the safest possible experience for our fans when baseball eventually returns to Toronto.
Emma's Final Thoughts
John Santana, Toronto Blue Jays' Director of Ticket Sales and Service, emphasizes the importance of creating and maintaining positive, meaningful relationships with colleagues, as they have contributed to his successful career. His leadership approach is what really stuck out to me in this interview. John makes it a priority to listen and collaborate with the people around him. Creating and maintaining a strong workplace culture is something John believes leads to success within a company. John shares some great tips for being successful in the sport industry and also touches on the importance of internships!