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Sports Public Relations: Expect Hard Work, Enjoy the Rewards!

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Kevin Donnellon, President/ Donnellon Public Relations

What is sports public relations? For simplicity's sake, I have broken my discussion of it into three areas throughout this article:
  • Sports team/event public relations

  • Sporting goods company public relations

  • Sports promotion/marketing program public relations
What's Involved in These Areas of Sports PR Team/Event Public Relations

You will play a pivotal role for the team/event as a public relations person. The Chicago Bulls public relations staff members can testify to the importance of this role. They probably managed tens of thousands of media calls during the team's 1991-92 championship season. That is probably why the team and players seemed to have such a positive image and have been involved in so many commercial endorsements.

In this area, an entry level person can be responsible for a variety of activities including:
  • Arranging special promotion/game days at the stadium;

  • Supplying reporters with facts for use in their stories;

  • Writing or editing publications, such as yearbooks and programs;

  • Staging community events at area clubs and malls;

  • Positioning players and the team with local fans.
Sporting Goods Company Public Relations

You will have an influential role because such companies' typical advertising budgets are relatively small, so the public relations effort has to carry the load of making (and keeping) the company visible. This is also a "relationship business" where the customer interaction provided through a public relations program is important.

The responsibilities of the public relations department are similar to those of many companies. You will most likely:
  • Write and edit media kits and brochures;

  • Contact various media to develop stories;

  • Plan events in the field;

  • Plan and attend media visits for company spokespeople to promote products;

  • Develop programs to support product introductions and repositioning programs.
Sports Promotion/Marketing Public Relations

If the program is an expensive, high level one, the role of public relations will be very important, since they will be responsible for managing the program. This is especially critical for beer and cigarette companies that sponsor many sports events, such as horse races, auto races, and many other more conventional sporting events.

Typically, you will do the following:
  • Develop and execute comprehensive publicity programs to support the promotion/marketing program;

  • Stage special events;

  • Schedule pro athlete appearances;

  • Manage an event working with the media, arranging for food, entertainment, and signage.
Entry Level Jobs: The Differences...

Team/Sports Event Public Relations

Your title will be marketing assistant, public relations assistant, or, possibly even clerk. You will be expected to be a jack of all trades writing releases, planning events, researching stories and community activities, and scheduling player appearances. You also could be called upon to do more trivial chores, like driving athletes or VIPs to airports or meetings. You will be expected to be a team player. Despite all this, you will experience a great deal of excitement I will always remember a friend's photo that shows him holding the NBA Championship Trophy on the floor of Boston Garden he was a public relations assistant at the time, but as close to the celebration as anyone could have hoped to be. You could expect to stay in this type of job for about two years. Your next promotion could be to a managerial level with a title such as supervisor or manager.

Sporting Goods Company Public Relations

Your title will be public relations assistant at a company or assistant account executive at an agency. Your job will include writing, planning, researching, working with the media to develop stories about the company and its products the type of activities you can expect to do on any type of business. But your life should be rather enjoyable as you travel and work with athletes. You can expect to be in this position also for about two years, although independent workers can expect to move faster at agencies.

Ten Years Have Passed Already???

By the time you reach the tenth anniversary of your first day on the job, you will begin to have broader management responsibilities. You will probably be managing a staff of four or more people. The day to day writing, editing, and managing athletes time will be reduced. People working for you will handle those responsibilities. You will be responsible for developing the program your staff will execute and the budget required to fund the program. As such, you will become more accountable to management. Your program will be presented to them based on their overall objectives for the organization.

Best Selling Sporting Goods Brands Ranked by sales:

1. Mizuno

2. Wilson

3. Titieist

4. Spalding

5. Champion Source: Adweek's Marketing Week

At this stage, you will start to become more visible in the industry and community. Now you might assume the responsibility for speaking for your organization before these industry and community groups and, most likely, the media. You also should be considering supplementing your on the job experiences with industry or post graduate courses. By now you should have the experience to know what "gaps" in your training or education need to be filled. I have been fortunate to work with a variety of marketing companies, including P&G, Quaker, Borden, McNeill Labs, Citicorp, and Frito Lay. I've gleaned a lot from the programs we have executed and people I have met at these companies. But I still attend PRSA, IABC, and related communications industry luncheons and seminars as often as I can to keep up with techniques and approaches that might be useful later in my career.

What courses will be most appropriate at this stage? Think about a solid marketing class, so you can at least keep up with the marketing plans and strategies. Be sure you learn about basic research techniques so you can understand your customer and publics. Classes in budget management, creativity, and managing people will at least expose or sharpen skills in the areas critical to your job.

Your title could be director or in some organizations (agencies, small companies, and possibly with a team) vice president Your salary can double from the previous range it could be between $60,000 and $80,000, but you will earn it The greatest satisfaction at this stage is that your ideas represented in the program and day to day management of your staff will achieve results influencing public attitudes, increasing product sales, or building attendance. Ifs a fulfilling experience!
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