African-American jobs | Jobs for black professionals, from companies that value diversity

Interview: Sports Marketing Executive

Are you interested in a career in sports marketing? This past Major League Baseball player shares his experience transitioning from a professional athlete to a marketing executive for the sport he loves.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I am in the field of online marketing, and I work for a minor league baseball team. I have been working for that team for 4 years now, and I have a grand total of 12 years in professional baseball as a marketing executive. In three adjectives, I would describe myself as “serious,” “dependable,” and “professional.”

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I am a black male. Being a black male has definitely not endeared me to the establishment in baseball. The thing with discrimination these days is that it is done in ways that you cannot report. If I tried to explain it on paper, it would come out sounding weird. The few instances of discrimination that make the news are when someone made a serious mistake. However, there are many more instances of discrimination than anyone can ever account for. I have seen discrimination in a look, in an innocuous comment, and in many sideways jokes. It is never anything serious enough to report, but it is always clear enough, and the attitude of that person becomes evident. I have responded by simply trying to be the best that I can be at my job. My performance must be bulletproof. That is the only thing that works. If I respond by addressing it directly, I take the focus off of what I am there to do.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: What I do is make sure that the audience knows about the team. I put the team schedule out to the public. I make sure that the swag is available in all retail outlet stores. Lately, I have been put in charge of the marketing efforts, as I am the one that knows the most about online marketing within the organization. The common misunderstanding about marketing of any sort is that it is all about promotion. Marketing involves an array of disciplines, including advertising, public relations, and marketing itself. They are all different disciplines.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I would rate my job satisfaction at a 7 right now. To unleash my full enthusiasm, I would require basically that I not work in the South, where the racism is so ingrained that it might as well be the color of the wallpaper. There are just some things that some people can not get past. I am actually thinking of changing organizations currently.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: This job does move my heart, because I love baseball. I love watching the young talent come through here and develop into major league ballplayers. I love the fact that I have brought some of the players to the attention of the majors, and even helped them get signed to their first contracts. I have definitely found my sweet spot, because I am involved with the game that I love, and I take pride in having mastered a professional and technical skill set that was not expected of me.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: I was actually a major league ballplayer for 2 years. I never played in a game, but I was a professional for the San Francisco Giants. I played third base and I came up the ranks through the team that I now work for.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I got started in my current line of work after being released from my contract. My agent said that it was improbable that any other team was going to give me a shot, and so I looked around as to how I could stay in the game. Fortunately I had my college degree to fall back on. I combined the two and started asking people I knew whether they needed a marketing guy. It turns out that the Astros organization had a position open. One of the staff members was a former high school coach of mine, so he gave me my first job in the office of a major league baseball team.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I learned the hard way that discrimination is no joke. I would sometimes be ridiculed for a superior performance by colleagues in an attempt to belittle me in front of the bosses. Surprisingly, sometimes this worked and the boss would join in. That is probably the reason that I am not higher up than I currently am in the hierarchy of baseball. You have to stand up for yourself no matter the consequences. If others control the perception that people have of you, then they control your life.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: I have learned that the working world is unforgiving. You earn what you get, and you earn the right to keep it. Keeping what you have is an earned privilege. Nothing is promised in this world.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: I was actually fired by the Astros after posting positive gains in revenue for the season. The front brass said that none of it was attributable to my contributions. However, the guy after me ran the ballclub into the ground, and they still kept him on. He stayed on for 5 years and dismantled most everything that I tried to do. Those were some bad years for the Astros.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: I get up and go to work for the young kids with the bright futures who just need that one agent to come to the game. I feel especially proud of a certain player that I will not name. I convinced an agent friend of mine to watch him play. He hit 2 homeruns that game and was promptly signed to a major league contract. He ended up playing 10 years in the majors.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: The challenge of discrimination is quite stressful. As far as the job itself, dealing with ad men is the worst. Everybody wants more money every season for the same ads.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: My job is very stressful, as deadlines are imposed upon you from many levels above. I also have to be very flexible, and I am on planes a lot, which I hate. I maintain my work life balance by taking winters completely off. I cut off contact with everybody on the team.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: Rough salary for my position in AA ball is $45K. The same position for a major league team could bring $150K. I live within my means, and there are many benefits during the season. I basically get paid for the entire season, especially on the road, so I save a lot of that $45K.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: I take vacation when the season is over.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: To get hired, you need a degree. To succeed, you need thick skin.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: Any friend considering this line of work better realize that the whole game is a locker room. Turn up the testosterone and don’t turn it off until you go home that night, or they will run you out of there.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: If I could write my own ticket, I would be doing online marketing for the major leagues.