A Career in Sports Marketing: The Promotional Side of Athletics

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A sports marketing team looks at data on a desk.It’s challenging to maintain a successful interscholastic sports program without the right marketing and promotion. Such efforts are necessary to provide the program with a positive public image, making it the type of opportunity that attracts student-athletes. The right marketing strategy can also help bring in spectators and fans, which assists in landing potential sponsors or donors. Sports marketing can even be an important way for an interscholastic athletic program to recruit talented coaches and trainers because they will have a heightened interest in a program that has a positive reputation in the community.

By pursuing a career in sports marketing, individuals can leverage real-world skills in sales, brand development, and public relations as they build out thriving interscholastic athletic programs. A sound strategy for pursuing this rewarding career path includes seeking a formal education, such as an online master’s in athletic administration.

The Importance of Sports Marketing

While in many interscholastic programs the role of sports marketing falls on the athletic director, it is also possible to lead a career dedicated to sports marketing. Those who pursue this career in sports marketing will be tasked with enhancing their program’s public image, not only by promoting the program itself, but also by publicizing specific athletes, events, or even arenas.

Steps in an Athletic Marketing Program

There are several steps or components that are essential to effective sports marketing.

Usually, the process begins with the development of a sports marketing plan, articulating both short-term and long-term goals.
By conducting a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), a sports marketing professional can take stock of existing assets or opportunities to promote the program, as well as address potential concerns or pitfalls.
A sports marketing professional will determine the value proposition that distinguishes their program; in other words, they will develop some of the core reasons why the consumer base might care, whether it’s for the empowerment of students or simple hometown pride.
The sports marketing professional will then determine some of the best channels for promoting the program. These might include local advertisements, sponsorships, or even press events with area sports reporters.

Why Sports Marketing Is Important

Through these steps, sports marketing professionals can develop positive relationships between the athletic program and the community. The potential benefits of a vibrant sports marketing program are numerous. It can drive attendance for athletic events, which in turn generates more revenues and excitement around the program. It can build more interest and participation among student-athletes and their parents. It may also encourage local business owners to consider sponsorships, donations, or other forms of support. Finally, an interscholastic sports program that is well regarded by the local community is more likely to receive assets and resources from the school’s budget.

Essential Sports Marketing Skills

For a successful career in sports marketing, particularly at the interscholastic level, a number of core skills are required.

Advanced communication skills: To be effective in sports marketing, an individual must be adept at communicating in writing, speech, and even through images and infographics. Clearly articulating the value of an interscholastic sports program (and what distinguishes it from club or travel teams in the area) is at the core of this field.
Technical skills: A number of technical skills are required, including managing a marketing budget, implementing different communication channels such as social media, and understanding important interscholastic athletic processes such as fundraising.
Analytical skills: Analytical skills are also required, and may include conducting SWOT analysis and developing marketing plans. The effective marketer will be able to determine the current market positioning of their program and identify both the opportunities to improve it as well as the potential risks and liabilities.
Critical thinking skills: The sports marketing professional must also make some critical decisions about where best to allocate resources, which events or athletes warrant the heaviest promotion, and more.

Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program can help students deepen these competencies and grow to become effective leaders in the field. The program features a Sport Marketing course, which delivers an introduction to marketing and sponsorship principles and how they apply to interscholastic athletic programs. Through enrollment in this course, students will develop a marketing strategy to reach the consumer groups relevant to their own school’s sports program.

A Look at a Sport Marketing Career in Interscholastic Sports

For smaller programs, it might fall to the athletic director to handle most aspects of sports marketing in addition to their other duties. In a larger program, the school might employ a head athletic director as well as an athletic director of marketing and promotion whose sole focus is to build the reputation of the program. Another potential career in sports marketing is consultant. This position works with various athletic departments to address needs or take advantage of opportunities. Consultants may also partner with individual athletes or teams.

Those who have director-level positions that entail sports marketing may be tasked with a wide range of promotion and communication efforts. Job responsibilities can include developing plans to increase public awareness and ticket revenues. The role can encompass serving as a media representative, coordinating with local businesses regarding sponsorship opportunities, and designing social media marketing strategies.

According to data from the compensation website PayScale.com, the median annual salary for a sports marketing consultant is $44,653. An athletic director, meanwhile, earns a median annual salary of $60,384.

Pursue a Career in Sports Marketing

Sports marketing requires a number of robust skill sets. Those who are pursuing this professional path would do well to consider enrolling in Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program.

Ohio University’s Online MAA program is housed within the university’s College of Business, underscoring its dedication to providing world-class sports business education.

The program works in collaboration with the National Intercollegiate Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) to prepare graduates for certification and is accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA).

Recommended Readings:

Thinking Outside the Box: Revenue Sources for Athletic Departments

Legal Protection for Athletic Trainers

Challenges of Adding New Sports to Athletic Programs


Forbes, What You Can Expect From the Future of Public Relations

Houston Chronicle, Athletic Director of Marketing & Promotion Job Description

Houston Chronicle, Steps in a Sports Marketing Plan

PayScale, Average Athletic Director Salary

PayScale, Average Sports Marketing Consultant Salary

Sports in Action, Texas High School Football Marketing Agency