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Home  > Insider profile
Steven Merrill
Head of Marketing

I love marketing and I love sports.

What have been the most defining moments along your career path?

I don't think I ever said that I wanted to be "in sports" because I didn't know that you could do anything with sports and actually get paid for it. I've always been hooked on sports, ever sincer I was really young. You know, my dad has had season tickets to the Celtics so I grew up around it. Now it's turning into a pretty amazing industry, though. I'm speaking growth-wise. I graduated from college in '81 and, I mean, how many people did the NBA have working for them in '81? Around 35? It's really really grown since then. It's largely due to the whole "sport as entertainment" concept. It's a boom of a sort, even though there still aren't that many jobs available. When you think about it, you have your people who work for teams and leagues which is not that many people, even with the increased number of franchises. They're the ones in charge of putting on what I would call the "events" side of everything, the games. And then the whole rest of the industry is composed of the people that market and sponsor these people's products, that is to say, the athletes and the games. Most of this industry is marketing and sponsorship and that's where I fit into it.

How did you get your big breaks?

I got my first job in as a radio commentator for the major indoor soccer league team, the Cleveland Force. You'll probably hear stories like this repeated all the time from people in this industry because we all got into it the same way--by accident. I had gotten my degree in Communications. I was big into radio and TV at that time. So when I was working for this team, I also had to meet with people, etc. And that's where I got to know my future boss who eventually hired me away to become the Head of Promotions and Operations for another team. It's one of those things where you "know somebody". You'll hear that from a whole lot of people in this industry.?That's why I think it is probably very very tough for someone to get a job in this industry without doing any personal interfacing. Sending in a resume blind--you'll have a very slim chance of even getting an interview. I basically kept falling into things from that job onward. I worked for the NFL and the NHL for a short time. I worked for a network. Actually, there's a great story about jobs that's infamous in our industry. Once, the Chicago Cubs were in the first round of play-offs. And a position, Vice-President of Marketing opened up there. Now, somehow the fact that they were looking for a VP somehow got into the newspaper. And they received thousands and thousands of resumes! CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were offering to give up their jobs. People off the street who had been fans of the Cubs for years and thought they could do it sent their resumes in. It was amazing! But that goes to show you how much people want to get in the sports business.

What was the best advice you received when you were first starting out in your career?

Don't be arrogant. Don't have an attitude like you know everything and can do everything. In truth, people like that usually know nothing about the business, and people get turned off by that very quickly.

What have you learned from your experience?

Just because you've been a fan of such-and-such team for years doesn't mean that you know anything, and I mean anything, about what goes on behind the scenes in the sports business. It's key to have a skill that you can parlay into sports. I only got my job because I knew a whole lot about promotions and marketing. If you don't know at least one or two of the areas pretty well, then you don't really have a chance. They don't hire people off the street. They hire people with usable, marketable skills. I'd also say, get in as early as you can. Get involved with your high school teams, your college teams. Don't wait. I just remembered this--I was working as a "stringer" for our local newspaper when I was in high school. I would just report the scores fo games to them, but it paid a few bucks. College degrees are also very important. GPAs can be tiebreakers. You have to have a degree, BUT I would advise people to put their EXPERIENCE first on their resumes. Unless you're going for a job in education or something, don't put your college stuff first. A Human Resources person should be able to see right off the bat whether you have any relevant experience in sports. We get so many resumes that if it's hidden then they'll probably miss it. It's a hard industry to break into. It's like acting, why do you think so many actors are waiting tables? There's only so many positions, not everyone can be a star. No one will ever hand you a job around here. That's why I say you need to use every resource you've got to get in. Networking is of supreme importance. Your away from the classroom activities are also super important. You have to get experience, somehow, even if it means working during the school year so that you can take an unpaid internship in the summer.

What most excites you about your job right now?

The hours are worth it. It's a totally satisfying job. It is a JOB. You know, I have to conduct myself professionally. You have to have enthusiasm for your WORK, not just the sport that you're working on. You have to have excitement for your job. There are millions of people with a passion for sports. Yuu could probably count most males in America in that category. And I guess if you're working in something that you like then you automatically have a passion for your job. But you're hired to do a job. And there's great fringe benefits like going to games, all that. I love my job. I love putting together promotions and programs. I love getting a product that I believe in front of other people. I love marketing and I love sports.

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