There are two types of sports publicists: those who work for professional and amateur teams and those who work for individual professional athletes. Sports team publicists handle the daily press operations for the organization. They handle the media relations, set up interviews with players, ensure that the correct information is distributed to the press, and write press releases. Individual sports publicists, who work for individual players, try to enhance their client’s image by casting them in a positive light via newspaper, magazine, and television stories. Sports publicists are sometimes called sports information directors, press agents, public relations (PR) directors, marketing directors, or directors of communication.
History of Sports Publicist Career
Sports have matured into one of our nation’s largest businesses. Professional teams are the most widely recognized industry segment in sports. Professional teams include all of the various sports teams, leagues, and governing bodies for which individuals get paid for their performance. Some of the most notable organizations include the National Football League, National Basketball League, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball. These are commonly known as the four majors. During recent decades, more professional leagues have started, such as the Women’s National Basketball League, the Arena Football League, and Major League Soccer. There are also many minor league and collegiate organizations.
The Job of Sports Publicist Career
Sports publicists are responsible for all of the team’s publications, including media guides, programs for all home games, schedule cards, mail order brochures, recruiting kits, annual reports, and booster club newsletters. They also handle all of the team’s publicity, which includes news and feature releases, news conferences and background information, photography, media interviews, and media tours.
Sports publicists also deal with game management, which includes announcers, scoreboard operations, telephone hook-ups, scorers, officiating facilities, press box seating and credentials, broadcast facilities, video facilities, and travel and lodging. They also are in charge of generating crowd participation by developing promotions, giveaways, half-time exhibitions, and music. Publicists also help design the team’s uniform insignia and team banners.
Sports information directors might have other responsibilities, such as creating and placing advertising, attending league meetings, conventions, and workshops, coordinating booster club activities, fundraising, fan surveys, budgets, equipment negotiations, licensing, and merchandising. Unlike other public relations practitioners, most sports information directors promote their competition as well as the team they work for. The better the opposition, the better the fan interest and ticket sales.
Collegiate publicists might not be affiliated with the college or university’s public relations department, but instead might be housed under the athletic department.
Publicists who work for athletes constantly create publicity and news events to get their clients into the spotlight. Many publicists try to show their clients in a positive light by having the athletes participate in goodwill appearances or work with organizations like the United Way. Maintaining a positive image increases the athletes’ potential income and market value.
Sports Publicist Career Requirements
As a sports publicist, you are the voice of the person or team that you represent, so being an effective communicator is very important. Take classes in English and journalism to hone your writing skills, and take speech classes to help you learn how to compose your ideas and thoughts and convey them to an audience. You should also take other college preparatory classes, such as math, science, and foreign language. Since you will be dealing with the public, a general knowledge of history, sociology, psychology, and current events will be especially important.
Most publicists working in the sports industry are college graduates with degrees in public relations, marketing, communications, journalism, or sports administration. A college degree is essential, according to the Public Relations Society of America.
Certification or Licensing
The Public Relations Society of America offers voluntary certification to public relations specialists. While this certification is not sportsrelated, it will help show prospective employers that you possess a high level of knowledge and experience. Candidates who pass a written and oral examination are designated as accredited in public relations.
In order to be a successful sports publicist, you should be outgoing and able to get along with many different types of people. Participate in sports or be a team manager in high school or college so that you become familiar with the lifestyle of an athlete and you can relate to it. You should also be organized and able to work well under stress, since you will likely be dealing with big-name clients.
Exploring Sports Publicist Career
Ask your teacher or counselor to set up an informational interview with a publicist. Volunteer to handle various public relations-type duties for your high school sports teams or clubs. Run for student council or another leadership position at school to gain experience with public speaking and management. Read publications such as Sports Illustrated (http://www.si.com/) and Sports Business Journal (http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal.aspx), and attend sporting events so that you stay current on sports knowledge. It is also a good idea to volunteer to assist your school’s athletic department (in high school or college); you may be able to have a hand in developing a team’s media guide or programs. Cover sports for your college newspaper so that you will have some clips to show employers.
Sports publicists work in one of three areas. Some work for public relations firms that handle athletes or sportsoriented events. Others work directly for sports teams in their front offices. Some are self-employed, working directly with clients.
The best way to enter public relations at the professional sports level is by gaining experience at the collegiate ranks. There are many internships available at this level, and getting one is the best way to get your foot in the door. As an intern, you may be asked to contribute to publications and to write and prepare press releases. This experience will give you a great opportunity not only to learn how to generate all of this material, but also to begin collecting samples of your writing and to develop your clip file. Every interviewer you will meet will ask you for your clip file, since they provide proof of your journalistic and PR writing skills.
There are also training programs within established public relations companies.
“Like baseball players, front office staff generally look to advance to higher levels, from single-A to double-A or triple-A onto the majors,” says Gary Radke, former marketing director of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers minor league baseball team. “Within the given organizations, there really isn’t much in the way of advancement because everyone is basically at the same level. Upper-management positions are the general manager and assistant general manager.”
Sports publicists can earn anywhere from $20,000 to more than $250,000 per year. People just starting out might make less, while those with proven track records command higher salaries. Publicists who work for individual athletes can earn more money.
“Minor league marketing directors make anywhere from $21,000 up to $60,000,” says Gary Radke. “I received health insurance, 10 sick days, two personal days, apparel discounts, health club memberships, and free soda at the games.”
During the season, sports publicists may work 12- to 20-hour days, seven days a week. Since most sporting events take place in the evening or on weekends, and half are played on the road, sports publicists spend a lot of time on the job. Some publicists travel with their teams, while others do not. Either way, this job is very time consuming.