Amanda Schutte — Partner Services Coordinator at Michigan IMG Sports Marketing
University of Michigan, B.A. in Sport Management, 2011
One of the most important things I have learned is there is no traditional path when it comes to a career in sport business. Throughout my senior year I set up countless informational calls with established executives in the industry simply to learn about their backgrounds and experiences, and make as many connections as possible. Career path was always one of the first things I asked about. I was particularly curious since graduation was drawing near and the pressure to find a job, especially in the field I wanted to go into, was mounting. Everyone had a completely different story. From starting out on the agency side to moving to a team or league (or vice versa), to starting outside of sport and steering their way in, to taking any internship they could find, to starting in a more corporate setting and moving to a more entrepreneurial atmosphere, to changing one’s type of role (for example from marketing to sponsorship), I heard it all.
I didn’t know what to make of this discovery. On one hand I felt hopeful that there were so many different avenues that could lead to my goal and aspirations; but conversely, I felt overwhelmed with where and how to even begin. What I ended up doing is building my own network of contacts and making sure to both expand that network and keep a strong dialogue with those I already had relationships with. I know the term “networking” can be overused and seem like a daunting task, but trust me when I say it is critical to finding your way in the sport business industry.
Don’t get me wrong, I did spend time applying to various job postings online. However, when I look at the advancements I have made in my career, they did not happen because I applied to random jobs online. Instead, they occurred because I kept in touch with my connections and thus was top of mind when relevant opportunities came up. This is exactly how I secured the job I have today.
All in all, I am still relatively new to the industry and the real world in the grand scheme of things, so I don’t have enough experience to justify telling any college student or recent graduate what to do. What I can do is share my story and key lessons I have learned in hopes that you all can find yourself in a job that makes you feel like mine does every day.
Upon graduating from U of M, I had a full time job with a small marketing agency and a part time position with the Cubs waiting for me in Chicago. In my full time position, I worked on everything pre-sale (ideation, proposal generation, research, budgeting etc.) for different marketing campaigns we would pitch. I got a lot of responsibility and hands on experience since it was a small agency; but after about a year at the company I realized I wasn’t passionate about what we were representing. I found myself constantly reading about what was going on in the sport industry and thirsty for more challenge and growth. I felt that if I didn’t start to steer my career towards what I wanted to do- sport sponsorship- I would fall behind everyone else I would be competing with for the limited jobs in this field.
After a few months of putting feelers out within my network, I was interviewing at a few places I found myself in a situation where I had to choose between staying with the full time, full benefits job I wasn’t passionate about, accepting an internship with the Cubs, or foregoing the Cubs offer and taking a chance as a final round candidate for a position with the Bears. After a sleepless night and a long run, I decided to go with my gut- the Cubs. Although it wasn’t the most financially sound decision in the short term, I knew that it was a move I needed to make for my career in the long run.
My role with the Cubs involved doing Brand Activation for the Marketing Department, which basically involved working on any brand-focused initiative designed to further activate the Cubs brand and build profitability. It was quite a learning experience, starting right after Opening Day and in the midst of a lot of personnel changes and restructuring. By the end of the season I felt myself losing passion for a sport that had always been an important part of my life and questioning my potential for advancing within the organization.
Then one day I got a call from someone in my “network” who I had kept in touch with. I was caught off guard when he asked me if I would consider moving back to Michigan to which I replied, “Why? I love Chicago.” Then when he told me that IMG College was going to have a position opening with the Michigan property working on the activation side of sponsorship my jaw dropped. Not only was it exactly what I had wanted to do since my days as an intern at Madison Square Garden, but it was for one of the most prestigious companies in the industry and my alma matter. I was definitely interested.
I have now been with Michigan IMG College Sports Marketing for a little over seven months and cannot imagine a better position for me. My role is comprised of inventory management, activation and fulfillment of our partnership agreements, and serving as the day-to-day contact for both corporate partners and Michigan Athletics. I also help with the sales process, whether with renewals or new business for local, regional or national IMG partnerships.
Each day is different and I finish knowing something I hadn’t that morning. Representing one of the most powerful brands in the world is both a blessing and a curse. The ever-changing college space is always presenting new opportunities, with a constant battle between tradition and innovation. Having the access to IMG’s vast resources and being a part of IMG’s true engine of growth (IMG College) is incredible. But most of all, I finish every day in love with my job.
Overall, sports is a very unique industry. Although it is difficult to get into, once you get your foot in the door it’s amazing how interconnected it is and how willing everyone is to help each other out. Remember that they were in your shoes once. It’s almost as if despite everyone working for competing teams/leagues/organizations, we are all on the same team at the end of the day. It can be a bit of an old boys culture at times, but I can say to all women never get discouraged. Women are gaining more presence and respect in the industry than ever before.
The last piece of advice I have is while it’s good to recognize your weaknesses and work to improve them, learn what your strengths are and how to capitalize on them to create your own brand and competitive advantage. With the sizeable demand of people who want to work in sport and the limited supply of jobs, it is vital to show how you would be an invaluable asset to any organization. Stay true to your brand and the opportunities will come.
Here is a short, interesting video that explains a bit more about IMG College:
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