Honestly - I cannot tell you how often I hear this when I explain what I do: I work in global sports marketing. What the heck is that? It is essentially the wrangling of professional athletes - making sure they have on the proper product. We make sure that the athlete is promoted properly, and the company is as well.
Yes - I travel the world. Yes - I hang out with some of the top notch athletes. BUT, it really isn't as glorious as that: there are the trans-ocean flights in economy, there are the sleepless nights, and multiple 100+ pound bags.
A few weeks ago - one of my friends (whom used to do the same line of work as I currently do) and I started cracking up - because, there are so many things that people don't understand about this job. SO I am going to do my best at debunking the world of sports marketing (or at least my experiences so far).
Before I started this role - I always dreamt of being in sports marketing. I wanted to hang with athletes, and do all the cool things that the SM managers (in my mind they were the untouchables) got to do...but...a year and a half later I have learned a thing or two...ha!
Debunk #1: You get to travel the world!
Yes! You are correct. Thus far in 2016, I have gone to: Australia, Africa, France, Italy a few times, a couple places in Belgium, I will be in Brasil soon, probably back in a few more tropical countries and the land of pasta before we hit the new year.
However, what you forget is - you may be going to all these wonderful countries and racking up the miles for what you like to imagine you'll use for personal travel...but...you are flying in the back of the bus. By the time you arrive your back is killing you from contorting yourself into a pretzel like position to try to sleep comfortably- you probably smell like a mix of morning breath and recycled cabin air.
As one of my co-workers says: no matter your status, they still treat you like crap.
Sure, I may have diamond-platinum-sparkle status on two-different airlines. At the end of the day, what does that do? It let's me get on the plane before everyone else - and have a different phone number to call for troubleshooting a missed or cancelled flight.
You do however, become an airport aficionado which is cool and your yearly book reading list becomes 10-fold longer.
You are eating airplane food. There is unfortunately no avoiding it. As much as I have tried to plan, and properly pack, etc. You'll be diving into one of those oblong aluminum shaped dishes filled with over cooked-over sauced pasta, and a wilted salad. Stay away from the meat.
Now, don't get me wrong - I do get to travel the world. I have been able to see some amazing places. I mean, when am I ever going to see Monet's Garden again?! Or be in physical attendance for the day Cavendish took his first yellow jerseys at Le Tour de France...
...and when you aren't flying? Chances are you are spending a lot of time driving - and keeping your fingers crossed that Siri doesn't lead you astray in directions.
Debunk #2: You get to go to the best parties!
Nope. I actually don't think that I have ever been to a party since I have taken the job. Of course, I am sure that I missed out (by being in high school) on all those amazing X-Games, bike race and other odd promotional parties that used to happen. No crazy drunken nights of rubbing elbows with elite athletes. No insane gift bags and paparazzi.
My party consists of a bottle of wine from the local market that lasts me the entire trip. And, bed around 8pm, split with a brief stint of yoga at 3am to try to put me back to sleep. Thanks jet lag.
Debunk #3: You get to eat amazing gourmet meals in Europe!
Well, if you aren't bogged down from jet lag, and feel like going out alone to decipher the foreign language...sure. Chances are you will have a great meal for next to nothing.
I force myself to walk around and explore the local town upon my arrival to avoid any and all jet lag. NO NAPS! One time, I was in the small Tuscany city of Lucca - I quickly found out that not grabbing euros at the airport was a horrid idea - as credit cards seemed to be a thing of the future. You don't speak Italian? You better hope your "pointing at food game" is strong and you have a few extra euros in your coin purse from that last time you were in Europe.
Debunk #4: You get to hang out with professional athletes all the time!
Yes - I do. It is pretty neat to be able to chum it up with some of the best athletes in the world. But, most of the time that you are around the athletes you are there working, and so are they.
Athletes, or in my case riders, have blinders on and are extremely focused on what their job is.
Just like us, their sport is their job. Their livelihood - in the world of cycling, their life can change in the blink of an eye. They need to be successful and victorious for pay - just as much as we have to do outstanding noticable work to make sure we are not chopped.
This job consists of a lot more than just hanging out with athletes and seeding product. Believe it or not, this is a desk job. It requires a lot of strategical planning, budget balancing, staring at a computer, coming up with the perfect copy to go with a perfect product/athlete image.
When it is tour season, you are spending countless hours traveling from hotel to hotel. You are staying up organizing product until wee-hours of the morning. It's raining? Well, put on that coat because you are going out to fix all the riders lenses before the start.
Debunk #5: You have so much product!
You're right! I sure do. I also have a lot of people that want to be friends with me because of this. If I want to share, I will share (and, I love seeing people smile when they slip on a new pair of shades).
How does the product get across the world? Well, you ship it or you carry it. If you ship it you're at risk of it getting stuck in customs - if you carry it, you're at risk getting caught in customs. I always recommend carrying an international invoice with you!
Did I mention, these bags of product can sometimes be the same size that I am and weigh just as much? Close your eyes - and imagine my little frame toting a personal bag, a bike bag and roughly 1 - 2 body bag roller bags for work. Ta-da - that is the life of sports marketing - at least you don't have to go to the gym to get ripped!
Debunk #6: You must ride all the time!
Actually no. Chances are you are hired for this job because you show an extreme passion for the sport that you now support. I used to average over 300 miles a-week on my bikes - I was fast a lightening. Then, I started traveling - which means I am are not riding - which means you're get slow (and potentially fat). Don't get me wrong - I was able to ride in Australia, which was a kick in the pants and spent a month in Africa racing/working. But, at the end of the day you are not averaging you 300 miles a week anymore - unless you are a superhuman?
When I arrive home from a trip, I like to think that I am going to go and ride my brains out - until I remember how shitty jet lag can be and that your new favorite sport is sleeping. I am no jet-lag ninja - although, that would be pretty cool!
Debunk #7: You must get so much free stuff!
Maybe it is just me, but, I still pay for a boat load of the product that I use for my own cycling and skiing endeavors.
Debunk #8: I bet your fluent in multiple languages? How many do you speak?
I speak one. English - trust me I wish I spoke more.
What I do is pretty unique. Yes, I have traveled the world. Yes, I hang out with pretty nifty people. I honestly wouldn't trade my experiences for anything - being in sports marketing has helped me grow as a person - it has helped me become much more brave, and stick up for what I believe it. This job has taught me how to succumb to awkward situations, and how to spend countless days alone. This job has allowed me to have friends across the world - and capture my inner adventurer. It has taught me that work is not all glitz and glam. It has taught me that no matter what I always need to pack at least four pairs of shoes, ha! ;)