Featured Advisory Board Member: Jeff Armstrong, The Richards Group
DISE advisory board member Jeff Armstrong co-leads the Richards Partnership Marketing team at The Richards Group here in Dallas. Jeff has more than 20 years of experience in the sports, entertainment, and cause marketing space, and we’re fortunate that he brings his wealth of knowledge and expertise to our advisory board.
We caught up with Jeff to ask him some questions about the sports industry, his background, and how to get your foot in the door at a sports marketing agency.
How long have you been in your current position, and what career path did you take to get there?
Officially, five years. However, I was planning and buying sports media for 17 years prior to that. About five years ago, I had an opportunity to focus more of my time and efforts on sports marketing within The Richards Group - the company that I’ve worked for since 1997.
What are some of the challenges faced right now in your corner of the industry? What are the biggest opportunities?
Ironically, our biggest challenge is also our biggest opportunity. Working within an agency, our business is dependent on acquiring and retaining clients with sports, entertainment and cause needs. Many prospective clients that we meet do not have a dedicated sports marketing strategy or a qualified team in place to execute their sports marketing initiatives. They often shortchange the effort and take a DIY approach instead of involving consultants like us. In our experience, once we win a new client, they quickly see the value that we bring and realize that they had not previously given their sports strategy the focus and expertise that it deserved. Pursuing new clients and convincing them that we can improve their business is our biggest challenge and opportunity.
Where do you see the future of the Dallas-Fort Worth sports and entertainment industry? What about the local market and business community excites you?
The future of sports and entertainment in DFW is extremely bright. The influx of new corporations, the smart and talented people that they bring to the market, the local businesses that they partner with and the money that they infuse into the economy can only help grow our industry in the future. It also helps when the major sports teams in the market are competitive and winning – something that seems to be trending in the right direction as of late. Deep playoff runs and star player acquisitions pump energy into the market which increases interest, attendance, TV/radio ratings and the overall value of sponsorships.
Do you see the landscape of sports and entertainment sponsorships shifting? If so, how?
Obvious answer - its shifting away from traditional methods like signage and media to more experiential and digital. The rise of eSports, especially in DFW, is a good example of this.
What advice would you give to someone looking to join an agency and work in sports marketing or sponsorships?
Stay hungry and humble. Do good work, package it up tight and sell it in. This advice can apply just as much to a job interview with a future employer as it can to selling in a new business proposal to a prospective client. Also, network as much as possible. Make connections – lots of them! You saying that you’re great comes off as hollow and arrogant. A respected colleague that you’ve worked with saying that you’re great is far more valuable and could get you hired.
What is the most sought-after skill set for someone working at an agency right now?
Know the game. Read the box scores. Watch SportsCenter. Subscribe to and read all of the industry trade magazines and emails. I see too many “traditional marketers” trying to influence how sponsorships are executed without knowing the nuances of the game, the players, management, competitors, the lexicon, etc. Be able to talk the talk or you will quickly come off as a rookie and lose credibility.
What would you say was the best advice you received in your career?
Never get complacent. I’ve always thought that a touch of fear and paranoia was a good thing. Fear of not impressing. Fear of being replaced. Fear of losing a deal. It keeps you on your toes and can be a motivating force. You can’t replace hard work and you can’t fake experience. Always look for that next opportunity, that next client, that next good connection and once you have an opening, blow them away from day 1 with your knowledge, your thoroughness and your willingness to own the problem.