By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Deric Manrique, Vice President at the Manrique Group. A former standout Division I baseball player and graduate of the University of Northern Iowa he has 6 years of sports business experience under his belt with stops including time in the NBA with the Timberwolves along with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. A believer in living everyday “selfless instead of selfish,” Deric was more than willing to offer up his time and insight into the world of sports marketing, why starting in ticket sales on the team side of the industry continues to pay dividends and why being a student athlete has helped him succeed off the field.
You have been a part of a few different organizations and been successful at all of them. What has your journey in the sports business been like so far?
Upon looking back on his career it seemed that Deric has no regrets saying, "It’s been a positive experience and it has been a lot of hard work. The big myth outside the sports industry is the fact that what we do is all glitz and glamour and we get paid a lot of money. If you’re in baseball, you could be working 80-100 hours a week."
Not too different from many other people, Deric began his career in sales. "I started with the Timberwolves when they were the worst team in the NBA and when the Twins were making a playoff run. I was hired to do entry-level ticket sales. For the first month and a half, I didn’t make one single sale. Our day-to-day routine included “hustle goals”."
The first few months were a struggle as "we had to make 80 calls per day. I was averaging 400-450 calls per week. It took more than 1,600 calls before I made my first sale." I had lost my confidence and my drive and "I thought I wasn’t good, and was on the verge of giving up. Luckily I had some good people mentoring me who told me to stick with it."
All it took was the first domino to fall and "Once I got that first sale and the feeling of being successful, it snowballed. I was able to move up the ladder pretty quickly. It led to a couple of promotions and eventually a position with the Vikings."
For Deric, "these previous experiences have been instrumental in running my own marketing agency. Not many agencies have people, who worked on the team side so, when I am in contact with certain team representatives, I am able to relate to them." Having this true understanding of both sides of the coin, "I understand what their restrictions are and what they can and can’t do. It lets me create a relationship with the teams and bring expertise to my clients. If I hadn’t worked for a team, I wouldn’t have the inside knowledge of the ins and outs of how an organization works. Knowing that information gives me the ability to create the best packages."
He wouldn't change his career path for the world saying, "Working on the team side, has helped me understand that there has to be a reason for everything regarding your clients needs. This allows me to gain both trust on the team and client side."
At the end of the day, Deric wants everyone to go home happy saying, "I want the whole process to be a win, win; a win for the team, a win for my client and a win for the fans."
As a former student athlete, what did you take away from your playing days that helped you succeed in the corporate world?
For Deric, "It’s that will to win and that competitiveness you need to play a college sport. It’s that daily grind of managing school and two practices a day. It really taught me great time management and committing yourself to excellence. It also teaches you accountability, which is critical in the business sector."
What is one key lesson you have learned while working in sports?
For him nothing is more important than continuing to learn and being a good listener. He was adamant in saying, "You have to be a really good listener and you should always surround yourself with people who are better at things than you are. Learn from those who are better than you and take bits and pieces from everything you learn. This all starts with being a good listener."
After finishing up your collegiate career and entering the workforce, what drew you to a career in sports?
For Deric, "it was the passion I had for sports. If I could get into something that I was passionate about, it would lead to success. I didn’t know originally where I wanted to end up but, as an athlete, I have a love and passion for sports. That was my incentive to be involved with the industry and the biggest reason I went into the business-side of sports after college."
As someone who now works in brand marketing, where do you see that industry headed over the course of the next few years?
Always trying to create a winning solution, Deric loves using the power of brands saying, "with my clients, I try to use the power of sports and the passion fans have for these brands. I associate my clients with those brands to create brand affinity." He thinks he is not alone in this thinking and "That’s the way I think more and more people are headed. More organizations are going to create fan engagement and affinity with the product. It will be more about how we create those once in a lifetime experiences."
If you could go back and tell 20 year old Deric one thing, what would it be and why?
Many people can be candid about what they would tell their younger self in hindsight, but Deric was very open saying, "Meet as many people as possible. It’s all about your network. You can know a plethora of people, but you have to be strategic about how you utilize those connections. I can’t stress enough how important informational interviews are. It all comes down to learning as much as possible and meeting as many successful people as possible."
Many students and young professionals wonder, “Is a career in sports really worth it”? Can you tell them why, in your opinion, a sports career is worth it?
For Deric, sports are all "about creating experiences for people you work with." He believes the sports industry is so great because like he put it, "In what other industry, can you bring a seven-year old kid on to a court and have him meet a star player? That experience makes his whole year. Not many industries allow you the opportunity to make a once of a lifetime experience occur on a daily basis."
What are traits executives look for?
Like many others, he preached, "You want to have passion and love for whatever you do." But he also through caution to the wind for future sports business professionals saying, "However, you need to put that on the backburner when you’re in the interview. Those traits are toward the bottom of the list when executives are looking at reasons to hire someone. It’s all about hard work and them being able to trust you."
For him he has seen it happen first hand, and experienced it first hand saying, "I know people who don’t even watch the games for the teams they work for, yet they are some of the top executives for the teams. They put the work in and go above and beyond to gain people’s trust. I didn’t get the first few jobs I interviewed for because I went in with mindset of wanting to tell them how much I loved sports. They are really looking for focused individuals. "
"It’s tough to break into but if you work as hard as you can, people will recognize your efforts. It’s all about work ethic and passion. Skills can be honed, but you have to be willing to work hard."
"One trait that I love and I look for when I hire is curiosity. I love it because it shows that you are very interested. I want people who are engaged, question things and want to learn more. It is a trait that a lot of the higher ups look for."
"Once you get into the sports industry, it is all about creating once in a lifetime experiences."
"You want to be selfless and not selfish. You need to learn people’s stories before you get into asking about jobs or opportunities."
"Be the hardest working person in the room."
"Be a great listener."