By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Brent Jones, Associate AD for Marketing and Communications at the University of Southern Mississippi. A former student athlete, Brent has been making his way through the ranks of college athletics for the past ten years. Heralded by his colleagues as a, "true professional with a passion for college athletics and a work ethic that is second to none" Brent has taken what he learned on the diamond during his playing days and used that to find success in the workplace. He was gracious enough to offer up his time and insight into the world of marketing at the college level, why you need to take a holistic approach when looking to get into marketing, and why you can't be afraid to ask questions.
In ten years you have moved up from being an intern to an Associate Athletic Director. What has that journey been like?
It has been an amazing ride. I played college baseball for five years and had a very unique experience, as I was able to play in Division 1, 2 and 3. I graduated from Oglethorpe University and then went on to Ole Miss; while there, I fully immersed myself in the college athletics landscape, specifically in the sports marketing, promotions and fan engagement aspect.
From there, I had a great opportunity to go back to my home state of Georgia to become the Director of Marketing at Georgia Southern. That position was heavily based in marketing and sales and truly allowed me to grow from both a revenue and idea generation standpoint. In each step you want to grow in breadth of knowledge and what you can do. Not one person can make a difference and in each stop I have had a great team to help me grow and produce.
How did being a collegiate student athlete help you succeed in the sports business industry?
My goal growing up was always to be a baseball player. I had to make sacrifices along the way and when I reached 9th grade, I made sure to set my focus on achieving just that. By the time I was done with high school, I had received a scholarship to UNC Asheville. Being a student athlete made me driven and I realized that you can never be too high or too low; I also realized that you can always control the amount of effort you put in as well as your work ethic.
What was your entry-level position in sports like? How much work did it take?
Because I played sports, I got a late start into the industry, which makes my start a little different from others. I was a college graduate that was looking to work for free, and not many people want to do that. Luckily, I had the opportunity to go to the University of Mississippi for graduate school and, while there, I leveraged my network to get hired as an intern with no salary, no office and no job description. It was an amazing opportunity though and I worked six months for free before they put me on salary.
Nowadays, you have to distinguish yourself some way from all the other students looking to break into the industry. One way to do that is to work for free. Always have a can-do attitude, work hard and never go away.
Finish this for me, “Working in sports is….”
One of the most amazing experiences a person can have. One day you are working on the game atmosphere for a football game and the next day are you are flying to Chicago to document the success of one of your student athletes in the Pros. Every day brings great opportunity and challenges and you have to be able to navigate all of that daily, sometimes hourly or even minute by minute. I crave the excitement, the creativity, the stress, the chaos, and the adrenaline. Working in sports is not a job, it is a lifestyle and a choice to always be on, and I love it.
What drew you to the marketing aspect of sports?
I think for me it was my personality and opportunity. Marketing always has a need for assistance and free labor. There was a need and it met with my personality and abilities and I am extremely fortunate for that. I am an external person by nature and love to be around people and talk and interact with them. In sports marketing, being able to interact with your fan base and or community and be comfortable in that setting is about half your job. I don’t get embarrassed easily and I love trying new and different things.
Marketing is something everyone wants to do. What are your tips for breaking into the marketing aspect of sports?
You need to have a holistic approach towards marketing. Marketing is a very generic term so you should understand how all the positions learn and play off of one another. It will make you more valuable if you have a grasp on multiple aspects.
Try to get your hands on and dabble in as many different areas as possible, such as digital marketing, social media, communication, website development, grass roots marketing, community relations, advertising, sales, in game presentation, promotions, etc. Marketing is a very broad term that houses many different elements and to be successful in marketing you must have a firm understanding of all these difference facets.
What are the top three things that you look for in the interview and on the resume?
The first thing that jumps off the page to me is an applicants’ work experience and what they have done to prepare for the position they are applying for. I want a person who has high energy and is a grinder, is dedicated and passionate about their position and career! The last thing I make sure of is that the person is a good fit for the job and the organization. It is extremely critical to ensure that the person we are hiring is a good fit for our organization.
Also, I want lifelong learners who are constantly trying to learn and grow and push the envelope forward by stealing ideas from other schools or professional teams and implementing them with us.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to seek out leaders to ask for their advice and wisdom. If you want to grow and be the best, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance and advice. You have to make your strengths even stronger and your weaknesses even weaker.
Make sure you give back, when you can.
We would like to thank Brent for his time and insight and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors!