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  • Brett Zalaski

#SportsBiz & Politics

Updated: Aug 14, 2019

Note: Everything below is meant to help a #sportsbiz rep maximize their sales opportunities. I'm not speaking on behalf of any team or organization and what their policies are. Nor, as you'll see, am I attempting to silence any individual sales rep. This is simply an opinion formed on conversations and observations meant to help you optimize sales opportunities.

Politics are literally everywhere. You almost can't avoid them. And everyone is yelling. Loudly. And it's only going to get louder as we head into a presidential election year.

Ugh. I don't love having to write this article. Even when I tweeted about it, it took me a while to hit send. But the conversation is only increasing and becoming more charged as we head into 2020, and I've now had over a half-dozen #sportsbiz reps write in and ask me how to handle this...and my responsibility is to give the people what they here I go.

Let's start internally. Most #sportsbiz teams I've seen are pretty diverse, or attempting to become more diverse. Diversity does not just include ethnicity, age, and gender, but it also includes region of birth, religion, politics and many other things. Your primary responsibility is to be respectful of the people you work with and understanding, despite your own personal diversity, that everyone got to where they are through a different path. Because your path is not reflected in their path doesn't mean they aren't entitled to their point of view...they are. You may not agree with it...but having respect for it creates a healthy environment. Fortunately for most organizations, this isn't usually where reps struggle.

Externally is where the reps who are writing in are really struggling. Not the phone or in person, but on social media. There are a lot of people who have very real opinions on politics...and those opinions can be really important to how they think of themselves or define themselves. And they want to use social media as a way to contribute to the conversations occurring on politics. I would never tell a rep to lose those beliefs, regardless of how they may align or conflict with mine. That said, here are a couple things you NEED to think about as you represent your team or college on social media:

  1. Your team is politically agnostic. Unless your team is openly supporting a political candidate, which I can't remember ever seeing, you shouldn't be supporting a political candidate as a representative of that team. Fans will associate your views with the teams views, and that will hurt both you and the team. Your job is to give people reasons to connect WITH the team. Not drive fans AWAY from the team.

  2. You are not your audience. Your job is to sell the right ticket to the right person at the right time. Not sell entirely to people of your political influence. In fact, being open about your political affiliation can only COST you sales opportunities. Almost every fan base is pretty diverse, which makes being inclusive critical. Your beliefs do not fully represent the beliefs of your fans.

  3. You chose to represent your team. You can complain about everything I just said...but you chose to work for an organization that is agnostic. If you want a job where you can more publicly discuss those beliefs, go get that job. Again, so long as you are publicly representing your team, your fans will find you. And if they find you and don't like what they see, they will hold that against BOTH you and the team. And that is not fair to your employer. They chose you to represent them on your personality and how they believe you could represent the team...not your political beliefs.

An important follow-up question I got asked on this was: Brett, I want to work for the team, but I also want people to understand my political point of view. What can I do?

Because being incredibly open about your beliefs will only hurt your sales doesn't mean you can't contribute to the conversation. Here are a couple things you can do to allow yourself to express yourself in a way that won't hurt you:

  1. Create a work account and a personal account. If you need to have an account that speaks politically, but also feel the need to represent your team on social media, separate those two things. Your work account can be open and inclusive...and you can go nuts on your private account. Just make sure you are smart about who you let into that universe.

  2. Think before you hit 'send'. We, and I definitely hold myself accountable to this, tweet, facebook, or linkedin almost as spasm now. We often respond and react...when we need to think. I had an expert tell me to breath and re-read before you hit send. That has been hugely helpful...and is a piece of advice I would have you implement. Even some of the messages you think are mundane can be misread and create bad reactions. Also, as we spoke, everyone came to their beliefs differently. You probably don't know someone's journey, so attacking them can say more about your vindictiveness than it does their perceived ignorance.

Working in #sportsbiz has been a career I could only dream about. I've found myself more and more grateful that I get to do this for a career as that career continues.

I also have very real political leanings and beliefs. But I'm also a very bad salesperson when I'm looking for reasons, or constantly engaging in dialogue, that looks down upon my fellow man and woman. The best salespeople are people who are always looking for the best in others, and are empathetic to their path and journey to get where they are...and they seek solutions to help better their lives through the power of sport. There is literally no way that bringing politics into that type of discussion helps. From my #sportsbiz sales experience, the quote above is absolutely correct.

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