The number one thing not to say when you are interviewing with your favorite sports organization? “Never tell them you are a big fan,” says Brad Bauer, an accounts executive specializing in partnerships marketing with the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. “If you’re too emotionally involved, it can make it tough to do the best job possible, because you’re not there to sell wins and losses, you’re selling the entire experience.” That’s not to say Bauer isn’t a sports fanatic of the highest order. He won’t deny getting absolutely giddy when he toured the White Sox stadium and sat down to pick the brains of baseball marketing gurus such as Brooks Boyer (VP and chief marketing officer) and Rick Hahn (VP and general manager), or getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the brand new Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois.
These were all opportunities afforded to Bauer while he was working on his Master of Arts in Sports Administration (MSA) at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies, from which he graduated in June 2014. While he gained invaluable skills in the classroom (“Dan Migala’s sport marketing class was one of the most influential of my entire educational career,” says Bauer), it was his involvement in a unique student-run group within the program that he feels gave his post-college job prospects the biggest boost. The Sports Administration Student Board is made up of a dedicated group of approximately six people — a mix of current students and alumni — whose mission it is to add yet another dimension to the much-lauded program. It was the board that arranged the stadium tours, scheduled the sit-downs with ball club bigwigs and planned parties where students could mingle and have a beer with members of their favorite sports teams.
“The opportunity for personal networking was huge,” says Bauer, who became president of the board himself during his final year in the program. “The experiences offered by the Student Board increase the value of the MSA tremendously.” For Bauer, it was this combined experience of classroom-gleaned knowledge and board-assisted networking opportunities that helped him land his latest position with the Chicago Fire, one that was offered to him just weeks after graduation.
In addition to not to wearing his fandom on his sleeve, the lessons learned from Northwestern professors (almost all of whom currently work in sports industry) and professionals out in the field were crucial to the advancement of Bauer’s career. “Being exposed to people in every imaginable position within the industry, I immediately realized that the world of sports is so much bigger than the NBA and NFL. For every job with the Bulls, there are ten jobs at a sports marketing agency,” says Bauer. This wide world of sports is illustrated succinctly by a glance at Bauer’s resume, which includes time with the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club (marketing assistant), Big Ten Network (campus rep), the Chicago Rush (corporate sponsorship), the Milwaukee Bucks (sales) and even the Chicago Bulls (ticketing). Says Bauer, “Just because you don’t have a cartoon mascot slapped across your shirt, doesn’t mean you don’t work in sports.”