2017Nov 14

Understanding the Sports Industry – Devon Hogan

Devon Hogan is currently the Group Sales Manager for both the Ottawa Senators and the Canadian Tire Centre. She manages and mentors a team of sales professionals that focus on establishing and maintaining long-term relationships with clients. Their main objective is to bring unique and personal experiences to loyal fans attending games.

On behalf of all SPAD students, we would like to thank Devon for taking the time out of her busy day to answer questions for the sole benefit of students. With 24 years of experience working in the sports industry here is her insight.

The following attachment holds the full phone interview with Devon. The interview contains 30 minutes of useful content provided by an individual with plenty of experience working within the sports industry. 

Q: What does a typical day at work look like for you?

My job starts from the moment I wake up. One of the first things I do is look at my phone to check what has come in overnight to see if there is anything that needs immediate attention. The only thing that would require immediate attention would be in the event that there is an upcoming game and tickets are selling very quickly. If something has come in overnight where somebody needed a few extra tickets and time is of the essence to get those tickets grabbed off of the system, we can get them for the client before somebody else grabs them.

Prioritize

Once I get into the office I deal with my three or four tasks that I plan to do at the very start of the day that are most important to get done first. If anything else comes up along the way as long as I have completed those tasks I know the day has become somewhat of a success. These tasks include following up with bigger groups of people that we have spoken to and they haven’t quite made a commitment to do a game with us, or following up with somebody within the marketing and graphics department where we are waiting on some piece of collateral that is integral to us being able to get something closed and sold.

Leadership

Because I do manage the department I have other people that report to me. In a lot of cases, their needs take precedence over what my needs of the day are. If they have anything where they are experiencing a problem or they need a quick ‘OK’ approval on something they come to me. We have full-time people that work with us but we also have interns. A lot of the time it is giving them projects to work on so they are helping us along the way. Depending on who’s doing what, sometimes somebody has done something much quicker than you would or conversely you are waiting on something and then it is circling back to find out what is taking so long. There is a lot of internal communication in going back and forth within the office but then it is also making sure that myself along with the other account managers that I work with are finding the times to make sure that you are outbound and going to find those new contacts to keep the business coming in.

Q: When you get a chance to take a step back from work, how do you spend your time? 

Photo of Devon's family.

Photo of Devon’s family.

I am a mom of twins who are seven years old – Finn and Madigan. Between my husband and the kids, that is kind of what my free time consists of. They both play hockey for different teams and associations so they keep me busy running from rink to rink.

Q:  Would you say the sports industry is competitive when it comes to getting a job?

It is definitely competitive. If somebody is looking at getting into the sports industry the big way to get in is through ticket sales. The positions within ticket sales there is generally a lot of turn-over as it is very entry level, they are the people who are just getting started in the sports industry.

Do What Is Best For You

A bunch of people often realize “oh gosh sales is not for me” and then they move on. In some cases, they get in with sales but know they would really prefer to be in marketing or communications. They use ticket sales as a stepping stone to demonstrate their work ethic then proceed to what their true passion is. Other people just realize that the sports industry just isn’t really for them and work for a few short months in whatever capacity and just move onto something different. It is definitely difficult to get in but if you do a bunch of things right it can actually open doors pretty easily.   

Q: As a university student, did you always know what you wanted to do? How did you find your path?

I did – growing up I absolutely loved the NHL and being from Winnipeg I loved the Winnipeg Jets so that was my mission in life, to work within the Jets front office. Back in the day, we didn’t have the same sports management courses that we do now so for me I thought “what can I take in university that will show that I am interested in sport” and kind of set me up for an easier application with the Jets when the time came. I took a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Physical Activity and Sports Studies which is much similar to Human Kinetics. A lot of people that were in those courses actually wanted to be physiotherapists or chiropractors which involved taking a lot of science-oriented courses like anatomy and physiology. It let me put something on my resume that demonstrated that I really did have an affinity for sports.

Stepping Stones

At a very young age, I got on with the Winnipeg Jets on a part-time basis working as game night staff. I was a hostess in a section where I would work game nights and concerts to welcome people into the building, making sure that people got to their seats basically getting my foot in the door as far as the organization knowing who I was. I worked for them on a part-time basis in university for one summer in the ticketing department calling season ticket holders, getting their payments, and trying to relocate their seats for them if they wanted to move. It is not as if I had got my degree and then went in cold turkey to the Winnipeg Jets and applied, I had some building blocks to have the door open for me.

Q: When something didn’t go your way, how did you fix it? Can you provide an example?

Probably the biggest thing was when I had my dream job out of university working for the Winnipeg Jets and then two seasons later the team is gone and so was my dream. All I wanted to do was work in the NHL and I couldn’t do that at that point in time so I took the opportunity with the Manitoba Moose. I got sales experience where I wasn’t working within that capacity with the Jets when I first started out so having that sales experience is what opened the door for me to be able to come here to the Senators. Staying in sport was important if I wanted to get back into the NHL then working my way up from there.

Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

When you are growing up you don’t hear anybody say “I want to be a salesperson”. Being in this industry now for 24, coming up to 25 years of working within sport, most of it as an actual salesperson, that is not what I set out to do and I didn’t think that would be something that I would end up doing. I honestly kind of found it by accident and realized I was really good at it. It is about selling the building, giving an experience to fans and building relationships with people which I absolutely love which allowed me to get where I am.

Q: What do you love most about your job and what would you say is the coolest part about working for the Ottawa Senators?

Fans celebrate in the first period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals at the Canadian Tire Centre. Wayne Cuddington/Postmedia

Fans celebrate in the first period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals at the Canadian Tire Centre. Wayne Cuddington/Postmedia

Love What You Do and It Will Never Feel Like Work

I think the coolness is that you work for a team that is well loved within your community, that a lot of people envy the position. What I love most about my job is the satisfaction of those nights where the building is really full and we have between three and four thousand people attending the game that are there as part of a group. There is a huge sense of accomplishment knowing that we are filling up the building. It is also the little things where you are talking with somebody and their dad is coming out to celebrate his 90th birthday and there is a whole bunch of family coming in from wherever and you are enabling them to get the best seats possible – maybe sending our mascot Spartacat over to give a high-five and a happy birthday to create some memories for our clients.

It’s About Making Memories

When I first started in the industry it was all about selling tickets and people would ask “what are the discounts” or “what are the savings”, that was good enough for people. Over the years that has really morphed into people still wanting a savings because they are a group but also what extras can they get as well as what can make it more memorable. We are always tasked with what can we do so that they aren’t just coming to watch a hockey game but having an experience over and above that.

Q: What are your major accomplishments within the organization? Any major highlights of working for the Ottawa Senators?

Below is a video of an in-game recognition for one of the large groups the Ottawa Senators attends to. 

We have been the number one group sales team in the league for the last two seasons running. Over and above that, for the last, I would say 14 to 15 seasons we’ve been in the top 5 in the NHL. We are constantly delivering on the number of tickets sold per game but also the revenue that you are driving with that. There are a number of teams in the United States that will sell a lot of tickets but they might only be selling them for six or seven dollars whereas our net value on a group ticket is around the forty dollar mark which makes it exponentially tougher to sell a lot of tickets and still try to get a good deal out of it – I’m really proud of that.

ADVICE FOR STUDENTS

Q: How important is it for applicants to keep a level of professionalism on their social media? Is this something that your organization looks into when hiring?

For me, when I have somebody who has applied for a position the first thing that myself and members of my team will do is check out their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, basically creeping the person to see what it looks like.

Your Personal Brand

As much as you think Facebook is private it is very much public. We have had people that would go on to check someone’s social media to look at their pictures and it is all just partying. Having said that, I try to keep it in context that obviously this is their personal page and that everyone likes to have fun but I think there is a fine line. The only other thing I would say about that is there have been different people who have worked for us both interns and full-time that have made their opinions known on social media about the team but they are once again speaking personally, however, being a representative of the team whether it is during an internship or actually working for the team, you are still a part of the team and we have had people lose their positions over comments made socially so it is something that is certainly watched.

Q: What factors would separate one candidate from another? What specific things do you look for in applicants?

For us being in Ottawa, one thing that always jumps out on a resume is someone who is bilingual. The next one for me is people showing leadership, for example in different things they have done whether it be through school or extracurricular activities such as taking the lead on different projects or someone who was the captain of a team or have coached. I firmly believe that when you are in sales you need to be a leader.

Q: Finally, What advice do you have to offer to those applying for jobs within the sports industry?

Experience, Experience, Experience

Get experience whether it be through volunteering or once you have a contact be sure to keep in touch with that person. This is your foot in the door. Never be shy about asking for an introduction because if you have one contact they might know someone who can help you get to your main goal.

Build Relationships

Asking for their advice and really trying to make connections within the sports industry is important. Use those connections to help you along the way because that is really what is going to differentiate yourself from anyone else.

Keep in Touch

Follow-ups are really important as well especially when somebody has interviewed you and following up whether it be later on that day or at the very latest the next morning just thanking the person for their time, opening up that door to having any other questions, I always appreciate that.

Once again, we would like to thank Devon for her time in giving some helpful advice to our students. We wish Devon and her team all the best in the 2017-18 season, Go Sens Go!

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