Sports Career Spotlight

We've been featuring executives from the sports industry since 2001. Naturally, some of these executives have moved onward and upward in their sports careers. We believe these profiles remain relevant and valuable because they highlight the hard work, dedication, brilliant successes, and lessons learned in a variety of career paths through the sports industry.

Brian Byrnes

Brian Byrnes, Executive VP of Business Operations

Phoenix Coyotes


“There is a value that you put on your job that is not measured in your paycheck, that is the enjoyment of working in this environment”, says Brian Byrnes, Executive Vice President of Business Operations for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Byrnes started his career as a ticket sales intern for the San Antonio Spurs in 1989. “I actually worked for a couple of minor league teams as well in San Antonio. I did door to door sales for a minor league baseball team and also did telemarketing for a minor league football team in San Antonio.” Brian knew all along that a job in the field of sports was his calling. “I always wanted to ‘Work in Sports’, but I never really knew in what capacity. However, I was always interested in the marketing of a sports team.”

With a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, he had an opportunity to work in a variety of sales jobs. “Whether it was the Spurs, minor league baseball or minor league football I enjoyed the sales aspect. I enjoyed the recruiting of a new customer, bringing them to a game and engaging them in the process of buying a season ticket plan or mini-package; and I was good at it. That is what motivated me to stay in the business.”

In 1992, while working for San Antonio of the World League of American Football, Brian learned that they would be shutting down the North American operations, leaving him without a job. He headed back to his hometown of Dallas where he worked for a school supply company as an outside sales representative for about eight months. It was during this time he realized what his true desire for a profession would be. “It was a good job, I was making decent money and I had an opportunity to make something of it. But it was a sales job outside the sports industry that didn’t fire me up.” During that time, he had an opportunity to coach a freshman basketball team at his high school. This is what ultimately opened his eyes to marketing sports teams.

“I saw an opportunity to take some of the experiences that I had learned working for the professional sports teams and apply them to market and promote the athletic department at the high school level. Whether we were doing sales for the football team or running and managing a 3-on-3 basketball tournament on the weekend, I sold tickets, advertising and sponsorship and created game specific promotions. I had cheerleaders painting signs and hanging them in the gym for the different sponsors that were giving us cash or in-kind benefits, and it really fired me up. It was something that I knew how to do and I was anxious to find another way to apply those skills.”

It worked out well for Brian when the hockey team from Minnesota decided to relocate to the Dallas area. “They were looking for people to start in their organization from the ground floor. It was literally starting a new franchise at the time. On the heels of working for the athletic department, having cut my teeth in San Antonio for the various teams, I landed with the Dallas Stars on their original front office team and was there for nine and a half years until I moved to Phoenix.”

In the spring of 1993, Brian joined the front office staff for the Dallas Stars Hockey Club and was instrumental in guiding the team from a start-up franchise to being recognized as one of the most successful teams in the NHL. Southwest Sports Group was formed to manage the integration of the Dallas Stars (NHL) and Texas Rangers (MLB), as well as develop new venue and team partnerships. Brian was responsible for developing a comprehensive sales strategy to fully integrate the Dallas Stars, Texas Rangers, Mesquite Championship Rodeo, Frisco Professional Baseball and Big 12 Baseball Tournament sales efforts. Simultaneously, Brian developed and led the sales efforts for maximizing season ticket and suite sales revenue at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas when it opened in the summer of 2001.

Under Brian's leadership, the Dallas Stars set a franchise record consecutive sell-out streak of 194 games. The Texas Rangers recognized significant growth in ticket and suite sales each season, setting numerous franchise records for attendance at The Ballpark in Arlington. In 2002, the Big 12 Baseball Tournament set an all-time conference and NCAA record for attendance in the initial season in Arlington, Texas. Frisco Professional Baseball will begin minor league play in 2003 and the initial selling strategies, developed by Brian, for season tickets and suite sales are projected to set new records for minor league baseball.

Today, Brian Byrnes is responsible for everything that happens off the ice with the Phoenix Coyotes, reporting directly to team President Doug Moss. His duties include overseeing sales and marketing, suite sales, advertising sales, sponsorships, marketing, fan development, community relations, public relations and Coyotes Charities. Another part of that job is filling positions to take care of these different areas of the team, which means interviewing and hiring people. There is a good chance that if you want to work for the Phoenix Coyotes in some capacity, Brian Byrnes will want to have a conversation with you.

When you are looking to ‘Work in Sports’, Brian has two opinions he likes to share with his prospective candidates:

“You have to understand that working in professional sports is not unlike any other industry or field. I think sometimes when kids come out of school they look at sports teams differently than other jobs. From the outside, working in sports may seem to be more glamorous and easy going than it really is. However, one must remember that that the principles of accounting, marketing, sales, or promotions, are the same whether you work for a sports team or any organization within the business world. ”

“When people understand and respect that our industry is a business and at the end of the day you must make business decisions, they will become successful within their own rights. When people try to apply different tactics to their job or don’t respect the fact that it is a genuine business, this is when I have seen people fail. You must run the front office of a professional sports team the same way you would run any other business.”

The other thing to look at is the passion and commitment it takes to be successful in the sports industry. “Unlike other businesses, the majority of the revenues generated go directly to paying the players or ‘the talent’. That means you run your business on a shoestring budget and run your strategies through a lot of grass roots tactics. It means you have to put in a little extra time, a little extra effort, you have to work a few more hours.”

Sometimes, you will be expected to do more than your position calls for, and you have to be ready for that too. “You typically wear two or three hats in order to get things done. For people who have been in this business for a long period of time, they have learned that it is a labor of love and it is a passion, you like what you do and what you accomplish, and that you are delivering a great value to your customer. If you are in this business to work a regular nine to five job, or looking for some sort of regularity in your day or job requirements, you won’t get that in the sports industry.”

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