Bret Polvorosa is a sports industry sponge. No matter what he’s done over the past 10 years, he’s learned from it.
By the end of this interview, you’ll probably want to contact him. Surprise: Unlike many executives, Polvorosa actually encourages you to do so. However, before you email or call him with questions, do what he would do before sitting down with a potential client. Learn everything you can about him. Begin with this profile.
“I got my start in the sports business about ten years ago selling minor league baseball ticket packages in Portland, Oregon,” he says. “This was the lowest level of professional baseball, short season, Class-A baseball, but it was in a good-sized market. I had been trying to get a job in sports and wasn’t getting traction or attention from teams because I had no prior experience. When the VP of Sales & Marketing called from the club I jumped at the chance.”
If you think this was the perfect position, guess again. Rather, Polvorosa knew it was what the job represented.
“It was only a part-time position, Monday through Thursday, from 6-9 p.m. I still had to hold down a ‘regular’ job to pay the rent,” he says. “This was the break I was waiting for and I immersed myself in the position.”
Polvorosa’s willingness to work two jobs paid off.
“I leveraged that experience into a ticket sales position with the Portland Trail Blazers.” Again, it wasn’t the perfect job. “It wasn’t full time,” Polvorosa says. “But I felt it would advance my resume and skill set. Within a few months I was offered, and accepted, a full-time position [with a local golf promotions company] selling advertising and sponsorships for two USGA Championships, the ’96 U.S. Amateur (Tiger Woods going for the three peat) and the ’97 U.S. Women’s Open.”
He was in. No more working two jobs. No more struggling for a chance. Now it was time to focus on his career.
“After that [golf] position I took a job with a Major Junior hockey club in Portland called the Winter Hawks,” he says. “I eventually led their sales efforts and spent four great hockey seasons with them. I learned a lot about selling sports. From hockey I spent two plus years as the Director of Executive Training for Game Face, also based in Portland. I would travel from team to team providing mostly sales training seminars. It was a great experience.”
About 18 months ago, Polvorosa decided to go it alone. He launched his own Portland-based firm called Grip. “We give seminars, sales training workshops and consultation for teams looking to stimulate business in the areas of ticket sales and sponsorship/advertising sales.”
“It’s been a fantastic year and a half,” Polvorosa says. “Very challenging and very rewarding at the same time. We’ve been fortunate enough to begin partnerships with the Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia 76’ers and Flyers, Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Phoenix Coyotes, Indy Racing League—just to name a few—in addition to many minor league teams, leagues and universities.”
Now that you know his story, maybe you should know what he does on a daily basis. What does his job at entail? “When I’m not on the road working hands on with a team in their office, my time is spent primarily searching for new customers and providing customer service and support for our existing partners,” he says. “Today I started out the day sending emails to people I met at a conference, followed up by going through my rolodex staying in touch with people, preparing for and delivering an hour long phone training session with a MLB club, speaking to a league president about providing some of their team’s training this summer, prepping for another phone coaching session tomorrow with another team. It never ends.”
But there is one tremendous perk.
“I can never get in trouble if I’m reading the sports page at my desk!” he says.
Now for his advice. “Finish some level of education…it shows a prospective employer that you’re responsible and that you can follow through and that you achieve goals.”
Also, “contact various people in the industry and request an informational interview. Don’t even worry about whether or not they have any open positions. Learn about their background, how they got started, what type of candidates do they look for and what would be their recommendation for you on how to break into the industry.”
Of course, breaking in may require a few sacrifices.
“Don’t be too quick to dismiss any opportunity,” Polvorosa says. “Part-time, seasonal, paid internship, non-paid internship, tele-sales positions, whatever they might be. What you need to do is start building your resume with actual team sports experience. That will get the attention of decision makers in the industry. And if you want a job in fields such as Promotions, Marketing, Community Affairs, Media Relations, etc., do not be too quick again to dismiss something in the Sales department. At the end of the day this department, and it’s usually the ticket department, will be the widest door into the front office.
Finally, here’s some real nuts-and-bolts stuff that people often overlook.
“Sound, look and act professional whether you’re on the phone or meeting someone in person. Shine your shoes, get a haircut, take your shirt to the cleaners instead of ironing it at home, speak clearly, learn how to put together an outfit that says you’re serious, you’re a hard worker, you’re successful and hire me! And get some coaching on how to do this.”
Polvorosa’s parting thought: “Give us a call anytime if you’re looking to get your foot in the door. In addition to being a Work In Sports member, we might be able to share with you some additional ideas that will make you more marketable.”
Can’t ask for more than that, can you?
If you would like to contact Bret, feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.