A Look Into The Business Side Of The Wenatchee Wild

When it comes to the business side of sports there’s a lot of insightful information to be gained on marketing and game day operations. I interviewed two different people with the Wenatchee Wild of the Junior-A British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). The first interview was with Gretchen Littler, their Director of Sales and Marketing while the second interview was with David Rayfield, their Senior Sales and Operations Coordinator. During my time volunteering and working for teams and networking with others I’ve learned that when you first break into the sports industry you’ll likely be in sales.

The extended offseason has allowed the team to have a longer sales season than they normally have. According to Littler, the sales season for the Wild usually starts in May, but this year they were able to start in January selling corporate sponsorships and season tickets. The team had the most new sponsors they’ve had in a long time. This allowed them to look at businesses that received some extra stimulus money and also pitch their brand more. The team put together a list of local businesses that they could potentially form sponsorships with. However, with man power and timing they’ve never been able to tackle all of it.

“With a new business we do recognize that we are a 501 © non-profit business, which a lot of businesses do like because that is a tax write-off for them,” Littler said.

Working With Sponsors

She explained how with their donation of funds, they’re able to do certain services for them including season tickets, advertising, PA reads or radio announcements. Littler also touched on how they have the return of the blimp where they could have coupons of things fans could win. She also touched on how a new sponsor came to the team, one that used to be with them in the past and will be placing ads on each goalie’s pads.

When it comes to what businesses want for advertising, Littler said she likes to ask them what they want. This includes branding, ads on the dasher boards around the rink or the door swings or even just community support.

“I do ask what their dollar budget amount is, that really helps me prepare a proposal when I am going to meet with prospective clients,” Littler said.

If she’s not able to get a dollar amount she gets creative by looking at the business for fun taglines that might go well with their business name.

Potential Hires

When it comes to a hiring and what they look for in somebody coming into a sales position, Littler touched on important elements a potential hire should have. One important thing she noted is that while the job can be fun, it’s still hard work. She touched on how there’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes that some people don’t realize until they really get going. She also touched on the ability to wear many hats meaning they do more than just what they were hired for.

This could include being the mascot, hanging frames in the hallway, on the mic in the stands or something else that might be needed. Key elements of a potential employee she touched on were being a hard worker and how important it is to have the passion for the team. A couple relatable aspects for me were not looking at it as a job and believing in the team and brand. Whenever I’ve volunteered or worked for a team or covered a team, I almost always never looked at it as work and was always passionate about the team.

She explained how she tells people that’s it more than just selling tickets and sponsorships. Littler touched on how it’s being able to share the opportunity of people to come out and have a good time with their family for a great price. For sponsors, she explained how you’d be providing them the opportunity to get their brand out in front of an average of 2,700 or more a night. Littler said you might go in and work day to day, but how it’s a lot more fun when you have the passion for the team.

Various Game Day Roles

Rayfield touched on everything he does including dealing with volunteers, interns and other staff members. He also makes sure everything goes smoothly script wise with those that deal with the entertainment before the game, during media timeouts, intermissions and post-game. Rayfield touched on how the activities outside of hockey are planned out and run as smoothly as possible. He explained how he’s constantly running around making sure everyone is in their spot and has what they need to put on promotions. This includes timing such as when to let people on the ice, making sure people are in their spots, lining up the kids for chuck-a-puck cleanup and other intermission stuff.

He said he also takes care of the customer service and ticketing aspects and making sure fans are doing well and feel connected to the team. While Rayfield said that hockey comes first, he touched on how it’s important to create a family atmosphere. He explained how it was about making sure people feel welcome and know that they’re at an event. Rayfield also touched different roles he’s had during games whether manning the mic in the stands and other things. He said it’s just filling in where you need at this level in sport management.

“If you don’t know hockey or don’t know sport very well, that you’re still excited to come out to the games whether it’s the music you see playing or the activities you see on the ice or the trivia and intermission going on in the stands throughout the game,” Rayfield said.

What It Takes To Break Into Sports

Rayfield touched on what it takes when you first break into sports he touched on how you won’t specialize in one area. He says they’re in the ticketing area, have their radios on and are called in every which way. Rayfield explained how unless you’re at the professional level, you’re going to be doing a little bit of everything. He said you might start the night doing some ticketing and helping cut the lines down to being out on the ice ten minutes later welcoming fans. Rayfield touched on how you might be running the lights and making sure they’re all on and making sure all your audio and video (A/V) equipment is running. He said you might be running back to the house staff to making sure they’re all setup as far as the entrance goes.

When it comes to a game night and working for a junior hockey team, it’s clear that you need to have passion for the team and are willing to be flexible in doing multiple tasks.

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