All Work and Play: Mr. Sandy Alderson on working in Sports

Students of Haas in particular have a special affinity for the spring semester. Whether you are a departing senior or developing junior, the anticipation of the spring semester is strong. Haas students are in the midst of diving in their new classes and the recruiting and internship season.   It is presumed that many Haas students will enter the areas of accounting, banking, and consulting—the ABCs. Although these industries provide  great opportunities, I want to introduce a different industry for students to potentially pursue: sports.

This past Fall 2010 semester, I took UGBA 167 Sports Marketing with Mike Rielly and Sandy Alderson. As an avid sports fan, it was an amazing learning experience. Mike Rielly has over 20 years in sports having previously worked in senior positions with the first sports agency, IMG, to his current agent position at Creative Arts Agency where he responsible for CAA’s Golf and Sports Consulting practices.  From beginning his career with  the beloved Oakland Athletics, then working as CEO of the San Diego Padres, and finally to his position as General Manager of the New Yorks, Sandy Alderson is a veteran of Major League Baseball.  Having these two professionals share their knowledge and experiences in the field was priceless.

The class delved in-depth in many ways to communicate to students how the sports industry functions like any other business. Through studying cases on international franchises and group projects, my classmates and I learned how to analyze the sports industry as professionals in the field.

To go on further explain what it is like working in the sports industry,  I asked Mr. Sandy Alderson to describe the path he took to get into the field and much more. 

Image via

Prior to beginning your career in sports, you were working for the Farella Braun & Martel Law Firm in San Francisco. What about the sports industry encouraged you to make the shift in careers?
Well if you go back to 1980, there wasn’t the sports industry as we know today. What attracted me to the Oakland A’s was purely an interest in baseball. Today, the size and complexity of the industry in terms of the revenues and the types of participants in advertisers and vendors that are fully engaged is different than when I first started. It is a far more complicated, mature, and prominent industry.

As an alum of Harvard Law School and Dartmouth College, what courses or activities do you believe prepared you for the field?
I did not have any inkling when I was in college or law school that I would be entering the sports business. In retrospect there wasn’t anything that I did purposely that prepared me. The legal education was very helpful though not necessary provided an analytical framework for decision making and so forth. Certainly classes in economics and other business classes which are available at Haas were great. Sports management classes would have been great but they weren’t available at the time.

What are the key personal characteristics for success in this field?
Real interest in sports. I think you have to be really interested in the sports to pursue a career in the industry. At the entry level, the compensation is not all that attractive but some people are very passionate are sports which provides a very good starting point. It is like every other business in many respects. An understanding of accounting, economics, and marketing are all valuable. Background in a particular sport is useful. To differentiate one candidate from one another, things that make an individual stand out if is that is they have taken relevant academic courses, have had an internship, other form of background in sports or a particular entity or geographical area.

How do most people get into this field? What are common entry ­level jobs?
Internship with a variety departments within a team, franchise, organization, league,or sponsor such as PepsiCola. Also, it could be in a form of an internship with an agency that represents athletes or advertisers.  Internships are important. Making contacts are really important. Getting involved in sports is similar in getting involved in any business or any job. It takes energy, commitment and effort.

What should one consider when creating a resume?
The resume is important and one must be able to somehow demonstrate interest and experience. Another thing that is important about a resume is that is gets to the right person within an organization and sometimes that is difficult to know. Each organization is slightly different in the way it assigns titles and responsibilities. However information is available online. In my capacity at Berkeley, I’ve counseled students in past on where to send a letter to particular organization with some confidence. 

What opportunities for advancement exist (in regards to a sports franchise)?
These organizations are not that large unless you’re taking about PepsiCo of Anhauser-Bushch who are big sports industry partcipants. If you get your foot in the door and do good work in whatever capacity, people will notice. Then there may be an opportunity to move up or laterally based on ability. Often young people will enter at  sales level and to the extent that they’re successful at the sales capacity, there may be other opportunities. I’ve definitely seen that in the past.

What types of publications would list job openings in this field?
Sports Business Daily and other more targeted resources such as Baseball America and the section of employment opportunities on

What advice or suggestions do you offer for someone considering going into the field?
Well at Berkeley, I would definitely recommend taking the undergraduate course of Sports Marketing.  In addition to giving a student a overview of the sports industry  the course also puts the student in contact with a professor who may be active in the sports field and an access to speakers who come from different areas of the industry.

What related fields should students consider looking into?
Entertainment. But keep in mind the sports industry is tremendously diverse. You have leagues, franchises, agencies,sponsors, vendors–just so many different business participants in the industry that there are alot of different ways of being involved in the industry by not necessarily being part of a team. If you’re in interested in marketing you might focus in sponsors.  If you’re interested in player representation then agencies are good places to start. There are varieties of ways that one can come in contact with the sports industry.

Please note that UGBA 167: Sports Marketing  will be offered in Fall 2011. I promise you that the course will be worth taking.

I wish everyone the best of luck in their pursuits! If you have suggestions or ideas of content you want to see in the Haas Undergraduate Students Blog, feel free to shoot me an-email!

Catherine J. Limcaco
Class of 2012
Go Bears!

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