On April 15, 2014, the San Diego Padres and Teamwork Online hosted a special networking event at Petco Park in the stadium’s auditorium prior to the Padres vs. Rockies game. For those not familiar, Teamwork Consulting, Inc., is one of the main resources of job postings and is the online application source for employment across a wide spectrum of sports and live entertainment industries, including Major League Baseball.
This is a review of and an opinion piece of attending the event.
A group ticket purchase was set up by Teamwork and the Padres and sent to individuals who had applied for employment within the Padres organization, or were registered users of teamworkonline.com. For $55 invitees could participate in the networking event from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the stadium’s auditorium, and then enjoy the game in section P107 afterward as a group.
The event was an interesting and unique opportunity to put oneself in front of personnel from the Padres (sales, ticket sales, membership development, marketing services and human resources), Teamwork, the National Sports Forum/Seaver Marketing Group and a surprise guest from the San Diego Chargers organization, as well as participate in peer networking. Approximately 75 people attended.
I believe the event had many different purposes and levels of usefulness for everyone who attended.
First and foremost is that I think we all know that the Padres, for many years, have struggled greatly to compete for people’s entertainment dollars in San Diego, which is a huge challenge for any live entertainment organization based in San Diego. A myriad of competing events, a small to moderate hardcore baseball fan base that is smaller than in other major metropolitan areas, and median incomes and stagnant wages in this market that do not match the high cost of living are challenges that the Padres face on the tenth anniversary of Petco Park being built. But these challenges have existed for decades.
To the Padres’ credit, its operations is looking for individuals who fit within the organization to help bring more of San Diegan’s entertainment dollars to Petco Park.
The team has implemented many positive and creative changes in its marketing and ticketing strategies this season (if you haven’t noticed) and have added a lot of value to attending Padres games.
As in introduction to the event, Eric McKenzie, Senior Director of Ticket Sales, spent about 15 minutes speaking about “…what this organization stands for..” and outlined Padres outreach and community service to the military, first responders, trans-border relations, redevelopment and revitalizing of the East Village and Gaslamp Quarter and that the Padres organization supplies over 14,000 baseball uniforms and jerseys to San Diego community youth baseball programs. “We want everyone to be a Padre,” McKenzie said.
He also mentioned improvements to the stadium and available concessions and explained his “TEN” plan – Put a great (T)eam on the field, provide great (E)ntertainment and be good (N)eighbors with the Latino fan base in Baja, California. McKenzie finished by stating that by coming to the ballpark and attending a game gives residents and tourists alike the opportunity to “Get a real feel for the city by coming to a game.”
While I feel that this is all fantastic (and not really new news), I thought McKenzie neglected to explain in general or in detail any real business strategies that the team is currently implementing to improve attendance or interest in baseball in general or the Padres specifically for what I would call “non-outreach” populations. For instance, I would have liked to learn a little bit more about the new membership program, or the new Padres Packs, or the in-game Twitter seat upgrade opportunity.
Here was the Senior Director of Ticket Sales in front of me – but McKenzie never mentioned anything about tickets from a non-outreach perspective. I found that quite odd, especially if the Padres invited us here to see if any of us can help them improve attendance with our networking and business skills.
And I fail to see how attendance can improve based alone on community service programs and/or improvements in concessions. To me, those are soft sell items. In short, McKenzie’s time consuming pitch for the Padres ate into my networking at bat time with peers and executives.
Next at the plate were introductions of the executives in attendance, based on a statement made by Teamwork President Buffy Filippell, who flew in from Cleveland to attend the event. She asked everyone, including the audience, “What is your best business success?” A little later in the evening, she also made a thought-provoking statement: “Our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness.”
And each panel member introduced themselves with a great short story about how they became successful or had a breakthrough moment in their respective careers in the sports industry. While interesting, entertaining and inspiring, this also did not address the Padres problem of bringing more people to the ballpark – or what hiring needs the Padres might have been looking for, besides being re-directed to a website’s job listings.
This approach ate up more of my perceived valuable networking time. There was only an hour of networking allotted for this event to put myself in front of these people face to face, competing with 75 other individuals to get access to approximately 10 professionals, and at least half of that time was now gone.
I was well prepared going into the event with a personal statement, created a great business card, and researched the executives and the Padres organization extensively. It was specified that resumes were not being taken, for whatever reason I do not know, with possibly the reason being we were all registered users or had profiles posted on Teamworkonline.com. But to me that made no sense whatsoever. Why default to something online when you are in front of a human being?
It was stipulated that the event was a “get to know each other” type of event. But it was clear the Padres were scouting for talent off the field. I do not think myself and others in attendance – in speaking with attendees – many came from Los Angeles and Riverside – we were not here to be educated about community outreach and the new Seaside Market in the stadium. We were there looking for career opportunities. I think we were all there to see if we could help the Padres, not the other way around.
While waiting in long lines to speak with the executives, I took that time to give my card and pitch myself to others in line, which turned out to be productive use of time, and which was also encouraged by Teamwork’s Filippel. Turns out I met someone who knew someone I worked with in the sports industry a long time ago and that person is still in the position almost 30 years later. That was a great connection and worth the price of admission. A networking success.
There were many attendees who were still in college, looking for a summer internship, or were coming up on college graduation. I spoke to and collected business cards from real estate professionals, drafting and design engineers, a human resource recruiter, administrative professionals, bankers, students and recent graduates with no professional titles on their business cards but with their major and year of graduation on the card, photographers and accountants. And I was left kind of scratching my head. What are these people doing here?
Then I looked at all the cards I had collected from my networking – 20 – and only a single one seemed to have any relationship to employment or experience in sports. It was from a person who had “public address announcer/media relations” as a title, and a baseball as a logo. I asked him if he had come down for the Padres PA tryouts. His answer was, “No.”
I did, finally, get to speak to three of the executives, plus briefly with Todd Poulsen, Senior Director of Ticket Sales and Services with the San Diego Chargers.
I had a specific goal in mind going to the event. Specifically, I wanted to tell someone within the Padres organization that I thought the pre-season “Swing for Your Seats” promotion – that whoever came up with that idea – was a genius. I said this to Jeff Gould, Manager of Membership Development.
Which was a grand slam – because it was actually Gould who had come up with the idea, unbeknownst to me. Gould thanked me for the comment and accepted my card, but didn’t seem too interested in my interest in the Padres.
After the conclusion of the networking event, it was a bit sad – if not ironic – to see only about a quarter of the attendees in our group seats who stayed to enjoy the ballgame. It was also disappointing – as strong as that may sound – that not one of the executives or a representative of the Padres sat with us to network a bit more or just watch the game together. Maybe we deserved a free bag of peanuts or Cracker Jacks. Maybe we didn’t. If the Padres would have came up to me and sold me a ticket for $20 for the same seat for the next evening, I would have bought it.
To me, the true fans and the ones who might bring value to the ballclub (Dedication! Persistence! Hope! Optimism!) were in those seats until the conclusion of the game, regardless of what time it was or where one lives. That’s who I’d speak with if I was looking for someone to work for me.
After the seventh inning stretch in a 1-run ballgame, only two of us remained. We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders toward Toyota Terrace.
Overall I think it was a valuable and interesting experience. Maybe you could say I had a ball all night long. As I was admitted to the ballpark at approximately 5:10 p.m., I had arrived early to be punctual. Which translated into being able to watch the Padres during batting practice. Which resulted in me getting a BP baseball. Which was tucked away discretely under my sport coat until the final out of the night, with, unfortunately, the Rockies defeating the Padres, 3-2.
After last weekend’s Saturday night’s win over the Giants with a sellout crowd, the Padres have won seven of their last ten games. Maybe they don’t need help after all.