Navigate Research

Industry Insights

As the industry leader in evaluating and measuring marketing investments, Navigate has a wealth of knowledge in the sponsorship and marketing space. This blog shares our knowledge and insights on current events in the sports business, marketing and sponsorship worlds.

How To Break Into Sports

Navigate Research - Monday, March 09, 2015

As Spring is coming into full swing and the school year is winding down for students, I started to reminisce about when I was a college student trying to get my first job and break into the sports industry. Even though that was only three short years ago, I thought I would share tips with students on how to breakthrough and get the opportunity of your dreams. I think students can differentiate and gain knowledge about the industry through the following pillars: 

• Networking is the #1 most important thing to getting your first big break and every opportunity after that 
• Networking isn't only about connecting with someone on LinkedIn, it’s about building an authentic relationship 
• A great place to start for networking is to look at your University’s alumni 

Informational Interviews 
• Informational interviews are the world’s best kept secret to learning about sports business 
• Ask professionals for 30 minutes of their time to ask them questions about their jobs, the industry, etc. 
• Differentiate yourself by preparing for the interview and asking them relevant and timely questions 
• Follow Up – the key to everything you do is following up, nobody will remember them if you meet them once and email them once, it takes persistence and time to build a relationship 

Volunteer at Conferences 
• Volunteering at conferences is a great way to not only learn, but to start to meet people in the industry 
• There are great conferences all over the country: SBJ, National Sports Forum, MIT 

Athletic Department 
• Get involved in school, during the semester 
• Interning with your athletic department is a great way to get exposure to the industry 

• Intern in sports business and learn about the industry 
• Internships are the best place to see what you actually like and don’t like in the industry 

Trade Journals 
• Read the trade journals and industry news as much as possible 

 If you’re interested in pursuing an internship with Navigate to get experience, please reach out to us at

Are We Seeking Insights or Positive Reinforcement?

Navigate Research - Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Written by Shaelyn McCole 

As researchers, one of the most common scenarios we encounter is the stressful discovery that the data we worked so meticulously to collect doesn’t pan out as we hoped. We were hoping for the ‘A’ result, yet the data says ‘B’. Regardless of the stage in the research process, it can be difficult to see these kinds of unforeseen situations as positive outcomes. For example, these scenarios may sound familiar… 

- For the data analyst, hours are often poured into quadruple checking every data figure to confirm the results are accurate and intuitively stated, recognizing that every number can and may likely be challenged by anyone who was hoping for different results. 

- The survey design will be endlessly scrutinized, and whoever designed it will need to be armed with a detailed justification for every research method decision from survey instrument to sample selection. 

- The researcher responsible for interpreting the results will be challenged to think outside the scope of the initial research hypothesis, which will require a deeper understanding of the business… and possibly the need to ask for more marketing dollars to conduct additional research. - The individual responsible for presenting the results to the end client may be tasked with the most difficult job of all, because to the end client, he will be the bearer of bad news.

Despite the fact that all parties involved in the research project have performed their jobs with dutiful commitment to detail, the end client may ultimately decide to dismiss the project, not because it wasn’t good research, but because it didn’t yield the ‘positive results’ they had hoped for. 

It’s during these sorts of scenarios that I question the intention of modern research—and, admittedly, often fanaticize about transporting myself to being on a beach somewhere with no Wi-Fi. Are we truly trying to make a positive impact in our business, or are we simply aiming to receive validation by presenting results that look alluring and favorable?

I recently listened to an outstanding talk by Paul DePodesta, Vice President of Player Development & Amateur Scouting for the New York Mets. In his talk, DePodesta posed what he termed the ‘naïve question’: 

“If you were starting over – would you build it the same way?” 

When we look at our business through the lens of the naïve question, unexpected data findings are gold, and intelligent research (not ‘positive results’), is our secret weapon… because it tells us something that we don’t already know. Honest research isn’t designed to give us a high five for a business practice we already have in place, but to provide insight into how we can make it better. Although it can be a difficult undertaking, we should strive to engage in research design, analysis, and data interpretation with an open mind and thick skin to unanticipated findings and new directions. 

As researchers, it’s our job to expand the lens through which our clients view their businesses and help them avoid affirmation bias—that is, only seeing results that support their current beliefs. As the end user of research findings, it’s critical to remember that research is not the endpoint, marketing campaign finale, or even a report card for the marketing team’s hard work. It’s a guiding light for understanding and strategically advancing our business practices. Job performance should be measured by how successful a team is at using insights to help grow and improve business in innovative ways, rather than the number of times we receive ‘pats on the back’ for presenting inviting data. When it comes to the data and insights, we cannot take them personally—we must advance in the best interest of our businesses to maximize growth and innovation.

Forbes Names Navigate Research a Top 10 Best Place to Work in Sports

Julie Frank - Tuesday, March 03, 2015

So you want a job in sports, but given the choice, what organization is the best to work for?

The sports industry is incredibly competitive, with a high barrier to entry and an even steeper climb to the top. Those that have spent time working in sports know how often organizations turnover employees, whether it be due to the low pay, long hours,  slow climbs up the ladder or any number of other factors that dissuade those who enter from having prolonged stays in the industry. Yet many within the industry do end up having long and fulfilling careers, and more often then not, their success can be traced back to the great organizations and leaders that helped shaped them both professionally and personally.

I set out to determine just which leagues, teams, agencies and other organizations within the sports industry set themselves apart from the competition when it came to factors such as employee sanctification, work-life balance and career growth. I interviewed many dozens of individuals at all levels of sports, from entry-level sales staff to team presidents, as well as top executive recruiters and university leaders who have trained countless generations of top industry professionals.

The organizations that made the list are as different and varied as the industry they represent. Some employee just a few dozen individuals, others many hundreds. Among the areas of the business represented are professional teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, leagues like the NFL, college athletics departments like the Ohio State University Buckeyes, marketing and consulting agencies like Premier Partnerships and data and research firms su
ch as Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.

  • Core Business: Sports Marketing Investment Research
  • Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
  • Company Size: 15+
  • Leadership: AJ Maestas, President and Founder
  • What Employees Are Saying:“Navigate is different from most companies in that we often joke that we don’t work for a ‘company’ at all, but that we work for each other.  Everyone on our team gives their best effort, because when one of us does the job successfully, it makes the rest of the team that much more likely to succeed too.  This sort of mindset has created an environment where no one has to be pushed or threatened to do the job well, personal motivation comes from appreciating the people we work with.  I believe this is the main reason we’ve been able to create the ‘Navigate’ culture that we all value so much… we trust each other with few rules and lots of freedoms.” - Shaelyn McCole, Director of Research

Campus-Wide Partnerships: Know Your Value

Navigate Research - Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Previously, I shared the idea that athletic directors and/or other leaders should know their value so they can make the best decision for their school or department’s future. I focused part of that on the idea of taking certain rights that have been historically outsourced, back in-house. If a department decided to pursue this and effectively executed the change, they would certainly earn more revenue in the long term than what they otherwise would have expected from a third party relationship. I received significant follow up so I wanted to share more thoughts in the effort of furthering the discussion. 

First, every school has too many unique factors going into such a decision by an athletic department or athletic director to discuss all of them here. Broadly applied, this theory holds true. 

The main idea is this: Know your value. 

The importance of knowing what you are worth has become paramount. As athletic departments and other university stakeholder groups consider different options for supporting or operating for the many areas they oversee (ticket sales, sponsorship, licensing, donor gifts, etc.), it is essential to know what a department can expect from each area. For example, in the area of sponsorships, an athletic director can count on a guaranteed rights fee annually from a rights holder. In the world of tickets, a different financial model may be in place, or another model in another area. All of these areas can become more and more difficult for a school to manage and again supports the theory to know your value. 

The easiest way to think about this is like a real estate appraiser. For example, when you sell your house, you typically get an appraisal. Some states even require it by law. The appraisal includes specifics for your house plus benchmarking against other homes in the neighborhood to give you a good idea of the price at which you can sell your home. Understanding your value and the value of those around you will better enable you to maximize value from your next agreement. 

As we see in the current landscape of college athletics, it is sometimes easier to count on a guarantee and if you choose that path, you’ll want to make sure you maximize that guarantee. Admitting some departments will continue to outsource and some won’t, I’d ask them all one question: Do you know what you are worth? 

If you need help answering that question, hire an expert - Navigate Research - to help you with the valuation. During negotiations, the one thing you control is information so you should be armed with supporting data and insights to help you optimize your value. Having this research simply puts you on equal footing with the potential buyers and gives you support during the negotiations.