Diana Sleep has demonstrated a long-term love for working in the sports industry, and exudes passion, positivity, and professionalism in all her endeavors. From graduating with a degree in marketing from Arizona State University, to her current sponsorship role with the Corpus Christi Hooks, Diana truly works hard in every facet of life.
Recently, the Sponsorship Space had the opportunity to discuss industry roles, sponsorship marketing trends, career advice for current students, and much more with Diana. For more on Diana, please see her LinkedIn profile here.
Q: Tell us about your journey - what excites you most about working in the sports industry and specifically baseball?
I’d say you’re very lucky if you can turn your passion into a career. That’s why I enjoy working in baseball so much. I’ve always had a passion for it. I especially love the pace and style of the game. Baseball is a sport where you can take a break, chat with your neighbor or fellow fan, and relax every three outs if you wish. The tradition and history of baseball in America is fascinating to me as well.
I grew up in Santa Barbara, California. In our house, there was always a ball game on and my siblings and I played just about every sport possible growing up. Dad was a ball player and I owe him for my passion for baseball. In fact, my dad and I recently attended Game 6 of the World Series in Los Angeles last week. This was one of the best experiences of my life.
I’ve been working in baseball for years now, and I currently work in Sponsorship for the Corpus Christi Hooks, AA Affiliate of the World Champions, the Houston Astros.
Q: Can you describe the organizational culture of the Corpus Christi Hooks?
I’d say our organizational culture is very relaxed, friendly, and inviting. Many employees have been here for ten years or more. Many of my co-workers have worked their way up from intern/entry level positions to full-time leadership roles. At the same time, being owned and operated by the Houston Astros, we have adopted a professional and organized culture over the past five years.
Q: In terms of job responsibilities, what are your favorite aspects of partnership services?
It is very important to understand a sponsor’s organizational and personal needs. Once we understand their priorities, we can provide the right services to satisfy them. For example, while some sponsors may be focused on improving gross sales, others are looking to improve company outreach or branding--and we can make sure we supply the right services to help them achieve their goals.
My favorite part of my job is bringing our partnerships to life. By this I mean, after months of coordination and communication with a sponsor, we finally start to see elements such as signage, promotions, ballpark outings, and more take place. I love when a Sponsor comes to the ballpark for a game, we run their promotion or various elements effectively, entertain their group, and ultimately, we exceed their initial expectations. To me, this is a win-win, and it’s the best part of my job.
Q: How has partnership services evolved over the last couple years?
Even though I am in my twenties, I have seen minor league baseball grow in popularity over the past few years. Typically, minor league baseball has been the more relaxed, cost-effective baseball outing option for families. This is still true. However, minor league baseball is becoming big business. In fact, some minor league teams gross more than 20 million annually.
About ten years ago, partnership services and sponsorship management could be handled by one individual--usually the general manager of the team. Now, due to popularity and value of various sponsorships, it has its own department and is usually made up of several individuals including a Director, Manager, Coordinator, and seasonal associates to assist in activating the elements of the contract. In the past, most contracts would consist of a few basics such as an outfield sign and season tickets for the company. Now, companies have options such as naming rights, innovative in-game promotions, social media marketing campaigns, promotional giveaways, concerts, display and sampling tables…and the list goes on. Sponsorship in minor league baseball is thriving.
Q: What are your favorite resources & publications to stay current on industry trends?
My favorite publications to read are the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Sports Business, Sports Illustrated, and Sports Business Journal. I also watch Fox News and Fox Business News. Additionally, LinkedIn home page offers a great platform for various sports business connections to share and post their own articles, advertisements, and stories. I take time out of my day each day to read about what is happening in the world of sports.
Q: Have you had any mentors help you in your career endeavors?
Absolutely. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help and guidance of several mentors. My former boss from the Dodgers and White Sox Spring training at Camelback ranch, Matt Slatus, has had a huge influence on my career. He coached me in the basics of sponsorship and taught me the importance of planning, communication, and being organized. Matt now works as the General Manager for the Aberdeen Ironbirds, A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Matt and I continue to stay in touch and he suggested I apply for the job I currently have now.
Another mentor of mine has been Dan O’ Neil, Senior Director of Business Operations for our parent team, the Houston Astros. Dan has encouraged me to be creative and innovative during the sponsorship process. He’s a great motivator, teacher, and has excellent communication skills.
Chuck Domino, current President of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Double A Affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, has also served as a mentor. Mr. Domino has helped me identify my career objectives and has helped me make career decisions over the past few years.
Last, Derek Schuster, current Director of Sales for the Phillies, has also served as a mentor. Because most of my work experience thus far has been in minor leaguer baseball, Derek has offered valuable advice on how sales and sponsorship function at the major league level. Derek also served as a reference for me when I was interviewing for the job I have today.
Q: For students looking to break into the industry, what would be your top 3 pieces of advice?
1.Internships are essential. Paid or unpaid internships are the first way to get your foot in the door and get a taste of the industry. Ask questions--then, ask if there is anything else you can do to help. The first internship is the toughest to get but, typically, if you do a good job, the first job leads to the second and so on.
2. Network, Network, Network. I can’t stress enough how important your contacts and connections will be in the long run. Try to stay in contact with professionals you meet, especially those who have a prominent role with a team/entity. These contacts can be beneficial to you--whether they offer advice, share job opportunities, or just keep you updated on industry trends. Minor League baseball is a tight knit community. Most GMs and Presidents know each other and many of the people who work with minor league teams across the country.
3. Understand that this industry is a grind. If you are looking to make lots of money immediately after you graduate, then working for a minor league baseball team is probably not for you. We work long hours-- sometimes over 90 hours a week during the season. All front office staff are required to “pull tarp” when necessary and no task is considered off-limits. You need to be “on” 100% of the time when fans are present. You can’t “mail it in” and there are no “off days.” We deliver a service, a promise to each fan, each day, and that’s for a safe, enjoyable, and entertaining experience at the ballpark.
Q: Outside of work, what are some of your favorite things to do?
It’s probably no surprise that when I’m not working at the ballpark or working a Hooks game, I watch a lot of sports, whether it’s MLB Baseball, college football (go Sun Devils!), or hockey. I am also an avid runner and gym rat. I log about 20-30 miles a week. I love to read, especially thrillers and mysteries. I grew up in sunny Santa Barbara, California so any chance I get to hit the beach, I’m there!
Partnership Services Coordinator
Corpus Christi Hooks
Santa Barbara, California