Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Knowing your market well is being able to identify with a community’s demographics, lifestyle trends, and consumer habits. While you don’t have to spend a large portion of your life in one region to understand it, it can certainly help to your advantage.
Daniel Rueckert has gained that perspective having lived in the Utah area throughout his life. His career began at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in Sports Management, Daniel quickly got involved with the athletic department as he began to carve out his space within the industry
It was with the Utes that Daniel began to hone in on his sports craft by becoming president of The MUSS, a nationally recognized student section. At the time, he led the quickest sellout in the 15-year history of the organization through effective marketing and student outreach. He later ran point on digital media for Mountain Sports International for most of 2017. Managing a total social media audience of over half a million consumers, he spoke to a different audience this time around, focus in on action sports such as bicycling, off-road racing, and more.
Recently, Daniel served as the primary marketing contact for the Salt Lake City Stars, the NBA G League affiliate of the Utah Jazz as well as their NBA2K League team, Jazz Gaming. Currently, he is the Marketing Manager for Real Salt Lake, a Major League Soccer team. The main onus of the role involves executing marketing campaigns from start to finish as well as maximizing club awareness throughout the greater Salt Lake City area.
The Sponsorship Space sat down with Daniel to learn more about his career in our latest Young Achiever feature.
1. You've spent your career in the Utah area. Describe what the sports scene is like out there.
Utah has an extremely passionate fanbase. They take a lot of pride in their teams and find ways to support them. Most teams in Utah have a great record at home because their fans truly feel they have an impact on the result and accept the challenge to be considered an underdog in a small market. I believe our colleges sports set the stage for other professional teams, with a deep, hated rivalry between Utah vs. BYU that continues to build, fans of all colleges come together to cheer on the pros.
2. Having been with multiple organizations in the Salt Lake City area, how have/do you go about marketing for each of the different sports?
The marketing strategy changes for each team. You need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of what product you're working with. I've always believed winning is the best marketing tool, so if your team is winning — you need to hammer home that success story and educate people on what's happening in their backyard. As a consumer, it's easy to spend money, if you know you're going to have a good time, usually winning plays a big role in that.
If your team is struggling, and I've been part of those seasons — you need to encourage fans to support their team in other ways. Whether that be through promotions, where fans receive a take home item or aren't necessarily buying a ticket because they care about the result. If you have a fanbase predicated on results, then you need to sell them on the promising rebuild happening. I've found highlight young talent works great. You need to create optimism in order to retain ticket holders and keep your fanbase engaged.
3. What has been the project you are most proud to have worked on?
There are a few, but the project I'm most proud of would be our Donovan "Spida" Mitchell bobblehead we launched with the Salt Lake City Stars, the NBA G League affiliate for the Utah Jazz. We took an idea in our heads and put it to paper. From developing the look, creating a marketing plan and having it result in a sellout with largest crowd in the team's history, that was a major win. Best part of all, it came time to present the bobblehead to Donovan and capture his reaction. He loved it and wanted to take it home — that's a homerun in my book. When you work in sports, these projects require so much time and effort, so when players fully appreciate what you're doing, it makes it all worth it.
4. What do you see as the future of soccer in this country?
Soccer is continuing to grow in the states. You look at what is happening in Europe and it's not fair compare because we have so many other high level sports we're competing with. Honestly, the most powerful tool is our USMNT and USWNT team’s competing in the FIFA World Cup. That event attracts different types of people and stretches the reach beyond just "soccer fans". If we can build a successful national program and see results on the world stage, you'll see soccer excel in this country.
5. What are the most important lessons you have learned thus far in your career?
I've learned a lot. The power of networking, building relationships across various departments can help both your personal and work life. Another lesson is being adaptable and adjusting course. My career has been all over the industry. I've had my hand in colleges sports, outdoor events, working snow competitions, mountain bike races, and off-road racing in Crandon, Wisconsin (look it up). After that I was back to working in team sports with basketball and soccer. More recently, I was tasked to market eSports. The future of space of sports and something everyone should get familiar with. With all that change and experience, I am confident I can adapt to any task thrown my way!
6. What is your favorite part about working in sports?
Sports has been my life for as long as I can remember. Like many people, I grew up playing sports and it finally came time to accept I wasn't good enough to keep going. The next best thing for me was to stay connected through it with work. Even though you might not be on the field, court or track, you can still have those moments of playing sports. You will feel excitement when your team hits a buzzer beater, if your team goes on a cinderella run in the playoffs, or if you get chills in an electric atmosphere. There is a lot you're signing up for when you choose this career path. You work long hours, work weekends, pay can be non-competitive, can't watch the games, you have no control over the performance of the team. Don't let that stop you, because you can't put a value on doing what you love.