BY: KARA NORTH
This summer I had the privilege of interning in our very own University of Delaware Athletics Department, with Development and Alumni Relations. Although my position was not strictly public relations, I utilized many of the skills I’ve learned over the past three years in an area I was newly introduced to. Most importantly, I was able to experience what it is like to work in athletics and learned to appreciate the necessity of PR in the industry as I worked alongside professionals in all departments.
Choosing to begin a career in public relations is handing yourself over to a realm of unpredictability. A PR professional’s main task is to uphold the positive image of whatever or whomever it is that they are representing, no matter what situation arises. Working in sports amplifies the likeliness of the unknown in the very nature of the industry: you can never accurately predict the outcome of any one game, match, race, etc. This makes sports public relations a challenge indeed.
Despite the challenge, the amount of sports PR professionals is growing due to the ever-increasing amount of media outlets as well as the public’s rising interest in athlete’s lives. PR professionals provide this behind-the-scenes glimpse while fulfilling the public’s need for up-to-date sports data. Their main responsibility is to create and preserve positive images for the athletes or sports clubs they represent.
It is imperative that those involved in sports PR maintain the flow of favorable information to the media. This is where unpredictability surfaces – one fielding error too many could lead to a sequence of negative press for an athlete. Similarly, like any individual in the spotlight, the actions of athletes are carefully monitored and it is up to PR professionals to shed a positive light on those who act unfavorably (think Tom Brady and the thousands of “deflategate” memes or the media’s constant questioning of Colin Kaepernick). It is up to PR professionals to shape public perception of an athlete or franchise. If the perception is positive, it helps on all ends – athletes, teams and fans included. Another responsibility of sports PR professionals is promoting a team’s profitability. Individuals are more inclined to purchase tickets and buy into a franchise of there is public interest.
There are of course many advantages to working in the industry, like working alongside a loyal fan base and developing an appreciation for the inability to predict outcomes – it’s all a part of the excitement of sports. Public relations in sports is imperative at any level, whether it is professional or in higher education like I was able to experience. Think of the team you love or the athlete you idolize – somewhere along the way a PR professional brought them to the public’s eye!