Public Relations in Athletics
“If industry is to be successful in dealing with public opinion . . . it must learn the language of the people, it must consider the study of public opinion as important as any phase of its operations. It must recognize that public opinion can be measured, and utilize the increasingly scientific methods developing today for gauging it”(Ross)
PR today, has undergone a massive restructuring and organization and is now gaining recognition worldwide. An offshoot of this is PR in sports. The sports industry in the U.S. generates $213 – $350 billion a year as revenues and is growing by the day (ESPN). Everyone tries to cash in on their benefits. Sports PR have come a long way. Today it is far more dynamic and complex. Public Relations is a very broad industry, serving a wide variety of institutions in society such as businesses, trade unions, government agencies, voluntary associations, foundations, hospitals, schools, colleges, and sports teams. Sports in the last fifty years have changed an amazing amount. It used to be just two teams playing against each other strictly for the love of the sport and for the enjoyment of the few people in attendance. As time went on and attendance and interest in professional sports grew so did the cash flow. Teams began adding more coaches as well scouts. It became obvious that a font office staff was needed to take care of the day to day operations of sports teams. In the 1940s baseball owner Bill Veeck changed the games even more when he promised the game to be the least exciting part of the evening. He hosting Ladies’ Night, Fireworks Fridays, and a Disco Demolition Night in which he blew up a pile of old records, Veeck brought sports into a new era (Veeck ; Linn, 1962). Bill Veeck was the first true PR man in sports. He sold out stadium after stadium, in several different cities. The sports PR which Bill Veeck started has now evolved and is a much different brand of PR then every other industry.
In order for an Athletic team to have effective PR, they require very large in-house staffs which are very diverse in there job descriptions and responsibilities. The first and broadest group is the basic public relations staff. The basic public relations staff takes care of the basic day to day of the organization. They are the people who write and release the updates on the team to the general public. They also deal with the unsolicited phone questions as well as set up and take down of the press box for games as well and the lesser media inquiries. The public relations staff is composed of usually two staff members and several unpaid interns. The second of the three staffs is the fan relations staff. Fan relations are responsible for making sure that fans are happy. They are responsible for the promotions around the arena that are directed at making sure the fan who is actually a customer stays happy and returns another day. There day to day staff is much smaller although on game day they bring in a very large part time staff to give away posters or sign people up for credit cards or do any number of other things. The third staff and probably the most important is the Media Relations staff. Media Relations is responsible for the media’s interaction with the team itself; they are the contact for interviews as well as for media clearance for games. Every clip, picture, quote, press release or story that a team releases to the media and general public crosses the desk of a Media Relations representative. The small staff which makes up media relations is the official spokespeople for an athletics organization. The three divisions of the PR department work together in order to keep the media and the fans happy as well as informed.
Street Smarts and quick reaction time are not the only two requirements to manage the Public Relations for an Athletics organization. Doris Acosta of the Chicago Cubs believes, “It is a tense job requiring a lot of organizational skills. I came here two years ago. We do
Public Relations in Athletics