Alumni Spotlight: Nick Garcia – Sponsorship Specialist at the NBA, Class of 2010

Nick GarciaNick Garcia graduated from BHP in 2010 with a second major in Marketing and a minor in Sports Management. He knew early on that he wanted to work for the NBA. Using the tools he learned from his peers and mentors in the BHP, he carved an unconventional career path for himself on his way to becoming a Sponsorship Specialist for the NBA.

You went to work for the NBA right after graduation. Tell me more about your career progression there and how you landed the job.

Growing up, I always wanted to work in sports so I used BHP as my stepping-stone to do just that. As a freshman, I researched the bios and career progressions of all the top executives in sports. From there, I was able to map exactly what I thought would make me an excellent candidate to work in sports post graduation. By the time I was applying for full-time jobs, I had completed four sports-related internships, varying from collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels. Then, it was as simple as going to the NBA Career Website to apply for their NBA Associate Program my senior year. I believe my internship experience, combined with my academics, helped me get the position. They typically only accept six out of 2,500 applicants, so it is very competitive.

I started in a rotational program and spent eight months of the year on Latin American business development. An opportunity came up for a consulting role in Team Marketing and Business Operations (TMBO) and I decided to transition over since it is considered to be the most prestigious group at the NBA. In the beginning, I worked on a lot of case studies and I found a better way to improve some of the fundamental resources we provided to teams, which got me noticed and promoted. Since my first promotion, my positions have been more team-facing, I’ve been doing more presentations to team leadership which allowed me a lot of visibility. I have been able to move up quickly because I have shown advancement in the areas I have been tasked with. Currently, I am a Sponsorship Specialist with TMBO.

How did BHP prepare you for what you are doing now?

The biggest thing was the competitive edge and high standards set by some of the most elite  students and professors at UT. I knew I needed to come to class extremely well prepared every day because I wanted to contribute to discussions and group projects as much as I could. It helped me be successful. Now at the NBA, my colleagues are some of the best in the industry and I need to be prepared to stand out and contribute. I always think, what comment will my boss make and what comment will my boss’ boss make. It is the same as when I was in school and prepared for what my classmates would be asking in class.  If you practice with the best, you become the best.

How did you find opportunities in your interests when you were at UT?

I had a lot of personal ambition to work in the industry. I did informational interviews with anyone and everyone I could find in the sports industry. I would ask them how they got to their job, then I would interview their boss and ask how they got to their job. It helped me find the areas I was interested in and figure out how to get there. It was a lot of work. I took the initiative and was proactive.

What do you enjoy most about working in sports and your current position?

I fundamentally believe in the product we are pitching. Some people say sports is too much of a business and athletes get paid too much, but it is really amazing how sports bring people together. It brings them together in a way nothing else does and I love working in an industry that provides people that escape. The world cup is one of the best examples of that. So many countries in the game face civil unrest, but during that moment, they are all one.

Tell me more about the marketing side of your work. What are the key differences of marketing in a sports setting?

I don’t really think it is that different. It is the fundamentals of business. We are trying to understand our consumers. We survey our fans to get information to put together our marketing strategies. Those who operate sports teams like a traditional business are the most successful.

You worked with Latin America. How did conducting business with Latin American countries differ from conducting business in the U.S.?

We were moving business down there and getting the infrastructure set up to have the first NBA office in Latin America . The skepticism from the locals was high because we are an American Company. We had to work a lot with the government and get their approval for everything. I mean everything. There was a lot of red tape and it was difficult getting them on board for basketball since soccer is the predominant money making sport in the region.

What BHP class do you think was most valuable to you?

BA 324 was probably the most valuable. It provided me with the fundamentals and the ability to communicate my ideas, whether it be in meetings, presentations or emails. I think that is a big part of why I rose up the ranks so fast. I see a lot of new grads who are too conversational in tone. I always knew how to be very professional. The group projects in all my classes also really made a difference in my ability to work in teams.

What advice would you have for someone from BHP looking to take a different career path?

If you have something you are passionate about, find a way to make a career out of it. Whether it is through informational interviews, or looking at Linked In profiles of those you admire. I had the ambition to do something I love. I dismissed financial considerations. I wanted to do what would make me happy and thought the money would come. Entry-level salaries in sports are lower, but once you break through that first tier, you tend to be at a higher level than other business industries. The fact that I was a business honors student and not just a sports management major set me apart because I understood how sports is a more than a game, it’s a business.

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