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What is Your "Why"

Steve DeLay's picture


A few weeks ago I was having a beer with a friend in the sports industry. We started talking about office culture, the challenges of motivating employees; and how to get prospective customers excited about buying tickets or sponsorships.

My friend reminded me about a video he uses regularly in his position and that I had seen a couple years ago. The video was a talk by Simon Sinek, a business speaker, author etc who had become well known after writing a book called, "Start with Why" (click here to watch the video. It's about 18 minutes)

I went back and found the video and watched it. And then I watched it again. And then on the third time I watched it, I took notes as the subject material really started to sink in and I could relate it to the sports business.

Sinek talks about something he calls the Golden Circle. You can watch the video to get his full explanation. Essentially, The Golden Circle talks about how most companies market. (By the way, he uses Apple as an example. Anyone who reads this newsletter knows my enthusiasm for the way Apple markets their products). Most companies think this way:

  1. What - "Here is the product we sell."
  2. How - "What is our pitch? Value proposition, unique selling position, benefits of owning."
  3. Why - "Wanna buy it?"

For most sports teams who are selling tickets (or sponsorships), they tend to think:

  1. What - "We sell tickets to our games. Our team is competitive (or will be soon) and our games are a lot of fun."
  2. How - "If you're a company, you can entertain clients or reward employees. If you're an individual, you can have fun with your pals."
  3. Why - "Wanna buy? We can offer you a payment plan."

Sinek suggests companies reverse the thinking. Instead of thinking "What" first, think "Why" first. If you were a sports team selling tickets to individuals or companies, it would look more like this.

  • The "Why" for selling tickets could be - "Our purpose is to create memorable experiences that will leave an indelible and permanent imprint in the mind, heart and soul of you and anyone else you experience it with."
  • The "How" would be - "We do it through a variety of social opportunities for individuals, small groups and large gatherings. They just happen to be at a (insert sporting event) game."
  • The "What" becomes, "Would you like to climb on board the excitement?"
  • Now, think about your sales pitch. Of course it's different for companies vs. individuals. However, which way do you approach them? Do you just talk about what you have to sell or do you get people intimately and emotionally involved with your sales pitch? This works for sponsorships as well.

    Sinek says, "The goal is not to do business with people who need what you have. It's to do business with people who believe what you believe."

    Think about it. In sports, nobody really needs your product. Instead of taking a client to your game, they can take them golfing or out to dinner. Instead of taking little Johnny or little Susie to a game, they can go to the movies or go get ice cream. If you're selling sponsorships, the client can buy advertising anywhere. Sure you can tell them the demo of your fan matches their client base but so do 10 different TV shows, four radio stations in your market and the billboards on the freeway in from the most affluent suburb in your town. Why are you different? Why should someone care about what you're talking about? Why should they buy your product?


    We all search high and low to find the right people to hire. It's even tougher in sports because it seems everyone in the outside world wants in to our industry or we're hiring young people fresh out of college. The challenge you have as a Director, VP or President is you have to find a way to inspire and lead these people. One of my first bosses always said, "It's easy, I just hire self-motivated people." Sure, easier said than done.

    Sinek makes a great point in this area when he says, "Don't just hire people who need a job. They will only work for your money. Hire people who believe what you believe." In sports, that doesn't just mean hire people who also don't discount tickets , or hire only people who believe in full menu marketing. It doesn't just mean hire people who have sold radio or TV advertising so maybe they can sell sponsorships.

    What it means in sports is hire people who are going to live, eat, sleep and breathe the same desire you have to make your team the most successful in the city, league or country. And by most successful, I don't mean wins and losses. We on the business side play the team cards we're dealt. I mean hire people who will wear, "I work for XXX" as a badge of honor and want every other team in the country pointing to your team saying, "I want to work there. They are the best in the industry."

    Now, I don't preach working 16 hours a day. Go home at 5:30 but while you're in the office, I want to see your passion and enthusiasm for us succeeding.

    How do you find out if they have that passion? There is no magic list of interview questions. However, I used to ask one of two questions in every interview. The first was to people from outside the industry who wanted to run away and join the circus and work for us. The second was to people already inside the industry who wanted to jump over to us.

    1. "I'm going to ask you a question and the three answers you CAN NOT give me are 1) I love sports, 2) I love people and 3) I want to get out of bed excited to go to work every day. Now, why do you want to work here?" I found out pretty fast if they had thought through what they wanted to do and why. The answer didn't matter as much as the passion and enthusiasm in which they gave the answer.
    2. "You've got a good job at XXX (Another team or sports property). What makes coming to work here so appealing that you'd change jobs?" If they just said something about it being a promotion, getting closer to family or something else, I lost interest really quick. They had to want to make a dent in the sports world, make an impact, make a difference. Then they had me leaning forward. I wanted to see their passion.
    3. Think long and hard about your "Why". Why do you get out of bed in the morning to go to work at your team? Why should someone buy your tickets or your sponsorship? Why should your employees follow you and be inspired by you? Why do you do what you do?

      Steve DeLay is a sponsorship, ticket sales and premium sales consultant with more than 20 years of experience generating revenue for teams in the NBA, NHL, MLB and Minor League Baseball. He can be reached at or on Twitter @SteveDeLay2.

      Check out past Ticket Sales Thursday posts on The Migala Report.

      Check out past Ticket Sales and Service articles on The Migala Report.

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