How Is Working in Pro Sports Different than College Athletics?

Interview with Dave Jaeger, Cal IMG Sports Marketing

Dave Jaeger, Associate General Manager, Cal IMG Sports Marketing.

This interview features Dave Jaeger of IMG, an industry leader in collegiate marketing, media and licensing.  Mr. Jaeger is Associate General Manager for the University of California, Berkeley (Cal) account.

What are your current responsibilities with IMG working with the University of California athletic department?

Jaeger: I'm the Associate General Manager for Cal IMG.  We’re the multimedia rights holder for Cal Athletics so we sell and service all of the department’s sports sponsorships.

  My main responsibilities are business development, client relations, and providing leadership.

Previously, you worked for the Golden State Warriors for over a decade.  Many sports professionals switch organizations early in their career.  Why do you think you had such a long and successful run with the Warriors?

Jaeger: To be honest, when I joined the Warriors I was given more responsibility than I probably deserved at that stage in my career, which forced me to learn quickly and work especially hard to prove myself.  I was then rewarded for my success through promotions and raises at a fairly young age.  I also really enjoyed what I was doing and the area I was working in which was sponsorships.  So whereas most young professionals are forced to settle for entry level jobs with limited upside or work in departments that aren’t always desirable to them, I was doing something I really enjoyed and getting rewarded for my efforts.

 It helped that I was from the Bay Area and a Warriors fan too, so any switch would have likely taken me away from my hometown roots.

How is the culture of working in college athletics different than at a professional franchise?

Jaeger: The culture is similar, but the objectives are slightly different.

  That’s mostly because of the role the student-athletes play and the commitment/resources given to support their success off the field.  In my opinion, athletic departments haven’t fully embraced the commercialization of their sports --- like professional franchises are always striving to do --- in order to protect the spirit of college athletics.  Also, with IMG being a third party and global brand, it naturally creates some minor disconnects that you wouldn’t necessarily find at the professional level.

Your career started with an internship with a minor league baseball team.  What did you learn from that experience?

Jaeger: That working in sports maybe isn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be.  However the beauty of minor league baseball, especially at the low A level that I was in, is there were only five full-time employees at the time- President, GM, Marketing/Events Director, Public Relations Director, and Ticket Sales Director.  So I got a chance to learn why each position was key to the success of the organization and how they functioned together.  It helped me better understand the responsibilities and skill set needed to succeed in each area which in turn gave me a better idea of what I eventually wanted to do.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

Jaeger: I’m paraphrasing a bit here but essentially it was…  “If you don’t know anyone at a team or working in the industry already, there’s nothing that sets you apart from the average sports fan who thinks it would be cool to work for their favorite team.”  It was harsh advice at the time ---  I was only a junior in college ---  however it inspired me to get out and meet people, seek out internships, and essentially do whatever I could to differentiate myself from my classmates who all had the same career aspirations I did.

Thank you to Mr. Jaeger for taking the time to share his insights.



Updated by Rich Campbell