Friday, April 1, 2011

Sports Industry Professional Q&A with Ryan Knapp

One of the best ways to learn about sports and the possible ways to break into the industry, is to pick the brain of a current sports industry professional. Recently, we did just that.

Involved in numerous ventures, Ryan Knapp currently devotes most of his time to serving as the the Manager of Digital at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). To learn more about him, please view his "about me" video below:

Now that we know a little bit about Ryan and his personal story, let's jump right into the Q&A!

Sport Management Student Union (SMTSU): Ryan, in your video you presented your responsibilities as Manager of NSCAA Digital. Can you please briefly explain what each element involves in a little more detail?

Ryan Knapp (RK):

Websites/blogs: Managing the content which appears on as well as our blog. I help assign the topics and themes for the months and move forward with who will create the content, what the content is about, and when it will be posted. This is the most time consuming part of my day!

Mobile: We have plans to develop some mobile applications in the future, but for now it's simply staying on top of the ever developing mobile scene, especially in soccer and sports. 

email marketing: This includes coding, designing and sending all of the NSCAA's email newsletters and blasts and assisting our sponsors and partners with sending emails to our groups for promotions and sales related to NSCAA events. 

social media: Maintaing our presence on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube for starters. Scheduling updates, talking 1-on-1 with fans and coaches looking for soccer advice. Developing new strategies and working on new platforms to help social take off to the next level for the NSCAA. 

digital advertising: Digital Advertising will become more relevant as we move forward with some initiatives, but right now I design the digital ads which go out on NSCAA partner sites as well as think of ways we can get the most out of partners who advertise currently with the NSCAA. This includes sponsorships and partnerships for certain website sections and digital platforms. 

external digital partnerships: A fancy saying for 'everything not in-house digital'. Any digital activation or ideas/plans that exist outside of the NSCAA but deal with us I handle and help execute. 

SMTSU: Social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, involve sending out short bits of content to a general constituency, much like marketing. Would you also call yourself a marketer?

RK: Good question. 

I'd say more like a ninja or guru. I kid. On social media we are all marketing or selling. It's part of the game. If I'm making a personal connection with someone at the core I'm marketing myself. The difference is that with social media it's not about 'buy, buy, buy' but rather it's based on making connections. Even in the business world it's about making connections while creating and providing value to your customers or whomever you interact with. 

In the beginning I would have said 'no' but in the last two years I've learned a lot about marketing and definitely count myself in that camp. 

SMTSU: Was it difficult leaving your hometown of Buffalo for your job with the NSCAA? How important is the ability to be mobile and quickly relocate to individuals pursuing a career in sports?

RK: Yes it was very difficult. My family is mostly based in Buffalo and all of my best friends have found jobs and planted their professional roots in our hometown.  I also had a personal goal of staying in Buffalo and helping with the rebuilding movement going on there.  Sports is a tough business and especially in the beginning you need to be flexible to find the best job to get into the industry.

SMTSU: As Owner, what are some of your main responsibilities with FC Buffalo?

RK: FC Buffalo is my third go-around at an NPSL club. I started with Queen City FC, which I sold and it became Buffalo City FC and now has came back to us and is FC Buffalo. This time around with FC Buffalo things are different. The lifeblood of the organization has been Nicholas Mendola, Scott Frauenhofer and the rest of the ownership crew. Those guys are in the city doing the day-to-day things, selling tickets, gaining traction and moving it forward. Owner is the title I have because I was able to pay money in the beginning to get the club going, but those guys at home are the ones making it great. 

Right now I act as more of a consultant, helping out when I can from Kansas City.  This season we are working on providing out fans with an amazing mobile experience that will be the first in the country with a company called Screen Reach, so watch out when that happens. 

SMTSU: You also have a wealth of blogging experience. What are some of the keys to keeping current readers engaged and attracting new ones?

RK: Keep writing. Write about whatever you want to talk about. Don't pigeon hole yourself and focus on a hyper specific niche, especially in the beginning. Find a different voice or angle you can bring to the table. In 2007 no one was writing about La Liga in English, so that is what I did. Give opinions, do a little research and see what happens, but be willing to put in the work.

SMTSU: In addition to being a full-time employee of the NSCAA, Owner of FC Buffalo, and VP with Statzpack, you also started your own running campaign for charity? Can you tell us a little about that?

RK: Of course. I committed to running 2,011 miles to raise $2,011 in 2011 for Comfort Zone Camp, the nation's largest bereavement camp for children who have lost a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. 2011in2011 is in memory of my father who passed away in 1998 when I was 14. I've been taking donations from people all over the world and for each $500 raised one child goes to camp this summer.

SMTSU: Lastly, what tips do you have for students looking to pursue a career in the sports industry?

RK: Know your value. Value = benefits / cost. What does that mean? In order for an employer in sports to see your value, you need to bring a lot of benefits to the table to justify the cost of your salary. Grow your ability to be beneficial by expanding your skill set. Learn how social media works, understand basic business and how to drive revenue. Work on thinking creatively and how to bring an idea to life. Network in the sports you love and be ready to jump on an opportunity if you see one.

We'd like to thank Ryan again for taking the time to participate and share his personal experiences and insight. Be on the lookout for more Sports Industry Professional Q&A's in the future!

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