NFL exec gives Sports Business students a good game plan
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Students in Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo School of Sports Business got some valuable insights Tuesday from an executive who has worked for teams in all four major professional sports — and isn’t far removed from sitting where they were sitting.
Jeremy Walls is just 35, but he already is senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League after serving as director of team marketing for the National Basketball Association and managing ticket sales for both Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball. One of his four internships in college was with the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League.
“I thought coming out of college (Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio) that I wanted to be in public relations or communications,” Walls told the students, “but now I would tell people to stay on the revenue side.”
Walls said he got his start simply by being persistent with Alvan Adams, the former Phoenix Suns player who now is senior vice president for the NBA team, until Adams finally agreed to give him a chance. That led to all those internships and then a sales job with the Suns before he moved over to a similar role with the Diamondbacks.
The NBA job was a great opportunity because he loved observing how all 30 teams do their marketing, but two more golden opportunities presented themselves and Walls faced an important decision that the students in the packed classroom in the College of Education building could truly can learn from: He had a choice between a top-level role with the Houston Astros of MLB or a vice president of ticket sales job with the Padres.
He chose San Diego, he said, because in his view “you don’t chase money or titles. You chase leaders and where you’re going to learn.”
In his short time in the sports business world, Walls has stamped himself as someone to follow, too. A devout Christian, he talked passionately about doing great work, creating a positive work environment, giving employees the proper training and what he looks for when hiring people.
“I think there’s a sweet spot if we can be really good at what we do but in an uncommon way love people,” he said.
Walls also urged students to have the highest ideals and “decide now you’re going to stand for something — don’t wing it,” and he said a lot of his standards were inbred in him when he worked for the Suns. Not only did he work with great people (“It’s fun to see where they are now. They’re all in great jobs.”), he got to see what Jerry Colangelo is all about.
Walls said of Colangelo, the former owner of the Suns and the Diamondbacks and now the man GCU’s College of Business and School of Sports Business are named after, “He is the model. He is a humble man, a Christian leader and a great executive who has changed so many lives. I wanted to be like him.”
Colangelo’s marketing skills are legendary, and for a professional team marketing is largely about ticket sales. That’s why most of the entry-level jobs are there.
“You can make money quickly, grow quickly and learn quickly,” Walls said.
Just like him.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.