By Kaylee Lindenmuth
A crowd of over 100 came out to the Tuesday, March 5. installment of the College of Business’s Featured Speaker Series held in the DeFrancesco building
The event featured Andrew Rubenstein, director of group sales for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in Allentown.
Rubenstein spoke to students about his individual career path in sports sales and various trends impacting the industry overall, including advances in technology and the changing habits of consumers.
Rubenstein, a 2011 Ohio University graduate, began his career in the same state with the Cleveland Gladiators arena football team.
From there, Rubenstein emphasized the importance of networking, particularly in his experience moving away from the Gladiators.
“I started to interview around. I interviewed with the Cleveland Indians and the Grand Rapids Griffins,” said Rubenstein. “The way I actually got the interview with the Indians was … making cold calls to people who had been to a Gladiators game before, and someone picked up the phone and said, ‘Human resources, this is the Cleveland Indians.’”
Rubenstein said he apologized and explained he was calling for that reason, though he emailed later explaining he was inquiring about an open position and didn’t want to discuss it at work. He accepted the position in Grand Rapids.
“Something that I did and I would encourage each of you to do, no matter who you’re talking to, is to stay in touch with those people,” said Rubenstein. “Whether it’s passively through posting on LinkedIn, or a little more proactively in reaching out to them for a phone conversation.”
By doing so, he received an opportunity with the San Diego Padres Major League Baseball team and moved out to the West Coast.
“That [job] was a huge learning curve,” said Rubenstein. “Something that is extremely tough in this industry is that, once you get with a team, you start to build up your own book of contacts, and you start to build relationships. In the beginning, it’s a lot of grunt work, it’s a lot of cold calls, a lot of face-to-face meetings, but as you get to year two, year three, year four, year five with the team, a lot of your sales start to come from referrals.”
Rubenstein spent two and a half years with the Padres and began looking for a managerial role. At the time, the American Hockey League—the second-tier hockey league in North America, of which the Phantoms are a member—was expanding towards the West Coast. As a result, Rubenstein found an opportunity with San Diego’s AHL team. Shortly after, he moved into a director of ticket sales role with Tuscon’s AHL affiliate.
“Personally, I didn’t see myself staying in Tuscon, Arizona,” Rubenstein said. He moved back to the East Coast with IMG Sports, a company that partners with universities to handle ticket sales and management aspects of sports teams. He was at Temple University with IMG and added that it wasn’t a good fit.
“Sometimes, with third parties and a university, the third party can be thinking one thing, and the university could be thinking another thing, and it might not gel,” said Rubenstein.
From there, Rubenstein said he came across the Lehigh Valley position a month after he began at IMG.
“It was a position the Lehigh Valley Phantoms had never had before,” said Rubenstein. “But they said, ‘Hey, the newness of the team is wearing off, and group sales can help keep things elevated.”
Rubenstein added, “Truthfully, for me, outside of that position with the Griffins, every other position has come from me knowing someone or me having a conversation with someone versus blindly applying online.”