|UMD alumna Jennica Astleford getting ready for game day on the court.|
“If I wouldn’t have gone and made the effort to talk to professors, I would have missed out on some awesome opportunities,” Jennica Astleford said. “Networking is a key thing when it comes to being in school, graduating, and your career.”
Astleford, 22, has been killing it in the sports marketing world. Her laundry list of internships, and locked-in sales position with the Minnesota Timberwolves immediately after graduation, are proof of her hard work.
Deciding on a major can be daunting for students -- Astleford was no stranger to this. She originally majored in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics' organizational management program, but after guidance from professors, she found her niche in their marketing program. This past fall, she graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration, majoring in marketing, and is now a proud UMD alumna.
Astleford grew up in a family devoted to Minnesota sports teams. She thinks back to memories of watching sports games with her grandfather. Those times created a special bond that led her to hold the same admiration for those teams.
Back then, Astleford never imagined she would work for professional Minnesota sports teams. But maybe it was in the cards for her all along.
Minnesota Vikings Internship
She worked persistently as an undergrad. “I put in the effort while at UMD; I went to office hours and bugged the heck out of my professors. The relationships I built with them connected me to internships and got me to where I am today,” she said.
Senior year, Astleford held a public relations internship with the Minnesota Vikings. “I would set up the press box and greet media,” she explained. “It entailed getting press members to their assigned seats, organizing gameday materials, and networking with employees throughout the league.”
Astleford often found herself in the midst of excitement on the field. She would check in VIP guests and get media outlets to the field. After games were over, the fast pace didn't stop.
“We were assigned to press conferences and locker rooms to record and transcribe player and coach interviews,” Astleford said. “I worked in the home press conference most weeks and came into regular contact with Teddy Bridgewater and Coach Mike Zimmer.”
Timberwolves Sales Position
Astleford gained extensive experience from her internships but it was time to set her sights on what she would be doing post-grad. This can be an intimidating thought for most graduates but not for her. “I had several options to explore after college instead of being job hungry,” she said.
A few years ago, Astleford would have never seen herself in sales but now she couldn’t be happier with the work she is doing for the Timberwolves. She is most passionate about the connections she makes with fans on a daily basis. “Sales with the Timberwolves aren't just about filling the arena, they are about bringing people together to join our Pack,” Astleford said.
“With the Timberwolves not always having the best record, the organization is very humble and personable,” she said. “I could be striving to work for a team who is 53 and 25 but instead I am the happiest working for a team who is 16 and 62, yet fourth in the entire league in sales for next year. That is because of the exciting culture within the entire organization and the enthusiasm we all have for the future.”
“I give tours of the arena on a daily basis, I bring fans down behind the scenes into where the locker rooms are and bring people down onto the court where they can shoot a basketball,” Astleford said. “The fan experience that we provide is what differentiates us from other teams. Not many other teams are allowed to give tours that bring fans on court and show them the locker room. It truly is a phenomenal experience!”
Booking appointments is another aspect of her sales position. “They are very face-to-face. We want to make sure our clients can put a face to the name and are able to come down to the arena and interact with the team,” she said.
Astleford is no outsider to hectic game days, so naturally those days come with more responsibility. She can bring people to games that have been fans forever but haven’t committed to season tickets just to say, ‘hey, thank you for sticking with us for all these years’ and provide them with an exciting night.
“There was a little girl down the other day that was skipped over in autograph line. I just went over to a player and made sure she got that autograph and her parents were more impressed than she was,” she said laughing.
Timberwolves sports fans are so passionate about their team and being able to make that connection even stronger makes sales a rewarding job for Astleford. “Interacting with fans is my favorite part of the job,” she said. “I want to give them the most amazing experience. It’s going to be a crazy ride. Go Wolves!”
Written by Mackenzie Timm. April, 2015.
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