SBD/February 12, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Minding My Business With AHL VP/Team Business Services Nathan Costa



Costa (2nd from r) ran the '12 Hershey Half Marathon with some AHL co-workers
All roads truly have led home for NATHAN COSTA, whose nine-year career in minor league hockey took only a slight detour before leading him back to his hometown of Springfield, Mass. After graduating from Northeastern Univ. in '06, Costa took the plunge into sports business as a sales rep with Spurs Sports & Entertainment, focused on its AHL property, the San Antonio Rampage. Now, as AHL VP/Team Business Services, Costa is responsible for instilling best business practices in each of the league's 30 franchises. "It's putting a microscope on our business and trying to identify ways that those from the league office can help our teams," he said. With the AHL All-Star Game set for tonight in Newfoundland, Costa chats with THE DAILY about where he focuses that microscope, why his role sometimes feels like an information overload, and the why it was great to come home again.

Mission statement...
To provide our teams with functional services from the league level to help increase business operations and our revenues. The NBA is sort of at the forefront with club consulting, and they were a big help in terms of getting the department off the ground. We do club visiting and co-consulting, getting out on the road and doing team visits and helping our teams in any area that we can in their business operations -- from ticket sales and best practices to how the business is formed and taking a look at staffing.

Support system...
We really try to focus on both sales areas -- tickets and corporate. But with the breakdown of where our revenues are, we spend a little more focused on tickets. I come from a ticketing background, and it’s very important for us to build our brand and build our awareness, not only within the community but nationwide as well with people sampling our product and that sort of thing. So, we do a number of things related to ticket sales best practices. We hold two yearly meetings. We put together a day and a half in December for our executive level group, and then in the summer months we hold a marketing meeting for our teams.

Best advice...
When I came out of college it was very difficult to find a job right away, but there were sales opportunities available. Sometimes coming out of college, you don’t view those as stepping stones, but they are. It’s what we look for, too. If you can sell, especially if you can sell the American Hockey League product and you can sell tickets, you can pretty much transfer those skills to be able to do anything.

Going mobile...
I’m on my iPhone all the time, from following Twitter to our team websites to our own mobile app. Without the phone I don’t know how our teams would be able to conduct business either. We’re trying to stay on the cutting edge of things on that front. Also, ticket technology is something we’ve really kept an eye on as well. Obviously trying to find better ways for our teams to get tickets out in front of people and trying to find ways to capture people. Cell phones seem to be where the industry is heading in the future with people making purchases on their phones and being able to do everything from their phone.

Industry reading...
I take a look at the podcasts by "THE TAO OF SPORTS" quite regularly. I’m also trying to maximize sales trainers like "800 POUND GORILLA," which has a good newsletter that goes out that really focuses on sales principles. There’s also some great stuff when it comes to social through "MASHABLE." They’ll do a lot of stuff that has a sports spin on it and how teams can maximize their property in that space. "HASHTAG SPORTS" does a daily newsletter as well, aggregating all social media news when it comes to sports business.

The focus since I've come back has really been on family. I grew up very close to my two sisters and one of them is going to have a baby here in April, so it will be good to be able to be close to my nephew and that sort of thing. You appreciate it a little bit more when you go away for a couple of years, and you come back, and having them close is a blessing.

Jam on...
My favorites are DAVE MATTHEWS, PEARL JAM, BEN HARPER, the BLACK KEYS, that sort of thing. This summer I got to go to Farm Aid out in Saratoga, and got to see NEIL YOUNG and WILLIE NELSON and JOHN MELLENCAMP and Dave Matthews again. I’ve got posters in my office of Dave Matthews, and I always get the jab on that. But I think he’d probably be my favorite.

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