How I Got Here: Richard Seidlitz,
Director of Licensing
National Football League
By ELIZABETH GARONE
Special to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
For anyone who loves professional sports -- watching them rather than playing them -- Richard Seidlitz's job as the director of licensing for the National Football League sounds like a dream come true. And for Mr. Seidlitz, it is. "I work for the greatest sports league in the world. I'm responsible for approving all sorts of fun products, and I get to travel and meet lots of interesting people. What's not to love?" says Mr. Seidlitz, who once started and ran his own college football poster company, which turned out to be a great learning environment for his current position. He spoke with Elizabeth Garone about his career path.
Full name: Richard M. Seidlitz
Hometown: Pound Ridge, N.Y.
Current position: Director of licensing for the NFL
First job: Executive Training program with Abraham and Strauss department store
Favorite job: His current job
Education: B.S. in Journalism, University of Maryland
Years in the industry: 14
How I got here in 10 words or less: My parents took a vacation to Acapulco.
Q: As director of licensing, what are your responsibilities?
A: I am primarily responsible for the licensing of video games and trading cards, as well as collectibles, toys and games. I am also responsible for developing strategic initiatives for increasing and identifying new revenue opportunities. I manage all aspects of the licensing process from application to creating contracts. I also work with marketing and sponsorship departments to create promotional programs.
Q: Did you start as director of licensing when you joined the NFL, or did you work your way up?
A: I came from the outside directly into this position. Before this one, I worked at Electronic Arts (EA Sports). I was the brand manager for their basketball game. I worked there for two-and-a-half years.
Q: Why the decision to move on?
A: As a native New Yorker, my goal was to always come back to New York after working for EA in Vancouver. I was lucky enough that the NFL contacted me directly after someone had mentioned me for a director job opening they had. I had both trading card and video game experience, which was exactly what they were looking for.
Q: Are you a sports fanatic? Do you need to be one to be successful at your job?
HOW YOU CAN GET THERE, TOO
Best advice: "Be yourself. Stay true to yourself and what you want to accomplish," says Mr. Seidlitz. "Don't sell yourself out."
Skills you need: "It's not Wall Street. It's a lot of intangibles," he says. "You need passion. It's a social field, so you need good people skills." What's more, "you have to be able to work as part of a team."
Degrees you should go for: "To me, a degree in sports marketing shows some level of focus, but I don't think it's necessary," says Mr. Seidlitz, adding that the type of degree you have doesn't really matter. A sports marketing degree might "show you have a passion for it, and it would catch my eye, but it's not the end all, be all."
Where you should start: "Start anywhere. Start volunteering," says Mr. Seidlitz. "There are so many sports organizations in this country. There's the NBA, MBL, and the NHL and a lot of other ones: PGA, NASCAR, indoor lacrosse, WNBA, women's softball, marathons," he offers. "There's always something you can do" because these organizations are always looking for people to help, he says. "My advice would be to do something. Don't worry about the NFL or the NBA right out of the gate," says Mr. Seidlitz. "Go work for a minor league baseball team or indoor lacrosse. Experience is the most important thing."
Professional organizations to contact: Read trade magazines like Sports Business Journal or Sports Business Daily, says Mr. Seidlitz.
Salary range for director of licensing positions: $65,000 to $250,000
A: It certainly helps to love sports. And, while I have always loved sports, you don't have to be a sports fanatic to work in the industry. It probably would help if you aren't one. That way, you are able to separate your passion as a fan and look at it from a business perspective. I see people all the time who want to go into sports because they love sports. While it helps, it's not the ultimate prerequisite.
Q: Growing up, did you have dreams of becoming a professional sports player?
A: No. I wanted to be a park ranger.
Q: When did that change?
A: When I realized I had to make money.
Q: What earlier jobs that you held helped you land your current one?
A: Obviously, the Electronic Arts' one. Before that, I worked at Topps, the trading card company. Before that, I was at Scoreboard, a very small trading card company. I also owned a college football poster business called Collegiate Posters. We made college football posters. It came out of my desire to have a college football poster and not being able to get a good one anywhere. It was fun, but it was tough. We were underfinanced. But, it opened doors for me. It was something that separated me from the rest of the crowd. People would gravitate right to that during all my (job) interviews.
Q: How do you keep coming up with fresh ideas?
A: The good thing about my job is I get to have creative input and suggestions for my licensees. But, I'm not the one with the deadlines. I had enough of those when I worked in marketing. But, it is my job to make sure that my licensees have the best opportunities to succeed, whether it's working with them on a specific promotion or giving them some ideas for new products.
Q: What's the hardest part of your job?
A: Continuing to find new ways to build revenue. We are a business. And, my job is to deliver revenue for our owners. But, unlike most business, we have 32 owners.
Q: There must be a lot of perks that come with a position like yours. What are some of them? Any favorites?
A: I work in sports. That, in and of itself, is the biggest perk. Plus, I get to go to the Super Bowl and other fun trips. I get to see and play with all sorts of different toys and games. I meet a lot of interesting people in the sports industry.
Write to Elizabeth Garone at firstname.lastname@example.org