"You'll gain as much from this master's as you put into it," these words resonated with Oliver Buechler from his very first day as an MBA in Sports Management student. Putting this advice into practice proved valuable, as he has already earned the opportunity to work at two major sports institutions: Real Madrid CF and the Los Angeles Rams. In his interview, he shares his journey and advice for those aspiring to make it big in the sports industry.
Tell us about yourself and how you ended up working at Real Madrid.
My name is Oliver, and I am half Swiss, half Colombian. I started my academic journey with economics and a minor in business in Switzerland. After working in real estate for a year, I realized I wanted a career in sports. Since I didn't have a work permit for the U.S., I decided to pursue a Master's in Sports Management in Europe. I chose the MBA program at Escuela Universitaria Real Madrid Universidad Europea because it focused on various sports, including soccer, basketball, and tennis, and provided opportunities to interact with top executives from the sports industry. The program also included exciting experiences like the White Week trip to the U.S.
Earning my master's with Real Madrid Graduate School turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made as it eventually led me to work for Real Madrid.
After completing my degree, I secured an internship with the Global Partnerships department at Real Madrid. Thanks to my master's, I later became a full-time employee and moved to the strategy team.
Getting an opportunity to work at Real Madrid is not easy. They don't typically post open positions like other organizations. The primary ways to join are through your personal network or a direct link from the master's program. I am fortunate to have gone through the master's program, which opened doors for me.
In the Global Partnerships department, I focused on finding brands that wanted to associate themselves with Real Madrid and connect emotionally with consumers. We worked with companies like banks and insurance providers to leverage Real Madrid's intellectual property rights and emotional appeal to build strong partnerships.
At first, I was part of the sales team, responsible for selling and securing partnerships. Later, Real Madrid underwent significant changes and hired several international professionals. This led to the creation of a new strategy team, and I naturally transitioned into that role because I had already been doing similar work. The strategy team not only identified potential partners but also supported the activation team in optimizing partnerships through data analysis, asset evaluation, and performance measurement.
In a nutshell, my role in the strategy team was to show potential partners why they should invest in Real Madrid through data-driven storytelling and then continue proving the partnership's value through ongoing analysis and feedback. It was a challenging and rewarding experience that allowed me to combine my passion for sports with my skills in economics and business.
How did you secure your position with the Los Angeles Rams?
When I first came to the U.S., I couldn't work for about seven months due to green card and work permit issues. The U.S. job market was quite different from Europe, where personal connections often play a significant role in job hunting. Here, I relied on job openings posted on TeamWork platform.
I applied to various places, including the MLS, U.S. Soccer Federation, and the L.A. Rams. Surprisingly, I received three job offers, and I chose to join the Rams because I saw it as an excellent opportunity to take the next big step in my career.
Having already worked in soccer with Real Madrid in Europe, it would be exciting to try my hand in football, the dominant sport commercially in the U.S.
To my surprise, the process was relatively straightforward. I applied for an internship with The Rams, and having a background with Real Madrid and my sports management master's degree certainly helped during the interviews. Many interviewers were curious about my experience at Real Madrid, and it played a significant role in landing the job.
What concepts learned from the Executive MBA in Sport Management are you applying in your day-to-day work?
During my MBA courses, the marketing aspect stood out as my most significant takeaway. Initially, I wasn't entirely familiar with sponsorship and its role in the sports industry, but the MBA program provided valuable insights. It helped me discover what areas of the sports industry I didn't want to pursue, which was also beneficial in narrowing down my focus.
Through the program, I realized my passion for data and the business side of sports, particularly the financial aspects. As I studied the revenue streams of sports entities, I understood that T.V. rights and ticketing had limited growth potential. This led me to see the immense potential in partnerships and marketing as a crucial source of revenue for sports organizations.
Considering the rising player salaries and other expenses, I recognized that investment in sponsorship and partnerships would continue to grow over the years.
My interest in data analysis and the creation of a new strategy team at Real Madrid C.F., further emphasized the importance and opportunity in this area. Realizing this market's potential, I knew it was the direction I wanted to pursue. Fortunately, I got the chance to work in the Partnerships department, where I could explore this passion.
Another valuable aspect of the MBA was understanding how the sports industry operates, especially the business side. Although I was already a big sports fan, the master's program gave me in-depth knowledge of the industry's workings.
Can you share with us what you experienced during the White Week event?
White Week is an event where students visit Madrid and take part in the day-to-day operations of Real Madrid C.F., visit the headquarters, meet executives of the sports industry, and join masterclasses.
I have never experienced so much talent and high-level executives in one room before; it was truly remarkable. I vividly remember the CEO of Real Madrid, who had an inspiring and unique perspective on things. He even gave talks to the employees, and I had the opportunity to listen to him three times. His background in psychology made his speeches incredibly inspiring.
During the master's program, we were privileged to hear from sports icons like Raul and Emilio Butragueño, who were not only successful players but also excelled in the business side of the sports industry. It was eye-opening to learn from professionals who achieved greatness both on the field and in the boardroom.
We also had the privilege of interacting with Roberto Carlos and many other prominent figures from the sports industry.
The unique aspect was that we were a relatively small group, around 60 to 70 people, which allowed us to approach and talk to these influential individuals, something that wouldn't be possible in larger settings.
Overall, being in the same room with such accomplished and inspiring personalities was an unforgettable experience. It was undoubtedly a highlight of the master's program, if not the most significant one.
Oliver, what advice would you give to students interested in transitioning into the sports management industry?
In my time during the master's program, I remember the director sharing something on the very first day that has stuck with me even after six years. She said, "You'll gain as much from this master's as you put into it." This advice became important to me. I saw many fellow students who didn't secure jobs after the master's, and I realized that the field is highly competitive. There are so many of us aiming for the same opportunities.
So, what I would suggest to anyone considering this program is to be proactive and engaged. Take an active role in the masters. Don't hesitate to ask questions. This brings me to the most significant value of the master's experience: the instructors are actual sports professionals.
Here, you're learning from people working in Real Madrid, their strategy team, sales professionals, and more. They share their real-world experiences, and that's gold.
My advice? Forge connections with these professionals. Stand out by asking insightful questions. And don't be afraid to reach out to them. Let me share an example. In our master's program, there were rotating internships lasting about three months with Real Madrid's strategy team. These opportunities, right within the team, allowed us to showcase our skills and talents. So, remember, the more you invest in the program, the more you'll gain. It's about making the most out of every chance you get.
If you are interested in advancing your education in sports management, we invite you to visit the FIU - Real Madrid Graduate School MBA program page.