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ISBI 360 pivots to help ticket sellers, teams reconnect and move past pandemic issues

By Bret McCormick

Doug Quinn started getting phone calls in spring 2020 from pro sports teams whose ticket offices had been decimated by furloughs, layoffs and departures. Those calls seeking help prompted a pandemic pivot by Quinn and his company, ISBI 360, which had carved out a niche training ticket salespeople and staff.

Both groups were hit hard by pandemic-related layoffs and furloughs, and with so many free-agent salespeople flooding the market, ISBI saw a need — from the suddenly unemployed but also the teams that had to let them go but still had unpredictable ticket sales help needs.

That spawned the ISBI 360 Academy, which offers a two-week path for those that have prior experience selling tickets, or a four-week boot camp for those completely new to the trade. The first class was held in January 2021; as of November, 150 people have completed the free training and more than a hundred have been placed in jobs. Quinn said that number will reach 150 placements by the end of the year.

“There is going to be a three- to five-year drag, there is going to be that gap in the industry because of the one created in the last year,” said Brett Zalaski, ISBI managing director of talent development.

Sporting KC used five ISBI Academy grads.getty images

ISBI pays for the recruiting and the training. When ISBI assigns reps to the teams, the teams pay a monthly membership fee (12-month engagement) on a per-rep basis, commission on sales, and a transfer fee for those that transfer permanently from ISBI to a team.

“We’re making money,” said Quinn. “We have been profitable since the end of the second quarter.”

Once program graduates get placed with a team, Zalaski and his group continue to work with the person over the next 90 days; they can be permanently hired by the team after the 90-day period. Of ISBI’s 100 placements, 50 have landed permanent jobs with the teams they joined for the initial 90 days, and almost all of them moved to the city where their new team was based.

One of those is Ryan Gordon, who has worked in the sports industry since 2013. In early 2020, he was with the Texas Rangers selling premium seating at Globe Life Field when the pandemic struck and he was furloughed. Gordon worked odd jobs to make ends meet, then found out about ISBI.

The program helped “keep me going for when teams started opening back up and hiring again,” Gordon said, helped “keep me going so I wouldn’t lose my niche.” Thanks to the program and his connection with Zalaski, Gordon landed an interview, then a job with Sacramento Republic FC selling tickets. He now works in the club’s membership services department.

Seventy-five teams have benefited from the program so far, including from the big five leagues, WNBA and NWSL, as well as numerous minor leagues. Sporting KC furloughed 80% of its staff during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and five ISBI grads helped the team get through the lean patch, according to Jordan Kelsey, vice president of ticket sales and service.

“The model they had in place, to be able to call remotely on our behalf, it was just a nice stop-gap when we were down on headcount and before we could ramp back up with hires,” said Kelsey, who expects his ticket sales staff to be back at pre-pandemic levels next year.

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