If you would’ve told alum Greg Schwartz (‘14) three years ago that his job would allow him to travel all over the world, including Germany and the Czech Republic, and meet one of his favorite country artists, the Eli Young Band, he probably would’ve laughed.

“My wife and I both would’ve said, ‘No chance. No way,’’ Schwartz said. “But here we are now, three years to the month when they first called. I absolutely love the role I’m in. I’ve been with the Sharks for almost two years.”

Schwartz and his wife.

Alum Greg Schwartz heads the global partnerships department for the San Jose Sharks of the NHL (National Hockey League). In his role, he works closely with his new business team to answer the questions: How are we driving revenue? How are we finding new partners? How are we coming up with new great ideas? And this job has led him to plan, see and experience events he’s dreamed of. His spark for sports marketing is something he’s always had with him.

“[I had] a love and a passion for sports growing up,” Schwartz said. “Being able to make a career out of something you love — granted it’s not the playing side of it, it’s the business side of it — was something I always wanted to do.”

Schwartz completed his MBA at PLNU while also juggling work and family. It took him two and a half years to finish his MBA. It was challenging to add classwork to his already demanding schedule.

“It was a lot, especially working in sports,” Schwartz said. “I was working for the San Diego Padres and the SDSU Aztecs throughout my two and a half years that it took me to get my MBA.”

“So, it’s not just like a 9 to 5 job and then I go to class throughout the week. It’s a 9 to 5 job, games at night, class, homework. It really was that much more. But I knew from the beginning that this was what I wanted to do.”

However, his passion for sports marketing drove him to network and explore his options. In particular, an entrepreneurship class allowed him to warm up to a side of marketing he had never been interested in before. 

“I was never one who was like, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur when I grow up,’” Schwartz said. “But the entrepreneurship class was one that, to some extent, turned a little lightbulb on in me..”

His non-traditional thinking has allowed him to work with a variety of prestigious sports teams and companies. His marketing career allowed him to work with several well-known sports organizations like the Padres and IRONMAN. While at the Padres, Schwartz was the manager of partnership development. At IRONMAN, he held the role of senior director of national sales and global partnerships, North America. 

Schwartz said his network and mentors are what allowed him to establish this blazing trail through the competitive field of athletics. One of his first mentors in San Diego was Mike Kitts, executive vice president of partnerships for the Golden State Warriors.

“Mentors continue to develop as you go. The ones from the beginning are really the ones who continue to stick with you and become lifelong friends.”

“Mentors continue to develop as you go. The ones from the beginning are really the ones who continue to stick with you and become lifelong friends,” Schwartz said. 

His network is ultimately what led him to the Sharks in 2020. Two conversations with a mentor and a previous job recruiter he worked with is what led to his decision to take a leap of faith with the Sharks as well as try his hand at the entrepreneurship he first learned at PLNU.

 “It’s just crazy how taking the chance on one conversation can kind of open this door to something you never thought you’d ever do,” Schwartz said.

In 2020, like many others in sports and entertainment, Schwartz lost his job at IRONMAN due to the shutdown of the events industry. 

“I was thinking to myself, ‘What’s next?’” Schwartz said. “It’s July 2020. The middle of the pandemic. Who knows how long it’s going to be until the world gets back to normal?” 

“So I thought, ‘Let’s just start networking. Let’s just start calling some of my mentors.’”

“One of my mentors who is the senior vice president for FC Cincinnati (a Major League Soccer team) was like, ‘Have you ever thought about starting your agency?’ I really hadn’t. So he said, ‘You should really think about that.’”

Schwartz’s thoughts turned into action. 

“I go back to this entrepreneurship class that kind of sparked a light bulb,” Schwartz said. “Now was the time when I could really do it.”

Schwartz started his own marketing agency, Pennant Agency. Then, he heard from a job recruiter, who previously connected him with his job at IRONMAN, about an opening at the Sharks.

He and his wife in no way thought it was the right fit. But something changed when he was visiting family in Portland. He got lunch with the recruiter, which led to a meeting with Brian Towers, senior vice president over all revenue at the Sharks.

“Something just clicked,” Schwartz said. “We got along really well. He’s a great leader and I could just tell this is someone I could go to work for.”

He struck an agreement with the Sharks, and Schwartz now works hybridly between San Diego and San Jose. Schwartz and his team utilize marketing and storytelling to express who they are as a team. 

“The organization is much more than a hockey team. How are we impacting lives off the ice as well? We’re so much more than just selling signage to different brands.” 

“The organization is much more than a hockey team. How are we impacting lives off the ice as well?” Schwartz said. “We’re so much more than just selling signage to different brands.” 

“We’re trying to take the brand story and our story and build a true relationship and then tell that story to the audience.”

In Europe, Schwartz attended the NHO global series where he got to spend time with partners. Additionally, at the global partner summit last year, he got the opportunity to help create a unique experience for the partners, which happened to include the Eli Young band. Through intentional experiences like these, Schwartz and his team are hoping to redefine what it means to be a sports and entertainment company.

“It’s not just about the experiences that I’ve had as part of the roles I’ve been in,” Schwartz said. “It’s just as much, if not more, about the experiences we provide our partners and clients that gets me just as excited.”

“That’s what it’s all about: sharing those experiences, providing great customer service through partnership in the role I’m in.”

He’s also trying to give back, just like the mentors who took a chance on him early in his career. 

“I found those mentors and now what I try to do is be a mentor for this upcoming generation,” Schwartz said.

“At the end of the day, there’s so much more to what we do than just our careers. It’s not all about what your title is, the company you work for. It’s really about the impact that you make on a daily basis.”

“At the end of the day, there’s so much more to what we do than just our careers. It’s not all about what your title is, the company you work for. It’s really about the impact that you make on a daily basis.”

His advice for marketing students? Network, network, network.

“Find organizations that you love to work for,” Schwartz said. “Find a few people who are in roles that you’d love to be in at one point in your career.”

“Reach out to those people just for an informational interview. Learn about their path and how they got into that role. At the end of the day, your network is what’s going to help you find that job and continue to progress in your career.”

Lainie Alfaro is a student at PLNU studying multimedia journalism. She's currently the marketing and research assistant at Viewpoint, and she was previously the editor in chief of The Point student newspaper.