Managing sports products – from planning to sales – is a complex job full of responsibility. The product manager shoulders the corporate responsibility to lead each product to success. Truly excellent managers are rare and in demand in this industry.
Most processes in developing a sports product are designed so that each department makes its own contribution to the product’s success. Market research must assess the competitive situation, engineering is responsible for proper implementation in accordance with set standards, marketing handles optimal product presentation, and so on. The situation is different for product managers: They manage and control the entire lifecycle of the new product. They are “product entrepreneurs” and therefore assume responsibility throughout.
No one is born a product manager. A great many requirements for the job can only be achieved through experience. It requires detailed knowledge of the company’s planning and production processes, of product itself and the market in which the company is operating. The product manager must meet with a high level of acceptance in their working environment, otherwise they will fail time and again.
The most important characteristics can be derived directly from interdepartmental work. A good product manager is a communications genius with team spirit and assertiveness. They are able to motivate others, argue objectively and overcome conflicts in a goal oriented manner. They know how to inspire creative solutions based on their analyses, are able to learn and willing to put themselves and their decisions to work to produce the best possible product and therefore do what is best for the company. Bad-tempered people are just as out of place as dispassionate people.
For the reasons mentioned above, jobs in product management are often management adjacent. The main principle here is that the person responsible for the product must also be put in a position to be able to make the necessary decisions. Time to market (TTM), quality, quantity – it’s not always a simple matter of right or wrong. But decisiveness is key.
Many positions in product management are filled internally. This keeps the learning curve in check and ensures knowledge of the skills of the staff involved. There is therefore no specific training (college degree, for example) to become a product manager. However, there are advanced training programs in place for managers, as well as programs specifically geared towards product managers that can be completed on a part-time basis. These programs focus on specifically working on personal weaknesses, such as in marketing or accounting. The product manager cannot (and should not) be a specialist in every field. However, they must be able to fully exercise their managerial role.
The sports business is one of the top industries for product managers. The market is very flexible and is always in motion, thus increasing demand. At the same time, such jobs guarantee exciting positions with excellent earning potential. New product lines are formed, and new sports call for innovation. Which niche market will later become a mass market? Where can crucial factors be improved to be able to enter into business with an innovative product?
Appealing jobs in product management are available in both sports startups as well as with leading manufacturers of sporting goods. As an “interface manager," product managers can expect major communications tasks in larger companies. The Middle Franconian town of Herzogenaurach, which is home to sporting goods giants Adidas and Puma, is among the top destinations in the industry.