UVU graduate Jake Reynolds overcomes NBA team’s struggles to hit top of sports business world


Two years ago, the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association had a record of 10 wins and 72 losses, a .122 winning percentage. The year prior was only slightly better for the iconic Eastern Conference team, at 18-64, ending the season 14th in a conference of 15 teams.

During these same years, however, the Sixers made changes to the team’s sales and service departments, which put the NBA team near the top of the league for new season-ticket membership and related businesses quantifiers.

Right in the middle of the activity of those years — some struggling on the court while others were overachieving behind the scenes — was a young alumnus of Utah Valley University, Jake Reynolds. With the title of Chief Revenue Officer, Reynolds is responsible for the corporate partnership sales and activation, ticket sales and service departments, and strategy and revenue generation for the Philadelphia team. Reynolds has worked his way into being a success in the NBA, not by being an athlete but by being a driven businessman.

Reynolds was recently named to Sports Business Journal’s “Power Players” list and has been named an international “Forty Under 40” by the Leaders in Sport conference.

“I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate in the sense that I have been able to combine two of my passions – business and sports — and call it work,” Reynolds says. “I wake up every morning and do something I truly love — work for a dynamic company with incredible people, help grow individuals’ careers, and use the platform that we have as a professional sports organization to make a difference in the community.”

Jake Reynolds

The team’s rebuilding process — fully transparent to fans and clients — was just underway when Reynolds joined the organization. The phrase “Trust the Process” became a battle cry of the team and their fan base. Reynolds was tasked with stimulating season ticket holder interest and increasing sales during one of the franchise’s most challenging periods.

Reynolds’ first step was to hand-select a 115-person sales and service team, the largest in all of professional sports. Reynolds’ signature employee achievement programs, focusing on recognition, reward, and growth, led the NBA team to an 80 percent retention rate, the highest in the NBA.

Reynolds’ attention to his employees’ personal and professional growth and competitive and collaborative office environment has generated a positive impact on the company’s bottom line. The core pillars of Reynolds’ management strategy were “People, Commitment, Development, Hustle, and Fun.”

For most professional sports teams, there exists a direct correlation between team wins and ticket sales. Over a three-year period during which the 76ers were 37-199, Reynolds led a sales team that tripled new season-ticket memberships, increased group sales, and achieved a No. 2 ranking in NBA Season Ticket Member Customer Satisfaction Surveys (2016).

“We have a saying that you’re only selling one of two things: hope or championships. I understood when I took this job that we were going to need to build this from the ground up, but that’s also what was so appealing to me,” Reynolds explains. “Every business goes through different phases, and you can learn unique lessons from each situation. Early on, selling ‘hope’ and working for a team that may not be contending for a championship allowed me to hone my skillset and find creative ways to drive our business forward.”

By the end of the 2017-18 season, the Sixers won 52 games, ended up third in the conference, making the playoffs and battling the Boston Celtics in the NBA semifinals for the opportunity to continue toward a championship, finally losing in seven hard-fought games.

Many have noted the success Reynolds has had while facing the obvious challenge of selling hope. Even before the Sixers were granted the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, Philadelphia ranked third in the NBA in new season-ticket sales for the 2016–17 campaign. Early in 2016, the Sixers saw the largest single sales day in organization history, and they have renewed more than 90 percent of its season ticket members each of the last three years.

“The culture of the Sixers’ sales staff has been the main driver of their success,” says Brendan Donohue, the NBA’s senior vice president of Team Marketing and Business Operations. “It’s vibrant, fun, and contagious, with a terrific group of hard-working professionals who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Reynolds is responsible for putting together and motivating that contagious group, approximately 130 people. Reynolds is quick to point out — in an almost Dale Carnegie-type vision — that a team has to work together, high draft picks or low, in order to succeed.

“I am a firm believer that people are our most important asset, and our success will be built upon the foundation of people, process, and culture,” Reynolds says. “I believe that my career success and future legacy is predicated on my ability to hire, train, and develop the next wave of world-class leaders. It’s my responsibility to hire the right people, give them the resources necessary to be successful, invest in their development every step of the way, and give them the freedom to operate.”


Jake Reynolds

Reynolds, a 2005 UVU graduate in integrated studies with an emphasis in business management, says he doesn’t have an average or routine day. He says each day is different for him and brings a unique set of opportunities and challenges, “which is what makes it fun.” He says his overall responsibility is concentrated on how the team and its affiliates — which includes the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center in which both teams play — can grow their business and “continue to reinvent themselves” to stay at the forefront the industry. “Whether that is investing in our people, working with our marketing team to connect with new fans, or exploring new opportunities for growth,” he says, “it takes a village and I’m fortunate that we have such incredible people.”

Prior to his position with the Sixers, Reynolds was the director of inside sales for Monumental Sports and Entertainment, overseeing the ticket sales, servicing, and sales staff efforts for the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, Washington Mystics, and Georgetown men’s basketball. His first job out of UVU was an internship with the Indiana Pacers, then sales manager experience with the Pacers, followed by being named premium sales manager for the New York Giants of the National Football League.

“I have a saying with my team: ‘Control the controllable.’ We cannot control whether the team wins or loses,” he says, “but we can control how we develop our people, the customer experience, and the culture we create in our office every day. Though we’ve sold out every game this past season and created a waiting list, the challenges of how we grow our business remain, they have just taken a different form, but it’s a challenge we’re meeting head-on.”

A recent Sports Illustrated magazine article detailing the 76ers’ rise in the league highlighted Reynolds and his staff and their propensity toward internal staff motivational meetings and positive mental attitude activities. The SI story details “hands-slapping-knees drum rolls,” staff giveaways, prizes and awards for goals met, and “rock-paper-scissors tournaments” to claim incentives. The sports magazine described Reynolds as entering one sales meeting “materializing out of a fog machine and entering a sea of screaming 20-somethings.”

“We do that before every game,” Reynolds told SI writer Jake Fisher. “We walk a very fine line between having fun and having too much fun.” Fisher wrote that the Philly corporate culture is spawned from a concoction of hope, zany energy, and innovation, and at the heart of it is Reynolds’ sales force. The magazine noted that the Sixers employ strict criteria when hiring new sales associates, looking specifically for the “three C’s” they deem congruent with their unique culture: competitiveness, coachability, and curiosity.

“I have always loved running toward challenging situations,” Reynolds explains, “as I have felt it’s the best way to learn and provides an incredible spotlight when you succeed. I have always believed sales is marketing and marketing is sales. If you view business as a car, I look at sales as the engine that drives business forward and marketing as the gas — you have to have both operating efficiently if you want to go anywhere.”

A native of Salt Lake City, Reynolds is quick to thank those he calls “mentors that have invested in me” who have helped the father of three to go to the top of a special niche in a special form of business. He notes, also, that he met his wife, Emily, in a class at UVU.

“I loved my time at UVU and was fortunate to have phenomenal professors and advisors during my time there,” he says. “Whether it was class case studies, presentations, or connecting with other students, I developed skills during my time at UVU that I feel prepared me to hit the ground running once I graduated. The school’s community has continued to grow and the network I formed while there has served me well and created relationships that I’ll have for the rest of my life.”




We have a saying that you’re only selling one of two things: hope or championships.