Right on Target
BSBA Marketing ’05
Director, Special Events, San Francisco Giants
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Faham Zakariaei grew up in San Jose, where a number of his family members worked in management information systems and information technology. That was what he intended to study when he came to the UA for his undergraduate education, but, he says, “When I got into it, I realized that MISwasn’t for me at all. For a while I was worried, but then I found marketing.”
Zakariaei had always been a baseball fan, and he was interested in sports marketing. He roomed with three Arizona Diamondbacksfans, and while the Diamondbacks were on a winning streak, he was pressed to justify his loyalty to the San Francisco Giants. “I learned all these obscure facts that I could throw back at them,” he said with a laugh.
He connected with then–dean Mark Zupan and started building different sports relationships. Zakariaei joined the Sports Marketing Association and was involved in bringing then–Phoenix Sunsowner Jerry Colangelo and then–San Francisco Giants president Peter Magowan to campus for student talks. He interned with the Colorado Rockies.
“A semester before graduation, I cold-called the director of marketing and sales at the Giants and asked for an informational interview,” he said. “We really hit it off. I had a job offer with the NBA, but I bypassed a full-time job with benefits and took what was essentially a full-time internship with the Giants, hoping that it would turn into a position.”
The gamble paid off: he worked his way into a position as director of special events, and now the non-traditional promotions he hosts are on the forefront of an industry-wide trend aimed at engaging niche markets. A promotion for Jerry Garcia Tribute Night, for example, honored the San Franciscan and Giants fan on the 15th anniversary of the lead singer’s death. The living members of the Grateful Dead performed the national anthem, and the first 9,000 fans to buy special tickets also got a Jerry Garcia bobblehead.
“When I started in ’04, the Giants were selling out games, but there were always single seats throughout the ballpark,” Zakariaei said.”So we started putting the single seats in a special location and selling them with a complementary beverage and a pre-game singles mixer with DJs.”
He said that since then, almost a dozen couples have gotten married. “I’ve got wedding invitations on my desk,” he said. The Giants also focus on ethnic heritage nights, one recent success featuring a visit from Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, as well as fundraisers for nonprofit organizations.
With about 65 promotions going on over the course of the season, Zakariaei keeps busy. “Six months out of the year, I don’t really have a social life,” he said. “My parents and my friends know that if they want to see me from April through October, they’re going to have to come to a game!”
The pace doesn’t slow too much in the off-season, either, as Zakariaei focuses on planning the next season’s promotions. But it’s all worth it: “I love the game,” he said. “I’m a huge fan.”
Finding a job in professional sports is cutthroat, he said, but “I tell people that if your heart is in it, you’ll work hard and find a way.” Looking back at his time at Eller, he is grateful to the support he got from mentors, including Pam Perry, Stephen Gilliland, and Suzanne Cummins.
“My younger brother is a senior at Eller now,” he said. “I think he witnessed how important it was to me when I was a student. Now I’m the biggest advocate for Arizona in the Bay Area!”