Young Achievers

Daryl Vales

Daryl took an unconventional career path to the world of sponsorship. While studying Biology at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), Daryl interned with the school's athletic marketing department. Upon finishing school, she faced an interesting dilemma when  receiving two job offers on the same day for both a Biotech company and a Corporate Partnerships role for the Los Angeles Lakers. Deciding to go with the Lakers job, Daryl never looked back and continued to progress leading her to a role with Advantage International where she overlooks sponsorship and activations for Hyundai for programs such as College Football and RE/MAX.


The Sponsorship Space had the chance to sit down with Daryl to chat about her role with Advantage International, career growth, and advice for other young professionals. 



1) Tell us about Advantage International and your role as a Senior Account Executive.

Advantage International is a sponsorship and brand experience agency. We help brands breakthrough the intersection of consumers’ passions and consumptions, whether through events, sports, entertainment, lifestyle experiences or worthy causes. The output could be a negotiating and activating a sports sponsorship such as LG’s partnership with the NCAA or building an on-site activation for Hyundai at Coachella which leverages the passion of millennial music fans.As a Senior Account Executive, my primary focus has been managing Hyundai’s sponsorships and activations for College Football and RE/MAX – from activation development to onsite execution. For the College Football program, this involves managing 100+ activations each season across 17 top-tier universities with a hyperlocalized experience that builds upon fan loyalty. With the RE/MAX sponsorship, I manage activations for all national-level events as well as activations and programs at the local level working to promote Hyundai’s involvement with RE/MAX and the benefits available from this relationship.


2) Take us through a typical day in the life. 


A typical day in the life for me really depends on the time of year. During the first few months of the year I’m focused on the RE/MAX sponsorship, working towards activating at their biggest conference of the year – the R4 Convention. I’m working with our creative team to develop the look and feel of Hyundai’s space as well as with our trusted vendors to make it all happen. I also work with various agency and property partners to ensure a fully integrated experience for the program, from CRM to social media and advertising. I will do the same for various RE/MAX events occurring throughout the year.


Starting in spring we start working on the College Football program with the same process but on a much larger scale for all 17 schools, going full steam ahead by the start of summer working to activate with two large traveling tours as well as with a smaller activation footprint managed by local teams, with duties ranging from selecting and ordering merchandise, to fabrication, and onboarding staff. By the end of summer going into fall for the start of the season, I am working with local managers at each school for training and game day management, working with dealers in each market to coordinate vehicle deliveries, and activating onsite traveling to games when needed. With all this for all of Hyundai’s sponsorships, we are constantly in communication with our client to make sure that everything is in line with their marketing objectives to ensure success for all programs.


3) What kind of challenges do you face with your role?


One of the challenges I face with my role is developing activations that are fresh and relevant with today’s marketing landscape that also keep in line with our client’s objectives and goals. Going into my third season with College Football and second year with RE/MAX, one of my goals for this year is to not become complacent with what we have been successful with and to continue to elevate the Hyundai brand.


Additionally, working in sports and events sometimes doesn’t afford a “normal” 9-to-5, Monday-Friday schedule. Sometimes I’m working weekends and holidays, very early mornings (especially once  football season starts), and very late nights, which I’ve become accustomed to dating back to working at UCSB. Maintaining a good work-life balance can sometimes be challenging but I have been fortunate to work at great organizations that work with their employees to maintain that work-life balance.


4) Can you talk about a few activations or sponsorships that you have enjoyed working on in the last few years.


College football, of course, has been a great to work on because of the large scope of the program. I attended a university that has not had a football program since 1992, so it has been amazing to be at these Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-12 schools and really see the fan passion out in full force as well as the connection to the brand. As someone who grew up playing basketball and watching both college and NBA games, I have always enjoyed the on-court activations while at the Lakers such as the Toyota Skills Challenge and the MGM Resorts Big Shot Jackpot half-court shot. Lakers’ sponsor Nike also had some really great activations around the Kobe shoe releases that involved exclusive and behind-the-scenes Lakers experiences for both fans and media. It was great seeing these fans on the court in a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience and fully enjoying being a fan of the Lakers outside of watching the game on TV or sitting in the stands.


5) What has your career path been like thus far. Has it been linear?


I took a non-traditional path into sports/sponsorships graduating with a degree in Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Originally my intention was to either go to pharmacy school or to work for a biotech company after graduating, but I had seen a posting online looking for interns for the UCSB Athletics marketing department the summer after my freshman year which spurred me to add the Sports Management minor to my course load. I applied, interviewed, and subsequently was offered the position as a marketing and branding intern. Going into my sophomore year it was announced that there were changes being made to the minor leaving me unable to fit the classes to my laboratory-heavy schedule, so I made the decision to drop the minor but stay in the internship simply because I really enjoyed what I was doing.


I interned for three years at the UCSB Athletics department which involved rebranding projects for athletic facilities, managing the UCSB Athletics Gauchos Shop (the team shop that included both the online store and pop-up shops at games), designing merchandise and marketing collateral, as well as managing interns my senior year. Through this internship I was able to meet one of the corporate partnerships managers at the Lakers who previously worked at the UCSB Athletics marketing department. After graduation, my supervisor connected me with her for the corporate partnerships position.


During the same time I applied to and interviewed with the Lakers, I was also in the interview process with a biotech company back in my hometown of San Diego and coincidentally received offers from both on the same day. At first it seemed like a difficult decision to make but then I realized that a job opportunity in sports, especially in a large and ultra-competitive market such as Los Angeles, may not come around again so I decided to accept the offer from the Lakers which eventually led me to working at Advantage.


6) You worked for nearly two years with the L.A. Lakers Partnerships team. What has been different since leaving the property side to work with an established agency?


There were not too many surprises going from the property side to the agency side, but one of the biggest differences for me was working with a large roster of brands to just one brand. What has been great about having worked on both the property and the agency sides is that I have a better understanding of how the sponsorship contract process works as well as an understanding of the needs and expectations to deliver on these sponsorships. Another difference for me going from the property side to the agency side was expanding my role in sponsorships outside of basketball to sports that I may not have had much experience with, such as golf, as well as lifestyle events and brands, such as Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and RE/MAX.


7) If a university student asked you "How do I build a career in sponsorship?", what would your advice be?


Coming from my personal experience getting into sponsorships, my advice would be to make the most out of your internships, pay attention to detail, and go the extra mile to get the job done. Internships are great opportunities to gain hands-on experience, learn about careers that you may not have originally considered, and build your network and personal brand. Employers are placing more value on experience and internships can be an opportunity to highlight unique skills that may be overlooked on a resume. Paying attention to detail can be something as small as always having an extra pen on hand or it can be picking up on the nuances of working with different clients. Going the extra mile is more than just working extra hours just for the sake of working extra hours – it could be working with your supervisor to develop and work on a project outside of your scope of work that can showcase your skills and expertise on a certain subject matter but also benefit the client as well. People you work with will notice these things which can influence where you go in your career, whether it be recommending you for a new job or bringing you up for a promotion. One last piece of advice, which was handed to me by my supervisor Rich Loza at UCSB, is to start building a portfolio now. Your resume can help you get through the door to an interview, but having a tangible portfolio can lock in your spot during your interview by expanding upon your resume and being able to show your potential employer projects you have worked on and your capabilities as an asset for their clients and/or organization.

Daryl Vales

Senior Account Executive

Advantage International

Education: University of California, Santa Barbara

Age: 25 years old