When you think of the Indiana Hoosiers, you likely think of basketball and sport first. Our newest Young Achiever, David Picioski wanted to switch that thinking around when entering the sports industry - he thought marketing first. His thought process worked to his advantage when entering the sponsorship industry as it allowed David to better grasp how brands, agencies and sports properties worked together on marketing campaigns. While in university, David had the chance to intern in sponsorship & consulting for organizations including Wasserman, Leverage Agency and the Manahattan Sports Business Academy. Upon graduation in late 2015, David worked as a Team Partnerships Coordinator with FanDuel,where he managed team & league partnerships and played a hands-on role to execute event activations.
Now, David is with American Express as a Senior Analyst, Global Brand Partnerships and Experiential Marketing, where he works cross-functionally internally and with a number of agencies & properties externally to bring the credit card brand's numerous sport partnerships to life. The Sponsorship Space took the chance to chat with David Picioski on his journey from Indiana to New York City, his focus on networking and his new role with American Express.
Tell us about your journey. What sparked your move to the Big Apple?
My freshman year at Indiana was pivotal to my interest in sports marketing and journey to New York City. I consistently heard that involvement in student organizations would be just as important, if not more, than your education, so I made it my mission to be as involved as possible that year. Through that involvement, I met a few former Hoosiers from NYC who work in the industry, and after staying in touch for a few years (plus a little luck), I was invited to intern in the city between my junior and senior years. Upon returning to campus that fall, I realized that all of the connections and mentors that I had were here, so I knew this was the place for me.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
Those who know me know that I’m obsessed with sports (soccer, in particular), but being passionate about sports doesn’t necessarily pre-qualify you for a career in the industry. I’ve always had a drive for marketing, communications, and relationship building – three of the most important facets in our field, in my opinion. I eventually decided to combine those interests because I felt that it would bring me the most joy and also challenge me in a multitude of ways(and I’ve been right so far).
What was your experience like interning with both Wasserman and Leverage Agency near the start of your career?
I’m extremely grateful for my time at both agencies because each one was beneficial to my career in its own respect. Leverage was my first exposure into the world of sports marketing, so I tried to be a sponge and absorb as much as possible. I sat in on meetings, conducted research, and generally just learned how the industry operates. Wasserman was where I began to connect the dots. I started to understand the intricacies of the industry and developed a strategic outlook that I continue to utilize in my current role. I was consistently challenged to answer questions like “how?” and “why?” When I would develop a hypothesis to a problem, regardless if it was right or wrong, my superiors wanted to understand how and why I came to that hypothesis. The process was always more important than the answer.
Your first full-time role was at FanDuel. How was that experience?
FanDuel was an incredible ride. If any young professional has the opportunity to work at a start-up early on, I would highly recommend it. Since our team was small, my role was all-encompassing. I managed team and league partnerships, executed high-profile activations, assisted with sponsorship sales, drove strategy, oversaw our creative review process, and much more. Through all of that hands-on learning, I was able to develop a skill set that has proven to be instrumental to my successes in the industry. Most importantly, FanDuel taught me the value of hard work. It was a grind, but it molded me into the worker I am today.
You are currently working at American Express as a Senior Analyst, Global Brand Partnerships & Experiential Marketing - tell us more about your role.
My role on the team is to manage our various team and league partnerships across the NBA and NFL, and assist in producing the strategy for those partnerships throughout the season. At American Express, our goal is to continually find innovative ways to provide access and serve our Card Members across all of our sponsorship touchpoints. With this overarching goal in mind, I partner with our agencies and internal teams to ensure that we’re capitalizing on opportunities across experiential activation, digital, social, ticketing, talent, and more. The job is nothing short of challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
With a partnerships portfolio that spans high-profile music festivals and sports events, I'm sure there is a lot of time dedicated towards activation analysis and sponsorship planning. How are you involved in that process?
That process is actually very fluid. Brands set plans in place prior to every season, but naturally as the season progresses and activations are executed, they identify learnings (or areas for improvement) and adjust. Those learnings can come from a variety of sources such as data, logistics, our partners, or most commonly, from our agency support. My role is to assist in that identification process and strategize solutions so that we’re always operating at peak potential while making sure we’re linking back to our overarching goals around service and access for our Card Members.
I know you're still new to the role but what's a typical day been like at the American Express offices so far?
I walk into the office every day and learn something new. I know that may sound cliché, but it’s true. I’m grateful to be surrounded by such brilliant marketers who have already taught me so much in my short time here. I take each day as an opportunity to further develop my craft and test my leadership abilities across various projects.
From a tactical perspective, I spend the majority of my days reviewing activation strategies and budgets, participating in status calls with our agencies and internal teams, and attending meetings on a variety of topics. Throw in some time for inbox maintenance, to-do lists, industry updates, coffee chats, a few laughs with colleagues, and that just about sums up the workday.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
That’s a tough one. I’m enjoying my current role on the brand side and hope to spend some more time here learning and growing. Down the line, who knows? I’m an open-minded person and would definitely entertain opportunities to learn more about leagues, teams, talent management, or other facets of the industry, both domestically and internationally. In the meantime, I’m just going where the road takes me.
If you could go back, is there any advice you would give your former self?
Network even more. I always prided myself on networking at an early age, but you can never network enough. The more people you build relationships with and learn from, the better chance you’ll have to be successful in your career. Reaching out to someone on LinkedIn and asking for 30 minutes of their time can go a long way.
Senior Analyst, Global Brand Partnerships and Experiential Marketing
Education: Indiana University Bloomington