Major League Soccer isn't the only thing that has experienced exponential growth in the last few years. Since graduating from Indiana University in 2011, our newest Young Achiever Alexis Sidney has grown to become the Director of Strategic Marketing for the Houston Dynamo and Dash. Moving from city to city to take on new roles and responsibilities, Alexis has had the opportunity to work for the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Braves, Dallas Mavericks and now helps overlook the marketing team for the Houston Dynamo.
The Sponsorship Space took the chance to chat with Alexis Sidney on her willingness to take on new challenges, her current role with the Dynamo & Dash, and her life outside of work.
Take us through your experience since you graduated from Indiana University.
I’m from Indianapolis and after graduating from IU, I interned with the Colts in the Community Relations department. It was the season that Peyton Manning was injured so community relations was very important with our play on the field lacking. This was the position that really confirmed that sports was the right career field for me. At the end of football season, I accepted a trainee position in the Community Affairs department with the Atlanta Braves and lived in Atlanta for about 11 months. That experience led to a full-time offer with the Dallas Mavericks as the Corporate Communications and Community Relations Coordinator. I spent 2 seasons in that role and then was promoted to Sr. Marketing Manager. I held that position for 2 seasons before relocating to Houston and becoming the Director of Strategic Marketing for Houston Dynamo and Dash.
Growing up, did you always want to work in sports marketing? What kind of steps did you take to achieve that goal and surpass it?
In high school, I thought I wanted to work in Marketing. I didn’t even know that Sports Marketing was a specific career path until college. I was studying Business as a freshman and Sophomore. I was the Philanthropy Chair of my sorority Alpha Omicron Pi and was working with the Athletic Marketing Director for IU Baseball on an event called “Strike Out Arthirist” when I learned about a Sports Marketing and Management major that incorporated Business as I minor, so I switched to that track the next semester. I did lots of volunteer work, internships and networking events. The best experience was definitely through my internships. A lot of people will tell you “It’s not what you know, but who you know”. While that’s true to an extent, internships are so much different than learning in a classroom. It’s real world experience. I believe you have do the job, learn the work, and perform well so you can prove yourself in such a competitive industry. Then, the recommendations an opportunities will come. The cool thing about my experience is that every position I have taken has been directly tied to a personal reference from someone I worked for.
You have worked for multiple sport organizations in various cities including Indianapolis, Dallas, Atlanta and Houston. Was it tough moving from city to city for new roles?
Moving around is by far the hardest part about working in sports. The jobs are very limited so you have to stay open-minded about where you are willing go in order to advance your career. It’s difficult to start over and re-build your support system and network for each step, but the best part about my relocations is that I have gained experience living and exploring different cities that I would have never considered if not for working in sports. I’ve met some amazing people from these moves, both personally and professionally. I actually re-connected with my now husband because of my move to Dallas!
Was it hard learning different sports?
As a sports fan, it’s not too difficult to translate marketing skills to most sports. I didn’t follow soccer closely prior to taking this job, but I looked forward to the challenge of getting out of my comfort zone, working in a new league and bringing outside experience to a growing movement.
At the end of the day, it’s more about learning the culture of the organization, city and fans you’re representing than it is about marketing a specific sport.
Many of the roles you have been in have had a focus in community relations. Now that you are the Director of Strategic Marketing for the Houston Dynamo and Dash, what's been different?
My experiences working in community relations, PR, and general marketing has given me the ability to understand how different departments can work together to build a connection between the fans and the team. My current role as Director of Strategic Marketing focuses heavily on connecting the different departments of our company, so I still work with our Community Relations team, along with Ticket Sales, Member Services, Corporate Partnerships and of course, Marketing. The biggest change is that I focus more now on the big picture of achieving goals across the company. A lot of times that takes me away from running specific events and programs I oversaw in the past. But the community side is always going to be something that remains a priority for me. It’s the only area of our business that isn’t affected by team performance, personnel changes, etc. Everyone can get behind doing well by doing good!
Carli Lloyd recently won the best FIFA Women's Player Award for 2016. With one of the most recognizable players in female soccer being on the Houston Dash, does this help marketing efforts for the team?
100%. Carli is household name. We do our best on the Marketing side to maximize the awareness in the community that we have the best female player in the world playing right here in Houston. However, you can’t market a team around one person so we focus on sharing the story of our other talented players as well. There are a lot of Carli fans in Houston and across the country, and we are incredibly lucky to have her on our team to help create fans of the Houston Dash too!
With the sport growing so quickly in the USA and a growing population familiar with the sport, where do you see the future heading for the sport of soccer?
MLS has exponential growth potential in the US. It is currently the fastest growing professional sports league and NWSL is making huge strides as well on the women’s side. I think the sport of soccer as a whole will eventually overtake other professional sports with the amount of youth population that plays soccer as their primary sport. Especially since there is equal opportunity with men and women. Unlike some of the other league, soccer is a global sport and is celebrated around the world... that is something we can embrace in the States, and more specifically, in Houston. On the business side, MLS is still expanding. The league offers media and corporate partners a unique opportunity to build relationships with millennial and multicultural audiences. So I think that will quickly lead to more investment in the league and growing opportunities for clubs, players and fans moving forward. It’s definitely on the upswing!
Can you tell us about your favorite marketing campaign you worked on at the Dynamo/Dash?
I worked on the Dynamo #PaintItBlack campaign to launch the 2016 season. We introduced a black uniform for the first time ever and created an entire campaign around the jersey unveiling that maximized on the excitement with a new look, while still staying true to our brand identity of “Forever Orange”. The coolest part was how we unveiled the campaign- we worked with a local graffiti artist to reveal a giant graffiti mural in East Downtown (EaDo) just blocks from BBVA Compass Stadium. The campaign tied in with the Houston street art culture and quite literally made our brand a visible part of the neighborhood. It was more unique than anything I’ve seen from a sports team, but still felt authentic.
If you could leave our young professionals with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be prepared to bring something to the table. A lot of people wait to be given projects, directions, etc. No matter your career, things aren’t going to be handed to you. Be a go-getter. Find the things that set you apart and work hard to find opportunities where your skills can help solve a problem, bring value to a project, or simply make life easier on your boss. Those are the things that people remember and set you apart. At the end of the day, people will be willing to help, but it’s on you to put in the time, effort, and work to create opportunities for yourself.
Are you involved in any extracurriculars or passion projects outside of the work environment?
Professionally, I am part of WISE (Women in Sports and Entertainment). My New Year’s resolution to find more volunteering opportunities in Houston. My role doesn’t require as much community service anymore, so I definitely want to make that a priority in my personal time. My other passion is travel. It’s the easiest way to learn and gain perspective about the world: people, culture, history, etc.
Outside of work, what is life like for Alexis Sidney?
It’s hard to unplug from work, even when I’m not at office. It’s one of the less glamorous parts of being in the sports business. Even when I’m watching other sports “as a fan”, I’m still analyzing how other teams market their team and critiquing their experiences, assets, and campaigns. I really try to spend my weekends getting quality time with my husband and our dog, since our schedules are pretty hectic. I love cooking, but don’t do it enough! It’s more likely I’m exploring Houston’s incredible food scene. To unwind, you’ll find me online shopping or bookmarking travel articles so I can daydream about my next trip!