It doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re in, you have run into a Dallas Cowboys fan at some point. With one of the largest fan bases in professional sports, the team continues to excel in ticket sales, television ratings, merchandising and corporate sponsorships — helping them place 1st on Forbes Most Valuable Sports Teams for the second year running. Along with the New York Yankees, FC Barcelona and Toronto Maple Leafs, the Dallas Cowboys are truly one of the world’s most iconic organizations.
With that being said, it takes a lot of talented professionals working behind the scenes to really maintain a successful franchise and bring these teams to the forefront. One of those employees is Jenneken Beernink, who just closed out her third season with the team in their Corporate Partnerships Department. After stumbling into sponsorships while at the University of Nebraska Omaha, Jenneken took a chance and moved to various cities for partnerships roles, and since then hasn’t looked back.
The Sponsorship Space had a chance to sit down with Jenneken to learn about her career in our latest Young Achiever feature.
Tell us a little about your experience up to this point and current role.
I actually stumbled into partnerships during my sophomore year at the University of Nebraska Omaha when I was looking to get more involved on campus. I interned with the Athletic Department doing anything and everything from activation, tickets and desk work. My role grew over time and I eventually led the intern program my senior year. After graduation I interned full-time for Mutual of Omaha, handling their sponsorship of the Olympic Swim Trials and then was asked back to UNO full-time as a Coordinator of Sponsorship Service with Nelligan Sports Marketing (now a Learfield property). Working for your alma-mater carries an overwhelming sense of pride especially with the exciting changes that were taking place and the transition to a full D1 program.
After two years at UNO, I made the leap into professional sports and joined Sporting Kansas City as an Account Executive. I learned a lot in my time with Sporting and was definitely challenged. The company wants to be at the forefront of innovation in the MLS and the entire sports industry. It was awesome to be a part of such a collaborative organization, especially as they were coming off an MLS Cup Win. It definitely lent a lot in my transition to my current role with the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did this move challenge me professionally, but also personally. I was moving to a city where I knew no one and joining a team that is considered a leader in the industry. Working for the Cowboys) is one of those pinch worthy moments. A lot of credit goes to the Jones family and the rest of our Leadership team for allowing and pushing us to be innovative, cutting edge and experts in our role.
Was working in the partnerships industry always your goal?
Interesting enough I was determined to work in the fashion industry, but as I became more involved in my internship my focus changed. I studied public relations in college and told my advisor, “I will work in PR for a Major League Soccer team.” While public relations is not the path I took being in partnerships is a serendipitous fit. It’s a lot of work, but rarely feels that way..
As a female, a lot of us hear how hard it is to break into the industry as it is heavily male dominated. While that may be true, if you continue to push yourself, create connections and find mentors along the way, you can make your dreams become your reality. I will never forget early in my career when someone said to me, “You’ll never work in professional sports, it’s a male’s world.” It was in that moment that I had this overwhelming sense of drive to prove not only them, but anyone else wrong.
The majority of individuals in our industry have spent time working in different environments. What has been the biggest difference for you when you compare your time working for Learfield compared to a professional team?
Professional and Collegiate sports all come with their own unique challenges. With collegiate athletics, there are a lot of checks and balances and approvals needed to get something across the line. When it comes to professional sports, the budgets are bigger, and while there is freedom to execute, there is a high standard which can create some bumps along the way.
On that same note, you’ve worked in a few different sports, what has been the biggest difference?
They have all been so different, from Hockey at UNO being our premiere sport to MLS to NFL. I sometimes feel too lucky that I have been able to experience such vast differences. It definitely allows me to bring a different perspective to projects and pitches.
You work for one of the most well-recognized brands in sports. Tell us about the organizational culture. What’s your favorite part about working for the Dallas Cowboys?
You feel fortunate to work for an organization that has a way of setting a standard and thinking outside the box. My favorite part might be hard to narrow down but overall it would be the opportunity to be innovative. We are encouraged daily to think of new ideas and be part of the change that is constantly happening within the world of sports. A close second would be the family environment. It’s clear from ownership down that although our last names may not all be Jones, you feel welcomed and part of something bigger from day one. There is this constant expectation that we do things the best. Which is amazing and challenging. Demands a lot of attention to detail and time. But all while, there is this element at the Cowboys that work can be fun. They hire the best people to do the best work and have the most fun.
How do you feel partnership marketing has changed the past few years?
Partnerships I truly believe is ever evolving. Consumers follow trends, media and digital follows trends which allows us a space to keep evolving as well. I think a good reminder to anyone in partnerships is to ask questions. Your client’s goals and objectives change. Try to anticipate any of those speedbumps or breakthroughs and allow yourself to have as much knowledge as possible.
Working in pro sports is by no means a 9–5 industry, so in the limited spare time that you have, are there any extracurricular or passion projects that fill your time outside of the office?
Outside of the office I try and travel as much as my schedule allows. I just recently went to Russia to catch the Confederation Cup Finals. Unbelievable time.
What is one piece of advice you would give to young professionals hoping to break into the partnership world?
The best piece of advice I can give any young professional is the best advice I heard over and over again, it really is all about who you know. As frustrating as that sounds, especially when you are a senior in college and trying to figure it all out. Just try and connect on a sincere level with anyone in your industry. Reach out to friends, friends of your parents, friends of your friends. Go to job fairs. Make a good impression. When handed a business card, follow up with a quick note. If someone at a team, then email them after a win. Not a loss. It really is the small things you can do to build a relationship with people.