30 Female Leaders Share Their Advice On Navigating The Sponsorship Marketing Industry

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

#EachforEqual: Collectively, each one of us (including men) can support in creating a gender equal world, while celebrating the many achievements we see on a daily basis from all of our co-workers and industry friends. The 2020 theme of International Women's Day of equalness is a great reminder for us to encourage the movement to enable and support women, as they take on the various obstacles in their lives.

Although underrepresented in a number of industries, thousands of women in marketing are leading groundbreaking agencies and brand portfolios, while quickly changing the 'glass ceiling' story-line we so often hear.

The Sponsorship Space is taking this International Women's Day to help inspire the next generation of female professionals by providing career advice from a wide range of female marketers and sponsorship executives.  The team had the privilege to connect with 30 of these female leaders to gain insight into their career choices - we did this by asking them to respond to two questions:

Question #1: What advice to you have for the next generation of female marketers?

Question #2: If you could go back to the beginning of your career, what would you do differently?

Here's what they shared!


#1: Approach communication, both written and verbal, thoughtfully but with confidence. Don’t second guess yourself, take a seat at the table when it is available and use the opportunity to ask questions and share ideas. Women influence many buying decisions so our input is critical and speaking up will likely ensure you have a voice in future business discussions and get you noticed by company leaders.

#2: I would not be so shy and would proactively seek more opportunities to chat with and learn from respected leaders across different segments of the business. Making those connections, building relationships and having support from other leaders would have very likely propelled my career forward significantly faster than doing it on my own.

Annette Weishaar  |  Senior Vice President, Partnerships & Channel Marketing at Caesars Entertainment


#1: A few things:

• Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be in a hurry to always move on to the next thing; have the patience to stay in each role long enough to show your commitment and learn as much as you can.

• In order to grow in your career, identify the experience you need to be successful in the role you want and do everything you can to fill those gaps. Consider seeking out and learning from a functional expert or taking on a different role in your current company to make yourself more marketable and set yourself up for future success.

• Never be afraid to ask for something you want or think you deserve, but before you do be sure you have the skill-set and performance to justify it.

#2: When I first started working I had my entire career path and timeline all mapped out, but I wish I had been more open to change and trying new things from the start. There have been multiple times in my career where something didn’t go my way or I was asked to take on a role that wasn’t part of my plan, but I now know those things happened for a reason. You never know what doors will open and things you’ll learn by being receptive to new opportunities.

Rebecca Miller | Chief Marketing Officer at Smoothie King


#1: Seek out mentors and make conversations with leaders in your office. I’m always impressed by the women (interns or full-timers) who reach out to have coffee or a conversation. Even if you’re not looking for a new job, taking the first step to get to know someone and share your goals and interests shows that you have initiative and that you care about connecting with others, which are qualities that everyone looks for in a successful teammate.Also, learn how to share responsibilities.

I think – for women especially – we put too much pressure on ourselves to be outstanding and do everything that is asked of us at an A+ level without help. I often need to remind myself that I’m better off sharing a task, rather than trying to take it all on myself. Adding different perspectives to any project will ease your mind and make the work itself better. You’ll get more credit for being inclusive and teaching others what is required for a successful outcome than you will by completing something in a silo.

#2: Coming out of college I had a passion for being on-camera and doing voiceover work that I sort of just stopped pursuing. I focused all my energy into my “real” day job. I wish I had scratched that itch because it would be fun to exercise that skill and have the opportunity to engage a totally different part of my brain than I do day-to-day. If you have the passion and time, I encourage you to pursue outside interests beyond the 40 (or 50 or 60) hours per week you spend on your career. Maybe it’s not too late for me!

Stephanie Arpaia | Vice President, Brand Marketing, Excel Sports Management


#1: We are more powerful, bright and vigilant together. I would urge the next generation of women to purposefully find ways to light each other’s candle and illuminate our glow together. Our personal stories are not diminished by sharing the stories of others. We are all uniquely made to serve in the star role of our own autobiography.Let’s be intentional to overpopulate boardrooms with women. If you find yourself in a decision-making role to change the storyline of female leaders, do it! Put us in front of the camera, behind the camera and in every traditional and non-traditional role. Until women take a chance on each other, we will not make the impactful shift needed to steer our trajectory up the ladder.Women, do not forget that you have “the special sauce” to execute with both tact and diplomacy. Despite any challenges, we must continue to operate with eloquence and care while having the mindfulness to use strategy and willpower to accomplish anything our hearts desire.

#2: When I was younger, I over-analyzed every pause or learning experience that came along in my career. Through 20/20 hindsight, I have learned to show myself more grace through the process of striving towards success. In order to keep your gusto and stamina through uncomfortable seasons, women must embrace moments of “pause” in their careers. It can be so hard to break the facade that we “have it all together”, but accepting moments of strife only make for a better story to share and uplift the next generation.

Maegan Moguel | Strategic Partnership Manager, Porsche Cars North America, Inc.


#1: My advice to future female business leaders would be to find your passion and work hard at your craft. Take opportunities to build your personal and professional networks, since you will need different kinds of advice throughout your career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and advocate for yourself as you build your career. You need to know what is happening in your industry and in the world, so read the trades, pay attention to what your clients are asking for and how you can help them accomplish those goals. Know what your clients are doing outside of your business relationship, as well, so you are as educated as you can be about their brand. Finally, work hard, listen, be kind and supportive of others — particularly the other women coming up behind you.

#2: If I could go back, I would have engage earlier with different aspects of the business and the people who run them, so that I‘d had a better understanding, early in my career, of how the company generates revenue overall. Also, I would have tried to find a mentor outside of my company, but in the same industry, that could have been my sounding board. I believe my confidence would have grown faster if I’d known others were dealing with similar career challenges.

Jessica Mudry | Senior Vice President of Development, Van Wagner


#1: Surround yourself with a diverse group of thought-leaders. Marketing is constantly changing, from the channels being leveraged to how its effectiveness is measured. Continue to expand your exposure and line of sight to new ideas and fresh perspectives. This will make you a better problem-solver and a value-add to employers, likely unlocking additional growth opportunities. Lastly, don’t get lost in the “traditional” path to your dream job. Everyone’s journey is different and growth is not only limited to a title change or pay bump. Growth can be intrinsic (reading books, mentorship) or external (special projects, additional responsibilities). As long as you’re learning new skills, you are growing for your next step.

#2: I would be less competitive with others. At the end of it all - how you stack up against others, what your title was at a company is significantly less important than how you were as a teammate and how you made people feel. Cheer often for others, check your ego each day and when you do rise in the ranks – turn back around and provide a helping hand to the next generation. There is room for all of us to shine in our own unique ways!

Erica Bernadas | Senior Manager, Corporate Partnership Sales, New Orleans Saints & Pelicans


#1: Stay true to yourself and don’t be afraid to task risks. Know that you bring value to the table and your opinion matters. In order to be taken seriously though you must educate yourself and be knowledgeable about the particular topics you are presenting. Don’t be afraid to speak up - your opinion matters.

#2: I would have taken more sales classes. I always knew I wanted to be in the sponsorship space and sales is a huge component of this vertical. I didn’t however taken any sales related classes and I could have really benefited from this early on. Any exposure you can give yourself to sales will give you a leg up as you grow in your career.

Molly Wurdack-Folt | Vice President, Corporate Partnership Activation at Detroit Tigers & Detroit Red Wings


#1: Actively support other women, period. There is no room to tear each other down or be a bystander. Remember, you may not feel the immediate effects of progression, but in some way it’s not really for you, it’s for the next generation to come. Surround yourself with a network of strong, intelligent, creative people, both male and female, who push you to be better. Identify and keep the competitive fire within you lit to work smarter and harder than the person sitting next to you. If we tear each other down it makes it much harder to stand on each others shoulders to continue to shatter glass ceilings. One win leads to another and to another; we can only secure more wins together. It is our job to carry on the legacy of those who fought for women to have a seat at the table. We have made a great deal of progress, but there is still work to be done.

I am very fortunate to work at a place that is incredibly supportive of all employee’s. The Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer, Charlotte Jones, has been one of the most impactful females in sport. Do everything you can to learn from trail blazers, like Charlotte, set yourself up for success, study your craft, connect with fellow badass women, and work for an organization that values you. Participate in your local  “Women in Sports and Events” (WISE), chapter- and if you don’t have one- start one! Take advantage of platforms like these to become and remain an active participant in the progression of women in sports business.

#2: Speak up in meetings- not just to be heard- but to inspire action. No great ideas have ever come to fruition via silence. A great piece of advice a previous supervisor shared with me is that you should spend more time thinking about how you will pitch an idea or provide feedback or say something than what you are actually going to say. This helps increase the effectiveness of your core message being heard, combat the challenge of time, and showcases interpersonal intelligence. I have had the great fortune of working for a handful of absolutely outstanding organizations that value good ideas and people for their human characteristics regardless of gender. The culture of the organization has always been a “guiding light” in my career sitting at the top of my “non-negotiables” list when assessing potential employers. If an opportunity doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not the right one.

Michelle Gulino | Manager, Corporate Partnership Marketing at Dallas Cowboys


#1: Best advice I could give is from Drake. And it’s the same advice I’d give to survive high school. “Don’t worry about fitting in when you’re custom made.” If your opinion is the only one that is different at the table, GREAT. Don’t be afraid to speak up or be wrong. Even if you’re not “right”, diversity of thought is what makes ideas even stronger. Marketing is about having extraordinary common sense. Don’t over-complicate things to try and go “viral” or to win that award. When you say too much, you say nothing at all. Simplicity will never be overrated.

#2: I’d care less about chasing titles or trying to work on the hottest brand. I’m a recovering overachiever and at every age, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t “behind” in my peer group. Careers are not a linear path. They’re a bunch of dots and everyone connects them differently. The brand I learned the most from is arguably the most boring one on paper, Brita filters. In that role, I built a platform that has given over 55,000 people in Kenya access to clean water. I shot an award-winning VR/360 video in Kenya. I helped the fight against eliminating single use plastic bottles. I partnered with the Toronto Raptors! Water filters?! Don’t judge a book by its cover. There are so many learning opportunities to be had at every “dot” in your career, even the seemingly boring ones.

Sarah Au | Director of Marketing at Muskoka Brewery


#1: As an executive search consultant, I have interviewed hundreds, possibly thousands of sports marketing executives over my career. My advice to the next generation of marketers is be mindful of how YOUR experiences, YOUR preferences can influence how your organization (either brand, property, or media company) can connect with consumers. As a young person and a consumer yourself, you can offer a perspective on how you like to be marketed to – what social platforms do you like? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What issues are you facing that is unique to the two generations before you? This perspective is critical for seasoned executives to understand as their organizations invariably try to connect with the next generation. As a woman, your perspective is critical. Make sure you have ideas and thoughts to offer.

#2: If I started my career over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Carolyne Savini | Partner, Head of North America at Nolan Partners


#1: Marketing is complex, and like every other aspect of business, marketing is changing faster than the speed of light. The marketing role is much broader now and the expectations are considerable.  Today’s marketer needs a special skillset. They need to be generalists and specialists. Marketers need to stay on top of trends, regularly update their skills and understand the role technology and analytics play in the marketing mix. Owning the customer experience, often referred to as the “customer journey”, a major component of today’s enhanced marketing role.  Gone are the days when brand loyalty is assumed. Brand loyalty is no longer guaranteed. Consumers have brand expectations, and if their content experience or live fan experience doesn’t meet those expectations, they won’t wait long for the organization to change.  They will simply go to another brand.

If an organization does what’s right for customers, revenue will come. Architecting an amazing customer experience by listening to customers, aligning with all the teams involved in this process, and having goals and measurement in place to understand the impact of marketing efforts on customers and the business overall, are all pieces of the puzzle that need to come together.Although the marketing role has evolved, and while there will always be new trends and new tools, for all of its complexity the fundamentals of marketing will never change. Creativity and the next big idea are a part of a marketer’s position.  

However, the marketer must be able to answer the following questions to position themselves for success:

a) What are the objectives? What are we trying to accomplish?  b) Know your target audience. Who are you speaking to and who has responded? What do they “look like”? Where did you find them?  c) Are you providing a service or a product that solves a problem?  d) If so, what is your USP, your unique selling proposition? Why should a consumer buy your product?  e) How will you measure success?

Today, a lifelong learner with analytical ability, curiosity and a desire to understand what makes a consumer tick is a marketer--one of the most exciting, challenging positions in business.

#2: I would tell my younger self to take a more active role in my career development, to not assume the company I work for will automatically do this for me. As important as it is to update your skills and stay on top of trends, it’s essential to devote time to build your personal brand, to spend more time building your professional network. For example, join a trade group, blog, carve out time on the calendar to meet more often with industry colleagues. During my career’s formative years, “developing my personal brand” wasn’t talked about, and to me doing so felt narcissistic. Focusing on myself felt wrong, almost selfish. Shouldn’t I continue to work harder and produce more? I know now that done the right way, developing your professional identity is as important as producing results for the company you’re working for. I’d tell myself to broaden my skill set while simultaneously fulfilling my current role’s responsibilities (It’s not cheating on the company!) I’d stay on top of current industry trends, take courses, and consistently network in and out of my industry. In addition to building a broader, professional identity, I’d encourage myself to volunteer and pursue my personal passions. A well-rounded person is more confident, more interesting, and hopefully more marketable. Finally, but most importantly, be a mentor. Support other women. Offer to help others find their way. Listen and support. Be the role model you wish you had in the beginning of your career. A well-rounded executive is a productive employee, and a co-worker others want to work with.

Ann Crandall | Former CMO, Big East Conference


#1: Be in love with your life every single minute. When you are fully invested in yourself, your passions and ultimately a happy life, you will be more creative and definitely more satisfied. Don't forget to help each other.

#2: I'd be a little easier on myself and enjoy the ride just as much as the climb. I’d realize patience and practice are NOT under-rated and are in fact a super power.

Justine Fedak | Former Head of Social & Sponsorships, BMO North America


#1: My advice to the next generation of female leaders is to be bold. Be disruptors. Be loud, be seen, be heard! In order to contribute to more authentic and meaningful conversations, we need more women’s voices represented in marketing. We need voices of women from varying backgrounds, races, religions, abilities and sexual orientations to have a seat at the table and vocalize their diverse perspectives. I truly believe this is what contributes to the uniqueness of our Canadian mosaic.

#2: If I could go back to the beginning of my career, I would have taken more risks. When we are young in our career, the fear of the unknown and the focus on earning a pay cheque plays a significant role in our decision making. From my experience, young marketers often lean into career paths, countries, & companies, which exist within their comfort zones. When we confront our fears, face difficult decisions, and take calculated risks, we increase the potential and opportunity to expand our worldview. International marketing experience can radically differentiate marketing strategy, and as such, I wish I would have explored and educated myself more about the benefits of opportunities abroad. In this light, I continue to work towards my dream of working internationally as a marketing leader.

Christina Minshull | Assistant Marketing Director - Brand, Content & Social Strategy at EY


#1: The advice would be to never let anyone discourage you or intimidate you from pursing success in this field. I had several keynote speakers, teachers, and influential people in my life who caused me to doubt that a career in sports was possible. Personally, I had zero connections in the world of sports starting my career. Between hard work, determination, and a little luck in finding several great mentors early on, I was able to find my success and build my network. Embrace the Mamba Mentality and you can do anything you set your mind to.

#2: Absolutely nothing. I have acquired skills and knowledge at each and every stop along my career journey. I would encourage you to step out of your comfort zone as much as possible. My career has lead me from Chicago to Nashville, Las Vegas, and Miami. All of these different career experiences have helped me grow professionally and I am grateful for all of these opportunities.

Alexandria Munoz​ | Senior Manager, Corporate Partnerships at Miami Heat


#1: Always be learning. Whether that's internally from your work colleagues, by keeping up on the current sports industry marketing trends, or networking with others throughout the industry, surrounding yourself with others who are passionate about the same things you are will always helps you grow. Be proactive in continuing to learn more about some of the challenges that sports marketers face. Also, always be there to help others! If someone reaches out to learn more about your career, take that time. Everyone had someone that paid it forward to get into this industry. There are always those willing to help. You can always learn something from someone, no matter where they are in their career. The best marketers can be some of the best story tellers, so find out more about people's stories. It's amazing to hear what people have accomplished during their careers and through their experiences. Sometimes the word "networking" can be scary, but it's really just getting to know people and building those personal connections and relationships.

#2: Although I wouldn't change much about the beginning of my career, I think the advice I would have at least told myself is that within every job that deals with marketing, in some way, you are doing "sales". During that time, I felt like sales was always a scary word, but in reality, it's a good thing! Whether that's on the agency side and trying to pitch a new idea to the client, or trying to help a partner with their goals and objectives through new assets, sales is really just having your marketing ideas come to life. Now, I appreciate and understand that revenue is really important to any company.In another way, if I could go back, in some ways, I may have actually held off on graduate school.

While I loved my time with the DeVos Program at the University of Central Florida and would still plan to go there, maybe working in the industry for a year or two would have been helpful. I'm not sure I appreciated the learning experience as much going straight from undergraduate into a graduate program.That said, I think my biggest thing I would change is really getting into the sports industry! When I was in my undergraduate degree, working in sports was a pipe dream and I had no idea how to break into it. But looking at it now, I think just always learning more from those in the industry really can help students find a job they are passionate about. When I entered into my graduate program, I was blessed to be able to break into this industry and learn more about it, but I wish I would have taken that opportunity to get to know people in this industry a little bit sooner.

Devin Beahm | Senior Manager, Partnership Marketing, Pittsburgh Penguins


#1: Embrace the qualities that make us valuable to all facets of marketing. When I entered the sports marketing world in the Automotive Industry over two decades ago, I was often, if not always, the only female in a meeting, on a business trip, or in a pitch. I had the mindset I needed to be more like my male peers to be taken seriously in the sports world. I’ve spent the majority of my professional sports career in the Partnership sector, and I eventually realized I had better relationships and business results when I was myself. I brought qualities to partnerships that organically led to levels of trust and respect that would not have been achieved had I continued to mask my true self, including the stereotypical female qualities I was told by a former college professor to suppress. It sounds so cliché and is common sense, but “Be Yourself” has become a simple, yet impactful way of life for me. I use every opportunity to talk about its importance with up and coming females in the industry, as well as with my daughter. We have so much to offer. Believing and trusting in that seems to be the difficult part for some reason.

#2: I would most definitely network more! I felt if I kept my head down and worked hard, then the path would be paved. It is almost embarrassing to admit, but I convinced myself that if I were taking time away from my actual work to get to know others in similar business circles, then I was short-changing my employer and my career. Why spend time at a happy hour when you should be working late, right?  While hard work, dedication and sacrifice are all necessary, the timeline of your path being paved is vastly improved when you add consistent networking to the mix. I truly wish I recognized and valued networking from the start.

Michelle Byron, Vice President, Partnership Marketing, NASCAR


#1: For young women, my advice is OWN it. Believe you belong here. The professional landscape has changed so much for women in the post #MeToo era, and I hope more young women see this and believe they belong in these spaces from the outset – not feel they have to prove they can handle it first.Instead, focus on proving what every young professional should. Show your care and respect for the business by doing your research and being prepared for tasks ahead. Show your humility and desire to learn by being open to new tasks, big or small. Network and find mentors (inside and outside of your organization) that can be both a constructive critic and an advocate for you as your career develops.

#2: If I could advise myself at 23, I’d say to be so much more confident in what I brought to the table. I knew I was young for my role, and instead of amplifying the strengths that got me there, I spent a great deal of energy on how to present myself in order to be taken seriously. I wanted to earn respect among clients, peers, and executives; to be “laid-back” enough to be included by my male colleagues; to be considered “nice” enough as a women but firm enough to hold my own… The list goes on.Caring about your professional image is important, but do so in a way that shows your unique strengths – not silences them. Confidence in myself and my value would have allowed me to bring my own point of view to the table sooner, and let others’ opinions take care of themselves.

Jael Ballard | Director, Corporate Partnerships at Los Angeles Football Club


#1: Be open to creating a mindset as versatile as your skillset - and support others who do so too. That is the best way to move any industry forward as a marketer. Building a circle of trust and inclusiveness allows you to work and collaborate with each other, as collective efforts go much further than individuals can. Then put purpose at the core of your strategy - this is increasingly important and women often have the insight and bravery to think beyond the norm and bring others onside to transform their sector.

#2: I would remind myself to find the resilience to continuously believe in your abilities, leadership potential and authentic intentions, no matter what. If there’s no seat at the table for you, pull up a chair, or start your own table, and don’t apologize for doing it, as it should have been there in the first place...it’s now 2020, so don’t look back!

Katrina Galas | Sport Strategy Consultant, In Common Consulting


#1: Don’t always look up the ladder to learn. In advancing in your career, yes, you want your role models but you can learn from everyone in the industry if you make learning an objective every day. When you are problem solving, the puzzle of how things work – or don’t work- is likely not revealed by talking with your peers. Marketing, and in particular sports marketing and sponsoring requires good boundary spanning skills. Go out of your way to learn from the unlikely source and to hear new voices.

#2: I have always believed in contributing to good causes, and I have, but early on, it was not my most efficient giving. Give throughout your career from your best skill set. Giving through donating money is worthwhile. Giving by joining a group or charity is also worth doing, but to give to society from your unique capabilities is rewarding and self-nurturing. You can think of it as optimal giving. You also meet people in an entirely different way and this can be the beginning of a virtuous circle. For me, this means doing research for social good. I research topics in sport marketing and sponsorship as my mainstay. I also devote time and my skills toward research to help reduce childhood obesity and to support environmentally friendly behaviors. Choose a problem solving over a problem soothing mindset.

Bettina Cornwell | Head, Department of Marketing at University of Oregon