Although still underrepresented in a number of industries, thousands of women in marketing are leading groundbreaking agencies, properties and brand portfolios, while quickly changing the 'glass ceiling' story-line we so often hear.
Since 2017, The Sponsorship Space puts together an annual compilation article for International Women's Day to help spotlight the talented women in our industry and to help inspire the next generation of marketers by providing career advice from a wide range of female professionals and sponsorship executives. This year, the team had the privilege to connect with 52 women marketers across the industry to ask them the following:
What advice to you have for the next generation of women marketers?
Here's what they shared!
Never be afraid to fail--it is a part of the process. Quickly learn from your mistakes and move on because success is nonlinear. If you stop trying, you will always wonder "What if kept pushing?" so, keep taking educated risks and never quit on yourself. Be patient with your journey, resilience is the name of the game.
Global Social Marketing Lead, Whatsapp
For the next generation, my advice to you is to know your worth and your values as you look to enter the space of sponsorship and/or sports marketing. Sports' social and racial reckoning in the summer of 2020 revealed/created a special lens the public uses to examine how sporting leagues, teams, athletes, and now brands fight against injustice and do good for their communities. With the public growing in their willingness to call out these inequities, it is important now more than ever for all marketers, but especially female sports marketers to 1) recognize their personal power and importance in contributing to what is seen under that lens and, 2) know where you personally stand on different social issues in comparison to your employer. Knowing your worth and your values will not only give you the awareness to know when something is not serving you or your values, it will also give you the confidence to try and change it or find a better opportunity. You will be able to create the best campaigns, build the best partner relationships, and market an entity the best only when you feel valued and in alignment with the values of your organization.
Manager, Partnership Development, Golden State Warriors
Often times we’re taught to get your first job, put your head down, and put in the overtime. While that may still remain true, it’s super important to always surround yourself by others that build you up. Find your people and those that support you professionally, personally and challenge you to be better person every day, not just in the workplace. Every interaction should be seen as an opportunity to learn from and build who and what you stand for. Remember the group of people that helped build you and bring them along in your journey. Those will be the people that will be there when you rise and will be a testament to your accomplishments. Every person you meet will be a piece of your life puzzle and serve a different purpose, but make authentic and long lasting relationships. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask. There are going to be many times you doubt yourself, your work, or your purpose so ask for help if you need it. Ask for advice. Ask for feedback. Ask for that promotion. Ask for a raise, because at the end of the day, If you don’t do it for yourself, who will?
Director of Public Relations & Digital at New Belgium Brewing
My best career advice for future women in this industry is a motto I live by - Keep Showing Up - but in a slightly more elaborate light. Natasha Cloud of the WNBA said don’t just talk about change, be about change; I like to parallel it in a way where I say don’t just talk about showing up, be about showing up. Walk into the room. Sit at the table. Offer your insight because it’s of value even if you can’t hear it in your own head yet. Show up for the opportunities infront of you and opportunities will appear for you tenfold further. And don’t just talk about supporting, hiring and uplifting other women - be about it. Show up for them. It’s about how it is, not how it looks. And we need badass women to keep lifting as we all rise in this industry and beyond.
Digital & Social Media at National Basketball Association
A job or the company you work for doesn’t define you; you have the power to define yourself and own your story. Navigate your career with the goal that no matter what company or job you are currently in that you are showing up in a way that is uniquely, unapologetically you and that fits with your personal core values. For me, this means that no matter where I am working I want to empower the people around me and lead with empathy at the center. The impact you have on others is what truly defines you.
Senior Director, Sports & Entertainment at Rakuten
My advice for any woman who aspires to work in sports marketing is to never allow anyone to make you feel like you aren’t worthy of being in the rooms you see yourself in. If you want a seat at the table, pull up a chair. When you have a thought or idea, speak up. Own your voice. Value your voice. Be confident in what you have to say. You can be a nice person and direct and firm in your delivery. You can be a nice person and send an email without exclamation points.
Director, Brand Marketing for San Francisco 49ers
For the next generation of female marketers my advice is to network with purpose. First, find people in leadership positions or already into their career that you truly respect and then model their behavior. Do and say things they do as you build your career. Don't just try to network with people with fancy titles, but rather hone in on genuine leaders and emulate them, talk to them, meet with them, etc. Secondly, do not shy away from sales/revenue generating roles. There needs to be more women making business decisions! You are more than capable, go for it. And to quote the wonderful Glennon Doyle from her book UNTAMED, “you can do hard things”.
Director, Partnership Marketing for Angel City FC
There's great danger in assuming.
More specifically, just because something is done a particular way, does not mean that it needs to stay that way. At my very first job, I had the privilege of interviewing several high-power (female) executives who were being recognized for their accomplishments in their respective fields. In one of the interviews, I asked a senior partner at a consulting firm about her career growth within her company over the past 25 years, and her response has stuck with me to this day. She said that at the time she had her first child (in the mid-to-late 1980s), women were typically thrown "goodbye parties" when they were pregnant, (yes, I am referring to what we now know as office "baby showers"), meaning a woman's choice to have a family would represent the end of her business career and the beginning of her job in motherhood. Before attending her own "going away" party in 1988, she told the CEO that she would be coming back after 6 months and wanted to review the company's maternity leave policy. He told her that they did not have one—so she wrote it for them.
All this to say, just because something has been a certain way for a long time, it is likely because no one had the opportunity, impetus, or perspective to change it. If you encounter a roadblock that doesn't sit right with you, be the change. Challenge the status quo. Does your company not have a Diversity & Inclusion policy? Write it. Do you think your organization's marketing strategies are inclusive and accessible? Make them be so. This company's nonexistent maternity leave policy was likely due to a lack of diversity at the executive level—and I wouldn't be surprised if we find additional antiquated policies in today's corporate world. We have many ceilings left to shatter, seats at the table to take, and more importantly, the need to bring diverse perspectives to the table. So my piece of advice to you? Shake shit up. We are here because we stand on the sacrifices, risks, and stands taken by all great women before us. It would be a damn shame to not continue to do the same—and you might be surprised at your ability to affect real, meaningful, and lasting change.
10 year veteran in the Marketing, Events, and Brand space for companies including the Women’s Executive Network and the Canadian Football League
Do not hold back on reaching out and networking in the sponsorship/sports marketing industry! For all the young, eager professionals that cold call me on LinkedIn for an exploratory conversation about the industry, I’d say 99% are male. Please make that first step to introduce yourself - we have an incredible group of females in this industry that would be happy to speak with you and mentor you. If you are reading this - it’s an open invitation to connect.
Manager, Business Development at NBA
One of the things that's benefited me most in my career is gaining confidence and trust in myself. Insecurity and doubt creep up on everyone from time to time, and they can paralyze you. Or prevent you from progressing. Building a community of your peers, whether through joining online forums or professional organizations, can help you build confidence by providing support, access to resources, educational opportunities, and general advice.
Put in the time + effort to build a diverse network both personally + professionally. Talk with people you admire, people who share common interests regardless of profession, people who intimidate you, + people you don’t necessarily agree with. Be obnoxiously curious + don’t be afraid to ask the hard or scary questions. You’re going to zig, zag, soar, + stumble throughout your career. The perspective, insight, + general support from your network will come in handy as you grow + evolve. This goes without saying, but your people will need you, too. Be there to pick them up + hype them up.
Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships at Accolade
Supporting your female peers is one of the most important things you can do to change the narrative within male dominated industries. Don’t shy away from being fierce, strong and most importantly, vocal.
Social Media Coordinator, Oakland Athletics
Get comfortable owning your success. Too often, we give others credit for our accomplishments. Instead, be your own best hype person. Share your wins. Use data, insights and industry knowledge to back yourself up. Prove that you’re a marketing expert, and earn yourself a seat at the table. You deserve to be there, and it’s hard to argue with receipts.
Director of Social Media at Michigan State University
Sometimes, it can feel like your voice is quieter than those around you. When you’re not being heard, find another way. We’re empowered with so many channels to amplify our own voices and get in front of audiences. You don’t need to wait for someone to deem your thoughts or opinions worthy. Your points have merit. Build your own platform and share them on your terms.
Marketing instructor at University of Florida and Founder of #PopChat
Don't be afraid to try something new. Be innovative and be prepared to work really hard in order to challenge the status quo. I think it is so important to learn and grow within your current role, while also expanding your knowledge in the space in order to become more versatile.
Sr. Manager, Content Strategy & Client Services at Navigate
You’re allowed to be proud of the work you do. As women, especially Black women, we may be hesitant to speak up because fear of stereotypes or backlash, but speak out and be proud of what you accomplish - big or small. We all have a voice and it’s awesome to see more and more women use it and celebrate their wins! And don’t be hesitant to reach out to other women or men, for advice through LinkedIn or another channel. I’ve found that people in the sports industry really love to help others and get others in the door. Networking and reaching out to someone could change your life or trajectory.
Social Media at the Sacramento Kings
Have confidence in yourself and go for whatever it is you want to do & don’t let anyone tell you you can’t, because you can. Get your work seen and let it speak for itself. Use social to your benefit to both market yourself & make friends in the marketing space. Keep your head held high & know you have a place in this industry!
Digital and Social Media Coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers
If I could provide one piece of advice for the next generation of female marketers it would be for them to know they have a voice.I get it - it often doesn’t always feel that way, but your opinions, your values, and your voice are incredible and need to be heard. Don’t let yourself be silenced. You’re an incredible, powerful, intelligent woman, who has incredible marketing ideas. Sometimes you may need to find unique ways to allow your voice to be heard - but don’t give up. Find other women that you can use as allies so they too can help echo and reinforce your voice. And again, don’t give up. Scream from the mountaintops if you need to. I promise I’ll hear you. And soon everyone else will too.
Director of Marketing at Rover.io
Believe you belong & trust your instincts. While you may not always be invited to the meetings or feel heard in discussion, show up & speak up unapologetically anyway. I once asked my powerful VP (who happens to be a woman) how she made so far in sports marketing, here was her advice: “I never waited for an invitation and I never cared what they thought. Yes, I worked hard & learned... but I also walked into meetings, I advocated, and I changed their game.” Keep showing up & speaking up - we, too, will change the game.
Account Manager at STN Digital
Women have strong intuitions, and I like to lean in on data-driven strategies and couple them with intuition when appropriate. Often, women tend to self-doubt or allow to be talked over by their male counterparts. Over time, I learned to listen to my own voice and intuition in sharing a diverse perspective. Marketing campaigns can sometimes miss the mark in connecting with a global audience, where potential consumers feel alienated and cannot connect with the brand message. I often challenge myself and my teams to be more inclusive, and a part of that process is to listen to different perspectives, regardless of the person's seniority level. This inclusivity in shaping a marketing campaign allows us to be more informed in our messaging to better connect with global audiences on a more authentic level.
Global Marketing Partnerships & Alliances Consultant. (Ex-Disney, Warner Bros, & DreamWorks)
Network endlessly. Developing relationships is very important in this deeply connected industry and is often instrumental in opening the door to a new career opportunity. It’s also a great way to exchange knowledge & best practices with peers which can help tap into diverse points of view. Whether it’s reaching out to industry professionals on LinkedIn for informational chats, joining relevant councils and community groups, or attending conferences, enlarging your network will provide many benefits for the long run. There are some amazing leaders out there who are more than willing to share advice and insights, so don’t be afraid to reach out. “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no” is a mantra I embrace, and one I often preach!
Brand Partnerships Manager at Live Nation Entertainment
Don’t be afraid to fail. When I think back about my life and my career up to this point, every single job or decision I’ve made has gotten me to the place I’m in. If you knew younger me, there’s nothing I hated more than failure.... And I failed hard. I failed quizzes, midterms, exams, classes, and career choices. I was lost. I thought about giving up but somehow was convinced I needed to keep trekking. I realized my failures became more about learnings to me. I could make mistakes but I knew I'd become a better person because of what I learned from it. It can be scary at times, but you have to push yourself to take on challenges and do things that push you out of your comfort zone or you’ll never know what real success feels like. Push yourself to grow. It only makes you stronger along the way and pushes you in a direction you were meant to be.”
Senior Manager, Social and Synergey Partnership Marketing at The Walt Disney Company
There are two pieces of advice I'd share.
1) Bring your authentic self to work. Don't try to be a 2nd-rate someone else, you can always be a 1st-rate you!
2) Growth comes when you push yourself outside your comfort zone, so embrace uncomfortable challenges/additional responsibilities--and don't be afraid to ask questions along the way! When imposter syndrome sneaks up on you (we all experience this), remind yourself of your strengths and your accomplishments that have brought you to this point.
Partnership Intelligence, Chicago Fire FC
Dream big. Follow your heart and believe in the work you are doing. Life is too short to spend a day doing something that you enjoy doing every day. It is not always easy finding your purpose or your “why,” but surrounding yourself with mentors, bosses, colleagues, and friends who motivate you, inspire you, and believe in you are crucially important. The last piece of advice I will leave you with is step out of your comfort zone and do not be afraid to lean on your network for support. Everyone in the industry has been in your shoes at one point in their career.
Director, Corporate Partnerships at Premier Partnerships
My one piece of advice is to build your board of directors - or tribe - or whatever you would like to call them. Make sure they are not just "yes" people either. Have someone in your circle that challenges you, pushes you to be better; someone that encourages you; someone that has industry experience; someone that doesn't have industry experience. This group then becomes a go to resource - no matter what you may face in your career.
Managing Director at Twist Creative
I’ve certainly received a ton of great advice throughout my career- be confident in your skin; find your voice and harness the potential within are some of my personal mantras. However, I think it is very important on International Women’s Day that we remind ourselves there is room for all of us. With limited female representation, it is critical for women to band together- mentor, uplift and celebrate each other. While we must continue to hold our male teammates accountable, it is incumbent upon us to embrace the responsibility we have to be agents of change and influence the next generation. When you are the only female at the table, what steps will you take to make room for other women? We are at our best when we do not view each other as competition, but rather a support system of talented, authentic, and unapologetic trail blazers. When the opportunity to step into the spotlight presents itself (which it will), own it. You were made for the moment, and this incredible village of powerful women will be cheering for you from the front row.
Senior Manager, Partnership Development at Golden State Warriors
I’ve always loved the philosophy to “work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” I believe it’s a Conan O’Brien quote. It’s also great advice for those just starting their careers. Intentional, good work performed with the right attitude is invaluable, regardless of the role or industry. Also, I’m probably repeating the most standard advice that’s been shared ten times over, but it’s a universal truth - your network is key! Build time into your schedule for networking and staying in touch.
Director, Partner Services - The IRONMAN Group
My piece of advice is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Surround yourself with people smarter and more experienced than you in areas you know well, plus areas you want to learn more about and grow in. Show gratitude for those that you learn from, and do your part in passing that down to those who will come after you.
Senior Public Relations Specialist at CHOC Children's
Always be kind and stay humble. Whether you are a fresh grad, or a seasoned professional, you will always have an opportunity to learn from your peers, managers, mentors and even mentees. Reach out to connect with people you want to learn from, but also remember to give back when it’s your turn. After all - empowered women, empower women.
Corporate Communications Consultant at Toyota Canada
My piece of advice is to trust yourself. There are too many times where I see women afraid to speak up because they don’t want to be looked down upon or sound like a b*tch. Just because it hasn’t been said before doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Practice speaking to yourself and take out phrases like:
“I don’t know if that makes sense.”
“But whatever you think is best.”
These phrases are cushions for those who aren’t sure how their peers will react to their ideas. Let your ideas and thoughts flow and stand your ground.Trust yourself and remember that you know yourself best.
Social Media at Indiana University
I would tell them to always stay true to yourself and what you believe in. There will be lots of people that will try to tell you "the right way" to do things or make you think you're not knowledgeable enough and how you should change to fit a mold. Standing up for yourself, speaking up, and fighting for what you deserve isn't bossy or aggressive it's the right thing to do.Also, like Morgan said, say what you mean and mean what you say. You don't need to sugar coat things or use quantifiers because your words have value.Lastly, I would say to pay it forward. You did not get to this place alone and you will not continue to grow alone so be willing to help the next generation of women.
ALSO! Celebrate and encourage the successes of other women. Their success doesn't take away from yours. And if you have the opportunity to bring other women into the rooms you're in, do it.
Customer Success Manager at Zoomph
If I could offer any advice to future women in marketing, it’s to take up space. Show up as your most authentic self. Don’t ever hesitate to speak your mind or stand up for what you believe in because you’re afraid of being silenced. Never apologize for having an opinion. In industries that put men at the forefront of the conversation, we have a unique responsibility to be there to speak for women. So find the people who see value in your POV. If the people around you are not advocating for you, you are in the wrong place. There is a place for you here.
Freelance Content Strategist
The landscape of marketing has changed. Future marketers need to lead with empathy and compassion. They need to focus on the needs of potential customers and how those needs are met in the most relevant manner. You will also need to meet customers where they are to evoke emotion, drive action and gain share of wallet.
C-Level Marketing Executive
I am a strong believer in embracing vulnerability at work and leaning into discomfort, uncertainty and failure. The best marketers I know bring their full selves to the table – not only their strengths, but their weaknesses as well. I would advise future female marketers to lean into those perceived weaknesses as much as possible. Ask questions, test and learn, confront your fears and limitations often, and don’t be afraid to fail. Challenges feel less daunting when you aren’t afraid to fail and are instead opportunities for growth. Do your part to foster an environment where your colleagues feel supported to do the same and show up authentically and consistently every day. As Seth Godin eloquently said, “The person who fails the most, wins.”
Olivia Van Eyk
Head of Marketing at Onlia
Conviction and authenticity are opportunity magnets. Putting yourself out there can feel uncomfortable, but you'll never regret the career (or the life) that comes from being the boldest version of yourself.
Partnerships at Pexels and Canva
My advice is to always be authentically you. Never let someone tell you can’t do something because you’re a female or you’re this or that. Work your ass off, be kind, always uplift other women, and you’ll accomplish everything you put your mind to.
Social Media at Nashville Predators
Don’t be anything other but yourself. People will try to tell you to act a certain way, dress a certain way, talk a certain way. Don’t listen to them. All you need to know is how unique you are. There will never be another YOU. Go out there and prove it. Show up for yourself. Stand up for yourself. Speak up for yourself. Protect yourself. The sky is the limit, go get it.
Cristina Maria Enea
Sports Partnerships at Advocate Aurora Health
Be curious, ask questions, and never stop learning. As the business world continues to evolve, it is important to learn and understand how these changes can impact the future of our industries. This is a challenge, but also a positive. Change is what got us here today. Women leaders of the past pioneered the way for our generation, and we will take what we learned from our predecessors to go even further. Always challenge yourself to learn more.
Corporate Partnerships at LA Clippers
The best advice I would give to female marketers is to be confident in yourself and your ideas. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and give your opinions, especially if it’s something you’re passionate about. You belong in the room and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. Trust in your work and trust the process. As women, our voices matter, no matter what the topic may be. Lastly, always go after what you want. You can’t always wait for the opportunities to come your way, sometimes you have to make the opportunities happen yourself.
Social Content Editor at National Football League
1. As women our emotional intelligence is higher (sorry guys, but it is)... while it’s long been pedalled that this is a weakness, the opposite is in fact true. It’s a major strength in business! When it comes to marketing and storytelling, our innate ability to connect is one aspect of what makes us invaluable to a team. Marketing and storytelling rely on emotion and real human experience.
2. Know what you bring to the table and do not settle for less because that’s what has long been accepted for women in sports and marketing. Have both male and female mentors looking out for you, sharing insight, and lifting you up. Just as successful women are important to look up to, strong male allies are integral.
3. Do your due diligence - before you agree to work for a company or an organization, investigate whether it’s aligned with your values and expectations when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Are the corporate statements performative or are current employees living their truth every day? A company is not worth working for if every day you’re expending your energy battling for basic rights instead of putting that time and brainpower into doing your best work.
Social Media Manager
Don’t edit yourself. You can be feminine (or present anyway you want) and be respected. The days of “acting like men” to fit in with men is out. Your best work comes from bringing your whole self to your role. I asked myself “who is the kind of person you needed when you first entered the workforce?” and I became that person for others.
Social Media Manager at Forrester
Advocate for yourself and ask for what you deserve. I used to think I would progress in my career because my hard work and performance would speak for itself. I quickly realized the importance of being vocal and advocating for yourself. Tie your performance to your company’s revenue or other key performance indicators. Then, ask for the raise. Ask for the promotion. Ask for the management responsibilities. You might not always get what you ask for, but it’s better to have tried and failed than to have not tried at all.
Senior Research Manager at YouGov
I think my advice would be to internalize that you deserve to be at the table. You will be faced by many people who will try and tell you directly or indirectly that you don’t. But if you’ve done the work, you know your business, you deserve to be there and it’s going to be really hard to ignore the haters but do it. And if you’re at the table look around and ask who else should be at the table. White women are making progress but that’s not diversity.
Vice President, Digital, Media and Revenue Development at Woodbine Entertainment
I’d encourage female marketers to take an active role in their careers. Getting a seat at the table is only the first step and it’s up to all of us to make the most of that opportunity and find more tables. Stay confident that your lens, your ideas, and your experience are valuable and will represent and resonate across multiple audiences. Be a constant learner and seek out opportunities to contribute your ideas.
Director, Partnership Marketing & Activation at Detroit Lions
I recently read a quote "What you practice in private, you are rewarded for in public". I'd tell future marketers to practice, practice, practice. This is a field you can do so much alone, with no funding, to show off your abilities and already create change. Start a medium blog, create infographics of talks you hear and post on Twitter, write engaging LI posts, become a quora aspect, create YouTube videos. This will all add up and help them land their dream job.
CEO & Founder at OpenSponsorship
Know your worth and don't settle for less. Women are often taught to be polite, to be subdued, and are often punished for acting in a way that's outside of the societal norm placed upon us. But that's exactly how you get ahead. The first 100 times it can be scary to demand your worth or threaten to walk out, but eventually it does get easier. Especially as you inevitably grow to become more and more valuable, never forget that you are worth exactly as much as you think you are, and nothing less.
Brand Content Manager at Alyce
The best advice I can give anyone considering a career in marketing is to keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to try the things that scare you. My first internship was at Moroch Partners in Dallas with Lions Gate. I was working on movie promos, and that opened my eyes to event marketing, packaging, and advertising. Eventually, I landed a traditional PR/communications role that opened the door to digital marketing. Some tasks were more fun than others but every position came with a lesson and skill that I could take on to more leadership roles. Sometimes you have to make lateral moves to achieve vertical gains and that’s okay too. Now, I’m on the Essilor Digital team using every skill I’ve learned along the way.
Digital Content Strategist & SEO Manager