Growing up in beautiful west coast British Colombia, 11-year old Alexis Demmery, like many kids, would go to school and come home later that day to tune into her hometown hockey team. Convincing her parents to watch games with her, it was here that she fell in love with the Vancouver Canucks and eventually sports as a whole. It wasn't only until a few years later that she was committed to pursuing a career of working in the industry.
Fast forward to now, Alexis is a Partnerships Manager for the organization overlooking her favourite childhood team, Canucks Sports & Entertainment. She has put her fandom to the side and put on a number of sponsorship hats working at the corporate head office, as she overlooks partnership retention, new business development and ideation around improving the fan experience while leveraging corporate partners.
The Sponsorship Space had a chance to sit down with Alexis to learn about her career from fan to partnerships executive in our latest Young Achiever feature.
Were you born and raised on the West coast?
Yes, I was born in Vancouver and lived here until I was 3 at which point my parents decided to move to Ladner which is about 45 minutes outside the city and known for its farming.
Tell us about your experience throughout university. What sparked your interest in the sports and sponsorship industry? Did you always have a passion for it?
I grew up in competitive dance and I enjoyed being active at school but sports never really peaked my interest until I was 11 years old. My friends that I had at the time would watch hockey with their families and I was part of that when I would be at their houses for dinners / sleepovers etc. From that point on, I wanted to watch when I was at home with my parents and slowly brought them back into watching regularly. After hockey, came football (CFL) which then grew into the NFL and watching many other sports casually. Sponsorship came much later as it’s not something I was really exposed to until my time volunteering at the World Junior Championships in 2006. I assisted with activation on the concourse and was given a small glimpse into the massive world of sponsorship. I was still learning what “working in sports” meant since it wasn’t taught as anything you could be growing up in Elementary or High School but I do remember making the distinct declaration at 15 years old that I was going to work in sports in some capacity and in 2006 when I was 18, I saw one way I could do that.
My passion for sponsorship came when I was at the Vancouver Giants. I had had some previous experience in sponsorship with the Canucks working part-time as a game night assistant which was helpful in seeing the purely execution side; however, I was part of the full planning and execution with the Giants. It was clear I wanted to understand why things were the way the were and my role at the Giants satisfied that curiosity and allowed me to be a part of the decision-making process. I was hooked from then on.
It looks like you crossed the country in order to attend university and working as a promotional representative during time-off - how important was it to get some introductory marketing experience while at Dalhousie University?
This was incredibly important. At this time and even shortly after university, I always struggled with the job interview question of what do you want to do in sports because I really had only a small idea of the possibilities and what those jobs actually meant. The experience was key as it helped me to answer that question and begin understanding what roles I enjoyed and why. I would encourage all young professionals to volunteer or reach-out to anyone in the profession of their choice to help them in their career path decisions.
In your senior year, you volunteered for the Vancouver Whitecaps... tell us about your experience there. What did you do? Was it the year you were there when they became the first Canadian team to qualify for the MLS playoffs?
My experience was very valuable for a number of reasons. First, it was in an area I knew little about, media and communications. The learning curve was steep but their team was supportive and trusting and okay with my mistakes along the way as long as I learned from them. Second, it was working in a new sport. At this point I had done some work with the BC Lions through BCLC so I was looking forward to learning a new sport and about the fans that followed it.
Seemed like an exciting time to get your first internships in sports. No I had left before that season started; however, I was there for the work that led up to the start. It was an exciting time and hard to leave as I really enjoyed the team I worked with but by that time I also knew my sights were set on hockey.
Before this, you were always involved with Canucks Sports & Entertainment as a Tour Guide. Did you grow up as a Canucks fan? If so, did you ever imagine working there one day.
At 11 years old I was a fan and I was full die-hard by the age of 12. That said, it was hard to get to the point of working in sports and for a team I loved because I needed to become a new kind of fan; a working in the sport, trusted and respected professional that was also a fan. Often in my first forays into job interviews with various teams, my passion was something that hindered me. I had to learn to be more focused in where I felt my place was in sport and show that my being a fan was an asset.
You became a Game Night Sponsorship Assistant after..... tell us what a typical day was like in the stadium? What types of activations were you working with?
A typical day was me coming to the arena for 4pm at which point I would get a rundown of the game during a quick huddle with our team, collect my game schedule / script, pick-up the camera and begin my nightly responsibilities. These ranged from POP photos / videos to executing client experiences to ensuring our rink-boards were correct for the night. I would also be a main contact for any partners activating on the concourse and be there to troubleshoot if need be while ensuring all in-game activations and signage was correct.
Did it help build a passion for the sponsorship side of the business?
The role helped introduce me to what ‘sponsorship’ was but my love of it didn’t come until later at the Giants when getting to see the full scale of what a partnership is.
You spent two years working for the Vancouver Giants (WHL hockey team) in both ticketing and sponsorship.... was there any challenges transferring the mindset from ticketing to sponsorship?
The biggest challenge in switching roles was the scale and switching from 1 clear goal to having multiple goals with many stakeholders. It wasn’t just about tickets anymore; it was about the brand, the in-game experience, our fans and why each of those are important to our partners and how they can be best utilized for them to reach their business goals.
What about the mindset going from the NHL to the WHL?
Moving up to the big leagues was all about focusing my efforts. Junior hockey is all about wearing many hats and getting things done. The NHL is about being an expert in my field, perfecting my skills and further developing as a professional.
Fast forward to now and you're a Partnerships Manager for the Canucks.... what do you think was the biggest contributor for you transitioning from a Tour Guide to a Partnerships Manager?
I think it was a combination of being determined and building the right relationships along the way. Would you have done anything differently, looking back? Reflection is important and in looking back it’s hard to say I would change it based-on the outcome but I think one can always improve and if I had to do it all over again, I would push for more opportunities to learn. Development is the responsibility of organizations as well as employees and not to say that I was complacent but just learning that you sometimes have to push.
Tell us about your role now. What's your responsibilities and is there a typical day in the life of the Head Office?
My current role is as Partnerships Manager which has me looking for ways to connect companies to our fan base of 2.6 million to help drive their business as well as value to our fans. A typical day includes research, ideation, networking, proposal building and planning for the future which are all geared towards improving our fan experience and how partnerships can help us do that.
Many people expected the Canucks to have a poor season but here they are as one of the most exciting young teams in the league fighting for playoff contention. How cool is that?
One of the best things about sport is its unpredictability; it’s the original reality TV. It’s very exciting to see this team surpass initial expectations and to see the emergence of a young skilled player like Elias Pettersson. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this team and I am glad I will get to be a part of that journey.
People always hear about how amazing the Greater Vancouver Area is.... in your mind, what makes it special?
For me it’s the beauty of the city mixed perfectly with nature. We have the downtown core full of tall, glass buildings surrounded by water and the sea wall with the mountains in the distance. That landscape serves as the base for our West Coast culture and ultimately drives us to live more active lives.
Tell us, what does the future look like for Alexis Demmery and what's a typical day like outside of work.
The future looks exciting. I thoroughly enjoy my current role and am learning something new everyday. That constant learning is a need of mine which I hope will drive me to be more successful in my current role but also whatever else is in store. A typical day outside of work includes some form of activity such as a drop-in dance class or a run on the sea wall as well as social time with friends and family. Also, I will often go to sporting events or concerts for fun.
If you could leave some of the young professionals aspiring to work in sponsorship & sports marketing with a piece of advice, what would that be?
Be relentless in the pursuit of your goals. If you are passionate, intelligent and determined, there’s nothing you can’t do and if you want to work in sponsorship and sports marketing that is the focus all of your career decisions should have. For example, if you want to work in sport but you’re stuck in the conundrum of not having any sports experience, think outside the box. Can you volunteer somewhere? Can you take a part time job working as event staff? Can you connect with people in your network for an informational interview? All of these things are valuable and will eventually lead to success.