Now introducing, Alexia Sabogal. Her dedication and ability to pivot is proof that not all great sports leaders come from a sports background. In 2016 she received her Bachelor of Arts with a specialization in Foreign Affairs and Women, Gender and Sexuality studies. Since then, she has held four intern positions in the area of human resources and sales. Her diverse experience and vast knowledge of other industries are what make her the great storyteller that she is. As the current Senior Coordinator of Brand Alliances under Major League Soccer, Alexia has successfully developed the department's Research and Insights strategy. This year, she was named to the Front Office Sports Rising 25 list.
As part of our 'Impact Series', The Sponsorship Space took some time to chat with Alexia on her journey in the industry and views as an industry leader.
1) After completing your Bachelor of Arts, when did you realize you wanted to work in sports and how were you able to pivot?
Initially after graduating from the University of Virginia, I thought I wanted to become a lawyer so I began interviewing for paralegal positions at law firms. After a few interviews, I decided the culture wasn't a fit for me so I decided to look at legal roles in other industries, like sports. I applied for a few paralegal and marketing positions at different leagues that piqued my interest, but it wasn't until I was on the Prep for Prep job board that I saw the job posting at Major League Soccer. Prep for Prep (Prep) is a leadership development program that takes gifted, young kids of color and puts them in private schools. As a Prep alum, there was a job board for other alums to post and share job postings. By leveraging my Prep network, I was able to successfully pivot into the sports industry.
2) What advice or tools would you recommend for individuals who didn't come from a sports and business background but want to make that transition?
I would network, network, network! A lot of people say it's all about who you know, but I would say that's half the battle. In a pre-COVID world the best way would be to go to sports conferences and events to talk and mingle with people in the industry. Now, and even before, I would encourage people to reach out to those in roles/companies that they are interested in via LinkedIn. Try and set up phone calls or Zoom meetings to get to know them and pick their brain. Make sure that you're coming with pointed/specific questions that can't be found on Google. The other part is to make sure you do your research. Stay up-to-date on the current news/trends in the industry and always make sure your resume is updated! Look at the language used in your targeted job descriptions and see where you can incorporate some of that language into your resume and/or see if there are any transferable skills.
3) Did you see the opportunity for promotion in your initial MLS role or was it a surprise?
During my first mid-year review, I asked my manager at the time for overall feedback and what steps I needed to take to get promoted at the end of the year. It was important to me to step outside of my comfort zone and advocate for myself. Especially after coming from a women's empowerment event where I learned men are more likely to ask for a promotion/raise than women. So always remember to shoot your shot!
4) What does a typical week look like in your current role?
A typical week, pre-COVID, consisted of prepping for the upcoming meetings/calls with clients for the week and internal meetings about the properties I work on - Mexican National Team, Concacaf, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup. These internal meetings consist of brainstorming partnership ideas for a client, helping develop new platforms/update current ones, coordinate hospitality for upcoming matches, and review fan data/insights to use in our sales presentations/materials. Post-COVID, there's been more focus on what a "return to play" would look like for all properties and how we could deliver exceptional partnerships to clients in a virtual, fan-less world.
5) Besides the MLS, what other league do you think creates exceptional partnerships?
I think TMBO at the NBA delivers unique and creative partnerships in the industry.
6) Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I see myself as Head of Marketing/Partnerships at a tech company or a brand. I will be attending business school this fall and my goal is to pivot into marketing within the tech space afterwards. The foundational skills learned from being a product manager/marketing manager or a brand manager are skills that will carry you throughout your career. Which is why I believe having a different experience outside of sports, gaining that knowledge and skills, will make me more marketable and dangerous when I do decide to come back to sports - hopefully in a capacity where I could marry tech, sports, and marketing together.
7) Who is your favourite athlete?
That's a hard one...younger me, who played soccer for 13+ years, would say Mia Hamm. Older me, who hasn't touched a soccer ball in some time, says Serena Williams - I love her work ethic, her drive, her passion and her tenacity; values I incorporate into my everyday life.