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Celebrating Women in Sponsorship Marketing

Celebrating Women in Sponsorship Marketing

In recent years, the prevalence of the gender disparity for women everywhere and been thrust into the global spotlight.   While change doesn’t happen overnight, this year, the Women of the world made many notable strides in the fight towards equality:

  • Viola Desmond, the late Nova Scotian civil rights pioneer and businesswomen, was emblazoned on the Canadian $10 bill

  • Spain’s new cabinet is now made up of mostly women

  • Women in Saudi Arabia can now legally drive

  • A record number of females were elected to the United States’ House of Representatives

In the world of sports, in particular, there were several victories for Women in 2018, such as when:

  • Serena Williams challenged outdated ideas on maternity leave by returning to tennis post-childbirth; arguably inspiring the WTA’s new rules allowing a player's ranking to freeze in the event of injury, illness or pregnancy

  • 150 survivors testified against USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar

  • The Dallas Mavericks hired Jenny Boucek to be their first female assistant coach

…just to name a few.

Closer to home, the women of MKTG have been an essential part of our organization – they bring unique intelligence, insights and flair that help differentiate us in the competitive landscape of Sponsorship Marketing. Talent drawn from a variety of ages and backgrounds enables us to dig deeper and we are incredibly proud of the #WomenOfMKTG for their accomplishments.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we gathered a few of the women on our team to reflect on their careers and share their thoughts about Women in Sponsorship Marketing.

How did you get into the sponsorship marketing industry?

Marlie: I got into the sponsorship marketing industry through my passion for sports. Playing hockey at university, I realized there was a whole industry supporting what was happening on the ice. From there I focused my post-graduate studies on marketing where I pursued my interest in sponsorship and understanding how brands and properties collaborate to reach their target audiences.

Theresa: I volunteered with a minor hockey team, helping out with game day operations then did my internship with them and they hired me on after I was finished my post grad. From there I had a goal to work in the NHL and got there about 8 months later.

Sheridan: I’ve been involved in sports my entire life, playing competitive volleyball for years. When I decided to attend a university that didn’t have a team, I knew I had to not only find another way to keep myself busy, but I would need to find another way of getting involved in sports. Luckily, I was welcomed into a world of opportunities through the Athletics Department at my school. From there, my passion for the marketing side of sports grew, taking me to the Sport and Event Marketing program at George Brown College. This program demonstrated the infinite potential within the industry, with an internship program that allows for individuals like myself to get a foot in the door. I was luckily led into the agency world as I took the position of LIVE Team Intern here at MKTG for the January 2019 semester.

Katherine: I am still very early in my career - my first foray into sponsorship marketing was during my tenor as a brand ambassador for several different brands while I was studying at Western University. After graduating in 2016, I continued to do BA work while I applied for marketing internships until I landed one on the Activations and Events team at Wasserman. I didn’t know I wanted to work in sports but sports has always been a huge part of my life – from playing on teams to my passions for basketball, sneakers and sportswear, sports marketing is the industry that intertwines each of these. I learned so much during my internship and knew that I wanted to continue learning about this industry, so I was thankful when MKTG offered me an opportunity on the LIVE team back in 2016.

What is your role at MKTG and what has been your proudest work or moment?

Marlie: My role at MKTG is Executive, LIVE where we bring branded experiences to life on behalf of our clients. My proudest work moment would be when I managed my first project from start to finish – an adidas Creators event in collaboration with the Toronto Raptors.

Kathryn: Account Executive on the Sponsorship Consultant team – which involves developing sponsorship and marketing strategies for clients, recommending strategic brand partnerships, and presenting industry insights and trends.

Theresa: Working on the LIVE part of the business I manage a team who ideate, plan and execute events for our clients around sponsorship throughout the country. Proudest work moment at MKTG was getting promoted this year, really showing hard work and dedication can pay off if you stick to it.

Katherine: I am Strategic Planning Coordinator – having previously worked on the LIVE team until recently, I am looking forward to continuing to grow at MKTG. Landing this new role was definitely my proudest moment, but I was also very proud of myself when I lead my first solo event for FedEx, at the SickKids GetLoud event. This event held a special place in my heart because both of my parents work at SickKids Hospital, and portions of the proceeds directly benefited each of their respective departments.

FedEx proudly sponsored the SickKids GetLoud Event in September 2019. MKTG ideated, planned and executed FedEx’s activation footprint. The event was a huge success and FedEx garnered positive response from event attendees, as well as employees who took part in the Walk.

FedEx proudly sponsored the SickKids GetLoud Event in September 2019. MKTG ideated, planned and executed FedEx’s activation footprint. The event was a huge success and FedEx garnered positive response from event attendees, as well as employees who took part in the Walk.

Do you think women feel intimidated in business?

Sheridan: I believe women can feel intimidated in business when they are surrounded by certain individuals that don’t promote growth and help seek out opportunities. Since I’ve entered the workforce, I’ve seen many successful women in head positions, which helped me to feel less intimidated by the business world. We work in an industry, and world, where women are on the rise. To continue this trend, we need to support one another and surround ourselves with people that are going to help hoist us up, not keep us down.

Katherine: Definitely – it can feel intimidating when you’re working in a male-dominated industry. It can also be difficult to envision your career progressing to where you want to be when there are so few women in senior positions in sports, let alone women of colour. Representation matters and it inspires young people to work hard to emulate the career paths of those who have done it before them – women have less of this representation than men, making it harder for us women to envision us in positions that we want to be. That said, a supportive team and work environment make a world of a difference when it comes to having our voices heard, not feeling intimidated and feeling as though our thoughts and ideas matter. The more we can celebrate each other’s achievements, like telling someone their idea in a brainstorm was great, or making a comment about someone’s insightful point during a team meeting, the more women can feel empowered to keep speaking up, despite the factors that can make us feel intimidated.

Theresa: I do think some women feel intimidated, but that could stem from a lack of confidence in themselves. I think it depends on how you were brought up, I grew up always being told I could be whatever I wanted and that working hard will always get me to where I want to go. There have been times when a male boss has taken away my confidence by making me feel as though my opinions were not valuable or that I didn’t have a right to have a voice. But in the end I didn’t fully let him take it away and I fought back. What I realized is that wasn’t the right environment for me and that in order to keep put myself first I had to leave as I’d continue to be unhappy under a person who does not empower their employees whether female or male.

Marlie: I believe so yes, however both justified and unjustified. Women can handle justified intimidation; for example, pressure of a big presentation or stepping into a new role. What women shouldn’t have to handle is the irrelevant, biased intimidation.


Are there any challenges you’ve faced as a woman that are unique to working in a sports-related industry?  

Theresa: When I worked in the NHL and NBA, it was still appoint where there weren’t many women in the industry. So at times people would view us as puck bunnies or jersey chasers. We had to work even harder to avoid those terms and ensure we were always seen as professional. It was also difficult when dealing with male clients not all but some. At times they would say inappropriate comments or touch your back and when you are in your early 20s and the job is important to you it’s hard to manage those moments. I did my best to stay clear of that and as I got older I had more confidence to shut it down politely and move on. In the end as I built relationships with my clients we had a mutual respect so that helped a lot.

Katherine: Working in sports as a woman can be challenging, particularly if you are surrounded by men with large egos who do not offer the same respect to women as they do their own. That said, I really believe that if you have confidence in yourself, your thoughts and your ideas, that being a woman can set you a part.

Sheridan: As a student in the sport and event marketing program at George Brown, you could imagine a large portion of our time is spent discussing sports. One thing I’ve noticed is that in casual conversations with others, I’m often not invited to talk about last night’s game, or the final trade before the deadline. When I jump in on the topic, people often seem surprised or question what I’m saying. I understand many don’t mean to intentionally exclude me or other women from the conversation, it may just be a preconceived notion in many individuals’ heads, that women are less interested in sports.


What are some of the things you’ve learned about leadership, mentorship and empowering other females to succeed?

Lisa: Empowering females to succeed is an incredibly important and rewarding responsibility that we all have as humans.  It means working to create an environment where girls and women are encouraged to ask questions, to be ambitious, and to confidently make decisions— especially when it may be difficult to do so due to historic and/or systemic barriers. Creating such an environment requires effort from everyone. For me, it means leading by example on a daily basis whether it’s unapologetically asking tough questions in a crowded room, challenging an inappropriate remark, or ensuring that a friend or colleague knows that I’m in her corner.  For others, it could mean advocating for gender equality at the Supreme Court, RBG-style (she is one of my heroes, by the way).   Every effort counts and as long as we don’t become complacent, we’ll hopefully get to a point where empowerment or success no longer requires a descriptor/qualifier of “female”: that part will be a given.

Katherine: It’s really important for women to remember that we are in this together – many of us have experienced similar challenges and struggles. If we can learn from each other and offer mentorship when we can that we can really help each other succeed. I used to be a lot more shy and outspoken than I am now and some of things that I really valued were the women I’ve met who recognized my potential but also recognized that my lack of vocal was not a reflection of my abilities, but a reflection of my confidence. Be the woman that takes the initiative to offer mentorship to women who are too timid to ask for it, because chances are she just needs a little push and perhaps has had someone bring her down in the past.

Theresa: I think good leadership is a balance of empowering your employees but making sure they don’t feel like they are on an island by themselves. It’s supporting them and them knowing you have their back. Letting them know that you are open to having conversations and giving your honest opinion even if the other person may not want to hear it. Being respectful and leading by example and teaching the younger women the lessens you learned along the way to hopefully help avoid those mistakes or help them bounce back.

Marlie: The number one thing I have learned is just because another female is succeeding, it does not mean that you aren’t or won’t. The sponsorship marketing and sports industries can be very competitive which has the opportunity to cloud people’s judgement when supporting others. There is room at the top for everyone.

Sheridan: I’ve been very privileged to witness strong and successful women in leadership my entire life. From members of my family playing a key role in corporate companies, to working with incredible female senior management, I’ve seen the potential that women have within the workplace. Each of these women accredit much of their success, to women that paved the road before them. Whether it was their supervisors or mentors, women can accomplish a lot by learning from one another. These women are successful because they surround themselves with other women that help them grow, which then teaches them to do the same for others.


What are ways that women can support other women in and out of the workplace?

Kathryn: By celebrating one another’s accomplishments, and looking at others as inspiration and not competition

Stefania: The best way we can support each other in and out of the workplace is by putting an end to feeling “intimidated”; as soon as we start thinking of ourselves as not just women but as powerful, strong, determined and passionate entrepreneurs we’ll be able to defeat any misconception that limits our ability to succeed. We must vibe from those female empowering leaders, learn from them, aspire to be like them and become role models and testaments ourselves to help prove how hard work can surpass anything – even the glass ceiling.

Theresa: Not putting other females down or talking behind their back will go a long way. Making sure that if you disagree with someone you talk to them and have a respectful conversation. As well as leading by example to ensure that they feel comfortable speaking up.

Sheridan: One major way women can support each other is by communicating where they have found success within this workplace. We’ve all been through something different to end up where we are today and by sharing these experiences, we can hopefully learn from each other and find comfort and support in similar experiences.

Marlie: Sharing stories and experiences. When women face obstacles, they tend to internalize and push through as an individual, not thinking about those who may be working through the same thing. Do not internalize your experiences; lean on other women for guidance and provide guidance to others in return.

Katherine: Offer support when you see that another female is taking the initiative to do something new – show them that you care. Odds are one day you would value their support with your own efforts and if we can show each other support then we can all succeed. Putting down other females for fear that they will outshine you is weak. Worry about your own shine and help other women recognize and develop their own as well.

adidas’ She Breaks Barriers campaign is a fantastic example of a brand effort to support women in sports in honour of International Women’s Day. It was effective for adidas to approach this ad from the angle of the lack of visiblility that womens’ sports garners in comparison to men, as it provides viewers with a targeted perspective on a specific issue. Showing the ad from the perspective of young girls growing up watching men’s sports, reflects the need to for more coverage of female sports in the mainstream. If young girls watch more women in sports, they will be inspired and motivated to achieve greatness too. Check out the above ad and visit https://www.adidas.ca/en/shebreaksbarriers.

Any examples of brand efforts to cater to females that were a miss or had room for improvement?

Theresa: Any brand that thinks slapping pink or purple on something will make it appealing to women really bothers me. As well as any brand that caters their advertising to any gender stereotype is only setting us back in time. The best way to move forward is to break through those gender norms not reinforce them.

Sheridan: One major issue when it comes to brands approaching the female empowerment movement is when the company doesn’t reflect what the campaigns message is. Audi released their Soap Box commercial a few years back which touched on equal pay. Immediately after the commercial was released, it came out that Audi themselves pay their female employees less than males. By not embodying the spirit of their campaign through their own values, they created more trouble for themselves and missed the female empowerment mark, coming across as inauthentic. I would suggest that brands that a look at their companies and how they address female empowerment internally, prior to launching efforts on the matter externally.

Katherine: Echoing Theresa and Sheridan’s sentiments, the brands who miss the mark are the ones who do not do their research on a subject and instead just jump aboard a bandwagon. If a brand embodies what they are preaching then consumers enjoy it as authenticity is one of the most important factors, in my opinion, when it comes to marketing.

Who are the most important women in your life and why?

Katherine: My mom is easily the most important woman in my life. She’s taught me that hard work pays off and is the perfect example of that – she worked hard to get to where she is today and continues to do so everyday. As a pediatrician at SickKids Hospital, Dr. Melanie-Ann Kirby impacts the lives of not only the patients she cares for, but she extends this care and thoughtfulness to literally everyone she meets. I strive to be as accomplished as my mom, and fulfil a life and career with purpose.

Marlie: My life is filled with strong, boss women, which I am incredibly grateful for. The women in my family are very important to me, from my immediate family (shoutout Ma & Kels) to extended family (an incredibly large number of Irish grandma’s, great aunts, aunts and cousins). I also have amazing friends that are as important to me as family. These women are all so integral to my life because no matter my successes or failures, they are there to support in a variety of ways. These women have and are currently setting examples of what hard work and support looks like which I work towards every day.

Theresa: My Mom and Grandma. My mom has always supported me throughout my life, giving me the strength to go after my dreams and never holding me back from what I wanted to do. Growing up I started in dance and figure skating and eventually started playing basketball a more male skewed sport and she only ever supported me through it. She has always given me the confidence and wings to fly and go after my dreams. My Grandma is a force, she is 98 and still going strong. She has lived through so much, she worked in England during the second world war where she met my grandpa. Every house she lived in, in England during that time got bombed just after she moved. She had the strength to move to Canada after the war, without her family and to be tied to a French-Canadian family that didn’t speak English at all. She was pregnant and had to take the boat across all by herself. To this day she lives independently (in a retirement facility) and just loves life. She always says what is meant to be will be and to let the wind guide you to where you should be and to not question yourself and always believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

Kathryn: My mother – she is the most self-less human being I know, always reminding me to be a better person and staying true to my values as I evolve through life. Next, my aunt and godmother Janet Podleski – she’s the perfect example of the power of passion, perseverance, and following your heart. She went from quitting her 9-5 desk job, to becoming a four-time national best-selling cookbook author, and now an entrepreneur travelling the world.

Sheridan: The most important women in my life are those I hold close to my heart. My mother, my sister, my aunts and even my close friends. These women demonstrate every day, what it means to be badass women. Regardless of their line of work, they own the room and continue to demonstrate what it means to be empowered. Above all, they are keen supporters of both myself and other women. They continue to lift each other up and push the most important women in their lives to grow.

To get in touch with any of the amazing women featured in this blog, send us an email to infocanada@mktg.com – they would be more than happy to go for a coffee and share their experiences with you.

Follow @MKTG_Canada on Instagram to keep up with the #WomenOfMKTG and all of the amazing feats that they will continue to accomplish.

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