Title: Marketing & Event Coordinator, Chicago Sky, WNBA
Education: Masters of Science- Sport Management; B.S. Family Consumer Science
Speciality: Fashion Merchandising; Associates in Management, Western Illinois University; Study Abroad, Richmond University, London
Previous Job Experience: St. Louis Rams Community Relations Intern, Peoria Rivermen Hockey Intern, Professional Basketball Player Overseas
As the Marketing & Event Coordinator for The Chicago Sky of the WNBA, Stephanie Lovingood plans and implements all game day activities to ensure the integration of the sponsorship elements and fan experiences within the arena for all games. This includes: coordinating the overall game day experience including compiling game scripts, maintaining game operations budget, talent bookings, music selection, in-arena contest and activity planning, liaising with Sky entertainment groups and hiring of game day interns and volunteers.
In addition, Lovingood organizes and coordinates various grassroots marketing initiatives that generate revenue and drive game day attendance. She continuously manages the online and in-arena retail function of the Chicago Sky, coordinates and fulfills all elements of marketing and advertising campaigns and participates in interaction and information exchange with other NBA teams and WNBA teams to improve the Sky game day experience. More importantly, Lovingood assists with promotional ideas and events for current and potential Sky Cares Community Relations strategies and sponsors.
HB: What is a typical day in the life at the Chicago Sky?
Stephanie Lovingood: No day is the same. My mornings usually begin at 7 am and I go home when work is done–whenever that is! I typically check e-mails, phone messages, see what meetings are scheduled, then gossip about the weekend with Erika Swilley.
After that, TIME TO WORK! I make sure our assets are scheduled for each game. I make sure we have account executives signed up for events we have in the community. I come up with marketing plans for different initiatives we are trying to implement. I create situational analysis for events that are in progress. I make sure I send out itineraries to all of our groups coming to the games, write e-mails to my interns to make sure they are aware of game day details, etc., and I do whatever is asked of me by my boss.
Also, I contact the arena so that they are informed on all of our plans for the games so there are no surprises, that retail is being taken care of and that everything is set up for game days. I have bi-weekly meetings with the sales department to see if they need anything on the marketing or Community Relations side and to see where they are with sales each game. Lastly, I make sure that I make a checklist to check off things I need to take care of during the week. This list is sometimes two full pages!
HB: What prompted your interest in sports and sports marketing?
SL: I have played basketball and sports since 5th grade. I didn’t even make the basketball team the first time I tried out; I made “water girl.” I made sure I was the best water girl that season. Into half of that season, my coach (Coach Jordan) put me on the team and the next year I was starting Varsity. My hard work paid off! I continued to play in high school, college and overseas professionally.
Sports have always been a part of me and always will be. Sports marketing is building a highly identified, passionate fan base such that fans, sponsors, media and government pay to promote and support the organization for the benefits of social exchange and personal, group and community identity within a cooperative competitive environment. This has always been a passion of mine and so has the event management side. I love putting an event together and seeing the end result. Eventually my goal is to work for a prestigious company like DSA Media Group that is changing the game in the marketing industry nationwide.
HB: What suggestions regarding networking would you give to those seeking to work in sports marketing and events?
SL: MAKE SURE YOU NETWORK WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS! Networking is great and imperative to building a network — and it help others build networks. I played collegiate basketball, which made it very difficult to work and or meet new people. So I dedicated my time to making sure that I always updated my LinkedIn profile and Facebook page. After college, when I got into the real world, I made sure I joined groups that were equipped with well-rounded individuals and involved my career. The groups I am a part of (Black Sports Professionals-Chicago) have meetings in the city that draw a numerous amount of people in my industry.
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I met people that I normally wouldn’t on a regular and I made sure to always carry business cards and follow up with these individuals. I actually met my mentor Kevin C., through a networking event and I am so grateful for this man. He has helped me grow my network and gain access to people that others would die for! Having a mentor is also a very crucial part of a person’s development in the sports industry; especially females. Mentoring can help women entrepreneurs build skills, expand networks and find specific areas in each market. Creating channels to share business know-how is critical to helping more females succeed in this male-dominated industry. Sharing business knowledge among women contributes to the stability and growth of their careers and encourages innovation and resourcefulness.
HB: What are the major challenges in your role as Marketing & Events Coordinator and what solutions have you deemed best to handle these challenges?
SL: As the Marketing & Events Coordinator, I have to help our sales team get bodies in the seats. It’s very difficult in this day and age to get people to break down the female barriers of women in sports and convince them to attend one of the Chicago Sky games. Our fan base is growing slowly, but surely. We have brainstormed a lot and conjured up different avenues as to building up our fan base and going outside the norm. I wouldn’t be here and a lot of athletes wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Title IX.
For all of you who aren’t familiar with this, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 is the landmark legislation that bans sex discrimination in schools, whether it is in academics or athletics. Title IX states: “No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid.” We are celebrating the 40th Anniversary for Title IX and hopefully this will continue to help the WNBA and other sports grow!
Also, another part of my job is coming up with different ideas for brand awareness. Sometimes, my team and other departments (sponsorship) might not see eye to eye. I have to sometimes step back and re-evaluate the situation. I have to understand that their ideas and mine, might not collaborate, but at the end of the day, it’s all benefiting the main goal of the organization.
HB: What would you contribute your level of success to?
SL: Typically many give the cliché answer of “God.” Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God already knows my path and my successes so as much praise I give to Him daily; my success goes to my family and my self-confidence. My family has always been the backbone of everything I do. They encourage me and make ways for me that most people couldn’t possibly understand. It’s definitely a beneficial factor when you come from a family of 11 children and both parents in the household. They accept things about me that I can’t change and they are behind me with every move.
The self-confidence comes from my constant willingness to get to the next level. Self-confidence is extremely important in almost every aspect of our lives, yet so many people struggle to find it. I have had it since birth. Successful people demand and they also give a lot of themselves. They don’t leave projects half done or talk about what they may do “someday.” They discipline themselves to work hard and fulfill their commitments every day. This is me and this will never change!
HB: What additional advice would you like to offer younger colleagues?
SL: Working in sports especially for women is already tough enough. You have to want it more than the next person. There will always be someone who will try to take your spot. Don’t make decisions too soon. After graduating from college, there is so much information attained in those four years. And there are things you may want to do with the skills you’ve learned in an educational environment, but once you start gaining work experience and internships, you may find that your eagerness leads you in an unfamiliar direction. After you get your feet wet, in a couple of years, experience in your respective industry often provides additional frame of reference that can lead you down the right path for your particular interests and capabilities.
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