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Sports Marketing: Building A Brand Culture

Advertising executive and brand director Liam Doherty ’96, who has worked with Nike and Adidas, moderated an alumni panel including Betsy Wadman ’13, Digital Marketing Manager for Puma for Amazon, and Eliza Van Voorhis ’17, an analyst for Sports Innovation Lab, to discuss branding and marketing analysis during the Winter Alumni Roundtable Speaker Series (

Creating a narrative about their brands was the key common denominator, and they discussed how they used data to determine their narrative.

“Sports Innovation Lab is a fan intelligence and market research company that helps sports organizations understand who their fans are and how best to acquire them,” said Van Voorhis. “They use multiple sources of data so teams, leagues, and brands understand where their fans are, where they’re spending their money, what they’re watching, and what their key behaviors are.”

Doherty noted, “You root for your team with your heart, but making decisions about how you build teams has extended to brands as well. The fact that decisions are heavily rooted in analytics and numbers and less emotion has changed the marketing industry.”

Wadman said that on the advertising side, they have an abundance of data through Google Analytics. through Amazon, “We can build similar personas about who is shopping for our product. You know if somebody is purchasing air pods, if they shop on Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods Amazon. We can build this health-conscious consumer who might also purchase our running shoes. Data drives business and drives results.”

She said, “Brand interaction definitely has a positive impact on your brain perception. We’re looking for products that do the right thing from a sociocultural perspective but also sustainability. This is big, especially in the footwear and apparel business.”

At a recent summit in Germany with Puma and Under Armour, they agreed to a more brand-agnostic approach. Outwardly socially conscious messaging is at the forefront of Puma marketing. Wadman said, “We all need to come together and demand this kind of change from our suppliers and our manufacturers because that’s the only way we’re going to make a difference. If we come together, it becomes a reality.”

“There has been a big push to invest in women’s sports,” said Van Voorhis. “The combination of business and data with purpose makes a much more compelling case because, in the end, these are businesses.”

In a recent study, Van Voorhis’ firm looked at fans of women’s sports and how they engaged with content, what they bought, etc. They saw women watching games longer, engaging more on social posts about women’s sports, and actually spending more on the brands that sponsor women’s sports.

“It’s been super exciting to be a part of this as investing in women’s sports transitions to more of a good financial decision,” said Van Voorhis.

Doherty asked the panelists about takeaways from Falmouth Academy. Van Voorhis said, “My company is fully remote and we Zoom a lot! I feel really comfortable talking on group calls because of FA.”

“I’m able to think critically and question processes about why we are doing something a certain way,” said Wadman. “Because of this, I see that I can make a process more efficient or find a better way to do something.”

Doherty concurred, saying,  “Communication is key in the work we do. We had the Athens Sparta debate, we studied Hamlet, and were taught how to write. It’s because of all those things and the confidence, thoughtfulness, and ability to think strategically, that we are able to take in data, process it, and respond.”
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