We sat down with second-year student Hannah Van Demark, a co-chair of the Media, Entertainment & Sports Group, to learn more about what drew her to Booth’s latest Marketing for Good event and what she learned by attending. The Marketing for Good series, hosted by the Kilts Center for Marketing, showcases how marketers and general managers can use their talents and skills to catalyze positive change in their industry and society as a whole. Most recently, the series welcomed Melanie Auguste, VP of Global Brand Narrative, Purpose, and Athlete Marketing at Nike to speak with Booth students. Read on to hear Hannah’s perspective and takeaways from Melanie’s talk.
How do your career interests and summer internship tie into the concept of marketing for good?
From tennis and track to gymnastics and powerlifting, sports have always been an integral part of my life. However, I used to separate my passion for sports from my professional career. After undergrad, I wanted to pursue a mission-driven career and went straight to the public sector with a focus on financial stability. While I enjoyed my role, I felt like I was living a double life: I would wake up early to attend a workout class, work all day in the office, and return home to coach tennis, attend another workout class, or read about the sports industry… and sometimes I did all three!
About five years into my postgraduate life, I realized that I did not want athletics to only be a hobby. I came to business school so I could merge my desire to do mission-driven work with my passion for sports. At Booth, I have been fortunate to receive the support and resources to make this professional pivot a reality.
This past summer, I secured a strategy internship at Nike. I was elated to work for a company that actively strives to move society in a positive direction through sports. Despite being virtual, my internship exceeded my expectations; I was thrilled by the company’s fidelity to its mission, collaborative culture, and, of course, copious amounts of swag. During the internship, I realized that it is possible to integrate my passion for sports into my professional ambitions. I cannot wait to return full-time next year.
What drew you to this event?
As part of its internship program, Nike hosts a regular speaker series where leaders (such as Nike CEO John Donahoe) speak to interns. Especially with Nike’s focus on storytelling and purpose, I was consistently inspired by these conversations. So when I learned that the Kilts Center’s Marketing for Good series was hosting Melanie Auguste, VP of Global Brand Narrative, Purpose, and Athlete Marketing at Nike, I immediately registered for the event.
Melanie was an incredible speaker. It was fascinating to learn more about the origins of some of Nike’s most iconic campaigns. We watched an ad from Nike’s 2017 Equality campaign, and Melanie unpacked some of its history. She then left the audience with compelling advice based on her career experiences, and I left the session feeling inspired. Based on the active Q&A portion following her remarks, I can easily say that other attendees felt the same way that I did.
What stuck with you after the event?
First, companies’ priorities should go well beyond profits (sorry Milton Friedman!). Long-term sustainable growth requires authentically engaging with consumers. Nike actively thinks about how its mission impacts athletes and sports more broadly. From a marketing perspective, Nike uses art to engage with consumers through storytelling, giving athletes the freedom to develop their own voices and talk about their passions.
Second, sports are a powerful platform to change the world. After all, sports are deeply tied to a plethora of social issues, including sustainability, inequality, and women’s rights. Nike recognizes how interconnected these seemingly disparate issues are, and the company strives to address them in a meaningful way through storytelling. One of my favorite Nike ads is “If You Let Me Play,” which focuses on empowering female athletes through a series of powerful statistics regarding female participation in sports.
Finally, authenticity is key for success. Companies should “be, do, and say,” measuring their success on how well they achieve their stated imperatives. Accordingly, marketers and strategists should ensure that employees feel like external campaigns reflect both the companies’ priorities, as well as the internal culture of the company.
After attending this event, do you have any advice to prospective students?
Don’t assume that you can’t integrate your passions into your career. Business school is a time to take risks, build new skill sets, and learn from impressive professionals—like Melanie! It’s the perfect platform to make your desired career pivot a reality.