Fans in every color jersey of the rainbow internationally will tune into Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday. Ahead of the game, NBCU Academy partnered with PNE Showcase and Arizona State University to bring students and professionals an inside look at the people who color outside the lines for the National Football league.
The three powerhouses co-hosted the Building and Being Your Brand seminar in hopes of helping students and other national professionals identify their brand and the best ways to communicate the pillars of their brand to the masses.
There are just under 4,000 people employed by the NFL, which makes for hundreds of job paths within the league. As the panel began, NFL international marketing and player relations manager Emily Wirtz spoke about how her roots in Germany translated into the role she has now.
The first door opened for Wirtz in the NFL was as a digital video editor and producer. Wirtz transparently admitted she did not feel qualified for the job but with an extra push from her father, she decided to still go after the interview.
“My dad told me that even if I do not land the job, it will at least be good interview practice,” Wirtz said.
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Wirtz still thanks her father to this day. Her video supervisor learned she spoke German and instantly recommended her for a role within the NFL’s global expansion. She would go on to execute the first NFL game in Germany. Germany’s first official exposure to American football at the highest level sold out of millions of tickets in three minutes.
“When we are on the way to these international games in London, Germany and Mexico City, the NFL staff, we’re usually on a big bus or van,” Wirtz said. “In the van it’s about 40 of us and we’re literally trying to find a fan in one of the jerseys of all 32 teams. When we see someone we are like Chargers, Rams or whatever the team is! Every international game I’ve been to, all 5, we’ve been able to spot someone in each jersey.”
By showing up as her authentic self, Wirtz was able to leverage her job. All five of the panelists promoted a “helmet-off” approach to the game. This idea promotes getting to know the stories of the players to help advance the game.
Director of NFL college and club social marketing Sana Merchant-Rupani discussed taking on tasks that require you to grow. Before joining the league, Merchant-Rupani worked in digital marketing at Empire State Realty Trust. In the position, she was tasked with creating an Instagram presence for the company.
Merchant-Rupani had no experience with Instagram when taking on this task but it directly led her into her current role.
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“You have to marry your passion with your curiosity,” Merchant-Rupani said.
Senior manager of NFL game operations Karley Berry further emphasized Merchant-Rupani’s message by presenting the contrast. Berry posited that if a job is presented to someone and they check off all the job requirements, then the job is not for them.
The entire audience was initially confused by the statement but as Berry went on, she explained you must take a job that will offer you something new and will leave you with an extra skill you did not have going into the position.
Prior to stepping into the game operations realm, Berry took her first step into the football world when she was a recruiting assistant at Penn State University.
Growing up around Nittany Lion football her entire life, she knew the brand of the university’s football team. While in State College, PA, she challenged the recruitment staff to go after men with outstanding character.
“When we would go on home visits, I would make sure to pay attention,” Berry said. Berry wanted to be intentional with her tactics and believed the best players were those that were good people on and off the field.
Merchant-Rupani, Berry and Wirtz all used elements of their personal brand to succeed in their current spaces to get to their dream work destination. This message was passed on to the audience through painting their journey through experiences.
“We all know about Patrick Mahomes. There are other stories,” senior manager of NFL social marketing Jordan Dolbin said.
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Dolbin called on storytellers to push their limits. She wanted to ensure she was challenging audience members to go beneath the surface of the performers with the best stat numbers.
She brought up a story she came across during her Super Bowl preparation that was a “where are they now’ approach to telling the stories of all the players that caught interceptions against Maholmes in high school.
“Now, that is the story I will remember when this is all over,” Dolbin said.
Cincinnati Bengals special teamer Trayveon Williams added his experience to the panel, emphasizing exploring his other interests outside of football. He also commended today’s players for the tenacity in their approach to leaving a legacy outside of football.
The panel agreed collectively their main reason for taking time away from all the Super Bowl work obligations and festivities was to provide the representation they did not see while carving out their career paths.
NBCU Academy will be virtually hosting the Next Level Summit on March 22, 2023.
Author’s Note: Alexis Davis is currently in her last semesters in Walter Cronkite’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She received her bachelor’s from North Carolina A&T State University in multimedia journalism in May 2022. Davis is a featured writer for the MEAC conference. Davis also switches between play-by-play announcer, analyst and sideline reporter for the PAC-12 conference’s app. She also hosts a podcast focusing on international basketball players and their fashion experiences called What’s in Your Bag?