This is our third installment of Female Sports Professional! Today we are featuring the lovely magical Melissa Miller. We will learn about her journey of working in the sports world and with the LadyBallers favorite sports organization, The Orlando Magic! Melissa is currently the, very busy, Assistant Brand Manager for the Magic.
How long have you been in the sports industry? This is my 6th NBA season at the Orlando Magic.
Please give us a little background on how you got to your current role:
The summer after I graduated college at the University of Illinois, my advisor sent out a job posting for a Creative Services internship at the Orlando Magic. I applied, thinking that this would be a great opportunity, but never that I would get it! My first boss as an intern left a month after I started, so I had the ability to gain even more hands-on experience than expected as it was then just myself and our graphic designer. After they hired a new Creative Services Manager, I never thought I would get to stay in that department. However, she left at the end of the season, and I was able to interview and propose restructuring the department, which included a Creative Services Coordinator position to which I was hired.
I worked my way up through the Creative Services department over 5 years, eventually becoming the Creative Services Manager for the last 2 years and managing 5 graphic designers by the end of it. In that position, I developed our creative process and managed each request through design, approval and production with our internal clients and external vendors.
This past September, I started in my current position of Assistant Brand Manager. Though it was a very tough decision to leave the Creative Services team, I felt it would provide me with further experience within a sports marketing department. Throughout the interview process, I was able to demonstrate how my dedication, passion and Creative Services experience would serve me in this new role. In this position, I get to work on a variety of other media-radio, TV, outdoor, web and print. I work with our local stations, magazines, newspapers and more to purchase and schedule our advertising. I still get to be a part of the creative process, but on the front end working with not only Creative Services, but our Web, Broadcast and Radio Production departments. So far, it is a different change of pace that I am enjoying!
How did you learn you wanted to get into the sports industry?
I have always loved sports, whether it be watching them or playing them. I tried everything from soccer and volleyball, to settling more on dance, softball and basketball as I got older.
Being from Illinois, I also grew up watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I used to cut out their newspaper clippings from their playoff runs to make into a scrapbook. I also always had a special love for basketball as my dad coached Jr. High girl’s basketball for 26 years. In college, I was also able to get involved with an organization on campus that supported all sports, Illini Pride. We were the largest student run organization on campus and in order to be in the student sections at football and basketball, you had to become a member.
One of my favorite parts within the organization was Orange Krush, our student basketball cheering section. I have fond memories of camping out all day in the freezing cold to ensure my floor seat for a big game! My junior year, I served on the Illini Pride Executive Board as the Public Relations Chair, and had such a great experience that I wished I had gotten involved sooner to gain more sports experience.
I had only really been exposed to the advertising agency world in college, so I didn’t know that sports teams had their own in-house creative and marketing departments. When I heard about the Orlando Magic internship, I thought it would be a great blend of using my knowledge and education to work with something I was also passionate about. I started researching and thinking about pursuing a career within a team’s marketing department and applying places!
Was there a time or situation that made you second-guess your path?
As many people will tell you, it is hard to break into the sports industry. As an intern, I was worried about staying in after knowing that this was the place for me. I applied for a job in another department as an intern here and didn’t get it. I had been applying a lot of places and with other teams and getting no responses back, so I was disappointed. I know now why it all worked out how it did, but was discouraged at the time.
Please let us know who your mentors were/are on your journey.
Our entire leadership team here at the Magic are people that care about you and your career. Even as you go through the intern program, you are taught that the leaders here are people to get to know and talk to about how they got where they are. It is something to definitely take advantage of if you know someone in sports or are currently working with a team.
Even as I was applying for my current position, I met with many of them for advice or tips. Also, while I was early in my career in Creative Services, a new Director of Brand Management was hired. She has been a great person to learn from, who came from outside of sports. It was nice to get a fresh perspective from the outside. She is someone I have been able to go to for advice or support whether it be about a work related topic or not. She was very supportive when I approached her about applying for my current job and encouraging throughout the process. Though she is not my current boss, I feel like I could go to her now for anything as well and would keep in touch with.
What tips or advice would you give to a female wanting to enter the sports industry?
I would tell this to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry. –get involved early. While I ended up here without that, it is something I wish I would have done earlier! Whether it be a college athletic department, ticket office, specific sport to working at any professional level volunteering or as a game night staff, do anything you can to help set yourself apart from other applicants.
Any early networking or relationships that you can build will ultimately help you down the road. Many of our game night staff end up working as interns and many of our interns get hired internally. I know many organizations like to hire within, and I know I would be more likely to hire someone who had worked for me on some level and had proven themselves. If you get that opportunity, make the most of it and use it to showcase your abilities and hard work. Don’t wait until your internship or a season is almost over to network with some leaders in other departments.
What is your favorite sports moment?
I have been able to see some great sports moments, so it is hard to pick just 1! I will narrow it down to 2!
1) The 2005 Illini Basketball Team’s run to the Final Four and National Championship; both of which I was able to attend in person. I will never forget that experience!
2) The 2009 Orlando Magic’s run to the NBA Finals. I have never worked so hard, but felt so rewarded to see our hard work pay off and the city unite around the team.
What is your favorite sports quote?
I love quotes in general, so again, it is hard to pick just one! Here are 3 of my favorites.
1) Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. -John Wooden
2) One by a football legend of my favorite NFL team: The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary. -Vince Lombardi
3) And one by my favorite NBA player: Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion. -Michael Jordan
What is your biggest accomplishment to-date in terms of your experience in the sports world?
I don’t know that it is my biggest, but one of the most fun was helping Dwight Howard with his sticker dunk for the 2007 All-Star game in my second year on the job! Our graphic designer at the time created the design, and I worked with a local printer to bring in materials to help him try sticking to the backboard after practice.
Do you have a favorite player/team?
The Orlando Magic of course!
What are your favorite sport sites online?
orlandomagic.com of course!:)
Now that my dad is retired, I get daily emails from him about Illinois athletics, the Packers and the Cardinals! I can’t read them all, but they help me stay knowledgeable about my sports teams back home. I also try to subscribe to any marketing, advertising or sports newsletters, magazines or blogs. I get a lot of my news and great articles to read from Twitter by following other marketing professionals, social media professionals, members of the sports industry, athletes, and agencies. I like to see what other teams or leagues are doing to see if we can get any new ideas.
A few of my favorite non-Magic tweeters:
Any advice for the LadyBallers?
I appreciate what you are doing to bring women in sports or women who love sports together! I would say to keep spreading the word. It is always nice to expand your network and have fellow ladies with similar interests. You have already done so much in the short time I have known you, and I think the possibilities are endless for the LadyBallers! Keep up the good work! (Thanks Melissa!!)