The Road Less taken: How to hustle your way to pursuing your dream role in sports marketing

After interning at Coca-Cola as a Brand Management Intern in the Summer of 2015, Bryce Parrish (Kenan-Flagler, ’16) made a big decision: he wanted to pursue a lifelong dream, and that dream was to land a brand/marketing role in the sports and entertainment industry. Through a ton of hustle, and effort, Bryce landed a second internship during the Summer of 2016 at adidas doing just that. We had the chance to talk to Bryce, who shared some insight on his decision to pursue his dream, landing the internship at adidas, and how he was able to successfully turn his second internship into a full-time offer.

MBASchooled: You held an internship between the summer of your first and second year. What did you realize at the end of your summer, and how did that shape your second year of business school?

Bryce: A summer spent at the Coca-Cola Company as a brand marketing intern between my 1st and 2nd year is an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Reflecting on that summer, I learned the following:

  • That marketing is a true blend of “art” and “science”, with no clear cut right or wrong way to go about solving a marketing related problem/opportunity. For me, this is what I found incredibly appealing about marketing, being able to get comfortable in the “white space” and finding creative, fresh solutions to drive consumer love back to the brand.
  • The second thing that I learned, something for which Coca-Cola was in a unique position to offer, is the true fundamentals of (brand) marketing. With the company having such an unbelievable heritage (100+ years of marketing prowess)as one of the most recognizable brands in the world, there was an incredible amount of learning opportunities available. This allowed me to be a sponge each and every day and learn first-hand from some of the best marketers in the world.
  • The last takeaway is that I realized going into my 2nd year of school that now was the time for me to pursue a lifelong dream of mine — landing a brand/product marketing role within the sports and entertainment industry. This decision shaped my last year by: 1) forcing me to get ready for the grind of “off-campus recruiting” and 2) having to prepare for the rollercoaster of experiences this pursuit would inevitably bring along with it.

MBASchooled: You graduated from UNC Kenan-Flagler and instead of pursuing a full-time offer you pursued an internship. What was that like?

Bryce: To be honest, at first it was scary as hell! Forgoing opportunities and bypassing the on-campus recruiting process took a ton of mental strength. Having the majority of friends either coming back with full-time offers locked down and/or landing full-time offers in early fall left me second guessing my “roll of the dice.” But what I kept reminding myself was that taking these two years to pursue business school at UNC was purposeful — to invest in myself and to use this opportunity as a platform/gateway to reach my end goal. So despite the rollercoaster of emotions that ensued, I just had to constantly remind myself why I was there and what I needed to do to best position myself for those opportunities.

MBASchooled: Did you have any concerns about taking an internship when everyone else was starting a full-time opportunity? How did you manage that?

Bryce: Absolutely. It was tough when (to the point above), the majority of your classmates are landing great opportunities at great companies and are able to put it on “cruise control” throughout the fall and spring semesters while you are grinding away or in some cases, just gearing up to hit the ground running for late-spring recruiting. The best advice I have on this is to just stay the course, trust yourself, and surround yourselves with others who are going through similar experiences — the latter of which will provide you a great support group for you to bounce things off of (i.e. vent, ha!)throughout the process.

MBASchooled: What was your second summer internship? What did you do, and what was it like?

Bryce: Internship round #2 was at the dream company of mine — the adidas Group — as an MBA Product Marketing intern on the Originals Brand Creation team. It was an unbelievable experience working for a brand with such incredible heat and momentum behind it. Additionally, and similar to Coca-Cola, I loved learning about the heritage of the adidas brand and the role it has played in shaping the world of sport while also creating some of the best athletes and most memorable sport moments of all time.

MBASchooled: Did you know going into the internship at Adidas if there would be a full-time opportunity? How did you navigate that process with your team and your manager?

Bryce: Unfortunately, as much as I would want to answer “yes” to that, I did not. Nothing is guaranteed, nor should it be. The demand for roles at adidas, and companies that play in the sports and entertainment space, is incredibly competitive. I was more than happy to do anything to get my foot in the door and keep my fingers crossed that they then shut the door behind me and keep me full-time :). The approach I took to navigating that process was letting them know that I’m in this for the long-haul but more importantly, showing them — through my work and contributions — that I am deserving of a full-time opportunity if one were to present itself.

MBASchooled: What was it like to work at Adidas, and in particular in an exciting industry like sports and apparel?

Bryce: It’s the most rewarding and gratifying experience I’ve ever had in life. Waking up each and every day being excited about what you are about to work on that day and then on the other end, leaving each day knowing that you worked on stuff that you would probably work on anyways (even if you weren’t paid!) within an industry, at a brand, and on a team that you love — is a feeling that I wish I could just bottle up and sell to everyone; it’s pretty damn amazing!

MBASchooled: What are you most excited about in your role at Adidas?

Bryce: This month I started my full-time role as NCAA Brand Marketing Manager. Other than this being an absolute dream job, what I’m most excited about is being apart of a new team that has an incredible runway in front of it. Being comfortable with navigating in the “white space”, laying the strategic marketing foundation, and delivering fresh new creative marketing concepts within the NCAA community is something for which I’m ready to tackle (sport pun intended) head on.

MBASchooled: What advice do you have for MBA students interested in careers in sports?

Bryce: A couple of nuggets that I’d love to pass along to others interested in sports is as follows. A lot of these points were provided to me, so this is my chance to pay it forward.

  • Be authentic and transparent — be able to speak to why you want to work in sports and specifically what roles you are most interested in pursuing
  • Be proactive — continue to look for opportunities to connect with people in the industry and/or setup in-person visits at the companies for which you hope to land at
  • Never Eat Alone is the name of a phenomenal book that harps on the advice above and was recommended to me from several mentors of mine in the sports industry
  • Build the sports resume — get involved with sport related initiatives during your time at school as those experiences are incredibly valued and transferable to all companies that play in this space
  • Be a sponge — be willing and ready to soak in the wealth of knowledge from those who have had experiences in the sports industry
  • Never settle — a motto for which I live by; be persistent and stay the course

Conclusion

As I reflect on this wild journey into the sports industry and at adidas, what I learned is that when you do what you love, work feels a little less like work and life is a beautiful thing. Following your dreams is much easier said than done — it requires a relentless passion and focus to stay the course and keep pressing on, even in the hardest of the times. Words can’t describe how thankful I am for the opportunities that I’ve had and how excited I am to start cranking away at the new job.

If readers of this article are ever in the Portland area and/or would like to connect with Bryce, please feel free to reach out to him via any of the channels listed below.

  • LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/bryceparrish89
  • Twitter: bparrish_89

This post originally appeared on MBASchooled

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