WICT Southeast Presents
You Have to Want It: An Interview with VP of Marketing for Turner Sports Emma May
Interviewed by Courtney Madson
Growing up in Nashville, Emma May spent most of her time playing any sport that involved a ball and was heavily involved with the film industry, auditioning along the likes of Reese Witherspoon – yes, THE Reese Witherspoon. While she may not have gotten every part or gone on to become a professional soccer player, she’s become one of the strongest brand marketers for passionate fans of brands like Red Bull and most recently, VP of Marketing at Turner Sports. With the WICT and Turner event Women in Sports: How to Play the Game upcoming, I had the pleasure of speaking with Emma on the importance of sports and its direct correlation to business.
Q: As a professional in the sports industry, I’m sure your knowledge
of great sports quotes is extensive. Will you share with our readers your favorite?
My favorite sports quote isn’t really a sports quote at all – but it hangs in the San Antonio Spurs locker room and speaks to me when it comes to how our team approaches every day:
“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it — but all that had gone before.”
Q: What do you feel are three lessons or principles learned in sports that you feel apply to business?
To me it’s pretty simple, it’s teamwork, never giving up, and learning how to fail.
Teamwork is definitely number one. It’s understanding that you’re part of a team and what you do and what you say matters. That’s from your work product to the attitude that you bring to being humble to letting other people shine.
Never Give Up
So often in sports, you’re taught, you play until the very end and hard work really does count, and I think that’s absolutely true in business as well. I have so many folks ask me, “How did you get to where you are?” “What’s your advice?” There’s no secret other than just work really, really hard, care and never give up.
Learn How to Fail
I probably think the most important lesson is learning how to fail or to make mistakes. Growing up playing soccer, I lost a lot. I mean we won a lot, but we lost a lot as well. Learning what it felt like when you lose, how do you deal with that, and what you are going to do differently next – those skills are absolutely interchangeable with business
Q: Why do you think it’s important for women to be involved in the sports industry?
I think women make phenomenal team members, phenomenal leaders and they bring a diversity of thought that you don’t necessarily see as much in the sports industry – and we need to see more of it! Women bring grit and integrity and the immense capacity for hard work and passion. They truly do make the sports business kind of go round.
Q: What advice would you give women who are entering the sports industry and/or the entertainment industry?
It would be the same advice probably for both, and I would say it’s really kind of two-fold.
Work as Hard as You Can Possibly Work
There is no nine to five in the sports or the entertainment business and it’s important to know that coming in, that both are lifestyle type industries. There will be nights. There will be weekends. And that’s okay because that’s how you really cut your teeth coming into any industry is being okay and doing what needs to be done.
Find a Mentor
A mentor can be a man or a woman, but I certainly recommend women reach out to other women leaders within their industry. Introduce yourself, buy them coffee, and ask them questions about who they are. This isn’t a mentor that’s going to help you find your next job; this is a mentor that’s going to help you figure out who you are and how you can be most valuable where you’re currently working. The power of networking and mentorship is really important.
Q: This year’s theme for WICT is “Be a Catalyst.” How does this resonate with you and why do you think it’s important to always push the envelope?
Being a catalyst is about bringing a spark somewhere, and we need as many sparks as we can possibly get. We need women who are willing to really step up, take calculated risks and follow through. The more we have women who feel comfortable to do that and who work in environments where that type of thinking and approach is welcomed, the more you’re going to see women succeed in our industry.
Emma and I wrapped up our interview with a memory of her high school soccer coach and a message that is relevant long after the grueling practices and games. “He would repeat, ‘You have to want it. You have to want it. You have to want it.’” She explained that this same desire to “want it” directly translates to business. “I work with some of the most passionate people in the world, who are really some of the best at what they do, and there’s no doubt that every day we come in thinking, “You have to want it.” And I think that’s pretty cool.”
Are you curious about career paths in the sports industry? Join us in Atlanta on Tuesday, February 27th for the WICT and Turner Women in Sports: How to Play the Game to hear from industry experts on how you to navigate the industry and gain valuable insight on the future of women in sports.