LIFECHAT WITH PATRICIA HOPKINS – KEY TAKEAWAYS:
On how athletics shapes people’s lives and values
- Sports is a complement to almost everything we do in life; it brings us together as spectators, teaches us how to play well with others, makes us disciplines, and allows us to socially integrate
- Sports is a vehicle through which we learn life lessons, and a medium that instills a true passion
- The mental disciple, resilience, teamwork and relationship-building that comes with being an athlete really helps you as far as bringing some natural abilities to the table at a job. You know how to manage uncertainty, and how to lose graciously
LIFECHAT WITH PATRICIA HOPKINS:
How did you enter the sport industry?
My first marketing job was at The PGA of America, running their membership and marketing program. My career path led me to take on a leadership role for a larger company, so I left PGA of America and moved to Atlanta to work for Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), specifically the Cartoon Network, and eventually began running their NASCAR program. I launched the Cartoon Network Wacky Racing team in sports marketing. We partnered with key vendors, strengthening their brand loyalty by offering sponsorships and showcasing their logos on cars. I had the opportunity to get my feet wet in everything from licensing and merchandising to contract negotiations to fulfillment.
After eight years at TBS, I was recruited by The Weather Channel to run all of their off channel promotions in sports. We were the official rain delay for the Florida Marlins and the official forecaster for the PGA tour and developed a philanthropic program called Rays Awareness. I then moved on to run an Indy 500 race team in Indianapolis. The job was twofold: manage sponsorship fulfillment for the race team, and start/run a marketing company – Alleanza Marketing Group – where we did in-market promotions in all the Indy Car race cities. We activated sponsorships in the market, by giving our sponsors point of purchase displays, posters, media exposure etc. The marketing side of running Alleanza was very successful, and provided a substantial financial return in the first year. However, after nearly three years in Indianapolis, where I spent a great deal of time traveling to races, and working nights and weekends, I missed home. I’m originally from New Jersey, so this was far away and very different for me! At that point in my life, I decided to take a break, reflect and regroup to focus on what my next career move might be. Looking back, taking that time was the best decision I ever made.
So, you took some time off and reevaluated. How did you decide what your next move was going to be?
I realized that I wanted to leave corporate America; I was a round peg in a square hole and I didn’t enjoy being in that position anymore. At that point, after quitting my job in Indianapolis, I moved to North Carolina. I made the decision to soul search looking for possibly a new career, something different from what I’ve been doing the last twenty years. I decided I wanted to learn what was going on in different businesses, so I worked as a recruiter for a little while. It was a hardcore sales position, and I learned a lot.
Although I left the job after two and a half years, the time allowed me to reevaluate my life. I realized that I still loved sports and marketing, and that after this breather I wanted to go back to what I loved. I got a phone call one day from a small advertising agency called Mission House Creative in Raleigh, and decided that this would be a great way to get back to doing what I really enjoyed while not working in a large corporate company.
At Mission House Creative – a marketing and communications firm – I gained an understanding of account management and lots of opportunity to hone my creative experience, so I was able to expand my skill sets. I love being challenged and not good at doing something that is the same thing over and over again every day. Moreover, I love learning new things that I can excel at – it requires change, it’s uncomfortable, and it forces you to be patient with yourself.
Four years later, I decided to start my own company – Grace Strategic Marketing. I was fortunate enough to pick up several clients quickly because of great professional relationships I had built over the years, including the Ronald McDonald House (RMH)
You currently work for SMT (SportsMEDIA Technology), a company known for doing great things in the sports industry. Tell us how you became a part of the SMT family?
My work with the Ronald McDonald House eventually gained me a seat on the RMH board. At one of our meetings, I met someone who learned of my background and told me I have to meet the founder and CEO of SMT, Gerard J. Hall. This company was a culmination of all the previous experiences I have had over the years and I felt a rush of excitement just learning about what they do.
They contracted with me to work on product sheets and other sales materials. SMT specializes in data and graphics integration and presentation into live broadcast television, so they do things like clock-and-score, virtual insertion (yellow line on the football field), and social media integration for live televised sport and entertainment events. At the time, they had no marketing, no website or sales materials – as the leading service in the industry, there was more demand for the products than supply, so managing the workload was the key to success.
As you get older, you get much more confident in your abilities and level of expertise, so at that point I just outright told Gerard that they needed a full-fledged marketing department to take their company to the next level in order to grow and expand successfully. Once I wrapped up the clients I was working with at Grace Strategic Marketing, I happily accepted a full-time position with SMT.
SMT is transitioning to a marketing-driven company, which is really exciting. It’s such a fun business to be in, because we get to play in the live professional sports arena, while creating innovative products and services for our clients. Sport plays such a big role in so many people’s lives, and with the new technology booming all around us, there is an even larger thirst for more data, statistics and information. We’re the experts in properly presenting content into live programming and telling a great story, so we are continuing to thrive as the need continues to grow.
Everything has come full circle – you’re working in sports and loving it, just like you loved sports as a child. What lessons did you learn from playing sports that you have carried with you into the business world?
There is something about the camaraderie of sports that makes it so special. It’s a complement to almost everything we do in life; it brings us together as spectators, teaches us how to play well with others, makes us disciplined, and allows us to socially integrate. I can’t remember a time when sports haven’t been a part of my life. I think the mental discipline, resilience, teamwork and relationship-building that comes with being an athlete really helps you as far as bringing some natural abilities to the table at a job. You know how to manage change and uncertainty, and to lose graciously. It’s a vehicle through which we learn life’s lessons, and a medium that instills a true passion within people. You learn if you work hard enough at it you will get positive results.
The combination of sports and technology together is very strong, because people are hungry for more content through entertainment that doesn’t cost a lot of money. To be in the place I’m in right now means there’s nowhere to go but up, because there’s a constant need for both sports and technology, and we’re able to deliver both. That’s exciting to me because I love being challenged through finding better ways to build our business. Change is constant and if you don’t embrace it then you can be left behind. I thrive in that kind of environment that is fast pace and always changing.
We talked about leveraging differences, such as different perspectives and different backgrounds. Can you talk about how you relate to both your audience and your colleagues in such a male-dominated industry?
There’s a book by Miguel Ruiz titled “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” which talks about how to relate to different individuals. It’s really important for both women and men to read this book. One of the agreements is “Don’t take anything personally.” Men are more direct and can be curt in their delivery – it’s not about you or anything personal: it’s part of their psyche. Another agreement that is really important to me is: “Don’t make assumptions.” If you go around making assumptions you’re probably wrong. Instead, you should fight with facts and ask questions. Make sure you’re clear with your communication, and make sure that those who communicate with you are clear as well. It’s important to hear what they’re saying and be able to articulate it back to them. Finally, “you should always do your best.” Anything you do that represents only half of your capability will never get you anywhere. It puts your credibility on the line.
We talk about the challenges of being a woman in a man’s world, and one of the biggest challenges I faced was not speaking up for myself. Even though I worked hard and did exceptional work, I watched the men climb the corporate ladder but I was never aggressive enough to speak up for myself. Lesson learned: if you don’t speak up for yourself and for what you believe in, nobody else will. You will get over looked. If you do not toot your own horn, no one else will do it for you. The competition can be fierce and being a woman we have to work a little harder. One last thing to remember, it’s OK to disagree with people but do it respectfully. It is not what you say, but how you say it.
What I’ve learned after being a businesswoman for over 25 years is to know your audience. If you’re working with men or even women, know what they respond well to. Understand that bringing emotions into the workplace can make the environment uncomfortable, and unprofessional. As women, we need a strong backbone to survive in the professional world, because you will get eaten alive if you don’t have a strong, knowledgeable and informative voice. I don’t think women should ever be limited or intimidated, but should stand on the confidence of their knowledge, skills and expertise that we have worked so hard to achieve.
FULL BIOGRAPHY OF PATRICIA HOPKINS:
Patricia Hopkins brings to SMT more than 25 years of experience in corporate marketing, advertising, strategic planning, sports management and television production. As SMT’s vice president of marketing, Patricia oversees a team of product and marketing managers and other business development personnel. She works closely with the CEO and executive management team to execute major company initiatives including corporate communications and events, strategic marketing, branding, public relations, web site content and sales and marketing materials.
Since joining SMT in 2009, Patricia has been pivotal in rebranding SMT from SportsMEDIA Technology as the company expands into broader markets. Under Patricia’s guidance, the company launched a redesigned web site that showcases SMT’s products and services with regularly updated content and video. In addition, Patricia led the unified branding and marketing strategy during SMT’s 2012 acquisition of IDS (Information and Display Services), the leading global provider of technology solutions for live sports events.
Earlier in her career, Patricia worked for Turner Broadcasting System’s Cartoon Network, The Weather Channel and Indy Racing League, executing marketing and sponsorship programs for NASCAR, the PGA Tour and Major League Baseball as well as General Mills, Kodak, RadioShack, Firestone and Food Lion. In 2007, Patricia founded Grace Strategic Marketing, where her clients included McDonald’s, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the Ronald McDonald House.
Patricia received her Bachelor of Arts in communications from William Paterson University in New Jersey. Patricia is a certificated business coach who enjoys traveling and competing in triathlons. Originally from New Jersey, Patricia makes her home in Raleigh.
The LifeChat Series in Sport was created in partnership with Beyond Sport. More information at www.beyondsport.org.