Justyna is a sports marketing guru who has been working at the Polish Volleyball Federation (PVF) for nearly three years. This interview see’s her discuss where her sporting passion began, what makes an effective marketer, an insight into her role and more!
Question 1: Justyna, it’s fantastic to have you on Ash’s Sports Talk. Let’s hit this off by hearing how your sports career began?
I’ve been passionate about sports since I was a teenager. In the village where I grew up, there was a sports club, and I often watched athletes during their training. Once the coach asked me to join a training session, he discovered my skills which impressed him. That’s how my journey with sport started. I trained in javelin throwing for a few years, then I was into bodybuilding, jogging, cross-fit and every kind of fitness, and finally yoga. During all these years, I had opportunities to be an athletics judge and a bodybuilding coach. Before I started to work for the Polish Volleyball Federation (PVF), I had never been involved in volleyball, but it was love at first sight.
Question 2: How did your external experiences with sport influence your skill-sets at the Polish Volleyball Federation?
Sport has always been present in my life, and it’s helped me deal with every challenge, but primarily I think it’s helped me become a strong and confident person, not only physically. As I mentioned, it’s about the strength and power that you build through sport. It empowers all aspects of my life. Now I’m happy to work for the PVF with professionals who devoted their lives to volleyball, and it’s been a fantastic experience. What I love about sportspeople and what impressed me most is that they never give up and keep developing themselves all the time.
Question 3: Your current position looks amazing. I’d love to hear more about what the Polish Volleyball Federation represents and what your role looks like?
As the team leader, my ambition is to build a strong, integrated, creative and motivated marketing team that dares to reach for the boldest goals, just like our sports teams.
I’m responsible for creating and implementing the marketing strategy, planning and launching new initiatives to generate sales, increasing the inflow of quality partners and involved fans, and acquiring and cooperating with sponsors and partners. Of course, I’m also managing the marketing team. For every manager, managing a team is a huge task, but at the same time, the highest privilege.
Last year was quite challenging for every sports federation. What I’m proud of the most is that we did everything we could do to give people the emotions connected with sport. Our main goal was to give our fans hope, a smile, and entertain them, and I think we achieved it. Our social media channels and the fan club attracted a large number of new members. Even the portfolio of our sponsors has expanded to include new brands. The most important thing is that all my team stays healthy, motivated and ready to face new challenges.
Question 4: Marketing in sport is a strategy that is changing quicker than other business functions. What helps you stay ahead of the curve?
I’m the kind of person that practices lifelong learning. I use many platforms to stay ahead of the curve. The most important thing is to be open-minded and keep your eyes wide open for upcoming trends.
We are living in exceptional times. Social media platforms have become essential things in our lives. Especially during the pandemic, I have a feeling that everything in our lives is online now. But I don’t think that we should join every platform that emerges. It’s important to respond to the needs of your sponsors, fans, partners and to take into consideration the capacity of your organisation to manage everything professionally. It is better to have fewer platforms, but well managed, than all kinds of them led in a messy way.
A few weeks ago, I finished an online course at Toronto University – Communication Strategy in The Virtual Age. I hope to start a new one in March- Digital Marketing course at INSEAD Business School. Being a good marketer means staying updated with the latest trends and trying to predict what’s coming.
Question 5: From your experience, what makes an effective marketer in sport?
The most crucial difference between the positions is that a marketer in a corporation has to spend its budget on marketing activities. The only concern is not to exceed the annual budget. However, a marketer working for a sports federation has to earn that money to have a budget for marketing activities. The marketing department in a sports federation deals with much more than just marketing; among others, it is also a sales department and relationship department.
I think that cultural sensitivity is essential for every person, not only for a modern-day marketer. We should respect every culture, appreciate the beauty of being different and appropriately deal with other cultures.
My effective content recipe includes a bit of humour, professional graphic or video, positive emotion, and catchy copy to awake awareness.
Question 6: From your time at the PVF, what makes volleyball in Poland unique to other nations and sports?
Every sport has its attributes, and so do the fans. It’s the job of a marketer to find the proper way to attract the fans. The fans of volleyball in Poland are known for being the best fans in the world. There are huge differences between engaging a community supporting one of the most successful teams globally and a community that promotes a niche sports team or an athlete who is not as popular.
I think that sponsors and partners attracted to volleyball understand that sport is an excellent tool for communicating with the market and building the brand around such qualities as success, positive emotions, passion and power.
The culture of volleyball is team spirit, precision, unpredictability, emotions and far more, but the difference is the family atmosphere. Also, volleyball players are very hard-working athletes who fully concentrate on sporting success and not on media promotions or becoming celebrities.
Question 7: With any successful career, comes an array of challenges. Could you share some of the career-related challenges you’ve experienced?
The most dangerous obstacle in becoming a strategic marketing leader, or any other position, is only our mind. Nothing can stop you if you believe in yourself, strive for something more and work for it hard enough.
I don’t feel pressure because of the position. I feel pressure because of the area entrusted to me and for its development and the fulfilment of my personal goals. It’s not about the title; it’s about the responsibility.
It has been a long and bumpy road. I’m very grateful for every experience and situation that has helped me become the person I am now and where I am now. I’m very happy. It was hard, but it was worth it. The most important thing is to see every experience as a chance to grow and as an occasion for self-reflection.
Question 8: Justyna, reflecting on this discussion, what is your killer piece of advice for someone wanting to work in sport?
Keep concentrating on your goals, stay positive, work hard and never give up on yourself!
Incredible, what a thorough, powerful and passionate interview that was by Justyna. There are many lessons here that sports marketers MUST take away to elevate their skill-sets to new heights. It has been a long road for Justyna, but with sheer determination, curiosity and an undeniable work-ethic, she has proved many things are possible.