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Is It Time to Take “Sports,” “Events,” and “Sponsorship” Out of Job Titles?

Foot Locker CMO Jed Berger’s MediaPost interview last week earned a lot of attention for his headline-grabbing quote: “Take brand marketing off your resume.”


Whether he meant that bold statement literally is up for debate, but his meaning was clear: Fair or not, being a marketer is not always equated to being a revenue driver or a business partner.


At Foot Locker, Berger wants the marketing team “to be able to take a whole lot of unstructured thought from the business and create it into a structured business plan that has a beginning and an end…that is a significant change from what I think has been perceived by business in general as brand marketing.”


As a CMO, Berger has the authority to rename, restructure and deploy his organization to fit his vision, which he has done at Foot Locker, breaking down silos between product development and marketing, for example.


“Our organization has evolved in a way where marketing is no longer a department, but it is spread out throughout many departments within the organization,” he told MediaPost. “That's something I'm really proud of. It's made our organization very matrixy, but I think that we have a marketing mindset in many different aspects of the organization.”


Without more details, it’s difficult to determine whether Foot Locker’s approach is a radical upheaval of the traditional marketing function, or a story well and wisely told to create interest and buzz.


Regardless, it points to an issue we raised last month in this blog. If there is not enough respect for brand marketing that CMOs are advising people to take if off their CVs, the situation is undoubtedly worse for those who have specialized in sports, event, entertainment, sponsorship, partnership, etc., marketing.


The bigger question is how does this situation get rectified? It’s certainly not something that will happen overnight and it’s possible the cure could be worse than the disease.


If a company made a decision similar to Foot Locker’s to integrate dedicated sponsorship or sports marketing functions and teams into broader departments, it could very well help to eliminate the stigma and limits currently placed on them. They might have an easier time earning credit for generating demand, driving revenue, etc.


But that eliminates the valid idea that specialists are important. Sponsorship and event marketing positions and teams developed for a reason. It is a distinct form of marketing and communications requiring specific knowledge and skill sets.


As much as integration into a larger melting-pot department might assist with value perception and could carry the potential that sports and event marketing would earn a better seat at the corporate table, it also would run the risk that discrete experience and training in the areas of sponsorship and sports marketing best practices across selection, activation, measurement, etc. could be devalued.


I’m guessing that is a risk most of us in the field are not willing to take. Instead, we will continue to promote the many success stories of sponsorship and hospitality that deliver genuine business results for the companies and brands that have invested in them.

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