Parisa Howard, VP Director Business Leadership, NY shares her experience in sports sponsorship as we mark Women’s History Month…
“I was 26 weeks pregnant when I found out that an amazing role at Momentum Worldwide was available.
The role would be demanding and involved managing one of the largest sponsorship portfolios in the industry. It was truly a rare opportunity and a great fit for my experience.
But was it a good idea to leave a position I was comfortable in, at a place I liked working, with a baby due in weeks?! I felt like I was crazy for considering it, and equally crazy if I didn’t.
I decided to take the job, and can’t help but reflect on how fortunate I’ve been to have so many strong women I’ve worked with and admired as role models who have inspired me to take bold decisions along the way.
I started my foray into the sports industry as a sportswriter for my college newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. I loved writing on deadline, telling the stories of amazing student athletes and chronicling teams’ pursuits of Ivy League championships each year.
That writing provided the experience I needed to secure an internship with the public relations team at the National Football League. I had the summer of a lifetime in NYC writing stories for NFL publications and working alongside amazing women like Joanna Hunter, who is continuing her rapid ascent up the NFL ranks at the Los Angeles Rams.
My first job out of college was in marketing at Cisco. I used that NFL PR internship experience to keep my foot in the door of sports by reaching out to the head of PR for the 49ers to be an assistant at home games. I also had the opportunity to come back and help the NFL PR team with several more Super Bowls, often assisting Joanna as we ran from press conference to press conference!
At the same time, assisting in developing marketing strategies and events for Cisco’s broad solutions portfolio provided a terrific base of marketing knowledge beyond sponsorship that I still draw from today. Key to my experience at Cisco was one of the best managers I’ve ever had, Erica Schroeder, who is the perfect model of a strong and empathetic leader. I still sometimes find myself thinking, “What would Erica do?” even all these years later.
When my husband and I moved to the east coast for his work, I knew I wanted to take the opportunity of being in NYC to pursue a full-time role in sports. I contacted everyone I could think of in the area that I had worked with at the NFL and asked them to coffee or lunch. Eventually, one of those meetings turned into an introduction that led to a role as an account manager at Octagon, which started my career in sports sponsorship. Inspiring women like Lisa Murray at Octagon continue to show what’s possible for women in sports looking to chart their own path.
Eight and a half years later, after having the opportunity to work across many incredible clients and programs, that amazing role at Momentum popped up. I spoke to Momentum’s strong female leadership, including Donnalyn Smith, who raised her three (!) kids while climbing the ranks at Momentum, and Melissa Misiak, who has been understanding and supportive as I balance a rigorous new role with the challenges of being a new mom.
We truly work in the best industry in the world, and I’m honored to have worked with some of the women who make it so great.”