David Miller‘s professional story starts in a way not dissimilar to many others’ in the sports industry.
Growing up as an athlete, Miller’s dream was to become a professional athlete or work in the industry of sports. When becoming a professional athlete became unrealistic, Miller decided to put his business degree to use and enter the world of sports business. In his junior year at the University of Maryland, Miller quickly pounced on an opportunity to intern at Under Armour. But this wasn’t yet the turning point – that would come upon completion of his degree when he decided to return for one year of school at the University of Notre Dame:
“When I graduated from the University of Maryland, I was deciding between accepting a position with an NFL franchise or playing out an additional year of lacrosse eligibility. Ultimately, I decided to spend my next year at the University of Notre Dame attending graduate level classes and participating on the Men’s Lacrosse team with my brother.” – David Miller
As an un-classified graduate student at Notre Dame, Miller had the opportunity to expand his career options by interning with the Sponsorships Department as a Corporate Partnerships intern. At the time, and fortunately for Miller, Notre Dame was one of the few major schools to manage their sponsorships in-house. Preferring the increased autonomy (Notre Dame, who notably provides less in-arena opportunities for corporate sponsorships, and has its own television deal with NBC) over the benefits of scale efficiencies that an agency partner would provide (which I covered here). This provided an invaluable learning experience for Miller, whose responsibilities ranged from working on renewal decks and analyzing contracts.
Though Miller would never become a hot prospect as a professional athlete, he would become one in sponsorship. With offers from sponsorship agencies, as well as a non-sports related marketing role with a top tech firm, Miller was quickly left with a difficult decision: pursue a passion by following a path in sports, or choose a different job that would aid in becoming financially independent. Pressure from different ends led him to choose the latter, but only six months later, Miller felt the itch to return to the industry that he had grown to love.
“While I appreciated the professional experience my first role offered, I was unhappy knowing that was I was doing didn’t align with my personal career aspirations. So I went back to the agencies I had built a rapport with during the interview process and essentially said: ‘Listen, I made the wrong decision… I should have followed my passion.’”
Return to Sponsorship
Miller would eventually land at GMR Marketing – a global sponsorship and experiential agency. During his time at GMR, Miller’s client was SAP – for whom GMR planned and executed marketing activations. A common thread I hear from people with agency is experience is exactly what Miller experienced: rapid growth in knowledge of both sides of the sponsorship industry (property and brand), and in practical ability. Where industry experience would give you a deep knowledge in one topic, agency experience would provide you a sampling of many topics.
Close to two years after he joined GMR, Miller wanted to broaden his skill set and gain experience in sales. He left GMR to take on a sales role at KORE Software, who develops CRM and data warehouse software for sports teams to manage their sponsorship and ticketing sales. Although experiencing success in his sales role, Miller knew he eventually wanted to return to the sponsorship world. In true fashion of how the small world of sponsorships is, he found his way back to SAP – his former client at GMR.
“While transferring to a new agency, SAP decided that one of the positions that had been rooted at the agency would move in-house. I jumped at the opportunity to re-join many colleagues at SAP that I grew close with.”
And since then, Miller has been SAP’s Activation Manager for North and Latin America and oversees SAP’s partnerships with the New York Giants, New York Jets, MetLife Stadium, NYCFC, and the Madison Square Garden Group.
SAP’s Sponsorship Strategy
Roughly 10 years ago when SAP started heavily investing in sponsorships, the strategy was rooted in building widespread brand awareness and customer hospitality. In other words, SAP’s strategy was largely typical for brands at the time.
Recently, this strategy has shifted:
“SAP still finds true value in brand awareness/engagement and customer hospitality experiences, but we also see sponsorship as a way to partner with properties to showcase how our teams are using SAP technology in new and innovative ways. We see this model as a win-win: Properties are able to run their business operations more efficiently using SAP software from the back office down to the playing field/ice. Then, through our sponsorship agreements, SAP is able to share how some of the biggest sports and entertainment properties in the world find value in SAP solutions. Our sponsorships are tremendously valuable for SAP from a brand-building perspective to drive SAP’s overarching message to the masses.”
Miller emphasized how important their agency, Momentum Worldwide, is to accomplishing their sponsorship strategy. By providing industry expertise, forward-thinking brand activations, top-notch execution, and extensive consulting services, Momentum is a true extension of the SAP sponsorship family.
Sponsorship can be a fascinating field, and for Miller, the opportunity to make a career in the industry has been one like none other. From his beginnings at Maryland to working in the sponsorships division of a global software brand, Miller has been able to follow his passion with success:
“What drove me towards this industry was the notion of teamwork to accomplish mutual goals. Going to work every day feels like I’m back on an athletic team – seeing three separate entities; property, agency, and brand – or in sports; offense, defense, and special teams, all working together to achieve great things is awesome to be a part of.”