WISE National Board Chair and President Kathy Francis and Ally's Andrea Brimmer are leading the charge for DEI in the sports world
WISE (Women in Sports and Events), the leading voice and resource for women in the business of sports, recently held its 27th WISE Women of the Year Awards. One of this year's honorees is Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and Public Relations Officer for Ally Financial.
Brimmer and WISE National Board Chair and President Kathy Francis joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle to talk about their passion to create a better sports and business world for women.
Francis and Brimmer are two of the most innovative and successful executives and marketers in sports world today.
Kathy Francis has been President of WISE since 2011after spending time in sponsorship and marketing at Major League Baseball. She admits she's grown up with a passion to improve diversity and inclusion in sports.
"I think it's in the DNA. I grew up in New Orleans, went to an HBCU, grew up on that college campus and you understood the value of representation. One of the things that I remember my father said you are not going to be taught by just African American teachers. He said you are going to be taught by a diverse group of teachers because you are going to go out in the world and you're not going to be led by only African Americans. He said you need to know how to live and engage in the world. So, I was just born with that as a legacy I guess."
Francis has overseen growth in membership and league partnerships, chapter expansion, and the launch of WISE's educational events and professional development programs including the Executive Leadership Institute, Emerging Leaders Certificate Program, Power of Choice for Emerging Leaders of Color, WISE/R Symposium and WISE Multiplier Summit.
WISE recently partnered with McKinsey Consulting to understand what is, or isn't, driving inclusion for women in the business of sports. Nearly 2,000 women currently working in sports participated and yielded striking results on the opportunities for women in a male dominated industry, the role of women in leadership and where opportunities are.
Francis says the study was a first for the industry.
"There's a lot of study on how many women are in sports, how many people of color are in sports and what levels are they. You can argue that while those are progress, you can also argue it might be a little 'check the box'. Until we believe and know that people have a full voice when they get there and that they are hired to do something and allowed to do that, and to be a part of bringing their authentic selves in, that's when we get the full benefit of diversity, when that is actually the inclusion part. That's why we did the collaboration with McKinsey to study whether women feel as though they are fully included in the sense of belonging in the industry. The record isn't very good. We have a lower level of inclusion and fairness within our industry than other industries."
Women’s sports only receiving 4 percent of media coverage. One of the marketers who is trying to dramatically change that statistic is Andrea Brimmer of Ally Financial. Brimmer is responsible for leading all aspects of integrated marketing and brand transformation at Ally, driving unprecedented growth and disruptive consumer engagement. Brimmer’s passion for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion and using her platform to create good in the world led to Ally’s ground-breaking pledge to spend equally in advertising across women’s and men’s sports.
"Any brand can just pop a logo on something and kind of set it and forget it. For us, it's all about what impact you can make, what value can you bring not only to the fans but to the league and players.
Ally is a big sponsor of NWSL, the women’s soccer league.
"The NWSL is near and dear to my heart. I'm a former soccer player at Michigan State University. Go Green. So soccer has been a passion point my entire life and I think has been formative to who I am, not only as me as person but also the trajectory of my career. I think through sport and through the things that we can do as a sponsor and as as brand to make sport better, to provide great exposure, to provide greater opportunity , you're not just changing the way that people think about sports but you're changing people's lives. And that is why we feel it is a responsibility of ours to not just do a logo slap."
Among her many honors, Brimmer was also named a winner of the 2020 Adweek Brand Genius award, is a three-time honoree on the Forbes’ list of World’s Most Influential CMOs, is the only three-time winner of the Financial Communications Society Marketer of the Year award and was named to the 2022 Adweek Most Powerful Women in Sports list.
Brimmer says this year's WWOY award is one of the greatest honors she's ever received.
The 27th Annual WISE Awards Luncheon was held at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City. The other 2023 honorees were Carla Williams, Director of Athletics, University of Virginia; Monica McNutt, ESPN, Luncheon Emcee; Hillary Mandel, Executive Vice President, Head of Americas, IMG Media; and Jill Gregory, Executive Vice President, and General Manager, Sonoma Raceway.
A registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, WISE was founded in 1993 and has its headquarters in New York City with chapters across North America. WISE Chapters: Arizona, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, DFW, Greater Orlando, Greater Raleigh, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, NYC Metro, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, SF Bay Area, South Florida, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Twin Cities, Utah, Washington DC.
You can SEE the entire SportsJam interview with Kathy Francis and Andrea Brimmer here.