May 17, 2010
1.) Name: Tracie Hitz
2.) Current Position & Employer: Director of Business Development, Old Hat Creative
3.) Number of years in current position:
I left Northwestern University three months ago after 13 incredible years in the Marketing Department.
4.) Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in college athletics?
When I was a kid I played so many sports that I was mediocre at all of them and not great at any. In high school I accepted that my future wasn’t in playing sports so I began writing about them. During college, I worked towards a degree in Journalism and wrote for the sports section of my hometown newspaper and school newspaper.
5.) What was your path to working in collegiate marketing?
After graduation, I looked for jobs in sports and was fortunate to land the Marketing Assistant position at Northwestern University. I worked with amazing people who moved on to bigger and better things, which opened the door for me to make my way up to Assistant Director, Associate Director, Assistant Athletic Director and finally Associate Athletic Director. Also along the way I worked part-time for the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Fire, as well as earned my master’s degree from NU.
6.) Who do you consider to be your role model in this industry?
Chris Boyer, who is now Senior Associate Athletic Director at Maryland, was my boss at NU for many years and has been a mentor and friend ever since. A few years ago, I met Mary Pink (Associate Athletic Director at Iowa State) and have become a huge fan of what she has done for Iowa State and for the entire NACMA membership. I’m especially grateful for what she has done for me as a mentor and a friend.
7.) What are your career aspirations?
8.) How important do you feel your involvement is with NACMA in terms of continuing to grow your career?
As I continued to make my way up the collegiate marketing ranks, I realized that my end goal wasn’t to be an Athletic Director. I spent the last year assessing what would be the best fit for me going forward, which is how I ended up at Old Hat Creative. What I loved most about my job was being creative and developing successful marketing plans so making the move to a sports agency allowed me to focus on just that. While I miss being on campus with the student-athletes, I love the opportunities I now have to contribute to dozens of marketing plans across the country. Every school has different challenges, philosophies and styles so the experiences I’ve already had here solidify my choice in heading down this path indefinitely.
Without NACMA I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have learned so much from the members, the convention and the other added benefits like webinars, the Daily Review and the Facebook page. All of these things, along with the networking opportunities, contributed to the success I had while at NU and now at Old Hat so I will continue to be involved in NACMA despite not being at a university anymore.
9.) What is your favorite memory from your job, or project you are most proud of?
I’m most proud of seeing my former student workers and interns being successful in the sports industry. I am grateful for the time and energy they dedicated to NU Athletics and I loved teaching them, as well learning from them. A special moment will be at the NACMA Convention in June when Northwestern will be recognized at the awards ceremony because of the creativity our young marketing star, Ashley Cross, put into marketing the Volleyball team last season.
10.) Were you ever involved in a marketing “blunder”? If so, please explain.
There isn’t a huge blunder that sticks out, but through the years we tried to get our fans to be more active so some of those attempts to create traditions, to get them to attend events like National Championship ceremonies or to encourage them to make some noise at the games definitely fell short. We used these failures as a way to tweak the ideas and keep trying until we found something that worked.
11.) Who has been your favorite coach to work with? (either present or past job)
I have been blessed that NU hires coaches that fit its brand of intelligence and integrity so they have all been great to work with through the years. Some of my favorites are Pat Fitzgerald (NU Football), Kate and Caryl Drohan (NU Softball), Tim Lenahan (NU Soccer) and Bill Carmody (NU Basketball). They are so passionate about their teams that they are up for just about anything, which is a marketers dream.
12.) What do you feel is the most important quality for those early in the profession to posses?
The most important quality is passion.
13.) What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
I was always told to volunteer as much as you can with other teams, conference tournaments, etc. and I have passed that advice on to everyone who asks because it helped me grow professionally.
14.) What advice would you give to those who are looking to venture into the field of collegiate athletics marketing?
After telling them to get involved by volunteering, I make sure they know that they need to bring a positive attitude and strong work ethic in order to earn respect and recommendations from that experience.
15.) In your opinion, where is collegiate athletics marketing headed in the future?
Collegiate athletics marketing is turning into a real business with more emphasis on the bottomline when it comes to generating revenue so you will continue to see more schools outsourcing their marketing, ticket sales and corporate sponsorship sales.
16.) Who are the people who have influenced you the most?
My parents, Chris Boyer (Maryland), Mary Pink (Iowa State), Kurt Esser (New Mexico), Dan Migala (San Diego Padres), Zac Logsdon (Old Hat Creative), Brad Hurlbut (Northwestern), Paul Kowalczyk (Colorado State) and Amy Potter (Northwestern).
17.) How would you describe your typical work week?
Every week I’m brainstorming with the brightest marketing minds in collegiate marketing to create cool stuff that sells tickets. I also spend time brainstorming with the Old Hat designers, web developers and video experts to stay ahead of the game when it comes to creating innovative marketing plans for current clients and potential clients. I do a lot of research on the latest trends in technology, what’s happening around the sports industry and what’s working to generate revenue in other industries.
18.) How do you maintain balance between your professional and personal life?
Every day I take the time in the morning to make sure I have a plan for the day so I can work as efficiently as possible. Of course when I was working on a campus it was still tough to balance everything so if I found myself canceling more than one personal commitment in a week I would reassess my To Do List to make sure I stayed on track. You constantly have to make sure you are working smart, not just hard.
19.) What is your favorite NACMA memory?
Being on the NACMA Board has been the highlight of my career so my favorite memory was sitting in the hotel lobby last year with the other Board members as we wrapped up a successful convention.
20.) What are you most looking forward to at the upcoming NACMA Convention in Anaheim?
I always look forward to seeing my friends and colleagues at the convention, but as part of the Convention Planning Committee I’m extremely excited about the incredible programming that was put together for this year. Kurt Esser (New Mexico), Craig Pintens (LSU), Ryan Holloway (Rice) and Ayo Taylor-Dixon (South Florida) took advantage of the new Anaheim location and went above and beyond to create relevant topics and to bring in top-notch speakers.