Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) is home to storied sports franchises such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and Toronto F.C. YMA caught up with Tyla Flexman and Alex Forani of MLSE to gain a little insight on their roles, the sports and enterntainment industry, and MLSE's Global Partnerships Case Competition.
YMA: Can you describe your role/position at MLSE?
Tyla: I work in partnership development in our global partnerships division. So I meet and work with a variety of brands to develop marketing programs that use our teams to deliver on their business objectives. There’s a lot of research, making sense of market research and fan data and coming up with unique and creative ways to authentically integrate a brand within our team environment.
Alex: I also work in MLSE’s Global Partnerships team, but I am on the Marketing side of our department. I manage a roster of five of our corporate partners and am responsible for bringing their brands to life through the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. I spend my days working directly with some of our largest partners and working together to build our programs that drive results for their brands and ours.
YMA: Why did you get into sports business?
Tyla: I have always been drawn to Sports & Entertainment, a passion industry that is the fabric of our communities. Personally sport has always been an integral part of my life growing up and fortunately led me to an athletic career. Once that ended I wanted to maintain that connection with sports.
Alex: Like Tyla, sports has always been an integral part of my life. In 2010 I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Vancouver Olympics (which was a dream come true). I feel in love with working in an arena and being surrounded by such adrenaline. Coming home from Vancouver I knew I had to find a position in the industry.
YMA: What is a typical day like for you at MLSE?
Tyla: I meet with marketing teams for different brands, I research industries, I sit in brainstorms to ideate partnership programs for a brand, I create pitches, I meet internally with our various departments to bring an idea to life (ticketing, VIP, food and beverage, business intelligence, team operations, game operations etc) and I pitch programs to brands. I do all of this with an amazing team of colleagues who works really hard together and has a ton of fun.
Alex: A typical day is so hard to put into words. One day I could be sitting at my desk answering emails and calls all day, the next I could be running around the arena executing a partner event, and the next day I could be on set for a video shoot. I love the variety – keeps me on my toes!
YMA: Is there anything specific that sets the Sports and Entertainment industry apart?
Tyla: I think we get the advantage of working in a really fun industry. Sports & Entertainment make people happy, they bring joy to people’s lives and we get to have fun with that. I think that translates to all aspects of our job and I feel lucky to work in this industry.
Alex: SO MANY THINGS! For me, what sets our industry apart is the people. I work with so many passionate, smart and high energy colleagues. Not all industry’s get the opportunity to spend time around such amazing people. I feel blessed.
YMA: What was the coolest experience or project that you have worked on at MLSE?
Tyla: Working on this recruiting program is definitely one of them! We get to engage with top universities in Canada and watch talented students create new ideas and concepts in a relevant way that’s identical to our day to day jobs. It’s really fun to engage with students and I love getting to share what we do and how creative, data driven and business minded our jobs are.
Alex: One of my favourite projects to work on was our renewed partnership with Sun Life Financial. I was given the opportunity to work very closely on their renewal, including their commitment as the Toronto Raptors first ever jersey patch partner. This was an exciting one as it was a first for the organization and I loved being a part of the team that built out their new strategy. Their new partnership is a true 360 degree approach that involves cause marketing, athlete endorsers and grassroots initiatives (to name a few).
YMA: Are there any popular misconceptions about working at MLSE that you would like address?
Tyla: I think there can sometimes be a misconception that we only look for people who are sports fanatics. We obviously want people who are fans of our teams and brands but we are looking for people who can bring a diverse skill set and fill a specific function, for Global Partnerships we’re looking for strategic minded marketers who can have an impact on our business.
Alex: I often hear that people think MLSE is a male dominated company. I work with tons of strong female leaders here and our company has lots of initiatives to engage and promote women. Check out one of the latest events we held as part of our MLSE Women’s Leadership program called “She The North” as an example of the things MLSE is doing to empower women.
YMA: What was the most difficult part of working at MLSE?
Tyla: Friends asking me for tickets!
Alex: Hard question! Sometimes the hours we put in can be a lot, so it’s often a struggle to find a good work/life balance. I’ve been with MLSE now for six years so I think I’ve finally mastered it, but it definitely took me some time.