Meet the MBA alum excelling in sports marketing
Emily Sanders discusses improving leadership skills to create stronger communities
“You can get something across—creating emotion or a sense of pride—with very few words.”
Emily Sanders [BComm(Hons)/12, MBA/22], Director of Marketing Services at True North Sports + Entertainment, describes the commercial that confirmed her interest in sports marketing.
The ad was part of a marketing campaign for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals in 2010. It is a 30-second compilation of winning players trying and failing to describe what winning the cup means to them. Featuring little more than unseen reporters’ questions and the players’ overwhelmed silence, the spot concludes with a simple title card, “There are no words.”
For Sanders, this ad was excellent marketing. But it was the feeling of pride it elicited, a shared sense of achievement for something that most of the audience hadn’t actually achieved, that made it stand out.
The ad hit on a collective feeling of success, something specific to sport that Sanders is excited to facilitate in her role at True North.
“One of the reasons I was interested in coming to True North is that I get to be a part of creating a great community for Winnipeg,” she says. “We do a lot of work in the community, and we invest a lot into Winnipeg, by energizing and revitalizing the downtown area, and having an NHL team that people can support and rally around. It’s amazing to go to a Jets game and hear everyone cheering for Winnipeg, and I get to be a part of creating that.”
Before arriving at her new dream job, Sanders was a Bachelor of Commerce student at the Asper School of Business where she completed co-op terms at OlaTech and Richardson International before graduating in 2012. Six years later, with advertising agency experience under belt, she returned to pursue an MBA. While she considered other schools, the Asper program offered her flexibility and an opportunity to expand and deepen her network in Winnipeg, even outside of marketing and sport.
“One of the benefits of the program was meeting people from different industries. The MBA offers an opportunity to look at how your area of expertise interacts with other elements of business. There are so many separate departments that you can be an expert in, but being able to tie them together is its own crucial skill.”
This skill was certainly well-honed during her time in the program, as her current position involves acting as a conduit between multiple areas at True North, determining their needs from a marketing perspective and helping to execute those needs internally.
Sanders also made rather serendipitous connections during her MBA via the Asper mentorship program. She expressed interest in meeting an influential female leader in the Winnipeg network and was paired with Norva Riddell, Senior Vice President of Partnerships & Premium Services at True North.
The opportunity to connect with another woman working in a high-level position in a Winnipeg-based sports organization was a benefit to Sanders professionally and personally.
“We still had a relationship and a connection outside of the mentorship program, and it was a special moment realizing that we’re working together now.”
As an avid participant in case competitions during her MBA, Sanders also benefitted from competing and networking locally, nationally and internationally. She is particularly proud of Asper’s development and success on the international case competition stage.
Despite the reach of her networks, Sanders is happy to be building a career here in Winnipeg.
“I think staying and working here is about that sense of community,” she says. “I have experience with multiple charitable organizations here, so I see the impact of community work—of celebrating and improving Winnipeg.”
Her pursuit of an MBA was a way to grow personally and professionally and give more back to her community.
“I wanted to equip myself to be the best leader I could be. In order to do that I needed the best tools, and the MBA was certainly part of that.”
“True North puts those two things together: celebrating and giving back to Winnipeg and growing in my career journey as well.”
Unlike the ad that inspired her, Sanders does offer some words to describe how it feels to be working and advancing in a field that she loves.
“It comes full circle. I’m in meetings all the time, making decisions on campaigns that are going to go live. When I see them on a billboard in Winnipeg, suddenly I feel like a part of it.”
Creating a shared feeling of success—of pride—cultivates investment in community and the feeling of being part of Winnipeg.