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MBAs on the Move

From College Athlete to Marketing Leader at Wilson

Ali Brewer

  • University of Wisconsin’s School of Business (MBA, 2007)
  • Brown University (BS, Psychology & Organizational Behavior Management, 2000)
  • Global Marketing Director, Wilson Sporting Goods

For as long as she can remember, Ali Brewer has loved competition. From a young age through her collegiate hockey career at Brown University, Ali developed a steadfast commitment to whatever team she was on and has continued that drive throughout her career in business.

Starting in finance at Fidelity, Ali later gravitated toward a career in sporting goods marketing because of her familiarity and passion for the products. After getting her MBA with a focus on brand management from the University of Wisconsin, Ali landed first at General Mills and later at Wilson Sporting Goods, which is where she currently has her dream job leading global marketing for the baseball and softball division.

CURRENT ROLE IN SPORTS MARKETING

Describe your current role as Global Marketing Director at Wilson Sporting Goods.

I work in the baseball/softball division where I oversee marketing for five brands. We are the leading baseball/softball equipment supplier globally, a collection of brands that complete a team’s needs from top to bottom, from apparel and bats to gloves and helmets. My team is responsible for all consumer-facing communication and media spends – from our website copy and advertisements to social media and influencer marketing. We don’t make the products, but we make sure a player knows which are right for him/her and why he/she wants to buy one.

What do you like about your job?

Sports and marketing are passions of mine. I like taking an insight and creating a strategy to unlock growth. Working in this industry, you’re not going to have the highest-paying job, but there is intrinsic value in working in sports. You attend fun events, watch (and sometimes play) sports, and ultimately help kids find the right product to have fun and find success on the field. If that doesn’t fill your tank, you’re in the wrong seat.

CAREER PATH

How did you become interested in a business career?

I majored in psychology and organizational behavior management at Brown, which was a popular major for people wanting to go into business.  Similar to sports, business is oriented in teamwork toward a common goal, you know who is winning and losing, and it is very clear cut. 

Tell me about your career path. How did you integrate your passion for sports into your career?

I grew up playing baseball, tennis, soccer, hockey, and lacrosse. I chose Brown because of its incredible academic environment and its top-ranked women’s hockey program.

Spring of my senior year, I was invited to try out for and play on the U.S. Women’s national hockey team so I didn’t do a traditional job search or explore many companies. Following school, I traveled around the world with the U.S. Team for a year but, unfortunately, right before the Olympics, I got cut and had to figure out what was next.

Through Brown connections and informational interviews, I found a job at Fidelity in Boston.  I quickly learned the finance industry wasn’t a long-term desire for me, but I learned what I was good at, how to be a teammate in the “real world,” and what I wanted in future companies.

I was at Fidelity three years and had started meeting people in other companies, including brands like Reebok and New Balance. Many of these leaders came from CPG and Brand Management, so I decided to go back to school. After my MBA, I wanted to get my foot in with the best marketing company possible, and I really liked General Mills. I spent three great years there, and then a perfect opportunity opened up at Wilson nine years ago.

GETTING AN MBA

How did you decide to get an MBA?

As a career switcher looking to go from Finance into marketing without any ‘real’ marketing experience, it was essential to get my MBA. I ended up at Wisconsin because they had a brand management specialization that would expose me to some of the best CPG companies in the country.

What would you tell a young woman who is uncertain of whether to get an MBA?

If you are happy in your current company or projected career path, I don’t necessarily recommend it. An MBA was what I needed to get where I wanted, but that is not the case for everyone.

ASSESSING STRENGTHS AND AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT

What are your personal success factors?

Ever since I was four years old and someone put a ball in my hands, I’ve had a competitive spirit. I am 100 percent committed to winning and always practice to be better. I played and enjoyed some individual sports, but team sports always felt more meaningful. In business, I have the same mentality. I am always trying to help our brands win and, when I’m building my team, I look for high drive and passion.

You are obviously very successful. Are there any areas you want to improve?

At General Mills, I was introduced to a formal 360 feedback process, and we use it at Wilson, too. The way you perceive yourself and the way others perceive you are not always aligned. Positive traits like intensity and focus can come across negatively if you don’t balance them with softer, more personal interactions. That is an area where I focus, and it’s important to constantly seek information to better understand how those around you tick, too.


Word that defines her:
Committed

Book recommendations:
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

Personal interests:
Red Sox (and Cubs in Chicago), travel, food, currently I’m relearning Spanish

Professional mantra:
People first. Brand Second.

Song that makes her turn up the volume:
Anything by Taylor Swift

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