As one of the few female sports marketing managers in the running space, Under Armour’s Jami Crist is blazing her own path to success. For over 11 years, Crist has worked her way up through the ranks at Under Armour to become the Sports Marketing Senior Manager of the Run division. While the journey hasn’t always been easy, Crist has found her passion for elevating athletes’ stories, empowering them to pursue passions beyond their sport, and creating long lasting partnerships.
On August 8, Crist will be an all-star speaker at Beyond Brand where she will share her insights as an expert in creating connection and community. Before she takes the stage, Crist spoke with Glass Staircase about her career progression and her goals as a marketing leader.
Glass Staircase: Let’s start from the beginning. What was your first job?
Crist: I’m pretty sure it was babysitting or washing dishes at a local crab place in Delaware. I forget which one was first but I’m pretty sure it was babysitting.
GS: That’s awesome! Where did you go to school?
Crist: Salisbury University
GS: Were you interested in marketing in college?
Crist: So the first school I went to was Lebanon Valley College. I wanted to go for physical therapy (P.T.) and they had a six-year doctorate program but it was a really intense program where only 30 people could get accepted and I was number 31 on the list. I figured I’d go for business because I loved strategy and operations but I was very into the science and the P.T. side. Literally, they called me the day before school started and said that somebody dropped out of the program and that I was next on the list. They asked me if I wanted to take it and I said no. I wanted to stick to marketing. I realized that I couldn’t be there for six years, let alone one year so I transferred to Salisbury and stuck with marketing.
GS: What was it about marketing that kept you in it?
Crist: I think just finding products and services to connect with the consumer, how to dive into that, really dissect it and then testing new things that have never been done before and create new experiences. Just understanding the intricacies of it. It felt like it just connected with me so much more. I have always been a people person. I like to be out and about with people so I thought it would be a great way for me to figure those pieces out and make it work into my personality.
GS: What brought you to Under Armour (UA)?
Crist: I was interning for the Ravens at the time and I also played field hockey. That’s when Under Armour started getting a little more recognized. When I did my internship, I noticed that Under Armour was from Baltimore and had a much bigger presence here at the time compared to when I was in college and I noticed it. I leaned in a little bit more about it and learned about their culture and their team. I was an athlete in college and part of a team for so long, and I wanted to find a way to keep that going versus a typical 9-5 job. I remember calling the HR department and I basically tried to sell myself over the phone. I was like, ‘I’ll do whatever! Customer service, I’m here for it! Let me know!’ It was March of my senior year when I had my first interview with them.
GS: What was your first role?
Crist: Customer service for key accounts like your bigger play accounts like DICK’S Sporting Goods. My accounts were military specialty, golf specialty, and MC Sports.
GS: Did you enjoy that role?
Crist: Yeah it was good. Everyone on my team was fresh out of college so it felt like college all over again and you gotta learn the backend of the business–the way to warehouse works, shipping, inventory, allocating orders, important stuff that’s ingrained in the company and things you need to know, even marketing. It taught me a lot about the foundations of the business.
GS: At the time, did you have an idea of where you wanted to be at UA or did that vision evolve over time?
Crist: It’s funny because when I did my internship with the Ravens, I was always doing the event and marketing side. At the time I started with UA, I wanted to be doing events. We were so small as a company that I think we had maybe seven hundred people on campus. Now we have close to 2,500 to 3,000 people. It was easier to connect and volunteer so I would volunteer my time to help out with an event. Any opportunity I could do to understand the event side and be part of it, to get my name and face in there and get the experience, I did.
There was a role that opened up. It was weird, you could kind of make your own job description at times. They needed support for placing orders at events, so I took it on. Eventually, they kept pulling me onto events to help them set up and be there and be a face for the brand and eventually, it went to full-time after my two and a half years in customer service.
GS: That’s amazing that you learned the foundations and found a way to integrate yourself into doing what you’re passionate about.
Crist: Yeah, that’s one of the cool things about the company. If you see an opportunity, you can position yourself to jump in and build a case for it and I thought that was such a powerful thing about being part of the company.
GS: Your current role is sports marketing senior manager. How long have you been in that role?
Crist: It just hit about five years now.
GS: How would you describe your role?
Crist: Anything that is an asset to the category for track, trail, road, from a pro athlete to a partnership to an event, anything that is going to represent the category is what we do. We recruit them, we sign them, we find opportunities of how we’re going to show up in the market, finding the right people in partnerships, that’s what my team does.
GS: What’s your favorite part about your job?
Crist: I would say the people I get to work with. They are just incredible humans. To see what they build and do day to day and be a part of that and to help them elevate their story. It’s just a very full time and I feel very lucky to be in those moments.
GS: I love the idea of elevating their stories. How do you accomplish that?
Crist: The first thing I always do when I talk to an athlete is ask, ‘What do you want to be known for?’ It’s not all about winning all the time, it’s about what you do off the track as well. For example, I remember having a conversation with Aisha Praught-Leer and I remember asking ‘Off the track, what do you want to do? What do you want to bring to the table? What do you want to be known for?’ And she said that she was passionate about bringing middle distance to girls in Jamaica because it’s so known for sprints. If girls have passion to run further or faster, that’s still a thing and that’s ok. So we figured it out and we brought it to life. At the end of the day, if it’s going to elevate their brand, it’s going to help us as a team, as a brand as well, so it’s just really taking the time to get to know them.
GS: That’s so cool! What are some of your long term professional goals?
Crist: Some of my goals are just figuring out how I can be a voice and an action to support women in the community. I also just want to support other women in the workforce. I came into this role and I was the only female sports marketer at the time, maybe there was one more, and it’s hard. It’s hard because you’re like, do I belong here? And I didn’t come from the run side but the more I feel like I can help other women know that they can belong here and that they have support with other females among them, that’s what matters to me. And I want to continue to bridge that gap a little bit more. Especially at a company like Under Armour. I’m not going to lie, it’s a very male-dominated company. We’re about to do a women’s campaign. We’re talking about women in sport and all these crazy stats, but guys time out, we need to talk internally first before we go and preach about all of these things. Are we doing the same thing internally? And that’s really what’s important for me. If everybody does their part, we can totally progress. I really, truly want to help people. From the track and field world to women, even what I do on the side in Baltimore teaching classes, I have a voice and I have the capacity to create action, to do it and help people. Shit, that’s what I want to do. There’s no title with it, there’s no career path, just be out there and make it happen.
GS: That’s awesome! Last question, if you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would you tell her?
Crist: Not to stress about what’s to come. I feel like, I was always a planner and had to make sure that everything was in order. Like in college, I started interviewing really early my senior year because I was so worried I wasn’t going to get a job. But sometimes you just have to trust the process and let it happen. Things happen for a reason. You’re worthy enough and everything is going to be ok.
To meet Jami and attend her workshop session at Beyond Brand in Austin on August 8th GET TICKETS HERE!