CEO Van Adams Explains Why We Should Care About Sports Marketing Trends
July 8, 2024
CEO Van Adams shares insights from the world of sports marketing.

Van Adams, founder VanAdams Sports Group helping athletes and organizations leverage the power of sports and entertainment to drive revenue. Van is a Crain's New York Notable Woman in Sports Business and entrepreneur with two decades of sports marketing experience in corporate and intercollegiate environments. She frequently speaks on women in the workplace and diversity topics at national and international conferences and seminars. An HBCU alumna and STEM advocate, Van Adams is the founder of Gathering on the Greens®, helping women tap into the business and wellness benefits golf is known to offer, and president of the Women In Sports and Events (WISE) NYC Metro chapter.

"Staying curious, embracing change, and being willing to pivot when necessary have been instrumental in maintaining relevance and achieving long-term success while effectively leading my teams. "

It feels like we are a critical moment for women in sports. Is that true or just a lot of media hype?

As a marketing executive with 20 years of experience, I can confidently say that we are indeed at a critical moment for women in sports. This is not merely media hype; a significant shift driven by several factors is happening. Increased visibility of the athletes, better media coverage, and a surge in public interest have collectively created a momentum that is transforming the landscape. The success of women's leagues, such as the WNBA and women's soccer, along with more innovative endorsement deals for players and increasing sponsorships for teams/leagues, are evidence of this change. Add to that, women’s sports is being consumed by non-sports outlets, like Vogue, the Met Gala and so on like never before.This momentum is a culmination of years of cultivating and growing women’s sports. This moment is about recognizing the potential of women's sports and committing to its growth and sustainability which should lead to a more inclusive and equitable landscape for women in sports.

What trends in sports are you seeing that are extending beyond the industry?  

Several trends in sports are making a significant impact beyond the industry. The integration of technology, ranging from wearable devices to AI-driven performance analytics, is revolutionizing training methods and transforming how we perceive health and fitness across diverse sectors. The emphasis on mental health and wellness is reshaping how athletes and the general public approach personal well-being holistically. Lastly, the ongoing drive for diversity and inclusion is cultivating a more equitable environment, with ripple effects felt in corporate cultures and societal norms well beyond the boundaries of the sports arena.

What is the secret to great sports marketing?

Marketing is a science. Understanding the fundamentals and having the ability to innovate around that—consistently, in my opinion—is the foundation for success in sports marketing. The secret lies in compelling storytelling and creating emotional connections with the target audience. Understanding the passions and values of sports fans and being able to align them with the brand's message is crucial. Leveraging data-driven insights to create more targeted campaigns and engage fans through multiple touchpoints, from social media to live events, ensures that the message resonates deeply and effectively.

Do you have one secret to your success?

The key to my success has been adaptability and a commitment to continuous learning. The industry landscape is ever-evolving, with new trends, technologies, and consumer behaviors emerging constantly. Staying curious, embracing change, and being willing to pivot when necessary have been instrumental in maintaining relevance and achieving long-term success while effectively leading my teams.

Success is not linear. Many factors contribute to the road to success. In sports business, which is inherently relational, the power of a strong professional network cannot be underestimated. Most importantly, having advocates who are willing to speak on your behalf and introduce you to opportunities is invaluable. Building strong relationships and mentoring young talent has been a cornerstone of my career, as the road to success is often a collective effort.

Who is a woman you admire?

Rihanna exemplifies a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit. She has ventured into various business outside of music, most notably with her Fenty brand. Fenty Beauty, launched in 2017, revolutionized the beauty industry with its inclusive range of foundation shades, catering to all skin tones setting a new standard for diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry. Her multifaceted success, innovative business practices, commitment to philanthropy, and authenticity is consistently on display.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

In my career and personal life, one thing I can't live without is my network of connections. Relationships are the cornerstone of success in marketing, and having a strong network of colleagues, mentors, and industry peers has been invaluable.

This network provides support, insights, and opportunities for collaboration that are essential for staying ahead in a rapidly evolving industry. Whether it's bouncing ideas off fellow marketers, seeking advice from seasoned professionals, or forging new partnerships, my network has been instrumental in my growth and success.
In a world where trends shift quickly and innovation is key, having a solid network to rely on is indispensable.

What is one big trend you’re excited about in 2024?

The integration of dynamic technology and its impact on the fan experience. I am curious and intrigued by the integration of AI in sports and entertainment marketing. These technologies are revolutionizing how we understand and engage with audiences. From personalized content delivery to predictive analytics for campaign performance, AI is providing deeper insights and enabling more effective marketing strategies. Embracing and understanding these technologies will allow marketers to create even more engaging and tailored experiences for fans

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