September 2018 | 787 words | 3-minute read
It was her high school track coach, Mr Yandell, who put Michelle Taylor, head of sports sponsorships, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), on the highspeed path that she is on now. “Find something you love doing, and then find someone willing to pay you to do it,” he had advised her.
However, Taylor wasn’t clear about how her love for sports could become a career. So, she selected biology as her major, intending to go into teaching. Her heart wasn’t in it though, and she found herself struggling with the subject.
Fortunately, for her, the college introduced a new major that was tailor-made for her. Taylor switched to Sports Information and Communications, with a minor in coaching. She followed it up with a master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Massachusetts.
Along the way, she says, “I soaked up every sports internship I could find. My final internship was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.”
Before long, Taylor was in the thick of every significant sports action, including the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
When the opportunity at TCS came her way, Taylor had already spent 14 years overseeing sponsor partnerships at the New York Road Runners (NYRR), which organises the New York City Marathon. The experience facilitated her transition to the IT major, which she joined to help manage their new partnership with NYRR.
Not Just Races
TCS exposed Taylor to a vast array of sports events. She says, “TCS’s global sponsorships include 22 races and events such as the title sponsorship of the Amsterdam Marathon, Mumbai Marathon and Lidingoloppet, the world’s largest cross-country running event in Sweden.”
The company is also a supporting level sponsor of the Boston Marathon, Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Virgin Money London Marathon, the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon and the Australian Running Festival. TCS even sponsors an F1 driver in Japan, through Nakajima Racing.
Taylor works with TCS’ marketing teams and race sponsorship property owners around the world to ensure that the goals of the sponsorship event are in alignment with the company’s brand values. But working at TCS, Taylor says, isn’t only about working on reputed sporting events; it is also about using sports to reach out to people.
“One of the many things I like about my job is the chance to give back to the community and to make a difference in the lives of our employees and clients through our sponsorships.”
The TCS advantage has been particularly evident in the popularity of the New York Marathon app. Taylor says, “We are constantly getting feedback from runners and race spectators about how our TCS mobile app has been a game-changer, allowing spectators to track their runners from start to finish.”
The app’s popularity and the significance of the work Taylor and her team were doing was brought home to her through an impromptu interaction at a half-marathon last year. She says, “I was wearing a TCS jacket and holding a TCS brand sign to direct Team TCS runners to our hospitality area. A runner wearing his finisher medal walked past with his family and friends, and shouted, ‘Hey, TCS, thank you for the app, it worked great!'"
The Real Magic
Sports sponsorships allow TCS to leverage the power of physical branding in the geographies where the events are being held, as well as to use the assets, including social media and race broadcasts, for storytelling.
They serve as a tool to showcase the company’s ability to transform businesses and communities through technology. Clients and prospects are able to experience how it can add value to runners, spectators and event participants. This helps the company differentiate itself from the competition.
The company invites clients and prospects to participate in the sponsored events. Transformed by the thrill and adventure of running, many describe it as the experience of a lifetime.
Taylor also uses her role to work with the CSR team to create or integrate community initiatives within the sponsorships. The TCS Inspiring Teachers — Empowering Students programme is an example of how they use sports sponsorships to create awareness of their STEM programmes.
“As a B2B company, we benefit from the opportunity to humanise the brand,” she says. “The real magic of our sponsorships is when we can leverage them to build awareness, change perceptions and influence decision makers.”
Amid all this, the ability to share her passion for fitness with others on a regular basis is a bonus for Taylor. “Running and working out make me a better person mentally and physically. I enjoy my work particularly for the challenge of making our sports sponsorships deliver the most value for TCS.”
Mr Yandell would be thrilled.