My main focus with the Canadian Grad Prix is the sponsorship side of the business, a premium global sports property with a lot of values to offer our partners.
Director of Corporate Sales
Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix
×This interview was completed before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
The interview with Ryan McCallum was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Director of Corporate Sales of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix.
For the past 12 years, I have worked for Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada, also known as the Canadian Grand Prix. Over the years, I have been part of the corporate sales team, selling everything from tickets, to VIP hospitality, to sponsorship.
Currently, my main focus with the Canadian Grad Prix is the sponsorship side of the business. The Canadian Grand Prix is a premium global sports property, so there is a lot of value to offer our partners which makes the sponsorship sales process a fun one to be part of.
During the Canadian Grand Prix, a typical day involves getting to the track bright and early, making sure all sponsors and clients are in good shape before the gates are open (confirm event signage, fan zone displays, private suite requests, etc).
During the day, I do my best to see all of our clients that have taken the time to come out to the event. When the fans start to leave the circuit each day, l plug in my laptop and start answering emails, voicemails, and taking care of any last-minute requests for the next day.
Each night I try to make it out to a sponsored event or a downtown Montreal Canadian Grand Prix party but I don’t stay long because I need to be back at the track the next morning. The Canadian Grand Prix starts on a Thursday (Free Open House Day Event) and goes until the checkered flag is waived late Sunday afternoon
When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career?
I loved hockey but from an early age, I knew I was not going to be playing professionally. I really wanted to be part of a sports lifestyle though. During my last year of High School, I wasn’t sure which university to apply to or what career path to follow. It wasn’t until my school had a career day and a representative from a local Canadian University explained there was a Sport Management Degree.
I got very excited about the opportunity to study sports for the next 4 years – Does it get any better than that?! As soon as I heard about this I made sure I kept my grades up, applied, and got in. While there I applied to the International Exchange program and was accepted and invited to study for one year at a University in the States.
This was a game-changer, I learned a lot about the business of sports that year and was determined to work in sports after that.
What are some of the hardest parts about balancing two roles?
Time management is by far the biggest challenge.
About one month before each event my email inbox and voicemails are in overdrive! Sometimes I want to respond to all of the messages at once but I have learned that is not the best way to spend my day. I try to divide the day up so I am not just “responding” to things.
For example, I now take time to make outgoing calls, create sponsor proposals, then answer emails. When there is a client meeting, lunch, or event, that takes quite a bit of time out of the day so my schedule has to be much more flexible those days.
What some tools that you and your team use to identify and develop new business opportunities for your organization?
LinkedIn is at the top of the list. I think this is the absolute best tool to generate leads and stay in touch with your contacts through meaningful posts.
For the work we do with the Formula 1 Paddock Club we also use Google Ads and we subscribe to Vimeo so our videos have a professional feel.
A common label people working in marketing and digital get is that they are creative (sometimes more creative than most people working in sports). Is this realistic? Beyond creativity, which you have a ton of, tell us about other skills and abilities required and/or often overlooked when working in sport marketing?
I do think that people in marketing are very creative.
For example, when working with Toronto Rock Lacrosse, we lean heavily on the Marketing Director to come up with unique ideas to pitch our sponsors. When we present the ideas that he comes up with the sponsors are often blown away. My top quality is certainly not creativity [laughs].
I have ideas, mainly because I have been in the industry for so long but think it is important to listen to marketing and digital experts. Other skills that I think are very important in sports include:
Strong work ethic… “No excuses” just like Gary Vee says!
Ability to adapt – Sometimes I have to remind myself of this. When I started working in sports there was no social media and now it is a huge part of our industry. If you get set in your ways, you will get left behind.
Personality – If you are generally a nice person who is not worried about picking up the phone or going to meet someone, I think that goes a long way.
What are three words you’d use to describe your career in sport? Please explain your choices.
Persistence – I have been told “No” many, many times but I don’t let that get me down.
Closer – I pride myself on doing everything possible to hit my goals and objectives.
Fortunate – I am so lucky to have experienced so many amazing sporting events, often from the best seats in the house – That is the best part.
What advice would you give to prospective sport management professionals looking to work in sport at a similar level to yourself but just starting off in their career?
Do anything you can to get your foot in the door with a sports organization or team. Even if you apply for a job that is not your “dream job” right, you can use your experiences to build towards that dream job in the future… And most likely that “dream job” will change along the way.
Marilyn's Final Thoughts
Formula 1’s 2020 Canadian Grand Prix was postponed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement of such came after we spoke to Ryan. But seeing how Ryan works with the organization as the Director of Corporate Sales dealing with a list of things that require him to workboth directly with the public and behind the scenes was a delight we just had to share. Professional sport has so much to offer, but getting there in the first place can be a bit of a struggle. Just like Ryan says do whatever it takes to “get your foot in the door”. The truth behind this statement is unmatched. Indeed, working in this industry requires a lot more than the bare minimum. This industry is looking for dedicated, passionate workers.