Through time, I began to really appreciate the role wheelchair basketball has within the overall Paralympic Movement and how sport can be used as a catalyst for positive social change.
Director of Marketing & Communications
Wheelchair Basketball Canada (WBC)
The interview with Jody Kingsbury 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 Director of Marketing & Communications for Wheelchair Basketball Canada (WBC). What does a typical day look like for you?
As Director of Marketing & Communications for Wheelchair Basketball Canada, I spend a lot of time collaborating with my colleagues to ensure alignment between our organizational priorities, strategy implementation and the delivery of various outputs.
We are focused on getting Canadians to feel, think, and act differently toward our sport and people with a disability.
That translates into us challenging ourselves every day to find solutions that enable WBC to grow through increased awareness, participation, and resources for wheelchair basketball.
I am privileged to work with a lot of really passionate and dedicated professionals, as well as great partners and stakeholders, on behalf of a distinguished group of athletes, who inspire all of us to pursue excellence, overcome challenges and contribute to a more inclusive world.
You’ve been involved with Wheelchair Basketball in some capacity since the 2011 Halifax Canada Games. How did you know continuing a career path within Wheelchair Basketball and Paralympic Sport was the right fit for you?
I first got involved in wheelchair basketball just before the Beijing 2008 Paralympics and was instantly drawn to the athleticism, speed, and incredible strategy involved at the National Team level.
It’s a great spectator sport, but there is something distinctly enticing about cheering on your team during a live sporting event when the stakes are at their highest.
The whole Paralympic Games experience is incredible and it’s easy to understand why wheelchair basketball is such a big draw at the Games.
Through time, I began to really appreciate the role wheelchair basketball has within the overall Paralympic Movement and how sport can be used as a catalyst for positive social change. It became very apparent that my career path fits really nicely with my personal values and ambitions.
After your departure from WBC in 2015, you worked for the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) as Manager of Athlete Marketing & Alumni Relations. Did you gain any knowledge or skills from the CPC role that you’ve brought to your current role with WBC? How have you used that within WBC?
My time working at the Canadian Paralympic Committee was extremely beneficial and rewarding. I certainly gained a ton of insight. I particularly enjoyed engaging and involving many of Canada top athletes in order to generate increased awareness and strong brand for the Paralympic Movement in Canada.
This is something I was already passionate about when I joined the CPC, and I was keenly motivated by the opportunity to work alongside and learn from many strong leaders who I consider to be trailblazers and mentors.
I felt empowered to be ambitious and to continue applying my craft only on a larger scale that involved more sports (Summer and Winter), athletes, and stakeholders than my previous employments dedicated to a single sport or team.
The experience enabled me to develop a ton of great relationships with a variety of people involved in sport delivery in Canada and around the world. The opportunity to interact with so many different athletes, sports administrators, and partners at the CPC, really instilled in me a great deal of knowledge and perspective that I often draw from in my current role at WBC.
Currently, a major part of your role is enhancing brand and marketing initiatives as well as building meaningful relationships with both current and prospective corporate partners. What are some tools you and your team use to identify and develop new business opportunities for Wheelchair Basketball Canada?
When building meaningful relationships with current and prospective corporate partners, for me, it usually starts with really taking time to understand the sponsor’s goals and objectives.
Both parties may feel there is a good fit when it comes to organizational values and brand alignment, but the critical factor for success rests with the process required to really agree on a partnership program that is clear and mutually beneficial.
At Wheelchair Basketball Canada, we don’t believe in the effectiveness of standard sponsorship packages and that’s why all of the work we do with corporate partners is completely custom.
How important is it for people working in sports marketing and especially, communications, to be able to write? What level of writing is expected? How much writing is required for a role in the sports industry?
Good writing is fundamental to great communications.
The ability to synthesize information succinctly and accurately into something that is comprehensive and impactful and that resonates with your targeted audiences is quintessential in any industry.
While writing occupies a large portion of my workday, there are also other communication skills that are equally important – active listening, critical thinking, and creativity are also paramount.
My advice to anyone interested in working in the sports industry is that you can and should actively work on developing different skills, but the one universal that I’ve observed in all successful sports professionals is a passion for what they do.
Be openminded and don’t be afraid to take risks, try new things and see where it will take you.
With the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics being rescheduled to take place in 2021 due to COVID-19, how has your role and plans for the rest of the year changed?
Delaying the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games was absolutely the right call. The health, safety and well-being of our athletes is our number one priority. In my mind, until we can collectively get a better handle on the pandemic around the world it does not make sense to expose individuals or teams to unnecessary risks.
Like everyone, we are following the advice of the medical experts and being very thorough with our return to play protocols. It’s been a gradual process, but we are certainly happy to have the competition dates set for 2021.
Our teams are adapting quite well with a renewed focus on their ultimate goal. As far as marketing and communications go, in the absence of in-person events, we have put increased emphasis on our digital media strategies in order to share our athletes’ stories and increase awareness and engagement.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Jody Kingsbury shows how a dedication to diversity and inclusion in sport and strong communication skillset drive his work as Director of Marketing and Communications at Wheelchair Basketball Canada. In his role, Jody focuses on getting Canadians to feel, think and act differently towards wheelchair basketball and people with a disability. Through finding a role within Wheelchair Basketball Canada, Jody was also able to find a career path that fits her personal values. After chatting with Jody Kingsbury, it became clear to me that he has an immense appreciation for the sport of wheelchair basketball and dedication to make sport inclusive for people with a disability. The Paralympic Movement is becoming stronger than ever and Jody plays a key role in such positive social change.