Marketer to Watch: Anna Guelzim of Wilson Sporting Goods

Anna Guelzim, Global Marketing
Manager, Tennis,
Wilson Sporting Goods

This week, we are turning the spotlight onto your Future CMO Club peer and a panelist at the Marketing and Mentoring Summer Summit, Anna Guelzim, Global Marketing Manager of Tennis at Wilson Sporting Goods.

1. What was your first (or favorite) job?

My first job happens to be one of my favorites, too. Why? It allowed me to discover a passion for marketing, fly fishing and traveling all over the US.

As many undergrad students, I went through college with little to no working experience directly relevant to my studies. I was a foreign student from Morocco, who transferred from a large University in Paris to a small college in Vermont. I didn't know it at the time, but that's where my American Dream would begin.

In college, I worked as a Tour Guide in the Admissions Office - an initiation to advertising and sales on a small scale. Upon graduation, the Director of Admissions set me with a referral to a marketing role at a brand I have never heard of before: Orvis

A few interviews later, I was going to work for Orvis, a high-end fly-fishing company! My role would be to develop marketing plans for their new retail store openings all around the country. I couldn’t believe I’d know how to even do that. And turns out, I didn’t. Through some great guidance, a bit of coaching from my managers and my own desire to learn, I got a hang of it quite quickly. I began traveling alone around the US, to places I would never have dreamed of visiting on a tiny salary. There, I would organize the most extravagant and memorable Grand Opening Events for Orvis’ New stores: Flying in whiskey masters to help customers pair their favorite scotch with a new waxed Barbour jacket; Orchestrating the transport of a live Cheetah to malls to raise awareness for the Cheetah Conservation Fund; Serving scorpions and crickets to our outdoorsy customers to teach survival in the wilderness; Giving away safari trips and other luxury items to lucky winners....  

Here I was, a total fashionista who grew up in the urban jungle, talking fly-fishing and hunting and to a consumer I had nothing in common with – yet managed to learn everything about.

Most importantly though, it was through that very first experience that I realized I LOVED brand marketing: the various hats you get to wear in the job, the high energy, the fun atmosphere that seems to be inherent to the department, and the fact that being a passionate, curious person was welcomed in this world.

So, thank you, Orvis.

2. Can you name an “inflection point” moment or a particularly influential mentor during your career that helped prepare you for your current position? 

About four years into my job at Orvis, the recession hit. Retail stores were closing down… and with that, I was about to face being laid off from my very first job. I was terrified. As a foreign worker on a visa, I would be asked to leave the country immediately upon being laid off. The US was my home, and the anxiety of just having to pack up and leave was the dynamite motivation needed to get up and do more with my life. I spoke 5 languages, I was a global citizen...I decided that it was time for me to leave the comfort of the Green Mountains in order to pursue a global career better suited for me. 

Instead of crumbling under the pressure of a possible expulsion, I decided to get an MBA focused on International Business. I got accepted at Brandeis University in Boston which would turn out to be a catalyzing career step.  

Overall, that rollercoaster journey taught me to remain positive in the darkest of moments, finding solutions to seemingly hopeless situations - and to always persevere. Now, when tough times hit my team, I use that same mindset and, instead of focusing on what can't be done, I choose to focus on what can.

3. Where do you go (or what brands do you look to) to find creative inspiration?

I look at brands who inspire, who stand for something they believe in and whose products and actions speak to that belief. Patagonia and, similarly, Orvis are two brands who actually live and breath the values and lifestyle they promote – inside and out. You can see it in the products they offer and the auxiliary programs they put in place to support their efforts. I think that's what a successful brand purpose looks like.

4. How has marketing changed over the last five years? What trends are you excited about right now? 

As a consumer and marketer, I am thrilled with how loud a consumer’s voice is today.

Brands are lucky to get to build these virtual one-to-one relationships with consumers and gain access to their thoughts and feelings through social media monitoring and other tools. With that, though, comes the need for all marketers to become much more tech savvy and able to respond quickly when needed.  

5. Name 1 or 2 characteristics that you think are invaluable for a marketer in today's ever-evolving world?

One of the most important traits I constantly try to live up to as a marketer is taking my personal opinion out of the equation and truly trying to review projects through the lens of our target consumer and their needs. After all, it's for them.

The other trait I try to look after is remaining a passionate storyteller. As marketers, our day to day reality can often consist of sitting in just another never-ending meeting, falling victim to yet another PowerPoint request, while also needing to absorb opinions of all the non-marketing colleagues - everyone does love commenting on marketing, don't they? But in the midst of all the chaos, we need to nurture the passion we have for our work and for telling those compelling and engaging stories to our consumers.

Storytelling is the essential trait that allows us to sell ideas internally and connect with our consumer on a truly emotional level.

6. Do you have a personal mantra, words of wisdom or favorite inspirational quote?

Dream big, stay true to the values you believe in and remember to have a lot of fun along the way!

7. Where do you see yourself professionally in five years? 

In 5 years I would love to lead brand partnership initiatives. As I navigate across the field of marketing, I find myself most drawn to ideating creative partnerships as a tool to engage with consumers in new and innovative ways.

Most importantly, though, I hope that in 5 five years I get to look back at my career path and be proud of the work I have done and the things I have learned along the way.