Adam Vasallo, Chief Marketing Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, shares inspiring stories from his career in episode #63 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast.
Listen now to hear Vasallo discuss relationships, rebranding, and mentoring.
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When I was in school, I wanted to be a writer.
And then when I started job interviews with ad agencies I thought, ‘Wow! It would be so amazing to be doing this every day.’
Of course, fast forward to a few years into working at an ad agency, and it was a lot easier to focus on the drudgery.
I was reminded of that when I read a podcast guest application with the lesson, ‘No job is as glamorous as you think it is.’
For me personally, now that I am much deeper into my career, my focus is finding – maybe not the glamour, but the fulfillment – of a job where I get to create and help people every day.
However, I thought this lesson would be helpful for anyone starting their career – what may look glamorous on the outside is hard work on the inside. You just see Michael Jordan hit the game winning jumper, you don’t see the relentless practice that got him there.
I discussed the story behind this lesson, along with many more lesson-filled stories, when I talked to Adam Vasallo, Chief Marketing Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Vasallo leads a team of nine, along with four marketing agency partners.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. According to its most recent audit, it received $71 million in public support and revenue in its most recent fiscal year.
Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.
In our discussion, Vasallo discussed stories with lessons about what he made in marketing. Here are some lessons that that emerged in our conversation:
At Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA), they have a saying (and a hashtag): Bigger Together. As the largest and preeminent youth mentoring organization in the United States, they understand and advocate for the power of relationships. Five years ago, when Vasallo was hired as the Vice President of Development & Marketing, his first assignment out of the gate was to oversee the rebrand of BBBSA.
A legacy brand founded in 1904 with more than 230 local agencies across the country operating in all 50 states…this was a daunting task. Especially for the new guy. It’s January and the rebrand has to be unveiled at their National Conference in June of that same year. How would they get this done? It didn’t take long for him to realize he needed support. He needed relationships.
Relationship #1: Hire a great agency.
BBBSA partnered with Barkley. Barkley is headquartered out of Kansas City and has a strong track record for rebranding legacy brands and non-profit brands alike. An added bonus? Barkley CEO Jeff King is an alumni Big Brother and local BBBS board member. By selecting the right agency, they had a partner in Barkley that operated less like an ad agency and more like an extension of the BBBS staff.
Relationship #2: Have a staff you trust.
The initial rebrand stages – including research and discovery – were already underway when he started. Thanks to the talented staff he inherited when he joined BBBS Vasallo was able to hit the ground running.
Relationship #3 (the most important one): Their 230+ Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across the country.
They formed a rebrand task force that consisted of local BBBS leaders from across the country. They were intentional in selecting diverse voices and committee members who hailed from diverse communities that ranged from rural to urban and every space in between. Representation was critical.
While the task force’s work was limited to brand development, the marketing team’s relationship with the rebrand task force went beyond sharing concepts and ideas with the group for feedback and extended to include BBBS agencies participating in immersion sessions with Barkley and providing feedback directly to the strategists and artists working on the rebrand.
When it came time to unveil their new brand – to much anticipation – in front of 3,000+ BBBS leaders, staff and partners from across the country, they intentionally assigned roles to members of the BBBS Rebrand Task Force to take the stage, introduce the brand and celebrate their work on what – they now know – was a successful rebrand launch. With the support of these critical relationships, they were BiggerTogether…this is just one example.
In his time at Big Brothers Big Sisters, they have welcomed incredible numerous partners – including the NFL, Starbucks, Nordstrom Rack, Macy’s, Nike and many more – and at the core of each of these collaborations is a genuine, caring relationship between Vasallo plus his colleagues at Big Brothers Big Sisters and their counterparts at each partner organization rallying around and leaning into their shared core values and commitment to empowering youth.
Five years ago, BBBSA was one of the first organizations to receive a grant from the NFL Inspire Change Initiative. The NFL Inspire Change initiative is the league’s social justice commitment and is dedicated to creating access and reducing barriers in communities across the country.
Through their grant relationship with NFL Inspire Change, they set out to achieve three goals: (1) fuel BBBS programs like mentoring youth with an incarcerated family member and Sports Buddies that are designed to create access and reduce barriers through mentorship. (2) create new JEDI (Justice, Equity and Inclusion) trainings for their volunteers, staff and board leaders and (3) inspiring more people – with a focus on men – to become volunteer Bigs. [Note: at BBBS, they call their youth mentees “Littles” and their adult mentors “Bigs.”
On this last goal, they collaborated with the NFL to create a new annual volunteer recruitment campaign called “The Big Draft.” The Big Draft was created to tap into the affinity and relevance of the annual NFL Draft. Specifically, the positioning of The Big Draft is that while the NFL is drafting their next generation of players, BBBS is drafting the next generation of game-changing mentors in communities nationwide. They launched the first Big Draft campaign in February 2020…and we all know what happened next: COVID.
While the pandemic was disruptive to the inaugural campaign and years that followed as they worked through the impacts of COVID, they did see great results from each year’s campaign. This year, the 2023 Big Draft campaign is currently underway. This year, their strategy was to build and lead with messaging their campaign goal. That goal is to sign-up 6,000 Bigs in 60 days which represents the time between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft.
With about 20 days to go, they already surpassed their goal of 6,000 Big sign ups and are now focused on far exceeding their stated goal. By stating their goal and making it part of the campaign, they empowered NFL ambassadors, their local BBBS agencies and their player ambassadors and influencers – including CBS News Anchor and NFL Alumni Nate Burleson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back and Alumni Little Brother Rashaad White, to reinforce the urgency of their goal and push fans and followers to take action (and sign up).
Prior to joining BBBSA, Vasallo was the Director of New Business Development at HSN. Altogether, he was at HSN for more than 11 years and his roles spanned Brand Marketing Specialist & Manager, Integrated Marketing Manager, Multicultural Marketing and finally his New Biz Dev role.
At each stop, he was responsible for creating and delivering successful campaigns and partnerships, and one rule – that was ingrained in him by one of his former managers – was to “start at the end.” “Starting at the end” means envisioning what the most successful version of your campaign and/or partnership would look like when it concluded.
This means picturing the headlines, results, press releases and target audience response that you WANT to see from your campaign. By identifying these end-results, as a campaign and project manager, it drives to you to identify the timeline you need to meet from which you can walk back key target dates, deliverables and reviews for internal and external feedback. By identifying the results you want to report, you drive yourself to define your key performance indicators and set a plan to achieve them.
By identifying the audience response you want to receive it takes you beyond identifying customer personas and presses you to ask the hard questions of yourself and your teammates as you apply and utilize customer profiles and personas from communication and messaging to marketing channel selection. Today, he is using this same technique – which has worked for him throughout his career – to lead the launch of BBBSA’s largest brand campaign over the past two decades.
They have an estimated 20 million alumni and champions across the country, and their goal is to engage and activate the first 1 million alumni and champions. The campaign launches in September 2023.
Vasallo also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with.
via Mark Wilson, News Anchor at WTVT-TV FOX13 in Tampa, FL
Vassalo learned this lesson while he interned with Wilson when Vasallo was a senior in college.
via Bill Brand, former President of HSN and CEO of Rue 21
Brand was a mentor to Vasallo while he was at HSN.
via Artis Stevens, President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Stevens is Vasallo’s mentor and supervisor.
via Adrian Davis
Davis is Vasallo’s Little Brother (through Big Brothers Big Sisters). They were matched when Davis was in the sixth grade and stayed connected through his high school graduation and are still friends today.
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Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.
Daniel Burstein: When I was in school, I wanted to be a writer. And then when I got to start interviewing in ad agencies, I thought, Wow, it would be so amazing to be doing this every day. Of course. Fast forward to a few years into working at an ad agency, and it was a lot easier to focus on that drudgery.
I was reminded of that when I read a podcast guest application with the lesson No job is as glamorous as you think it is, so true. Well, now my focus is finding maybe not the glamor, but the fulfillment of a job where I get to create and help people every day is a great reminder for anyone starting their career.
What may look glamorous on the outside is hard work on the inside. You just see Michael Jordan hitting the game winning jumper. You don't see the relentless practice that got him there every morning 5 a.m. wake up every thing it takes. We'll hear the story behind that lesson and many more lesson filled stories. From Adam Vassallo, Chief Marketing Officer of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America. Thanks for joining us, Adam.
Adam Vasallo: Daniel Thanks so much for having me. Really excited to join you for today's conversation.
Daniel Burstein: Let's take a quick look at your background. You started your career as a TV reporter at KCTV, a CBS affiliate, spent 12 years at HSN, the Home Shopping Network, where you were ultimately the Director of Marketing and Business Development. And now for the past five years, you've been at Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America.
You are now the CMO. You lead a team of nine, along with four agency partners and Big brothers. Big Sisters of America is a 501c3 nonprofit, according to its most recent audit. It received $71 million in public support and revenue in its most recent fiscal year. So, Adam, give us a sense, what is your day like as CMO.
Adam Vasallo: As a CMO? It's, you know, every day is a little bit different, but, you know, I in my role, I've really committed myself to surrounding myself with just, you know, top marketers, experts in their spaces. And so, you know, my goal going into every day is knowing that they're doing their best work, whether it's my team that's overseeing our creative and our content development or the team that's overseeing all of our digital and sharing so many stories across our social media platforms or the integrated marketing world, which is managing our internal our internal campaigns assets, the development, the things that we're providing for our network of 230 agencies across the country.
So a lot of what I'm trying to do is just clear the path for them. And so, you know, meeting weekly with each team member, you know, looking at our dashboards, seeing where we're having success places where maybe we need to be amping up our support, doing a little bit more places where we might pull back. But, you know, really just spending a lot of time with my team, making sure that they have the resources they need, that I can clear a path for them to do their best work.
And then at the same time, you know, constantly paying attention to the market impacts things that ultimately, you know, from the external world impact our work. It's an always on mission. There's always something relevant happening. Mentorship is a part of everyday life. And so there's a lot of wonderful moments in culture, in everyday life, in pop culture, where we can find opportunities to celebrate mentorship stories, to tell mentorship stories could be the latest movie coming out.
It could be a storyline that talks about mentorship and celebrates the power of relationships. And so for us, it's is always looking for those opportunities to be sharing our stories, the stories of our mission with the external world. Because at the end of the day, our goal is to build a village of positive, caring adults who empower young people through the power of relationships, of mentorship, affirm believers that it takes a village.
And so our goal is to grow that village. And that's that's really what every, you know, every action we take every day is built for.
Daniel Burstein: Well, let's see what we can learn from lessons in your marketing career. And I mean, I like how you're talking right there about finding you know, you understand your value proposition. Let's find ways to tap into what's going on in society, what's going on in the news, so we can communicate that value proposition. But I also like I think there's a lot we can learn from you, not just of your nonprofit marker listening, of course, but also one as we talk about, you kind of have a bit of a franchise set up.
I think a lot of franchisee marketers can learn, but also, like we all need to tap into younger talent. Right. And so what you've learned as a mentor to younger people and how you grow people and bring them up, or if you're listening and you're younger and you're wondering like, how can I grow in my career? I think there's a lot we can learn from you there.
But let's jump in and look at some lessons from the things you mean your career? The first lesson you said relationships are powerful. So how did you learn this lesson?
Adam Vasallo: Yeah, I mean, at every stop in my career, you know, we we find those mentors, you know, as a as a in my current role, working with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America, we have a saying, it's a hashtag. If you see our social media channels, it's called Bigger Together. You know, we're the largest preeminent youth mentoring organization in the United States.
We understand and we advocate for the power of relationships. Five years ago, I joined the organization actually as the vice president of Development and marketing. And my first assignment out of the gate was to oversee a rebrand of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America. Big Brothers. Big Sisters of America was founded in 1904. This is a legacy brand to make any any change in in a legacy brand mission is is a daunting task.
I originally became involved with this organization. I was working in the for profit world. You mentioned I had been at HSN, but I became involved with this organization originally as a mentor, as a big brother, many years earlier. And you know, in that process you get involved with the organization, you spend time you know, myself, I served on a local board that was created for young professionals.
And so I remember being a part of the organization as a volunteer and thinking of Big Brothers, Big Sisters and wow. Wouldn't it be great if this was an organization that we could that could be evolved and you could potentially rebranded and and then fast forward to the day I get recruited, I joined Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America.
I'm now the VP of Marketing Development. And right out of the gate the task is, Hey, we need to rebrand this organization. How do you get started? And, you know, again, a daunting task. But going back to what I learned throughout my entire career was that relationships are powerful and they, you know, relationships, power change. And for for me, I immediately thought I need relationships.
I need to start finding who are those team members, Who are those advocates? Who are those allies that can join me in this major initiative to rebrand an organization that was founded in the 1900s? And so, you know, the first thing the first thing I did was start meeting with local agencies as I mentioned, they were there's 230 local big brothers, big sisters agencies across the country.
They they range from New York City, where the organize they were big brothers, Big Sisters was founded to rural communities across the American heartland so that they their diverse their different the needs of each community are are vastly different in some cases. But there's also many similarities. And so the first thing that that we did was team up and create a task force.
We we worked closely with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Kansas City because we we partnered with a marketing agency. So we started to immediately assemble, really consider like the bigger together group. But we assembled a group of local agency leaders from around the country. These were big brothers, big sisters, leaders who were passionate about this mission. And so we formed a group of about 20 leaders from a diverse group of markets, from small towns to major metro markets.
So we formed a task force, and then we identified a marketing agency. We actually selected Berkeley, an organization with an incredible track record for reimagining and rebranding legacy organizations like ourselves. But the added bonus was that Jeff King, the CEO of Berkeley, was also a big brother, and so he knew the mission. And there were a lot, you know, throughout the organization.
There were a lot of passionate big brothers, big sisters, advocates and mentors. And so we we teamed up, we had our local agency, task force. We also had our agency, Berkeley. And, you know, together, it was never me as the senior leader of marketing driving this entire rebrand, you know, definitely at the table, definitely with a strong point of view.
But I couldn't represent every single eight city and market across the town, the different views, the different needs of each organization. So what made this rebrand so successful was that we had a variety of diverse voices at the table alongside us. And so working closely with Berkeley, we were able to have immersion sessions as a group, both virtually and in person.
We were able to we were able to, you know, with with the power of, you know, at the time this was this was back in 2018. So we weren't in this fully zoomed world, but we were able to bring in all of our 230 agencies and share updates in real time as we did the rebrand, because the goal was that in June of 2018 is that we took the full rebrand after a year of development and building and we took it to the biggest stage that we have, which is our national conference.
It occurs every year in June. It has about 3000 attendees across the country and we were able to unveil the new brand of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America to our local agencies. But to do it again, it wasn't me taking the stage on my own and saying, Hey, we're excited. We undertook this years. All the research that we did to make sure that we're the find the right brand.
I was able to bring along all of those leaders who helped us along the way, our local agency task force, our agency partners, real life mentors, real life littles. And so together we were able to unleash this brand, launch this brand before a lot of excitement at our national conference and and, you know, when you have 230 local agencies that, you know, they're they're a powerful group.
And when you're going to rebrand even as a nonprofit because you'll never have, you know, enough, like you'll never have too much media. And so it was imperative that we activated this grassroots, you know, local community network, which was our local agencies of big brothers, big sisters across the country to unveil this brand. And and so we unveiled it in June.
And by October of 2018, we rolled out the rebrand. And it was just an incredible experience from that rebrand we've had just incredible success, both in increases in fundraising, but also increases and developing partnerships and finding new voices and lifting up alumni that maybe we hadn't identified before but had suddenly identified themselves and said, Hey, I was a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters when I was a young person.
And so for us, those are the powerful stories that come about. But it all started as, as, you know, rooted in relationships and, you know, making sure that if we're going to build this, if I'm going to if I'm going to responsible for building this brand or whatever that marketing project is that you're building, make sure that you're you're gathering that table of advocates and supporters who are going to walk alongside you, who have the same shared values and shared vision.
You might disagree at times, but that's that's a healthy disagreement. That's those are healthy conversations to have because nothing can be developed and built, especially when you're doing on this large national scale platform like we are like we were doing with the rebrand. You can't do those in a vacuum. You have to have you this all of the voices, all the representation to make sure that that everything is considered.
And and you know, in terms of in terms of a rebrand, if you've been through it, you know, there's just so much data. You go to a qualitative and quantitative and there's a lot of different ways it could be analyzed. But if you have if you have a group of strong voices of experts around the table, those who are living your mission, you're going to be able to build something that can last.
And that's I think that's the legacy and the excitement of the new brand of Big Brothers, Big Sisters that we've rolled out.
Daniel Burstein: Yes, I think there's a lot of lessons here for anyone rolling out a rebrand. Obviously, there are many different stakeholders. You have to get involved in partners, agency partners, advertising agency partners. And you know what have you. I also want to point out using the word agency, using it for advertising agencies, but also your local chapters are called local agencies.
And so I think there's a lot of lessons there, too, for you mentioned 230 local agencies. Anyone listening who's got franchises, you know, is a franchisee model. Like when you're doing a rebrand, you got to get those people on board, right? So that's some of the things you did to get them on board like that council and everything and like bringing them along in the process.
Because the thing you don't want to do is come up with what you think is some brilliant brand in a vacuum. Drop it on them at the next annual conference and say, Here you go. Now take an intro that see how that works for you. All right. It's I think is next.
Adam Vasallo: Yeah. Just building on it is you know, hour to hour agency task force was 20 leaders from around the country, but there's 230 local agencies. So we had to find that next layer down that allowed us to take the 20 the task force of 20 leaders and then find moments where we could just do a webinar and we could bring everybody around just to provide updates so that they knew something was coming and that we're not going to get to June.
And there's this big, huge surprise. And so you can do that through. You can use all of your channel, all of your internal channels, you know, whether you have an internal intranet or you have, you know, you have a webinar platform or just through email communication, but really activating all those communication channels to make sure everybody's in tune, maybe at different degrees, but really important just to keep everybody together.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's great. So let's look at another lesson which ties into what you just said, because the rebrand is a major effort. We have another story behind this one. When setting goals, see them out loud and share them externally and then go exceed them. So how did you do this?
Adam Vasallo: You know, a lot of examples as marketers, you know, we all we all have goals every day. We're all goal driven. You know, we're not going out and creating campaigns or creating experiences or activations without having, you know, first, you know, researched, inform strategy. Then your goal is you're setting your goal and then developing your strategies to achieve those goals.
So I'll use one of our probably one of our most recent campaigns, one of our most successful recent campaigns. But yeah, my, my mantra is, is, you know, if you're if you're developing, if you're building something in the marketing space is to make sure that you you set a goal, that you say it out loud and then you share it externally.
And you know, all of our our digital and social media channels allow us to really pump that out and especially when we have a goal. And then of course, what you want to do is go exceed them. And so the most recent example shares is a campaign we call the big draft. And I'll give a little background on the big draft, but five years ago, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America, we were one of the honored to be one of the first organizations to receive a grant from the NFL Inspire Change Initiative.
The NFL Inspire Change initiative is is the the league's social justice commitment. And it's dedicated to creating access and reducing barriers in communities across the country. And through this work, the NFL invests in organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America who are doing exactly that, you know, breaking down barriers, creating access for young people and communities to be empowered to excel and achieve their full potential.
And so, you know, through our relationship with the NFL Inspire Change initiative, we set out to achieve really three goals. One was to fuel Big Brothers, Big Sisters programs across the country. And so these were programs like mentoring young people who have an incarcerated family member or our Sports Buddies program, which is a program that's designed to create access through mentorship.
But through a shared love of sports. So think of recruiting those mentors who love sports. We have a young person who loves sports and really creating a relationship through that, that shared love of sport. And then, you know, our second goal was to create we're an organization committed to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, Big Brothers, Big Sisters in 1904, we were actually founded as an innovative alternative to the juvenile justice system.
Our founder, a gentleman named Ernest Culture, was a clerk of court in the New York City juvenile court system, and he saw too many young people coming through his court. And so he got together a group of his friends and he said, we're going to we're going to mentor young people in this community and see if we can if we can, you know, be an alternative to the juvenile justice system.
And so so, you know, born from that commitment of all those years ago in 1904 of being that innovative alternative to the juvenile justice system, we're an organization that's committed to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. And in shorthand we call it Jedi. So through our work with the NFL, the league has been committed to helping us create what we call Jedi trainings for our volunteers, for our staff, for our board members, and just making sure that our Jedi principles that are part of our DNA are our, you know, our lives on a day in, day out basis by our staff and board members and leaders.
The third goal, the third, the third area where the NFL has supported Big Brothers, Big Sisters through our Inspire change work is is through inspiring more people. And this is really a focus on men to become volunteer bigs. The NFL is well known to have fans, both who identify as male and female. Um, but for us, we know that there is a strong contingency of men who are fans of the NFL.
And as an organization, you know, we are constantly in a need. We have a current waiting list of youth. About 30,000 youth are currently waiting for mentor across the country, and the majority of the youth on that waiting list are our boys. And so our organization is constantly in search of men to become mentors. And so for that, the NFL and through our Inspire change work has said, you know, we want to support, we want to jump in, we want to help you recruitment.
And so so several years ago, when we first started a relationship back five years ago, we created a campaign called the Big Draft. The big draft. The positioning for the big draft is that while the NFL is drafting the next generation of players, big brothers, Big sisters is recruiting the next generation of mentors, game changing mentors in communities across the country.
And so the campaign starts the day after the Super Bowl and the campaign runs until the NFL draft again. That period when the NFL's drafting their next generation of players. And what we'll do with the big draft is each year will activate influential voices from around the NFL. Many, many NFL players are alumni of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
We'll create resources, toolkits, outreaches that our local agencies, the local Big brothers, Big Sisters, agencies across the country can roll out and can implement to attract, you know, a very heavy focus on digital marketing, social media marketing. But you can also do we also have the opportunity to local event activations because we're on the ground in so many communities across the country.
But our big draft campaign each year has been successful in helping us drive signups for new mentors. And again we call our mentors bigs. And so this past year we had 60 days for our campaign. Again, we have a waiting list of 30,000 youth across the country. Our goal for this year's campaign was in 60 days to sign up 6000 new bigs and this year's campaign, again, we had a goal that we could pursue.
We got really aggressive in enlisting both current NFL players, Hall of Fame, NFL players and then prospective NFL players. So players that were coming into the NFL draft this year and we had them activate across all of their channels. We amplified them on our social media channels. And you know what? What makes me really excited because we went back to setting a goal right back to what we talked about earlier.
It's like saying a goal out loud and going out and achieving it. So we we had a goal of 6000 bigs and 60 days in the first 30 days of the campaign, we exceeded the goal of 6000 new bigs By the end of the campaign. After 60 days, we had already signed up 8000 over 8100 bigs across the country so far, exceeding our goal.
And you know, we're already talking about how we're going to play in next year's big draft campaign. The our partners at the NFL Inspire Change initiative. Extremely excited with that work with that progress and with the outcomes and and again, ready for next year. Each year the campaign gets better. And so we'll set out we'll start planning. We'll set a new goal for next year.
But again, really critical to come back, set that, you know, identify that goal, a goal that is reachable. It's a bit of a stretch, but then to exceed it is that's the best feeling in the world when you're a marketer.
Daniel Burstein: Well, congratulations on that. And I wonder, we talk about goal setting, wonder your opinion on what level of risk you take or how you take on risk, and also how you figure out that right KPI to measure. Now, I'll give you an example real quick. I interviewed Jasmine Gutman, the head of corporate Communications, a content stack on the How I Made It Marketing podcast, and one of her lessons that she shared was playing it safe can hurt you more than you know.
And she gave an example where a focus grouped an idea to not do well in the focus group. The they took a chance. They actually put it out in the market. The AB tested it to see real performance and it it outperformed. And so, you know, a big conversation we tend to have on this podcast with leaders is, you know, that big, hairy, audacious goal.
You know, you got to take those risks. But these are, you know, tech leaders, biotech, some of these industries. I know nonprofit, I'd imagine it's a lot harder. You mentioned not only your 230 local agencies, you've got partners like the NFL and some of these things. So how do you decide how to, you know, take on risk with some of those goals, how far to push it, how that startup mentality we all hear about and how to actually measure it, to make sure it's not like just focus grouping it, but actually seeing the performance in the field.
Adam Vasallo: MM Yeah. So for, for our big draft campaign, when we set out and set our goal of 6000 bigs in 60 days across the country, we you know, we had numbers when we set a number that was originally lower than that. We, we looked at maybe a number that was larger than the 6000 goal. We, you know, we're a nonprofit, but we you know, we've been really dedicated to making the right investments and smart investments.
And, you know, several years ago, we invested in a Salesforce platform. We we call it Match Force. It's it is a platform built on a on a Salesforce platform. It is there to create to really capture our entire match experience. So from the moment that a potential big visit they local big brothers big sisters agency or goes to BBC dot org or national website and clicks that they want to become a volunteer they enter their zip code finds the local big brothers big sisters agency in your community and it starts the process for you to become a volunteer mentor to become a big that that entire system is now built for, you know, for the
first time ever. When we when we entered this relationship with Salesforce on a Salesforce platform. And so what it allows us to do is see, you know, historical both from the inquiry. So what are we driving at the top of the funnel, the inquiry all the way to the, the, the conversion of actually becoming a mentor. And it's a multistep process where our bigs will, you know, you first identify, you might come a big you do an interview, you get to meet with your your potential little you get to meet with staff members.
There's a there's an interview process. But in that in that process to become a big we're able to see you know, how fast we can move potential mentors through the system in using the power of the Salesforce platform. And so we were setting out to create our goal of 6000 bigs in 60 days. We looked at the historical is what we had done in previous campaigns.
At the same the same time period. We knew, you know, we knew that we had a, you know, a good, strong investment in social media. We had the support of the NFL. We also had a sponsor in Old Spice who joined us and became a partner for the big draft. This is you know, they've done this for a couple of years.
So we had we had this you know, we had the power of our partners. We had some historical data. And so our goal was to not set something that was too high, where it was just a number we would never reach. But we also wanted to make sure that we exceeded last year's results. And so we landed on that, that number of 6000 excited to see we exceeded it.
You know, if we had blown by it by, you know, to what, 12,000 increase than we would have known, we would have been too low. I think, you know, achieving a number of 8100 shows that we were in that right spot. But, you know, next year we'll set out and, you know, we'll go through the same process and identify what that next big goal is.
You know, the goal is that it's larger and that we're able to activate and inspire more caring, positive adults to become mentors with the campaign.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, And that goal setting ties into the next lesson you talk about. Start at the end. Start at the end. I would love this lesson. I loved Stephen Covey talks about beginning with the end in mind. I think it's a similar, similar lesson, and especially as marketers, it's so important for us to paint that vision of what this will look like.
So when you talk about your Salesforce campaign, your NFL campaign, the rebranding, and imagine when you're getting all those people on board, it helps to begin with, okay, here's what it's going to be like. Here's a future state, so long as you tell us how you learn this lesson. Start at the end and how you roll it out now.
Adam Vasallo: Yeah, absolutely. The start of the ends when, you know, before Big Brothers, Big Sisters, as you shared, I was director. My last role at HSN, the Home Shopping Network, was the director of New business Development of all together there 12 years. My roles spanned brand marketing to integrated marketing included stops within multicultural marketing. And finally, in that role, at each stop, I was responsible for creating and delivering on successful campaigns and partnerships.
And, you know, these were these were sometimes campaigns that were one week, one month. But for me, you know, you know, if it means picturing what the headlines are going to look like, what are the results, the press releases visible visually, what does it look like? How is your target audience going to respond? You know, what do you want to see from the campaign by identifying these these end results as a campaign and a project manager, it drives you to identify the timeline you need to meet those goals, which you can walk back, you know, you can identify the key target dates if you know, and it has to be delivered.
It allows for you to make sure that your internal reviews, your external, you know, if you're internally getting approval from your CMO, if you're getting an internal approval from a separate department, you'll know the timeline that you need to meet it. If you're working with a partner, you need external feedback, you need their approval if you're using their intellectual property.
And so it just allows you to really build out a really rock solid timeline to make sure that you're delivering on the results in your on, you know, on strategy, on time and on budget. The goal of every marketer. And so by identifying the response that you're hoping to see, you can really develop it. You know, one of the you know thinking back in my time is overseeing multicultural marketing at HSN.
I remember, you know, it was, you know, through the market research and, you know, you identify opportunities and we weren't you know, we didn't have really great performance with Hispanic audiences. And so you think of HSN, a multichannel platform television, a television retailer supported direct call center, where, you know, potential shoppers will call in the order what they see on TV.
They'll also go to, you know, the website again, multi-channel. So they're engaging on social media channels, They're visiting the website, they're shopping on the website. But, you know, when we looked at when we looked at our needs to engage and inspire the Hispanic audience to shop with, with HSN, you know, I, I started at the end and thought, you know, we have a lot of work to do.
We have a lot of ground to cover to engage the audience in. And it all comes back to being authentic and what you're doing. And, you know, for for many and especially in multicultural marketing, many times that's passing the eye test. And so looking at what we had and knowing that we had a call center where a potential shopper could call, but if they were speaking Spanish, we didn't always have a Spanish speaking call center rep on the phone available to speak to the shopper.
If you watched a show that was maybe a fashion presentation, you would see models on air. But the representation from Hispanic Latino models was not there. And so as an organization, I pictured, what does this look like in the future? What does it look like when, you know, a Hispanic shopper calls and wants to speak to a call center representative in Spanish?
I thought about, you know, who who are the right partners? How do you accelerate? How do you become an authentic member and partner of the community? And sometimes it takes partnerships. We launched the partnership with Univision, but it really starts with picturing what does it look like? What does this authentically look like? What does it look like to do it right?
You know, not to cut corners. And when you do that and you lay out, you know, you're going to be able to lay out a timeline and make sure that you're hitting those goals. But at the same time, you know, hitting all the necessary checkpoints between, you know, where you are in your current state and where you are achieving your goal.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I mean, something definitely helps you and help small team. But one thing I did when I was in consulting is I always include at the end of a pitch deck. So if you have a pitch deck, you're trying to, you know, pitch someone on something I always end with how do we get there from here? Because at that peak moment when they're okay, here, I've got mine.
Well, now here's here's what we need to get there. And that's when you need to get those resources. So in the first half of the podcast, we talk about lessons from the things you made in the second half. We talk about lessons from the people you made them with, which we will talk about in just one moment. But first, I want to let everyone know that the How I Made It and Marketing podcast is underwritten by McLeod's Institute, the parent organizing mission of marketing Sherpa to learn how McLeod services can help you get better business results from deeper customer understanding, visit MEC Labs E-Comm Results That's m e c l ab Ask.com slash results.
All right, let's talk about some lessons you learned from the people you made it with. And I especially enjoy talking to you about this, considering who Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America is. You know, when I when I formed this podcast to figure out, okay, what what does the marketplace need? What's what's an out there, the whole how I made it and marketing idea was great for that first half.
Like, okay, that was something I always enjoyed about being a marketer. It's actually the things I got to make. I don't know if you get to do that in every business, if you're an auditor or a podiatrist or whatever, it might be, right? But I had my book and my portfolio. I got to make these things, these campaigns, these brands.
It was so filling. And the other key part is it's such a team based industry, right? It had my art director partner, my account executive, my clients, all these things. So as people we made it with was so key and doing now, I mean, more than 60 episodes, it's been so interesting listening to people have a chance to go back.
I mean, it's become more of the marketing lessons, it's become relationships and life and just to go back and to think and to think about, Oh my gosh, these people mentored me and it was so helpful, or, Hey, I had this person on my team and look where they are today. I was able to mentor them so I think this will be a really interesting conversation with you, especially because you have a great perspective on this.
So let's start with this first lesson. And I think, you know, opened with this. And I wanted to ask you specifically because for any marketing leader now who is trying to recruit this new generation, people fresh out of college, people early in their career, but also for anyone young listening, it's just such a beautiful lesson. No job is as glamorous as you think it is. You said you learned this from Mark Wilson, News Anchor @ WTVT-TV FOX13 in Tampa, FL. So how did you learn this from Mark?
Adam Vasallo: Yeah, you know, this is this is not so date myself, but this was back in the early 2000 when I was interning, when I when I thought that my career would I thought my career path would take me to be a TV news anchor at the core. The reason I'm a marketer today is because I love storytelling. It's, you know, I believe stories are powerful.
I believe that they they capture impact and I believe they inspire. They inspire us every day to take take action and to, you know, do something better and do something positive in our communities. And so my, my, my, my initial board for storytelling took me into the world of TV and broadcast news. And this is when I was in college at the University of South Florida.
I was a I was an intern at WTVG, the Fox affiliate in Tampa. And I was I was interning with Mark Wilson, somebody that I had gotten to know very well during my internship. And the industry, the TV news industry was in, it was changing vastly. And one of the one of the very easy things to point to is this this transition to what they now call, like a one person band.
And so it was, you know, traditionally, I always thought that when news coverage was happening, it was a TV reporter going out into the field with a camera person. And together they were going to capture a story and tell it and then they were going to feed it back and compelling and everybody love it. Well, you know, as technology advanced and, you know, things, you know, things like cameras became more powerful and they could do more.
They became digitized. What what happened in the industry was that many TV reporter and photographer teams became one person bands where the reporter would actually go out with the camera, shoot their own story. If they wanted to put themselves on camera, they'd shoot what's called a stand up in the industry. Many people know what that is, but you were by yourself.
So then you would go back and you would edit the story by yourself. And so it really broke that mold of like, Hey, I'm sure the capture the story, I'm going to write it in my share. And so I think what Mark was really pointing out to me was, you know, this this is you know, it can it can be hard work.
And so a lot of people, when they think of the of the TV and specifically the TV news industry, they think if somebody that is sitting in a and, you know, well-dressed at a news desk, reporting on a story, selecting the fun story, but there's just an incredible amount of work that goes into creating the stories and telling those stories and sharing them every day.
And so, yes, it can look very glamorous on the outside, but just know there's a lot of work behind it, even, you know, regardless of how passionate you are for the mission or how passionate you are for that work, you got to make sure that you're checking your desire for it to be this glamorous role at the door.
I did go on to become a TV reporter, as you heard, but I you know, I realized that my my true heart was to tell the stories I wanted to tell, tell the stories that were always positive stories. And that that's what took me to brand marketing and really my career and leaving the industry off of television news.
But this is this is advice, you know, no job is as glamorous as you think it is that I share with colleagues. I share with young people coming up in the industry, regardless of what industry, just making sure that, you know, you always have a passion for the work that you're going to do. That passion is going to win out If you're just looking at something that might be glamorous or seems fun or exciting or might get you a lot of likes, if you share photos more, it's going to be short lived.
And so just make sure that you're working in a mission. A mission like Big Brothers, Big Sisters right now. Find myself where I live, breathe and drink the power of this mission every day.
Daniel Burstein: Now, I love that you said it. Like I said in the opening, I used Michael Jordan. But since you're a Tampa guy, you use Tom Brady. How about that? Right. You see Tom Brady in that Super Bowl where you see him floating down, whatever, the bay or the river in Tampa holding, you know, the trophy you don't see anybody is famously known for two is waking up at 5 a.m. the other 364 days a year.
And drilling and drilling and drilling and having just the right diet. And, you know, I mean, that's that's the part you don't see. And for marketing, I think it's the same you see the canned awards or you see the Super Bowl ads and.
Adam Vasallo: Yeah, I remember, you know, dance a great example. I remember when I decided to leave television news and go into marketing. I remember I went from being a TV reporter to in a mark in Tallahassee, you know, the capital of the state of Florida to what was a role called brand marketing specialist. It was literally the entry level position in the brand marketing department at HSN, the Home Shopping Network.
And I remember meeting with the team and thinking, you know, I just want this job. I just want my foot in the door. I want to get started. I can grow from here. And I remember the the director that I was working with saying to me, Wow, I like you understand this is the bottom of our marketing department.
And you currently you're at TV. Reporter And I remember thinking, she thinks this is a glamor like this. She thinks this is the most glamorous role. She has no idea that the the work that goes into it and that, you know, I, you know, my passion. What I want is the ability to tell stories in that brand marketing role at HSN.
And luckily, I persuaded her, I guess, in the interview, and I did get that role. And that's that's what started my my, my career trajectory within the world of marketing. But I do remember even outside looking in, sometimes there's confusion about how glamorous your role might be.
Daniel Burstein: Well, what is an unglamorous element of marketing, in your opinion? What tips do you have on on mastering it? So, for example, I interviewed Shruti, who the CEO of Facet on how I made up marketing. And one of her lessons was that process is the foundation for success, and she told the story of the process. She set up while launching files at Verizon.
It was a $12 billion business unit and like, I'm like you. I love the storytelling aspect. I like the act of creation, you know, creating this, writing all of those things. And process is kind of the unglamorous part. But without process, I mean, this podcast wouldn't be published, right? So, you know, for you like what, what are some of the or at least one of the unglamorous areas of marketing you've had to master and how did you go about mastering it?
Adam Vasallo: Yeah, I think it was it was your process. Great places. You know, when I was at HS, I started in the brand marketing department, you know, so building brands is I mean, when I, when I share my time at HSN, I always stop and say like, you know what, you have it at a platform like HSN where you know, mom and pops or, you know, the the entrepreneur that created something in their garage coming to an end and and what they want to do is they want to launch, they want to go global and they can quickly do it because they're they're taking their their platform not just to a retailer but to a retailer.
It is also a marketing channel and television and and and a website. And so you would you know, you would have the opportunity to tell these stories and build these brands and create the romance card and the positioning statement. And, you know, all the reasons to believe that was that was really fun. But you had to get you had to get the product launched.
And so it was about developing that timeline. And so as a brand marketer, you work very closely with your creative team to bring it to life and to make sure that, you know, the strategy it's on time is on budget. All of this, all of this, you know, really important roles. I was I was charged once at HSN with starting the first ever integrated marketing department because we realized that there was this gap that existed between brand marketing, where the strategy was being developed and creative services, where our in-house creative agency, where we were building the visuals and the content and the creative and the assets.
And what we really needed was a disciplined team in the center. And I guess somehow I was selected as one of the disciplined marketers, which I would never thought of at the time of the young person in the brand marketing department, but was creating that integrated marketing process. I think that's that non glamorous, you know, that's you sitting with different internal stakeholders and saying, Hey, our current timeline is about 60 days, but we got to get to 90 days if we're going to be able to hit print deadlines and if we can do a better job managing resources and we can do a better job making sure that in the creative department the retoucher is
have time to spend and make sure that they're doing their job accurately. And so, you know, it was tough conversations about create like creating a space for integrated marketing, making sure that we're working on a more of like a 90 day out basis and we're accounting for all the timelines we have internally. But then on top of that, then you're managing the process, right?
And then you're, you know, you know, at the time we were working, you know, today we use a song to hear Big Brothers because of our project manager platform. But at the time we were working on like Excel based spreadsheets. And so it was that nitty gritty of like, yeah, you want to tell stories and you want to do all of the shiny great stuff and, you know, Instagram live and all the great things that you can do from a marketing perspective.
But at the end of the day, it's really about making sure that everything is moving in the right direction at the right time. You have everything accounted for. You're not just doing a video, but you're thinking of everything from the six second video from social, all the way to the long form video that goes on your website. And, you know, just being that incredibly detail oriented, you know, it goes a lot beyond the glamor of shiny objects that you so often see as the final product of marketing.
Daniel Burstein: And no one is going to see those glamor shiny objects unless you get all that done. And here's another lesson you mentioned always have a point of view. You learned this from Bill Brand, former President of HSN and CEO of Rue 21. So what does that mean and how did you learn that from Bill?
Adam Vasallo: Yeah, he built one of those great mentors, Bill Brand. He was a champion for me, even taking this role, leaving HSN and moving over to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America. You know, I shared that. I you know, I created the first integrated marketing department at at HSN. So that was critically needed. But, you know, when you do that, you're sitting between the world again, marketing strategy and oftentimes the world of creative or execution.
And, you know, I think when you're in those integrated roles, you know, you have oftentimes two very different points of view, sometimes from a from a brand and a strategy perspective on what's best for the client, but then also from that creative where you're trying to do the most compelling thing that, you know, uplifts your brand and upholds, you know, the, you know, aspirational for for what you're you're trying to achieve for your mission.
So in integrated marketing, you sit between those worlds and sometimes they're just there's a dispute between strategy and final outcome. And you really have to be the objective party that again goes back to what the goals are, what the strategy is, and then, you know, making sure it's and hearing the being on time and on strategy and on budget.
And, you know, I think when I first started in that role overseeing integrated marketing, that maybe I was I was sitting on the fence a little too much. You know, I hear feedback whether it was back with the brand marketing team or the creative team. And I remember I had this line I would always use where I'd say, Hey, I don't want to overthink it.
And that was my way of disarming the room that, you know, saying, Hey, you know, this, you know, maybe the brand marketing teams right here, maybe the creative team sit right here. And I remember I just had these ways of like, you know, trying to navigate and not disrupt anybody, not ruffling feathers. And I remember, you know, when I was early in Young in my career, I would come to the office early every day because I was trying to get ahead.
I can knock out a few things, you know, get through some emails early in the day. And at the time, Bill, who went to become the president of of of agents and he was the chief marketing officer and we were working on a project, a booklet that was for I remember it's for CBS. So this is probably in December or January preparing to go out to CBS in Las Vegas.
And we we were putting together an electronic gift guide just, you know, all the product that you can buy at HSN. And we going presented here as partners. And I remember Bill called me early and he was he was in the office early as well. There was nobody else there, nobody from the brand marketing team, nobody from the creative team.
But we had to talk about this with this catalog, had to be covered. And so Bill called me at my desk and he said, Hey, you know, a lot of dispute. You know, here the brand team wants to list these brands. They want these priorities, but the creative team wants to really hone in and zero in on, you know, whatever the newest technology was that year.
And I remember he stopped and he goes, what's your point of view? And, you know, if I was sitting there with my brand marketing colleagues or creative colleagues at the time, I'd find a way to defer and say, hey, you know, hey, Brands wants this strategy. But, you know, at the end of the day, it would be really esthetically pleasing if we had, you know, this aspirational image.
And I remember I paused and I hesitated and he knew it and he stopped and he smiled and he said, always have a point of view. And, you know, from that moment when you're when you're working in the marketing department, the CMO says you have a point of view, it sticks with you. And in the future you always have a point of view.
And so it's something I try to instill my team. I think it also it's it's disarming in the way that like it's also saying your opinion matters like you are an expert. We've put you into this position for a reason. I'm empowering you. I want to hear from you. And and so it's one that's always stuck with me.
You know, I've shared this with Bill because now I see him, you know, great social settings or somewhere. And I'll remind him like, Hey, I always have a point of view. And I think the first time I told him he forgot, he even said it to me. And he was like, Oh my gosh, that is good. That is good advice.
So yeah, it's one that I love to share. I love to make sure that my team also feels that, you know, their point of view matters.
Daniel Burstein: Well, it sounds like one reason you might not is confidence building up that confidence. And so you said you learned from Artis Stevens, President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, to always be confident. So how did you learn that?
Adam Vasallo: Sure. Certainly. So Artist is, as you said, President and CEO, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America. He is my boss Artis has been with us for two years. Just an incredible two years. He brings an energy, a passion and expertise for the role, just incredible experience that is really taking our mission and our work to new heights. I tell people I'm lucky because Artis, before he became the President and CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America was a Chief Marketing Officer, he came up through the marketing.
And so from the moment he arrived the first day I met him and of course, when you're announced, like when the new CEO is selected, the head of marketing is usually the first person to know because you have to start developing the press release and the announcement and what does the website look like and raise his headshot.
So I was one of the first people to meet him in the organization. And from the first conversation, you know, he immediately starts complimenting the work that we're doing. So I saw that PSA that you have with the NFL that's airing during NFL games. You know, I'm so excited to get to get work with you, to be with you. And from that moment on, he became my mentor. And I share that with him every once in a while. But he just knows that we're you know, we're both passionate about this mission and pursuing it every day. We're currently embarking on a really a really ambitious measure. We know that big brothers, Big Sister America, that we have about 20 million alumni and champions across the country.
So these are alumni bigs and alumni little. So the volunteer adults and the young people who have gone through our program, of course, the young people on our program are surrounded by incredible parents and guardians who enroll them into our program. They're surrounded by family members. They're surrounded by the local agency staff who support them. And so these are our champions.
And this is a pool because at the end of the day, big brothers, Big sisters, our needs are twofold. We need more volunteers to become mentors. We also need more donors to power our mission to help us. We need more donors to help us power our mission, to help us have staff who are in the local communities who are able to intake new potential mentors, who are able to match them with a little in their community and then to support them.
You have a match support specialist that sits alongside them and keep them supported. So rising need of of potential donors and potential volunteers. And what we know, because we undertook some really comprehensive research about a year ago where we looked at potential donors and potential volunteers and our hypothesis was our alumni. How do we activate this estimated base of 20 million alumni champions across the country?
And what we found was that that hypothesis was that 85% of the alumni big some of those who went through our program say that Big Brothers, Big Sisters changed their life for the better. About 60% of the big the adults who go through our program in the adult told us that they got more out of their experience as a mentor than they believe their mentee did.
And so using that research, we said, Yeah, this alumni and Champions Group, this is a group that has the affinity to help us fill this mentoring gap that exists across our country. Currently, one in three kids across America say they're growing up without a caring adult mentor. That's millions of young people. So we have a sizable gap to fill.
We know our 20 million alumni and champions will be a key way to do it. And so our ambitious goal that we've set out and we started working with incredible partners at Dentsu Creative, one of the agencies that you mentioned at the beginning of the conversation, Daniel Dentsu Creative, is working with us to develop a campaign in which our primary objective is to bring back that first 1 million alumni and champions to get involved and invested in our mission.
And again, that's going to bring in the alumni, the potential volunteers, potential donors that we need to close this mentorship gap. So we we started undertaking this work with Dentsu last summer. In September of 2023, we're going to be launching a national brand campaign. I unfortunately can't share what it is because we are going to be unveiling it at our national conference this June.
But, you know, for me, I've had I've had a built in mentor and our president and CEO, Artist Stephens, who I've been able to, you know, pressure check like, is this the right idea? Am I interpreting this research the right way? Mentorship never stops. And and, you know, the one thing that I consistently hear from artists is, hey, be confident, You know, trust what you're seeing.
Your instincts are right. Be confident. And it's that positive, uplifting. Yeah. There's going to be times in every relationship, whether you're working with your supervisor, your staff, or there's going to be, you know, maybe conversation that is constructive and developing. But at the end of the day, it's always hearing that I'm confident, like, you got it. And I think that that is just critically important for you to have to be hearing from your mentors, to be hearing from your coworkers, and to be hearing from your supervisors when you undertake a big audacious goal like our like our national brand campaign is going to be, which is launching in September.
So everybody stay tuned and look for that that campaign because we're we're going to we're going to want to hear as many mentoring stories as we can while mentoring.
Daniel Burstein: You know, a lot of lessons from your mentors there. But here's one from your mentee, Adrian Davis. Follow your passion. So tell us about Adrian and how you learned this lesson.
Adam Vasallo: Yeah. So mentorship comes in many forms and we always say a big Brothers, Big Sisters, that mentorship and the relationships that we create between bigs and those there are two way street and as I shared in the data, you know majority of our big say that they got more out of the relationship that out of the mentoring relationship than their little bit and I'm living proof of that I'm positive to this day that Adrian that Adrian I got more out of my work in my mentorship with Adrian than he got from me.
Adrian and I were matched when he was in the sixth grade. We were matched for seven years from the sixth grade until he graduated from high school. The first day I met Adrian, I remember, you know, he was seems kind of shy. I was kind of shy, too. I think everybody whenever you meet somebody new, but especially a sixth grader, right. And the first day I met Adrian, I remember I met with my match support specialist, because they're right there every big and little on the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has a match support professional. So we call match report specialist who's right there by your side is giving you advice is supporting you to make sure the relationship is going to grow and thrive and achieve the goals that you're hoping to achieve.
For me, you know, I was looking for the advice like, Hey, you know what? What you're going to think of me, how to what's a good way for me to have approach, like come up with an angle. I wanted to think I'm cool and I remember my match. Support specialist said he loves football and at that moment I knew why we were matched because I love football too.
And so the two of us were introduced in the cafeteria at his school. And the first conversation, I think the first words we got out was I said, you know, what do you what do you want to do? Like, what are your dreams? And he told me, he said, I want to go to college and I want to play football. And I think as somebody that never had a chance to play college football for me. But then also you always think of, you know, the statistics because we hear them so frequently like, oh, hey, focus on your schoolwork, because, you know, the chances of making it to be a college football player or, you know, are so slim.They're so challenging. You know, there's so many kids that play high school football, for example, every year. But the number that actually become college football players is very small. And I remember Adrian saying that and I remember thinking like, hey, I remember when I was in sixth grade, I told somebody I wanted to be a college football player.
But as our relationship went on, you know, when it came to Christmas, I think I bought him a football for multiple Christmases in a row because each year he would burn through them. But I remember just consistently all of the Adrian's vision. I was so inspired by him because Adrian was focused on being a college football player. He played football year round.
When he got to high school, he would do his homework quickly after school. He would make sure that he was at study hall because he had to make grade, because he had to be in the football practice, he had to be at the football games. He couldn't miss grade. He had a wonderful mother. His mother would always, you know, instill in him that, you know, grades come first if you want to be a college football player, you've got to have the grades to do it.
And so, you know, we were matched for seven years. My now wife was my girlfriend at the time. I remember throughout high school we got to go to football games every week. It was the most exciting experience for me, but I was always just completely blown away by Adrian's desire to follow his passion and to be a college football player.
And after being matched for seven years and Adrian graduated from high school, He received a scholarship to play football at Southeast Missouri State. And I remember, you know, each step of the way was inspiring. But seeing him graduate and then achieve his goal, which was driven by his passion, it just shows that, you know, our young people, we can learn so much from our young people.
And Adrian was an example of me learning from my mentee. So here we go. Right? Who's the big and who's the little in the relationship? Who's the mentee, the mentor, Those roles can often change. And that was definitely the case for me and definitely a great role to follow your passion that I learned from Adrian.
Daniel Burstein: Very nice and congratulations to Adrian for making it. Yeah, so we talked about many different things about what it means to be a marketer. In your opinion and what are the key qualities of an effective marketer. What do you look for when you're hiring? Who do you want to be?
Adam Vasallo: Yeah, you know, I think, you know, there's a lot of things that come in marketing. You know, we can teach discipline, we can teach processes, Um, we can, you know, there's, you know, with every organization, there's a different way to follow. There should be a different project management platform that, you know, you need to develop. I look for passionate storytellers.
I'm a passionate storyteller myself. It's been a thread throughout my career, but at the end of the day, you know, as marketers, we're really working to inspire our target audience to take a specific action. And I think there's nothing more compelling or inspiring than a story that shows the proven impact and outcome of your desired action. And so they're real, stories are real, they're authentic.
And so I'm always looking for, you know, first foremost, great storytellers to help amplify and bring stories to light. You mentioned her, I think said that, like, you know, in marketing departments, you're like families. You spend a lot of time together. So often your job doesn't end at 5 p.m. you're going to be working out. You know, you're going to there's going to be projects.
They're going to drive you to have to work late into the night that are going to drive you to have to log in on the weekend. And so the other just, you know, really important quality that I look like I look for is your ability to work well with others. In sometimes at the core of it Daniel, it just means being a nice person, being a good person, somebody with empathy, somebody that's caring for others, somebody that's going to uplift.
If somebody is sick or somebody is down, they're going to fill in and they're going to they're going to take that that that position. And there's you know, they're going to be accountable for the work that they have to do. But at the core of it is looking out for each other. And I think those are two really critical, really critical qualities that you have to have when you're when you're building a marketing department or you're joining a marketing department is just somebody that's passionate about this work and about driving the action.
I think storytelling is the best way to do. But then also somebody end of the day that is nice and it's somebody you can work with and somebody that's going to feel like part of the family and want to be part of something special.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I like that a lot. I have asked this question many times, obviously on this podcast, and I think that's the first time I've heard that answer. And I like I've heard someone say before we spend more time with the people we work with then the people we made vows to marry, which is so true. So yes, we want to be surrounded by nice people. Well, you're nice guy, Adam. I've learned a lot from you today. Very inspirational conversation. Thank you.
Adam Vasallo: Oh, Daniel, thank you so much for the time. I really appreciate it. Huge fan of the podcast. And I hope I've been able to lend some insight, something to this incredible universe that has been developed and in sharing how I made it in marketing. Thank you so much.
Daniel Burstein: Beautiful. And thank you to everyone for listening.
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