Sarah Myer, Senior Director, Communications & Marketing, Indiana Sports Corp.
Sarah Myer is an extremely busy person right now. Well, always, but especially as Indianapolis prepares to host the entirety of the NCAA Tourney, aka the Big Dance or March Madness. Oh, and both the men’s and women’s Big Ten basketball tournaments ahead of that. Sarah and her team at Indiana Sports Corp are at the center of all the action, working to create safe experiences for visitors to downtown and promote not only the games, but all the surrounding events as well.
Luckily, we were able to grab a few minutes of her time to pick her brain about what’s on tap and how she gets it all done.
How would you describe what you do for a living at a dinner party? You know, when we can have those again.
Indiana Sports Corp impacts our community through sports, specifically through sporting events. In my job, I help our organization bid on those events, and once they’re here, I help the event partner market them to the Central Indiana community and get the entire community involved. I also help promote our own events, which are our fundraisers that make it possible to do all we do in the community. At this point, I’d ask for another glass of Pinot Noir. (I’m really ready for said dinner party).
Tell us a little about your career path and how you ended up in your current role.
I moved here from Cleveland to go to school at Butler University. While I was at Butler, I interned and worked in various roles—from being a waitress at Don Pablo’s, a group sales intern at the Pacers, camerawoman for the Indianapolis Indians, and promotions at WTTS-FM. I got a job at NUVO out of school and worked there for five years. That led to my job as head of marketing at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for eight years. And then I landed at Indiana Sports Corp and have been here for two years. I’d say NUVO influenced my obsession with Indy, supporting local, and giving back to the city. The ISO taught me most of what I know now about non-profit management—and all of those experiences really prepared me for my role now.
What are some of your favorite things about your job? And some of its challenges?
My favorite things about my job are the people and the purpose. I love the team I work with and am astounded by how hard they work every single day. I learn from everyone. I manage an incredible staff who teach me how to be better every single day. I report to leaders who motivate me to work hard for my city—and that leads me to purpose. I work to serve my city and have a meaningful impact on my community, and that probably leads to the challenges. It’s hard work and can be frustrating at times. But that’s where the people come in. If you have the right team around you, the challenges are easier to work through.
This is obviously an incredibly busy time as Indy prepares to host both the men’s and women’s Big Ten basketball tourneys and the entirety of the NCAA men’s tournament. What’s been the most exciting part of the planning?
I think the most exciting part is when you have those moments where you pause and realize that you’re a part of history. Fingers crossed, one city hosting the entire tournament will never happen again. But we have been given this incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I remember when I heard there was a chance we’d get the tournament, I said to myself, “This is it. This is how I give back to Indy.” It’s exciting that years from now, I’ll be able to look back and say I was a part of it.
What has being involved in the planning of all of these events (during an ongoing pandemic, no less) taught you about Indianapolis and the people here?
I end a lot of my emails lately with “This will not be the last time I say this, but I am so grateful for you.” And I’m grateful because so many people have stepped up to collaborate and help. There will be times when I get off of a virtual call, and I just say, “Now THAT is what it’s all about.” It goes back to what I said about this being for our city and not just for our individual organizations. I’ve seen collaboration like never before. It’s also taught me how important diversity is in this planning. There are meetings I will be in on that do not have a lot of diversity in race, age, or gender. And I notice it—now more than ever. I think we’re doing much better, but I also think there’s more work we can do and should do. The work is never done, really. I think when we realize that, we expect more for ourselves. And we should, or we won’t be a better community.
What do you think makes Indianapolis such a great host city? And which things are you most excited for in March/early April?
If you’re talking literally what makes us best, it’s the layout of our city. We have thousands of hotel rooms connected by a skywalk to a convention center. We literally have a bubble downtown. I would say more than our convenient structure, it goes back to our people. I hear a lot from event partners that work with other cities that this kind of hard work and service is very unique to Indy. And our community embraces these events. That’s what I’m most excited for: to see how our WHOLE community is a part of March Madness, not just basketball fans. hat’s what I love about sports. It’s a platform to bring together community.
There are, of course, many more women in sports and sports-adjacent fields than there once were. But much of the industry is still male-dominated. What advice would you give to other women looking to break into fields that have fewer women than men?
My first bit of advice for women would be to stop comparing yourself to other women and lift each other up. I say that because I was that someone who compared myself (and still somewhat do, let’s be honest) to others as far as success. It doesn’t help anything to compare and compete. We need to support each other and help put our fellow women into positions of power.
Also, yes, there are men in powerful positions, but figure out how they can be your allies and help you along the way. My boss and president at Sports Corp are both mentors and huge allies of mine. I make it a point to tell them when they’ve helped me. Just a few weeks ago, I told them both that I appreciated that they never once have cut me off while I’m speaking. I never feel like my opinions are not heard by them because I am a woman. When I told them that, I think I caught them off guard a bit! But you could tell that it meant a lot to hear that they were being supportive. I think we talk a lot about bringing up the bad behavior—rightfully so!—but we also have to acknowledge and encourage the good behavior.
What do you like to do in your downtime, if you have any these days? Are you streaming or reading anything great we should know about?
I love to write, and I love to go for a run or walks. Being around friends and family is a must for my mental health. I have a new niece, but she lives in Cleveland with my sister and brother-in-law—and I miss the three of them (and their dog) terribly. I’ll be seeing more of them once the Madness is done. I love reading anything by Brene Brown, and I’m obsessed with the podcast Smartless. A lot of my downtime used to be spent going to concerts and I could not be more excited to get back to live music again.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, professionally or otherwise?
I’ve gotten some great advice lately, but I think for this year specifically, it would be that you can’t control every situation and outcome, but you can control your attitude and how you deal with it. Our president started using the mantra “positive, productive, progressive,” and it’s helped me stay focused on keeping the right attitude I need to face all the challenges that come along with planning such a major event.
What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
Hmm, that’s a hard one. I guess in the subject of sports, I have a race tradition that people may not assume. I bike to the track, pack pizza and beer in a backpack, and go directly to the Snake Pit.
Abby Gardner is Indy Maven’s executive editor and resident sports nut, so she is VERY excited for the weeks ahead.