Tanya Lee: Breaking stereotypes and making boss moves
Despite being underestimated in the early stages of her career, seasoned marketer Tanya Lee was never deterred from her goal of making her mark in the corporate world of sports. With years of experience managing leagues and events throughout the Caribbean, while marketing SportsMax, Lee is also a sports columnist and author of two sports reads. She recently transitioned into her new roles as a marketing consultant and athlete manager. But over the years, she says she has encountered her fair share of what she described as an “unconscious bias” based on her gender.
“A part of being a woman in a male-dominated career like sports is being underestimated. About two years ago, I had a meeting at a local television station that had limited sports marketing experience. I was mindful of being patient as a result, but ironically, after the project wrapped successfully, someone shared with me that there were initial murmurs about whether the ‘blonde girl’ knew anything about sports. I love when people underestimate me, it’s both ludicrous and a further incentive to knock projects out of the park. In my early years, I might have been bothered, but now I’m pretty much synonymous with sports,” said Lee.
The former vice-president of marketing at SportsMax TV stressed that women, and anyone else who may be classified as underdogs, should not pay much attention to biases. She highlighted that shutting out the negative voices and concentrating on the craft is the best way to prove the naysayers wrong. This is a philosophy that has led her to being the manager to world-class athletes, part of her new focus in launching her marketing agency, Leep Marketing.
Lee has always had an interest in sports. “I was always a massive sports fan and a member of UWI’s track team, running the 400m. Even growing up, sports was a big part of our household. Over the years, I’ve been approached by athletes to manage their brands, and that helped me to decide on the next step in my professional journey,” she said.
The career marketer now represents four athletes in various capacities. Olympian Elaine Thompson was one of her first clients. Nike athlete and rising star Briana Williams is another. Just this year, Williams was signed to lucrative ambassadorial roles with both Grace Foods and Digicel in her first year as a senior athlete.
“Companies and athletes trust me with their brand. I’m keen on ensuring that at the end of the day, my athletes represent themselves, their sponsors and their country to the best of their abilities. Their success and visibility remain my top priority,” expressed Lee.
As a firm believer in going for what you want despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Lee says, “Now that I am fully focused on building all aspects of my business, which goes beyond sports marketing, I do get overwhelmed sometimes, but this is what I signed up for, so I’ll ‘keep walking’,” she shared.
She was recently lauded by Johnnie Walker in a series called ‘Icons of Progress’ as the brand celebrates its 200th anniversary. The milestone is also being commemorated with a documentary, which premiered on November 12.