How a Hesitant Application Opened the Door to a Dream Job: Bleed’s Sports Business Management Journey
If you were to tell Grace College alumna Marta Bleed that she would get paid to attend major sporting events like the NFL’s Superbowl and INDYCAR’s Indianapolis 500, just four years after graduating, she would look at you in disbelief.
But if she’s being honest, Bleed’s sports business management career journey hasn’t gone as planned. However, she’s found peace in trusting God, knowing that every day goes exactly as He planned. Despite challenges and periods of waiting, she has grown as a student, athlete, believer, and professional as she pursues her dream career as a senior account executive at a global sport and entertainment marketing agency, Wasserman.
“God truly has a sense of humor, and looking back on my career, both in college and post-college, His hand has been present every step of the journey,” said Bleed.
Growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bleed lived close to Grace College. However, she hadn’t considered attending Grace until Andria Harshman, the head volleyball coach at the time, began recruiting her to play volleyball after signing one of Bleed’s teammates from Blackhawk Christian High School.
“I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to play volleyball in college,” admitted Bleed. “Having committed so much of my life to the sport and playing year-round since seventh grade, I knew the feeling of burnout well, and part of me desired a normal college experience free from athletics.”
Ultimately, Bleed chose to come to Grace as a result of persistent recruiting, a change of heart, and a degree that aligned with her career goals.
“I was certain I was not going to attend Grace, but God knew the plans He had for me, and those landed me 45 minutes from home in Winona Lake, Indiana.”
Because of her love of sports and her ability to bring communities together to create memorable experiences, Bleed double majored in sports business management and business with a minor in marketing. She also got her MBA through Grace’s accelerated bachelor’s and master’s program. “The blended program worked well with my scholarships for volleyball and allowed me to get both degrees in four years, which is unheard of,” she shared.
Transitioning to Grace wasn’t as seamless as Bleed had planned.
“My freshman year was far from what I expected,” said Bleed. “Regardless, the spirit that my parents instilled in me to follow through with commitments and not quit led me to stick with volleyball my freshman year.”
As her first year of college progressed, Bleed grew as a player and a person. She decided to continue to play volleyball for the next three years.
“I cannot express how grateful I am for God’s goodness in keeping me where I was despite the difficulty. Relationships with younger teammates and the volleyball program as a whole would not have developed if I had quit,” shared Bleed.
“Marta was an extremely talented athlete, receiving multiple awards her senior year,” added Hill. “She was focused, committed, and intentional on the court and with her leadership and discipleship of younger players.”
Ultimately, being a student-athlete taught Bleed perseverance, time management, how to perform well under pressure, and how to make meaningful contributions as a part of a team. All of these skills served her well as she transitioned from college into her sports business management career.
During her senior year of college, Bleed interned at LW Branding, a boutique sports branding agency in Chicago. At LW Branding, she learned how to monetize professional athletes’ brands.
Lauren Walsh, founder and CEO of LW Branding and Bleed’s supervisor at this internship, became a role model to Bleed, showing her what women can accomplish with a sport business major. “It was encouraging and empowering to see a female trailblazing the way in a male-dominated space,” said Bleed.
Shortly after starting her internship, Bleed accepted a full-time job with LW Branding lined up for after graduation. “Everything was falling into place exactly how I envisioned it. The dream job was lined up and I could sit back and enjoy my last semester, knowing all my ducks were in a row,” said Bleed.
But two weeks before receiving her diploma, her supervisor lost four clients and was unable to hire her.
“After receiving that news, I was devastated. I didn’t know what my options were. I hadn’t been looking for jobs because I had this position lined up,” Bleed shared.
Bleed ended up moving home with her parents and working as a lifeguard while finishing her final MBA classes. Driven to succeed and pursue her dream job in sports business management, Bleed knew this wasn’t her destination.
After five months of looking for jobs, Bleed realized that she might not get a job in sports business management right after college. “Beggars can’t be choosers, and I reached a point where I just needed to get a job to build my experience,” said Bleed.
Willow Marketing, a small marketing agency in Indianapolis, hired her, but she quickly realized that she wasn’t passionate about the work. In hindsight, God’s plan was perfect. Although the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the entire sport and entertainment industry, Bleed kept her role with Willow Marketing.
“When I think about how I would have likely lost my job had I directly gone into the sports industry, I am so grateful that God didn’t give me what I desperately wanted at that time. He knew that better was yet to come,” said Bleed.
As the industry opened again, Bleed continued her job search. Around that time, a friend sent her a job listing on LinkedIn for Wasserman — a global sport and entertainment marketing agency that was called CSM Sport and Entertainment at the time. While the position was of interest to her, she didn’t apply due to the risk of an industry that was still very much shut down. Two days later, a recruiter on LinkedIn contacted her about the same position.
“That was the moment it became clear that God was trying to get my attention,” recalled Bleed.
She applied for the position, and to her surprise, after four interviews in one week, she landed the job at Wasserman, where she’s been working for two and a half years.
As a senior account executive at Wasserman, Bleed works on the agency’s Verizon account, helping to plan and execute white glove customer programs and experiential marketing opportunities for business customers of Verizon. This position has allowed her to represent her company at the Superbowl, Indianapolis 500, and other major sporting events.
Her team manages two sides of Verizon’s brand portfolio: sponsorship and customer programs, both of which focus on motorsports and the NFL.
Bleed and Verizon’s team work with Will Power, an INDYCAR driver, and Team Penske, a professional motorsports racing organization, as sponsors of their products. They also host Verizon’s current and prospective customers in branded event venues and suites at sporting events, providing meet and greets, gifts, food and drinks, offsite dinners, and demonstrations of Verizon technology. Every minute of the clients’ time is planned by Bleed and her team. She loves that her job always keeps her on her toes — no two days are ever the same.
Through her career journey, Bleed has learned to trust God’s timing because He always has something better in mind than she could even imagine.
Her time at Grace taught her how to honor Christ through everything — even her sports business career. Now she is able to use her job to point people to Christ. “The majority of my coworkers and clients are not believers,” said Bleed. “So there is no doubt that this intersection of sports and business is my mission field.”