PHOTO BY MICHELLE JAY
#NWHLxWISS is a series in partnership with accounting firm WISS that highlights the careers, interests and stories of women in the NWHL as well as women working at WISS.
An original NWHLer, and one of just two NWHL players to suit up for three different teams in her career, defender Kaleigh Fratkin’s career path has been all but traditional. The Burnaby, British Columbia, native moved around the United States working various jobs before her dream job – working in marketing at Under Armour in Boston – came to her.
What are your job responsibilities with Under Armour?
I oversee field marketing for Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Field marketing is a program that Under Armour created within the last year. I worked in a different role with Under Armour prior. The company restructured the way we do our marketing, so this is an extension of experiential marketing. I work with a team of about 32 . There’s about one per region in all the major markets all over the place, and we work as one giant team focusing on grassroots marketing. So I’m doing a lot of community pop-up events and product trainings and consumer insight. I also do a good chunk in our wholesale accounts. Dick’s Sporting Goods is a big wholesaler, and so is Kohl’s. So I’m partnering with them for local community events and trying to be as creative as possible in-store.
It’s a fun job because you can be really creative, especially depending on the market. Here in Boston, there are a ton of opportunities with local sports and partnering with pro sports. We have a big opportunity because Tom Brady is one of our athletes, so there’s a lot of stuff in Foxboro for me to get involved with.
In that same vein, working for a sports apparel brand and being a professional athlete definitely have their overlap. What lessons have you learned from both that help you with the other?
It’s actually really interesting because we say our target consumer is a “focused performer.” I myself am a focused performer. So when we have the conversations – “Okay, what is our new product go-to-market strategy? What is a focused performer?” – in my particular position, I try to put myself in my own shoes and put on my Boston Pride hat and see what I would like as a consumer. I’m the target consumer for the brand, so it may come easier for me.
As a company, we also talk about always staying true to who you are. I can really stand behind the brand and give personal feedback when I’m out in the field. I do wear this product, so I can be easily relatable. I can say I’m an athlete myself and I can say I wear the product while I’m playing hockey. Culturally, it was an easy transition. I can use what I’ve experienced as an athlete and what I’ve always liked as products to help my career.
How did you get into this field?
I grew up in the fashion industry. My mom was a fashion designer. She had a sportswear line for her company that she’s had for the past 30 years. I learned a lot from her working for her from a young age. I started working with her when I was like 12 in the family biz. I learned a lot about sportswear and the fashion industry on both the business side and the marketing side. I always knew that was something I liked to do. Then, with hockey and the way it evolved for me with going to college and everything, my path was definitely different from someone who just went on to more school or went into the workforce. My path has been definitely not as traditional.
I had a couple of different jobs as I was doing my master’s. I did analytics for the Islanders while I was in Connecticut. When I didn’t know what I wanted to do because I’ve never really been outside of the sports world, a job popped up in northern Virginia in cybersecurity and IT one offseason. It wasn’t something I was totally familiar with, but I learned a ton in a totally foreign field.
Fratkin chats with a young goalie at Bruins Girls' Hockey Day last season.
Then I kind of realized I wanted to do something I was passionate about, something I always grew up with and knew in life. I remember having a conversation with my mom saying, “I want go back into apparel.” She told me I should explore apparel companies in Boston. I ended up getting a job with Charles River Apparel. Other than our family company, this was my first job in the apparel industry. I don’t have a fashion degree, so it was a little different for me. But it was an awesome experience and a great company to work for.
Then I had applied on a million job site. I was passing along my resume left, right and center. And then this job opportunity [with Under Armour] came to me. I had gotten an email from Under Armour saying I had applied to something – you know when you get into that black hole when you’re applying to so many things – but they had hired someone for the position. A whole year later, I got an email from them saying, “We saw you applied to this position before. We have some openings here in Boston.” I was like, “This is so weird. This opportunity is coming to me?” So I went through the interview process, interviewed with a million different people. And I was like, “Wait a minute. I’ve been dying to work in apparel, I’ve been dying to work in sports.” So I guess it worked out in the weirdest possible way.
What are your degrees in?
I have a bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from BU and a master’s in leadership from Northeastern. I always joke about it with my mom that if I went back to BU and enrolled as a freshman, I would probably go into the College of Fine Arts and would’ve gotten a degree in graphic design or some sort art degree, and if I could’ve done like a two-year college after that, I probably would’ve done a merchandising degree or something fashion-related. Sports had taken me a different route.
Between all that you do, what does a typical day look like for you? Is there such thing as a typical day?
What’s really cool about my job is that it’s always changing. Every day is really different. Every week is different. While I’m doing different pop up events or community outreach, a lot of my job is paying attention to those wholesale accounts, so getting stores up to speed on the technology of our products.
Sometimes Fridays are my Mondays. Because I am in marketing in grassroots role, a lot of events and sporting events and shop days and retail days happen on Saturdays and Sundays. So my job around the NWHL season a lot of times is going to an event in the morning and then coming home for a few hours and then heading to a game. My weekends are really busy.
If there’s nothing I need to pay attention to on the weekend, on Fridays I usually assess my schedule for the next week. I’ll work with the wholesale accounts, pop into some of our stores, hop on conference calls. We do a lot of WebX meetings because our team is so spread out, so I’m the only person here. A lot of my conversation is through email and conference calls. I’m always on email and always on the phone. My job is always changing. I’m on the go 24/7. It’s not a 9-5 job.
I work with enforcers in the market, so a lot of the stuff I’m doing is in the market and in the field. I joke that when I’m at practice, I’m always in the latest Under Armour stuff and the girls are always asking “What product is it? What color does it come in?” and that’s really my job. When I’m at practice and someone notices my shoes, suddenly I’m spewing tech specs. My teammates are consumers of theproduct, so it’s blending something I’m so passionate about with my part-time job and my real job.
Hockey is totally target consumer for us. So I get to do my every day and be true to who I am but advocate for the product too. Whoever I’m talking to -- if I’m going into the grocery store or if I go to the dog park – can be an opportunity. At the dog park the other day, I was wearing [a new Under Armour] Rush top and someone asked me about it. So here we are at the dog park and I’m talking about our product and coupon codes and where to get it. There’s always an opportunity to gain a customer.
What are your professional goals going forward?
My professional goals are really to continue and grow within Under Armour. For me in particular, I definitely love being in marketing, so I’d love to keep developing and growing within sports marketing. I’ve been really loving the fact that I can blend my sports life and my passion for apparel in one. So I want to keep growing and aspire to our sports marketing part of our team, whether it’s in athlete services or go-to-market campaigns. Working on the hockey side where we have a more prominent space, maybe there could be opportunity there. I’d love to stay with the company and grow with it.