Marketing major Haley Brass scores internship at USA Hockey

Woman in hockey jersey stands in front of ice rink
Haley Brass

Haley Brass, a marketing major in her senior year at WSU’s Mike Ilitch School of Business, grew up in Northville, MI to a hockey loving family. “We had a lot of USA Hockey kids go to my high school, so I used to go to those games a lot as a kid,” explains Brass. “My dad played hockey in college and did some coaching too, my brother played hockey, so I was surrounded by it my entire life."  

When she came across the opportunity to intern at a national hockey organization with a presence in Plymouth, Michigan, she didn’t pass the puck. “I had a friend of a friend who interned there a few years back and so I spoke to her about it and was able to get connected.” 

Brass is interning in the marketing operations department at USA Hockey, an organization that supports and develops grassroots hockey programs, focusing on developing junior league players for the big leagues. Brass creates promotional materials including social media posts, graphic design and helps prospect leads for the box office, and once the season kicks off in earnest, she will have her hands full. 

“I’ll be setting up and tearing down the marketing stands during the games, and I’ll help with in-game promotions, if we have corporate partners with giveaways or camera features,” says Brass. “We also do something called ‘the sweetheart of the game’ where we find a woman and give her flowers and put her on the big screen. I’ll do post-game work too, like skating with the players or intermission performances and help with philanthropy events.” 

This isn’t just another internship for Brass. She has always dreamed of working in sports marketing, specifically for the NHL. 

“I think it would be really cool to be a woman working not just in the sports industry, but within the NHL because it’s a predominantly male field,” explains Brass. “It would be amazing to get there one day and obviously it would be great to work for the Detroit Redwings, but I’d love the opportunity to work for any team in the NHL.” 

It is true that sports media is a male dominated industry. A 2021 Sports Media Racial and Gender Report Card reported that 75.3% of sports copy writers and designers identify as male. When Brass decided to build her career in sports marketing, she sought out some advice.  

“I was able to speak with some women who work within the sports industry through making connections on LinkedIn. They were so encouraging, and helped me a lot,” says Brass. “I found mentors in women that work for the NHL, or in the sports industry in general who were really encouraging me to apply. 

“They want to know how I’m doing and want to see me succeed. It’s cool hearing everyone’s stories about how they got there, and the struggles they’ve had to overcome with being a woman in the sports industry. I still talk to them all the time, and we get coffee together.” 

Connections and inspiration took Brass part of the way, but her own drive to pursue these opportunities and her marketing education took her the rest of the way there.  

“When I did my interview for this internship, having the background knowledge in marketing really helped me,” explains Brass. “They want you to understand the sport, but understanding the foundations of marketing and those principles really helped me. 

USA Hockey rink with country's flags in front
USA Hockey Rink

“Everything basically has been fitting into my curriculum, and stuff that I have learned in previous classes has helped me land the internship, I know this because my boss told me that was one of the reasons I was brought on was because I had that marketing knowledge from Wayne State, not just sports knowledge.” 

Maybe one day Brass will receive her own LinkedIn messages from young women looking to break into this profession, but

being at the start of a long career in sports marketing doesn’t stop her from encouraging women to pursue their dreams of working in the sports industry.  

“Don’t let it discourage you. It’s a predominantly male field, so make sure you reach out because every woman that I’ve spoken to has been so open, and I've spoken to some men too that have been very open, that want to see you succeed,” says Brass. “Make those connections, because the more people you know, the more opportunities open up. Just go for it, and don’t let any stereotypes or anything hold you back.”

-Patrick Bernas, Information Officer III

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