From NFL Wide Receiver to Marketing Executive

Written by: Jenny Johnson

From NFL wide receiver to executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the Minnesota Vikings for three seasons, Martin Nance’s career journey is a unique one. We are honored to have him as our AAF-ND season finale speaker, on May 14 at Brewhalla, with our end-of-year party directly after the event. I sat down with Martin to learn more about his experience and hear a preview of what he will share with the AAF-ND crew in May!


Can you share how your experience as an NFL wide receiver influenced your approach to leadership and marketing in your current role with the Minnesota Vikings?

It has been a pleasure for me to serve in this role. This is the third season that I’ve been a part of the organization as chief marketing officer and my second time around with the club. I spent a couple of years here as a player many years ago. Now, it’s so much fun to be a part of it and influence it from a completely different perspective, a full-circle journey for me.

Moving from a player on the field to a marketing executive is quite a shift. What inspired or motivated you to transition to the business side of the sports industry, and how did your athletic background prepare you for this shift?

I didn’t grow up thinking I would play in the NFL, but I was fortunate that each step of the way kind of led to the next and I ended up playing about four years in the NFL. Through that experience, I learned so much from so many great people, so many great coaches and teammates and support staff along the way. I also really enjoyed the interaction with the players and fans. It opened up my eyes to how a brand like the Vikings or the Steelers could impact and influence everyday people and fans, and the energy and passion that it would elicit from those people was fascinating to me as a player. That is what sparked my interest in marketing. I stepped into a marketing career and was able to lean on a lot of the skills that I had developed as a player like hard work, discipline, teamwork, problem-solving as well as resiliency, and giving maximum effort while learning how to take criticism.


Martin Nance suited up for week 17 of the 2006 NFL season.

How do you leverage your insights from the player’s perspective to enhance the fan experience and engagement strategies for the Minnesota Vikings?

Those things all work hand in hand. The player experience feeds off the energy of the fans and the fan experience is driven by the players and how they come to life on the field. You want both of those things working in tandem and giving one another energy. As a marketer who oversees our game day experience, the entertainment that surrounds the game day, and guest services, we know it is critical to deliver a world-class fan experience, terrific home-field advantage for our players, and an atmosphere that players are excited to play in and appreciate showing up to work and being at their very best.

The Minnesota Vikings have a strong and recognizable brand. How do you approach building and maintaining such a powerful brand in the competitive world of the NFL?

Our responsibility is to respect and appreciate the legacy we’re stepping into. I mentioned I’ve been here for a couple of years as a player and now, as a marketer. I recognize and appreciate the people who have come before me and laid the building blocks for the work that I’m doing now. It motivates us to raise our game and make sure that we’re delivering to enhance the experience in US Bank Stadium, and how we’re going to surround our team on a game day.

With the NFL being a highly competitive and dynamic environment, what unique challenges and opportunities do you face in developing marketing strategies for the Minnesota Vikings?

I spent quite a few years as a marketer at PepsiCo, working primarily on the Gatorade business, and one of the great luxuries of that brand is they formulated the strategy to be laser-focused on a singular target. When you think about the consumer, they know exactly who that person is. They know all the demographic qualities of that consumer and it’s consistent year in and year out. As a sports franchise, the challenge it creates is how to communicate in all different ways and through different communication channels and leverage all different communication strategies that exist, while remaining consistent and making sure that we hold on to exactly who we are and the essence of who we are as the Minnesota Vikings.

Drawing from your experiences both on and off the field, what leadership lessons have you found to be most valuable in guiding your team and shaping the marketing direction for the Vikings?

One thing that comes to mind right off the bat is acknowledging and recognizing that your team, the people who lean on you and depend on you, as a leader, requires a lot of different styles. Each person responds to coaching and leadership differently. So, you have to be willing to morph, change, and adjust your style to meet the needs of your team. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. I think recognizing that is very important. With that, it means you have to be willing to listen, you have to be empathetic, and you have to be willing to put your thoughts or priorities aside and just sit with the needs or desires of the people that you’ve been asked to lead.

As the chief marketing officer, you likely keep an eye on emerging trends. What do you see as the future trends in sports marketing, and how are the Minnesota Vikings preparing to stay at the forefront of these developments?

Things are moving at lightning speed. The things that I read yesterday are probably different and need to be updated today. That’s just the environment that we’re in. With that, as you look across the sports marketing landscape, there are some fascinating trends around fan engagement. We’ve seen customization take off—that’s something we pay close attention to. We do some cool things with building graphics using AI tools so we can produce [those] at a much higher rate. Getting more personalized with the help of AI has been exciting. How we summarize games or produce content post-game is completely different from the past. I think you’ll see more and more trends that speak to and appeal to Gen Z in a way that doesn’t talk down at them or doesn’t kind of placate them but embraces their preferences.

What can we expect at the event?

One of the things that we take seriously is this idea of a fan journey and recognizing that our fans start with us at all different stages of life. Wherever they come in, we want to evolve them and help them kind of navigate through our fan journey. Taking consumers from where they are today and taking them along the journey is something that we’ll get to discuss and talk a little bit more about. I mentioned guest service is a critical ingredient in our organization. When you think about a football team, you think about the stands in the stadium, you think about the players on the field, but you also need to think about things like entering the stadium and what it looks like. What are the initial impacts or experiences that you have, as you enter a stadium? We’ll get to hop around and discuss that—it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think we’ll also leave time to interact with the audience and make sure we answer some questions, but I can’t wait to get out there and dive in with some talented people that I know will be on hand.

Register for the event.

When: Tuesday, May 14
Speaker – 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
End of Season Party – 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Brewhalla – 1702 1st Avenue North Fargo, ND 58102

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