Ben Schumacher

Credentials: Foot Locker, Inc.

Position title: Category Manager

Photo of Ben Schumaker

Major: Life Sciences Communication

Certificate: Digital Studies & Entrepreneurship

Graduation Date: December 2012

How did you end up at Foot Locker?

My first job out of college was with Eastbay as a copywriter. I wasn’t looking for copy jobs, but it presented an opportunity to get into the sports industry and I knew I could leverage that into more of an overall marketing position. I was a copywriter for a year and a half, during which time I focused on getting involved in projects outside of my core responsibilities as a writer to show that I could add value to the overall marketing organization. This allowed me to get noticed by the (then) basketball category manager and he eventually hired me as his coordinator. Three years later I was promoted to his role after he decided to move on and I’ve had my current job since December 2016.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My role is basically the general manager of the basketball unit within Eastbay (a brand owned by Foot Locker), which means I am responsible for any and all things going on within the basketball category. I lead the strategy for the category which in large part means conceptualizing and overseeing integrated marketing campaigns designed to increase brand awareness and drive sell-through of key products. As part of this work I collaborate with cross-functional teams to optimize media dollars across a variety of channels, like Search Engine Marketing, paid social, email, affiliates, etc. In addition to paid marketing, my team also works with our creative, brand, copy, social, app, and website teams to bring campaigns to life in a way that speaks to our target consumer and aims to break through the noise.

How has Digital Studies influenced your career path?

The Digital Studies coursework opened my eyes to more digitally-focused roles that I hadn’t previously considered. It also helped me find my passion for branding and integrated marketing (shout out to Don Stanley and Sarah Botham).

Did you have a favorite Digital Studies class or professor when you were a student?

I did a branding project in one of Don Stanley’s courses, which included creating a branding package for the Digital Studies program since it was brand new at the time. I also did an integrated marketing project with Sarah Botham that really stood out to me. I credit both of those projects for my current career path and I’m still in regular contact with both of them 8+ years after graduating.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Get involved in as much as possible! I didn’t and I really regret that. UW has so many things to offer and so many different people to meet. This is the time of your life when you can  experiment and discover what lights your fire. Don’t take that for granted. Get off the couch, get involved, talk to different people, invest your time in things that interest you, and experience as much as possible. Say yes when people ask you to do things – you have the rest of your life to watch Netflix.

I would also encourage everyone to study abroad. I didn’t do this either, but have traveled abroad many times since college (Italy, France, The Netherlands, Japan, England, and Belgium). I wish I would have taken advantage of study abroad programs – experiencing other cultures has been the best use of my money since graduating.

In somewhat unrelated advice, start investing! Take 10% of whatever money you have and start investing in stocks. Do a little research and find 5-10 to dabble in – you’ll thank me when you’re 30. I still remember sitting in my Madison apartment back in 2012 and almost pulling the trigger on Netflix shares when it was around $15 I think. Today it’s above $500. Educate yourself on investing. It’s one of the best uses of your time and money. Today I spend time regularly every week staying up on the markets, what’s working, and where I should be putting my money to work. Don’t overthink it. Just invest in the best companies and let your money grow for you over time.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career thus far?

I’m most proud of the fact that I was willing to take a job that I didn’t particularly have much interest in to get my foot in the door, where I was then able to showcase my full skill set and hard work in order to position myself for the job I wanted. I’ve continued to develop my skills to make myself more marketable for future positions inside or outside of Foot Locker. I’m proud of the way I’ve put myself out there to develop relationships with leaders in the organization – this effort pays regular dividends.