Sponsorship Professional Offers Career Advice You Can Use

Interview with Kevin Cleary, Sponsorship and Promotions at Nestle Waters

Nestle Waters company logo

Kevin Cleary is a veteran of the beverage industry, having worked for Samuel Adams and Nestle Water in the last decade. He is Marketing Manager of Sponsorship and Promotions at Nestle Waters North America.  His role  and career progression represent great examples of how sports careers extend beyond teams and leagues and impact other firms.

How did your previous positions prepare you for your current role at Nestle?

Cleary: My time in various sales roles and internal communications greatly assisted me, as it truly allowed me to see that people are really busy and you have to be organized, detailed, and straight forward with people.

Being in sales to start my career allowed me to see listening to people is vital.  Listening and making sure you understand what the person is saying both verbally and physically is important.

Also, having experience in sales allowed me to really have a different perspective when I entered marketing after finishing my MBA. I have always continued to think "could this program or partnership assist our current partners, customers, or employees?" This viewpoint helps me to understand where others might be coming from when presenting opportunities to me.

What kinds of sports organizations want Nestle as a sponsor? How many "pitches" do you receive a week?

Cleary: I can receive from ten to twenty-five pitches for either a sponsorship or promotion each week.  Being the leader in the bottled water market and having the Nestle name brings attention from many groups especially athletic events, local community events, and professional teams.


Organization is key in all events. When information is shared properly on our company portal to review such requests, it must be prepared in an organized way that allows us to see if there is a strong fit with the opportunity and a specific brand.  When there is lack of organization and preparation, then it makes it more difficult to share such opportunities with proper contacts internally.

Many advise being mentored early in your career.  Have you had a mentor? Was it a single person or several people?  Within your organization or outside?

Cleary: I have had several mentors throughout my career. I have tried to learn from as many people as possible throughout my beverage career. The key though is having these mentors understand me as an employee and personally. I learned from several great managers and from executives who I have asked for advice on opportunities. The key is learning from mistakes you or others have made, while also hoping for a little luck along the way. I have found that if you work hard, are a good team player and present your company and yourself well, then good things will happen to good people.

You are a Board Member for the Athletic Fund at your alma mater, St. Bonaventure. How does this role (and other volunteer positions) enrich your life/career?

Cleary: I think giving back is one of the best things you can do. The key for me has always been giving back to events, people or groups that I truly believe in. As for my alma mater, I'm truly thankful for the chance to attend and be a part of such a special university, and if I can support it years after graduating via being on an Athletic Advisory Board, I will find the time to do so no matter how busy life might get.

Giving back can be time-consuming, but if you are up front early with an organization on what you can and cannot commit to and are passionate about what you are involved with, it can be very rewarding.

What advice would you give to an undergraduate looking to start a career in promotions/advertising/marketing?

Cleary: My advice would be to really try and enjoy the process and get experience. Experience can come from working in retail, or shadowing someone, or talking with someone in the industry. I really enjoyed studying business in high school and then college. But working in a wine shop in college and being a camp counselor taught me how to talk to people, to stock shelves, and other basic business skills that all helped me in my career.  

Study hard, enjoy what you are doing, get experience and learn from those you are working with and you can succeed.

Thanks to Mr. Cleary for sharing his experiences. One of his early mentors at Samuel Adams was company founder Jim Koch, who has recently written a book on his career entitled Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two. It is certainly a good addition to your career library.

If you are interested in careers at Nestle Water there are many available.

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