Maria Rodriguez, Director of International Content at Pittsburgh Steelers

Maria Rodriguez, Director of International Content at Pittsburgh Steelers

How did your football career start?

Sport has been a huge part of my family, and it’s something that holds us together to this day. I grew up in Honduras, so we mostly gather to watch football. It has always been a part of me. My brother Lewis played football in high school. When I graduated from high school, I came to the United States and went to Texas Christian University, where I had the opportunity to work in a Formula One event. They were hiring students, and my friends and I decided to do it just for fun. I immediately fell in love with the environment and energy. It was the first time I got that spark and I knew I wanted to work in the sport, but I didn’t have a clear vision of what that looked like.

At the time, TCU had a great football team and it was a great time being a TCU student. The students had free tickets to every game at their home ground, and I took advantage of that. I went to every game at home, even when my friends didn’t want to go. That was another time when I realized I wanted to work in sports. One night after the game, I looked to see if the TCU athletics department was hiring. They had a few vacancies, and within a week, I applied for an unpaid internship and accepted him to work in spring soccer and women’s soccer. That was my first extended experience in sports and I did it for about a year.

After my sophomore year, Pittsburgh Steelers CEO Omar Khan gave me the opportunity to train during bootcamp. I ended up working three summers with the Steelers while in college as an intern in the bootcamp office. I go to Latrobe every summer and absolutely love it. It was so much fun, but I also remember seeing how competitive it was and how hard it was to get into the sports industry. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get a full-time opportunity with an NFL team, so I didn’t even try after I graduated. After three months of unemployment after graduation, I heard from the Steelers, who were looking for a Spanish content intern. I wasn’t sure what this opportunity really looked like at the time, but Spanish is my first language. I applied, interviewed, and got an internship. I’ve been here ever since.

How has your job expanded since you were hired as an intern to what it is today?

The Steelers knew through social media that they had a large following in Mexico. They’ve hosted some football clinics and done community work in Mexico prior to my internship in 2017. My role started as a bit of a project, finding ways to interact and connect with Hispanic – and mostly Mexican fans. There was no clear trend at first, so we started launching social media accounts in Spanish and creating team related content on our website, translating articles and things like that. It has really expanded from just Spanish to international and from a social platform or two to about four different Spanish language platforms and seven international platforms total. We found that fans interact more on social media. Now, it’s no longer just about planning and creating content for these accounts – it’s about interacting with them in person and planning events in their countries in an effort to build relationships with people in our international markets.

I was drawn to work. It was exciting to see the growth, and at the same time, we’ve been working with the league and its initiatives with NFL China. Through this program, I worked with an agency to help create unique content for their accounts and interact with fans there. We brought some fans from China to a game in Pittsburgh. We looked at tapping into other markets through social media to see where a lot of our fans are, and started investing in Germany more as we saw more potential there.

It is natural for me to connect with people from other parts of the world, having lived in Honduras before moving to the United States. We’ve grown a lot with agencies in Mexico, Germany and China, and now with the International Home Marketing Areas (IHMA) program, the NFL has grown significantly internationally and we’re doing a lot in these markets now.

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