Ronalee Zarate-Bayani
Chief Marketing Officer Los Angeles Rams logo

LA Rams CMO on Treating Your Career Like A Long Game

It’s a rarified thing to enjoy a career with a straight shot to success. More often than not, left-field job opportunities and life’s milestones will throw you a curveball. For Ronalee, it meant a stint at Coca-Cola in Manila and marketing roles at Taco Bell, Visa and The Hershey Company before joining the roster of the L.A. Rams (cough, cough Super Bowl LII) as CMO. Hear why Ronalee is philosophical about her decisions to either take promotions or opt for lateral moves.

Tell us about your role and something exciting you’re currently focused on.

My focus is on working with the team to build a brand that embodies modern LA, authentically connects with the hearts and minds of our fans and ensures we win both on and off the field as a brand-centered, purpose-driven organization. Given our owner, Mr. Kroenke, is developing a 300-acre live, work, play district and building it from the ground-up with our new stadium as the centerpiece, we’ll be launching a new brand identity system with new uniforms, and reimagining the Rams experience for our fans in 2020 and beyond.

What's one way the new stadium will impact how you engage with fans?

We have an incredible opportunity to set a new standard for gameday experiences and for engaging both our existing fans, while drawing in the next generation of fans. Among many distinct features, the L.A. Stadium will feature an unprecedented dual-sided halo shaped video board that spans the entire length of the playing field, which we can leverage for unparalleled content, infusing a new level of energy into our in-game experience.

How did you get to where you are today?  

At the Rams, we focus on rallying ourselves, our communities and all of L.A. to climb to new heights. In many respects, I’ve been fortunate enough to live this ethos throughout my career by stepping into transformational roles focused on rallying organizations to take their marketing capabilities to new heights and driving step-change growth. Because of this, my last few jobs were new roles for the organizations, where I had a blank canvas to paint a vision and build a path forward. With entrepreneurial drive, cross-functional partnerships, great mentors and some luck, I’ve been able to build upon past successes and leverage transferable experiences to drive meaningful growth across industries.

What pivotal moments did you face along the way?

 "I never felt like I made the wrong choice because I know one’s career is a long game..."

Ironically more often than not, when I’ve had a major life moment, like getting married or having a child, I’ve been in a situation where I’ve had to make key career choices. In some cases, I took a promotion and in some cases I chose a lateral move, but each time I was deliberate in assessing my family’s total situation, including my values, our long-term goals and our priorities at the time. I never felt like I made the wrong choice because I know one’s career is a long game, so I could focus on what was needed at the time, while ensuring we were on a path that would ultimately lead us to our end goal.

What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?

Owning one’s authenticity. Careers are built through successfully delivering on the explicit goals and tacit expectations set forth for us. This usually means some semblance of style-shifting that may feel less than natural to one’s true self in order to be heard and be effective. As more and more women move into executive leadership roles, it’s important to pave a path where a broader breadth of natural styles, expressions and idea-sharing are embraced with seats at the proverbial table, as data clearly shows diversity of thought leads to meaningfully better results.

Within the Rams organization, 41% of full-time employees are women and 36% of directors and above are women (not including coaches and scouts).  The sports industry is evolving as teams and leagues are increasingly in the content and entertainment business – and with that, comes a need to build organizations with a diverse workforce, not just in terms of gender and race, but in terms of skills, experience and perspective.

What advice can you share?

  1. Internal perspective shapes our decisions, motivations and drive. Don’t look at unexpected change as something to be feared, but rather as an opportunity to be seized because it’s a chance to re-center our priorities, let go of whatever was holding us back and start with a blank slate to focus our strengths and energies in a more positive direction.
  2. Don’t be afraid to do what’s right, especially when the risks are high. While it may be risky in the short-term, in the long-run it may be the key to unlock material change and as long as you’re true to your values, you’ll be able to sleep at night.

Who helped you in your journey and how did they help shape your thinking? 

"...one’s success is never achieved in isolation."

Football is the ultimate team sport and my career journey is no different - one’s success is never achieved in isolation. That said, there were a few key mentors at each pivotal stage of my career that helped me sift through the fog and find clarity when times were most confusing. Often that clarity came through the different, objective perspectives that they would bring to the thought process. While having a broad range of mentors is absolutely critical, many don’t consciously think about the need to also have internal sponsors, which is just as important. It’s because of internal sponsors that believed in my untapped potential that I was given opportunities to shine with new projects or new roles that on the surface may not have appeared to be a clear fit.

How have you found the right balance between your personal life and career?  

When you ask women one-on-one, especially career-oriented moms, if they believe that “one can have it all,” most will say it’s a farce. I tend to look at it more broadly. I do believe that having it all is possible and within reach, but not all at the same time. Because a career is a long-game, it’s important to continuously reflect on where one is at both personally and professionally at any given time, so that one can lean into one’s priorities during that stage. While I’ve found myself feeling out-of-balance during certain times in my career, over the horizon of my profession, I feel fortunate to have balance across the spectrum because I’ve made choices that enabled me to lean into what was important when it was most important. When I joined the Rams, I not only came for the opportunity of a lifetime to build a global brand and leverage the power of football in making a lasting impact for L.A., but also for the great flexible and family-oriented culture that enables me to thrive without having to compromise being a goal-oriented professional for being an engaged mom.

Knowing what you know today, what one thing would you have done differently early in your career? 

I probably would have redirected more energy into cultivating relationships with a broader range of mentors and learning more in role versus trying to get a new opportunity or the next promotion.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing? 

I would be a hands-on philanthropist focused on investing in young women around the world and preparing them to be world leaders that would meaningfully improve the lives of the next generation and the world we live in.