July 21, 2023
Dinos volleyball alum redefines the game for student-athletes
The road to success rarely goes in a straight line, and so it was for Robert Ellis, who has followed a winding path from Dinos volleyball to a lumberyard and Nike, to recently returning to the University of Calgary as the Dinos Athletics senior manager of sales and marketing.
Paving the way
Born and raised in Brooks, Alta., Ellis’s journey toward a career in sports marketing began at a young age when he developed a love of playing sports that built the foundation for an exciting journey throughout his education and career path. Today, he uses his passion for athletics, his interest in helping others, and his experience to build community relationships and enhance the experience for student-athletes on the Dinos teams.
After transferring from Red Deer Polytechnic to UCalgary to complete his kinesiology degree, Ellis, BKin’06, was part of the Dinos men’s volleyball team from 2003 to 2006. As a student-athlete, he found a lot of support from his peers, professors and team members.
“My experience at university was awesome,” says Ellis. “I think I had a lot of good teachers. I think I had a lot of good friends around me on my team and in athletics that, you know, I still talk to, to this day.”
Ellis says he always had plans to pursue a career in physical therapy after graduation but, soon into his final year, he realized he had other career interests. After completing his degree and some soul-searching, he recognized his motivation came from working with people, developing relationships and understanding business.
After taking a post-graduation job in a lumberyard, Ellis quickly realized working with saws was not for him and progressed to the sales side of the business. From there, he was able to gain experience and knowledge which helped him as he segued into sports marketing, excelling through various managing sales roles and even working for Nike before returning to UCalgary last fall.
“I went through a lot of business stuff, business development through mostly corporate business here in Calgary, and then this job opened up,” says Ellis.
Fueled by his experience as a Dino, Ellis saw an opportunity to enhance the Dinos Athletics program and do something different to encourage community engagement and contribute to UCalgary.
“I have enjoyed learning the behind-the-scenes of an athlete,” says Ellis. “I saw a small sliver of it as an athlete and a very small sliver of it as a fan. But seeing how it all comes together has been crazy-inspiring.”
A day in the life
Today, Ellis’s day-to-day responsibilities as a senior manager encompass a diverse range of duties that revolve around enhancing the Dinos program to foster fan enthusiasm and drive revenue. He leads a team of professionals, collaborating with coaches and strategic partners to develop and implement strategies to increase ticket sales and cultivate relationships within the sports community.
“I like learning new things,” he says. “Yes, I know about sports and the university, but to understand how it all goes together, how it works with the community, how it works with sponsors, and to find that opportunity and start pitching an opportunity and develop a plan is really cool.”
Since rejoining the university in September 2022, he has already accomplished many milestones with the help of his team. From taking the lead on multiple Dinos events and forming new and exciting partnerships within the community, he is constantly thinking on his feet and strategizing ways to support student-athletes.
“There’s a fantastic crew of people working within athletics, from the coaches to the students, to the admin staff to everyone across the board, it’s really interesting.”
Ellis is continually challenging himself in his current role to find new and exciting opportunities to grow Dinos Athletics and engage the campus community to experience Dinos energy.
“Something I truly want to do is break down barriers between athletics and the rest of the campus,” says Ellis. “Whether you are staff, students or from the Calgary community, the Dinos shows are great. The athletes here are top-notch. We get to work with future and/or current Olympians. It is so dynamic and refreshing to do what I get to do. It’s a great way to get excited about the university.”