Deandra Duggans' Journey in Sports, From the Baltimore Ravens to Las Vegas Aces
Deandra Duggans joined the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA in January as VP of brand marketing, responsible for leading brand strategy and overseeing day-to-day management of marketing, partnership marketing initiatives, content, and innovation for the Aces brand.
She previously spent six seasons as director of advertising and branding at the Baltimore Ravens, where she helped develop long-term strategy and seasonal marketing plans for all initiatives and events to fuel consumer demand and strengthen the Ravens brand connection with fans. Before joining the Ravens, Deandra spent four years at Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia.
Deandra was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and graduated from North Carolina State (B.S., ’06) and Georgia State (M.S., ’09). She is also a 2017 graduate of the Business Volunteers of Maryland’s GIVE Fellowship, which prepares rising leaders in Baltimore for civic engagement and community leadership and teaches Strategic Sports Marketing at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies.
We spoke to Deandra for our Time-Out series, where we chat with folks in the sports world about their favorite athletes, teams, sports movies and shows, and their love of sports generally.
Deandra, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Washington, D.C., and now live in Las Vegas.
Your earliest sports memory.
My earliest sports memories are watching sports with my dad as a little girl and learning all of the plays and lingo. He is a huge Washington Commanders fan, and his Sundays were reserved for just that. I remember watching Super Bowl XXVI and how ecstatic he was while watching the Commanders win it all. I've been hooked on football ever since.
Your favorite sports teams.
I'm a "homer," so D.C. sports teams are close to my heart. I grew up a Commanders fan and they will always be my team, but having worked for the Baltimore Ravens, I've also grown into a lifelong fan of theirs. The culture of the organization and the colleagues who turned into friends make it easy to cheer for them, and they will always have my support. Of course, I am also a Las Vegas Aces fan. I haven't been in Vegas for too long, but the culture here has been welcoming and I'm excited for what this team has accomplished and the potential that lies ahead.
Your favorite athlete.
My favorite athlete is Sheryl Swoopes. I remember watching the USA women's basketball team go for gold at the 1996 Olympics, and I latched on to her playing style. The entire team was stacked with legends, and it was amazing to see those women dominate the Games. That team had such positive influences on the women's game and paved the way for the WNBA, creating superstars out of many of the members of that team. I was 11 years old and it changed the way I saw myself in sports and women in sports overall.
Then I watched Sheryl Swoopes become the first player to sign with the WNBA and the first woman to have a signature shoe. I was all-in and had every piece of WNBA and Houston Comets memorabilia and every Swoopes poster in my room. I begged my father to buy every pair of Air Swoopes that came out! Little girls in my generation finally had their own superstars to cheer for. When the Mystics came to town as an expansion team, my father purchased season tickets and took me to every game. Though I never had dreams of playing professionally, it sparked my intrigue of working in sports and finding a way to stay close to the game. Sheryl's impact as being the first in many categories can never be undervalued.
Your favorite sports show or podcast.
I have a few favorites. "Huuuge Fan" with LaChina Robinson—I just love her interviews and hearing some of my favorite actors, musicians, etc., talk about sports and their fandom. "First Take, Her Take" with Elle Duncan, Charly Arnolt and Kimberley Martin—I enjoy their sports takes and they offer a really fresh perspective. "The Work in Sports Podcast" with Brian Clapp—hearing about others' journeys in the sports business, how they've navigated challenges and how they do their jobs has helped me in my career. And "The Accidental Creative" with Toddy Henry—this isn't sports but very related to my line of work as a creative and offers tips on how to manage the creative process and also be a better leader.
Your favorite sports movie.
A recent project you're proud of.
I'm always proud of the creative work we did with the Baltimore Ravens. We took the organization through a comprehensive brand study to learn more about the fans, what makes the Ravens unique, and how to pull those unique characteristics through visually. We won a Clio for the work on that brand project and I'm proud of that one, for sure.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
This isn't too recent, but happened in 2021 … the Detroit Pistons partnered with Martin Lawrence for Martin-themed Pistons merchandise. I thought the partnership was brilliant and well executed. Martin is so important to the culture, and it was an authentic connection to the city. I love those types of collaborations that feel authentic and are well executed. Retail and merch can be hit or miss, and the sports teams that find ways to create capsule collections that really connect to fans, whether niche or en masse, are doing something right.
What sports can do that nothing else can.
A good friend and former colleague of mine, Keenan Harrell, gave a Ted Talk on this very topic—"Why Sports Will Save Humanity." In it he said, "Not only are sports an exciting form of competition, entertainment, competition and an electrifying display of athletic prowess, they also serve as a platform for change, social awareness, education, development and most importantly, philanthropic opportunities." I wholeheartedly believe that and have seen what can be accomplished with sports as a conduit. I encourage everyone to give it a listen!
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the sports world.
I love art, music and tech and would probably be doing something that merges those three loves together. In an ideal world, I would own a record café that would serve locally sourced coffee, beverages and small bites and serve as a gathering spot, co-working spot and a place of fellowship for the community.