March 8, 2022

Bridgeman, Potter proud to help lead Double E

On International Women’s Day, you don’t have to look far to see the impact strong, talented women have on the Edmonton Elks Football Club.

While the organization has a solid foundation of women whose passion is sport, it’s women like Elks VP of Corporate Partnerships Adrienne Bridgeman and Chief Financial Officer and VP of Business Administration Vanessa Potter who currently sit at the top.

Bridgeman began her journey with the club back in 2005, joining the Double E for two weeks as a practicum student. Little did she know that two-week experience would turn into her professional home for the next 16 years.

“Basically, anything I could do, I did,” Bridgeman said about her initial involvement with the Elks. “I tried to get as much experience as I could, but I always had my eye on sponsorship.”

After originally plying her trade in the club’s ticketing department, she was finally able to make the switch to sponsorship in 2011.

Bridgeman was part of the group who helped modernize how the department was run — moving past logo rights and into event sponsorship — all while helping the department into the digital age. She quickly rose through the ranks as a manager, a director, and eventually as the vice president in 2020.

Since then, she has had to help navigate her department and the organization through some of its biggest moments and some of its most challenging. Between the 2018 Grey Cup Festival, The Brick Field naming rights, the pandemic, and the name change, her experience has helped direct the club’s current course.

Potter’s path has been a little bit different. A New Zealand native, she began her finance career in the video game industry. She first worked at Pandemic Studios in Australia, eventually transferring to Edmonton and to world-renowned gaming studio BioWare.

“It was a real good eye opener into the world of entertainment,” Potter said about her eight years at BioWare. “It was a huge learning curve for me, but I got to learn the Canadian market while I did it.”

After several other stops along the way, Potter joined the Elks in 2020. Despite not having a strong background in football coming from rugby-mad New Zealand, the opportunity to jump into the Canadian Football League was one that she could not pass up.

“When I found myself choosing my next role, I was very careful, but when the Elks opportunity presented itself it was right up my alley,” Potter said. “I’m a very competitive person and I’ve done sports my whole life.”

Potter was a competitive marcher for 22 years and made it to National Championship in BMX for Canada. She loves correlating the ambitious and goal driven nature of sports with her professional life.

Potter acknowledges things were not always easy. Video games and sport are both stereotypically male dominated professions and it took a strong will and desire to carve a role for herself in both landscapes.

“I think I have had to work a little bit harder as a female, but I’m really, really proud of the strides I’ve taken and the career path that I’ve made,” Potter said.

Sport has slowly made strides towards gender equity. Internally, the Elks have seen progress, including on the club’s board where Janice Agrios served as the club’s first female board chair from 2019-2021. As well, roughly half of the club’s business staff is currently comprised of women and last season’s sports medicine department was also 50 per cent women.

There’s still room for growth, but the current trend has had a positive impact on business.

“Women haven’t always been in roles like this,” said Bridgeman. “It hasn’t been until recently that there have been some prominent positions and exposure for women (in sports). It’s great to see everyone getting an equal chance.”

Potter has also noticed the change in many industries.

“It’s more visible and people are talking about,” she said. “People having conversations about why diversity is important in an organization opens many doors for individuals.”

As for advice for women pursuing a role in sports?

“I encourage them to learn about the sport, to learn about an organization and see how you get yourself in the door,” Potter said.

“Speak your mind and don’t let anybody make you feel like you don’t deserve a chance or deserve a foot in the door,” said Bridgeman. “Speak up, because someone is always thinking the same thing you’re thinking.”