By Marie Bradby

April and Josh Zik, Zoey, (7), and Charlotte (2). April is the director of sponsorship sales, Kentucky Derby Festival
Photo by Melissa Donald  

As director of sponsorship sales for the Kentucky Derby Festival, April Zik has the formidable task of finding sponsor dollars every year to put on the 70 events that locals and visitors have come to love and expect during the two weeks leading up to the most celebrated horse race in the world.

“I have a team with three other women who are doing this all year long — meeting every day with business leaders, existing clients, and new clients to determine what their goals and objectives are, and match those companies to the programs and events we are producing,” April says.

Thunder Over Louisville is important to the economy 
“We have five amazing sponsors that have been with us a long time,” she says. “We couldn’t do it without them. But even with this great support, we still lose money on Thunder Over Louisville each year.” On the flip side, Thunder alone “is a $56 million boon to the economy,” April says. “So, it’s important for people to buy those Pegasus pins, and if you have a business in this area, become a sponsor.”

Her background is in print and radio sales
“I’ve been at KDF for 11 years and I love it,” says April, 39, who worked in sales for seven years prior to this job. “There’s always something new and different going on. We are in the business of fun.”

The highest moment for her is the start of Thunder Over Louisville, she says, when the fireworks open the festival. “I know all the things behind the scenes that make that happen.”
The low is when the weather doesn’t cooperate. “We’ve planned all these wonderful events, and it’s rainy one day and rainy the next day. That’s when you get to know what somebody’s made of.”

The key to sales is being a good listener and asking good questions, April says. “Our approach is more customer-focused, understanding their business. ‘What is the target audience they want to attract? Who’s their competition? What things have been successful in the past? What would you do different?’ Based on what they tell you, we have 70 events and various demographics to help them to fit their goals to an event or promotion.”

Classic dress style with trendy accessories 
April has to have a flexible wardrobe, because she is meeting with business leaders, celebrities, and helping in the trenches. Her clothes range from classic business attire to jeans when all hands are needed to help out at events.
“I have a classic style with a modern flair,” she says. “Instead of a blazer, I might wear a leather jacket, or trendy shoes or jewelry.”

Coordinates her wardrobe with her two young daughters 
Married with children, she carries her fashion sense over to her 2-year-old and 7-year old daughters. “I try to dress them to complement each other and with me,” she says. “I try to find things that go together, rather than match. I might put a cute floral print outfit on the 2-year-old and do the same colors in a tunic and jeans for the 7-year-old, who also has to have glitter. Or they both have jean jackets that complement each other. Then I look at the colors and try to incorporate that into what I am wearing. Do I do this every day? Heck no!”
When the festival is over on Oaks evening, that’s her cue that the staff has made it through another year. “Many years I don’t go to Derby. I just go home and sleep.”