Alumna Story: Vanessa Asell Tsuruga (Class of 1997)

Written by BFIS Staff

Sports Marketer, Global Citizen and Champion for Women in Sports Leadership

Vanessa, who graduated from Benjamin Franklin in 1997, went on to study a Bachelors degree in Journalism at City University, London, and went on to an EU Executive Trainee program which took her to Japan, working in PR and marketing for the global sports company Asics in Japan and Scandinavia – before focusing on a Masters in Olympic Studies and Olympic Event Management in Greece. She is currently leading a 10-person strong international team creating digital assets for Rakuten brand recognition and awareness for Rakuten Sports and other channels, and is based in Tokyo.

Pursuing her PhD with the Graduate School of Sport Sciences at Waseda University, Vanessa’s research focuses on how to ensure that women’s voices are included and amplified in current sport thought leadership as speakers at events and conferences.

Last year, she founded COLLECTIVE VISIBILITY, a global peer nominated list of 400 women speakers in sports. The engagement has been massive, and spurs her on, encouraging the organization to keep adding talent.

Vanessa writes of her memories of her time at BFIS with fondness below:

BFIS was my springboard into the world. I arrived from Stockholm in 7th grade. It was 1992, and Barcelona was getting ready for the Olympics. My PE teacher at the time, Mr Chris, made every effort to make me feel welcome. He gave me a Frisbee and through sports, I made many new friends. Many of them were Japanese.

When I moved to Tokyo years later, I already had many friends from my time in Barcelona. Just the other day I had lunch with Takeshi. My time at BFIS taught me the value of active friendship. Mr. Chris and I are in touch, along with my art teacher Mr Magaña. They taught me the school of life.

Just a few weeks ago, I was doing a speaking engagement at the Picasso Museum in Malaga. I spoke about sports marketing, in the birth town of one of the greatest artists the world has ever seen…it was a combination of art and sport, thanks to the life long lessons I had learned while at high school.

Everything in life is connected, and I often find myself thinking that BFIS was the nexus of many beginnings. Through my job in the digital partnership activation team with my employer Rakuten, I worked daily with FC Barcelona for 4 years. I visited Barcelona many times, every time reminding myself that it was the city that served as my springboard. Standing in the middle of the pitch at Camp Nou, and playing a game there, is something I will never forget.

“Sport can change people and people change the world. I have dedicated my life to sports and now I am doing a PhD at Waseda University in Tokyo. My intention is to research how youth can thrive in sports. It’s all back to Mr. Chris giving me that Frisbee. It put a spin on my life that I am forever grateful for.”

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