Executive Interview: An Interview with Heidi Ueberroth, President, Global Marketing Partnerships and International Business Operations, National Basketball Association

By Swangard, Paul | International Journal of Sport Finance, November 2008 | Go to article overview

Executive Interview: An Interview with Heidi Ueberroth, President, Global Marketing Partnerships and International Business Operations, National Basketball Association


Swangard, Paul, International Journal of Sport Finance


Heidi Ueberroth was promoted to the position of President, Global Marketing Partnerships and International Business Operations, NBA, in July, 2006, following more than six years as Executive Vice President, Global Media Properties and Marketing Partnerships.

Ueberroth joined the NBA in 1994 and oversees many of the league's revenue generating operations. She has led the NBA's global television and media distribution division since 1996. Under her direction, NBA game programming is televised in 215 countries in 41 languages. She was named Executive Vice President in 2000.

In the newly created position of President, Global Marketing Partnerships and International Business Operations, Ueberroth is responsible for directing the NBA's business initiatives globally, including its top international market, China, and the operation of the league's 15 international offices. She continues to oversee the league's expanding list of marketing partnerships with global marketers and advertising sales within the league's extensive media inventory, as well as the development and distribution of NBA content worldwide, in all forms of media. She was instrumental in producing the 2004 NBA China Games, the NBA's first-ever games in China.

Ueberroth directs the NBA's global sponsorship and advertising departments, which includes relationships with the league's blue-chip marketing partners-companies such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Anheuser-Busch, and Electronic Arts. The NBA's media assets include the league's own television channel, NBA TV, the NBA.com network of more than 60 websites, radio, print publications, original programming, wireless applications, electronic games, branded content, grassroots event programming, and creative platform marketing.

Her achievements have led her to be honored three times by the SportsBusiness Journal, the leading sports business trade publication, in its "Forty Under 40" sports executives list. The magazine also named Ueberroth in the top five of its inaugural "20 Most Influential Women in Sports Business" list. Ueberroth has also been inducted into the Advertising Hall of Achievement with the American Advertising Federation.

Ueberroth is a board member of the Advertising Council and a trustee of the Cancer Research Institute. She served on the advisory board for the 1999 Women's World Cup and has been a director of the Ueberroth Family Charitable Foundation since its formation in 1990.

As we transition out of the Olympic Games hoopla in China, it appears the sport with hoops is poised to run with the market momentum in the sport-crazy country. Ueberroth offers her perspective on the China opportunity for the NBA and how it fits into the league's rather sophisticated and ambitious global strategy.

Questions

Q: What are the essential skills needed for your job?

A: The breadth of the NBA's business opportunities makes it important to have the ability to prioritize and manage multiple projects at the same time. Essential skills range from selling and marketing, to strategy and finance, to management and relationship building. Toss in problem solving and coping well with jet lag and you get the picture.

Q: It appears almost every domestic U.S. sports league now has a global or international strategy. Why is this necessary in the context of the current economics of sport?

A: Today, there are very few businesses that aren't considering growth in a global context. Few companies are limiting themselves to country borders, so it is natural that the sports industry would follow suit. In the case of the NBA, David Stern recognized this opportunity ahead of most as he focused on international expansion decades ago. Because sports is unique in bridging cultures and bringing people together, having a strategy to grow outside the United States is very important if a sport is to continue to be relevant.

Q: Does the NBA have an advantage vis-à-vis other sports leagues in taking advantage of global markets and why? …

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