SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40

Jacqueline Parkes



In the midst of an episode from 2004 most Major League Baseball executives would rather forget, Jacqueline Parkes knew everything had come together for a league that had long struggled to sell itself.

Jacqueline Parkes
• Age: 39
• Title: Senior vice president of advertising and marketing
• League: Major League Baseball
• Education: B.A., English, Mount St. Mary's University, 1987
• Family: Husband, Brian Hendrix; three children: Christopher, 7; Creighton, 5; and Caroline, 3
• Career: 18 years in entertainment and sports marketing, starting with Stephen M. Pollan as a writer-researcher for his articles and cable show on CNBC; six years at Jim Henson Productions; now entering her 10th year at MLB, having started with the league as director of advertising and promotions in 1995
• Last vacation: Captiva Island, Fla.
• Last book read: "Career Warfare" by David D'Alessandro
• Last movie seen: "Polar Express"
• Greatest achievement: My family
• Greatest disappointment: That we didn't get enough press on the announcement of the "Spider-Man 2" MLB promotion
• Fantasy job: Sports broadcaster
• Business advice: Have passion for what you do and how you do it.
MLB’s plans to place “Spider-Man 2” logos on the bases as part of a promotion with Sony became the focus of international criticism immediately after the idea was announced last May. MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan, in the hospital recovering from surgery, called Parkes repeatedly to apologize for not being there and to reiterate his support for the promotion.

Parkes handled a conference call with reporters to explain and defend the promotion without her boss, but the support she got from Brosnan, MLB President Bob DuPuy and Commissioner Bud Selig in the heart of the media firestorm was as telling as any other event during Parkes’ decade at MLB.

“The whole organization stood with me,” said Parkes, who as senior vice president of advertising and marketing for the last two years has spearheaded many of MLB’s marketing initiatives. “You don’t get that at a lot of companies.”

“I’m fortunate to work for a company that continues to want to aggressively market the game in new and innovative ways,” she added.

That the words “new” and “innovative” can be associated with MLB is largely the result of a more centralized structure in which Selig and DuPuy have entrusted the league’s department heads with more responsibility and freedom. How far MLB has advanced as a centralized marketing unit is a credit to Parkes, who under Brosnan has helped push clubs to new levels in reaching out to fans.

Before the 2004 season, Parkes sent clubs a “tool kit” with instructions and resources for marketing a series of celebrations — including Opening Day, Jackie Robinson Day and Roberto Clemente Day — as an outgrowth of MLB’s focus on breaking down the season into events to package and sell. Also included were instructions on the “Spider-Man 2” promotion, for which Parkes later helped clubs execute a scaled-down version.

Parkes last year implemented a pilot television program in which six clubs and their TV partners introduced such innovations as microphoned players and on-field cameras during select broadcasts. The program was widely lauded and will expand into more markets this year. In addition, she coordinated the introduction of the “8 Teams, 1 Champion” postseason campaign as an extension of the “I Live For This” effort and conceived and coordinated the “Rally Monday” concept, eight celebrations in the eight playoff cities on the Monday before the start of the postseason. “Rally Monday” will return this year, a new annual platform for the league.

Club officials and league sponsors say that largely because of Parkes, their relationship with baseball’s league office has never been tighter. MLB this offseason held its first sponsor symposium for sponsors, advertisers and television partners to evaluate the 2004 season and prepare for 2005.

Selling others on the value of baseball is hardly a chore for Parkes, who fostered her passion for the game as a child while following the New York Mets, for whom her dad was team doctor. Parkes’ allegiance to the Mets rubbed off on her son Creighton, but in a clear sign that the good of the game comes first in the family, her oldest child, Christopher, is a Yankees fan.

In her current position, Parkes oversees advertising, marketing, research and design services at the league. Her next major task is putting together for MLB and its sponsors a plan that maps out the league’s marketing agenda for the next three to five years.

With any luck, the plan will include plenty of innovation and none of the negative attention that Parkes knows the job of selling baseball can make extremely difficult to avoid.

Back to 2005 Forty Under 40 list.

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