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SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40
Published March 20, 2006
ESPN ABC SPORTS CUSTOMER MARKETING AND SALES
By Andy Bernstein
• Age: 34
• Title: Vice president, sports management
• Company: ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales
• Education: B.A., Michigan, 1993; M.A., Emerson, 1994; J.D., Rutgers-Newark, 1998
• Family: Husband, Edward
• Career: Worked at ABC Radio Network and WABC and WPLJ in New York before joining ESPN in 2000.
• Last vacation: Honeymoon in Africa and Mauritius
• Last book read: "Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping" by Patrick Radden Keefe
• Last movie seen: "Cars" (advance screening)
• Pet peeve: Incompetence
• Greatest achievement: Having no regrets
• Greatest disappointment: My dad was an enormous sports fan and when I was promoted three years ago, he was so proud of me and kept asking me when he would get to see my new business card. He passed away before I could show it to him and it breaks my heart.
• Fantasy job: CIA agent
• Executive most admired: Steve Jobs of Apple
• Business advice: You shine through your people. If you aren't doing what you need to do to have them fill your shoes, you aren't doing your job.
There was a time when Dorothy Whitehouse wanted to be an FBI agent. Either that or a White House correspondent. Or an entertainment lawyer. Somewhere along the line, she ended up with a job that so perfectly suited her passion for sports, and creative, strategic thinking, she hasn't looked back.
Whitehouse heads up ESPN's sports management unit, overseeing a group of 12 who act as the brand managers for more than a dozen professional sports in the ESPN fold. Their charge is to find ways to get the most out of each property, which can mean creating sponsorship packages, developing sales and marketing strategies, and dissecting each contract to figure out what they can and can't do to translate a rights deal into revenue.
"It's working not only with ESPN and understanding all of its business, but understanding what other businesses are trying to do and their objectives and how we can help them," Whitehouse explained.
In the day-to-day contact between ESPN and the top sales and marketing executives at the major sports leagues, Whitehouse is described as personable and always taking an interest in their business objectives.
"Dorothy lives partnership," said Steven Justman, vice president of global media at the NBA. "It's not only what she says, but how she goes about it. She's always focused on what's best for all parties. Not just what's best for herself or for her company."
Her contacts will also tell you she's tenacious and not afraid to issue a challenge.
There was a time when MLB sponsors accounted for a lower percentage of ESPN baseball advertising than any other league's sponsors did with their respective sports. Whitehouse issued a challenge to MLB senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing John Brody to change that. It worked. Now MLB sponsors rank No. 1 by that measure among the major leagues.
She also has a knack for creating assets seemingly out of thin air. Not long ago, fantasy sports was an area that only ESPN.com addressed, with no real involvement from ESPN's myriad other platforms. Whitehouse fought to create a fantasy sports franchise that would include broadcast elements in ESPN's news shows.
"If we want to be a gaming leader, we need to be a content leader," she said. Within a year, ESPN had created a multidimensional fantasy platform that would net more than $16 million in advertising.
Whitehouse has a master's degree in fine arts and a law degree, the latter of which she got while going to school at night and working a day job in sales at ABC Radio. The arts and law backgrounds have both been enormously helpful in her career path, she said, especially the law degree as she spends much of her time picking through rights contracts. But she never would have been happy working just in graphic design or just being a lawyer.
"With arts, I was training my creative side but wasn't using my strategic side," she said. "In law school, I was using my strategic side but not my creative side. With this job I'm able to do both, and I think that's why it is so well-suited for me."