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Published March 20, 2006
SOCCER UNITED MARKETING
By Scott Warfield
• Age: 36
• Title: Executive vice president
• Company: Soccer United Marketing
• Education: B.A., political science, William and Mary
• Family: Single
• Career: Began career with Booz Allen and Hamilton in 1991; worked for the World Cup from 1993-94; moved to Major League Soccer in ’94; hired by ISL Worldwide in 1999; moved to Envision in 2001 and then AEG in 2002; hired by SUM to head up sponsorship sales and activation in 2003.
• Last vacation: Whistler in January
• Last book read: “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
• Last movie seen: “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”
• Pet peeve: When people are late
• Greatest achievement: The launch of MLS
• Greatest disappointment: The 99 percent deal that gets away
• Executive most admired: Steve Jobs at Apple
• Business advice: Call people back, don’t ask anyone to do something you won’t do and if you say you’re going to do something, do it.
Kathy Carter, executive vice president of Soccer United Marketing, remembers the day she realized that deal making was going to be a major part of her professional career.
"I completed my first deal when working for the World Cup in 1993," Carter said, referring to the StarKist sponsorship she landed for the 1994 World Cup held in the United States. "It was the coolest thing in the world. Closing a deal is the closest thing to winning a game, and at that time it was just a huge rush."
Carter continues to close deals, and feel that rush, today while also expanding SUM's sponsorship revenue base in the process.
New York-based SUM, which was founded in 2002, represents all commercial rights for Major League Soccer and holds the English-language broadcast rights for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, SUM is the largest promoter of international soccer matches in the United States, including being the exclusive U.S. promoter and marketing representative for the Mexican national team and its annual tour across the country.
Carter, 36, sells across all those platforms, and several others, making SUM a highly profitable marketing company.
"Commercial sponsorship revenue has tripled in 2 1/2 years," Carter said, refusing to divulge specific figures.
After the '94 World Cup, Carter signed on to help with the launch of Major League Soccer, which debuted in 1996. Carter, who played college soccer at William and Mary, was charged with selling everything from the sport to its players to corporate sponsorships for the league.
"We used to laugh because half the people agreed to meet with me just to get me off the phone," she said. "They wanted me to stop bugging them. You had to explain not only what soccer was at that time, but you also had to explain what Major League Soccer was and what it was going to be."
Doug Quinn, president of Soccer United Marketing, said Carter's knowledge of the game as both a Division I athlete and a former MLS executive gives her an advantage that allows her to succeed.
"Kathy's knowledge of the sport and the industry, combined with her burning desire to elevate the profile of soccer in the United States, puts her in a league of her own," Quinn said.
But even though the sport has come a long way in 10-plus years, Carter said her job of selling soccer is still a daily challenge.
"People and companies are much more aware of the game itself, and therefore we can meet with a lot more people," she said. "It's still difficult to get deals done, but I think everybody will tell you that."
Asked where soccer will be in 20 years, she doesn't hesitate.
"We will have won the World Cup and our men will stand on the same stage as our women," Carter said. "I think the league will be extraordinarily healthy and we'll be playing in at least 16 markets."
And what about the woman who right now is helping steer the sport in that direction?
"I'll be somewhere with my feet stuck in the sand and a cocktail in my hand," Carter said with a laugh.