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Published March 20, 2006
By John Lombardo
• Age: 36
• Title: Senior vice president, marketing partnerships
• League: NBA
• Education: B.S., business management, Cornell University, 1991; MBA, Harvard Business School, 1998
• Family: Wife, Lisa; sons Tai, 4, and Kylan, 2
• Career: Held various sales positions with Procter & Gamble from 1991-1995; worked as regional sales manager for The Clorox Co. before attending business school; held an internship in Pepsi's sports marketing department in 1997; worked for Major League Baseball's corporate marketing division in 1998, joined the NBA in 1999; named to his current position in 2005.
• Last vacation: Carlsbad, Calif., over Christmas
• Last book read: "Oh, The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss, to my sons
• Last movie seen: "Curious George"
• Pet peeve: People who are unprepared for meetings
• Greatest achievement: Running the New York City Marathon in 2000
• Greatest disappointment: Realizing I wasn't good enough to be a professional baseball player
• Fantasy job: Professional sports team owner
• Executive most admired: David Stern
• Business advice: Always over-deliver on expectations.
Ask Mark Tatum about how he goes about selling NBA sponsorships and he'll politely ask you to rephrase the question.
"We don't call them sponsors, we call them marketing partners and that's our philosophy," Tatum said. "We have some of the best brands in the world, and we make sure we are talking to them and meeting their objectives."
Whatever the term, Tatum, senior vice president of market partnerships for the NBA, is a key player in attracting and retaining the league's corporate business. In addition to landing deals for all of the NBA business platforms, Tatum also is responsible for marketing USA Basketball.
It's a job that is getting increasingly challenging, considering the competition and the higher standards demanded by companies investing in the league.
"What is changing is that the business has gotten so much more sophisticated and decisions are no longer made on feel and relationships," Tatum said. "There is more analysis, and companies want tangible results that resonate. So the challenge for us is that we have to continue to show real return on the investments."
Tatum's seven-year tenure with the NBA suits him well for the changing dynamic because he's familiar with all of the league's sponsorship areas, and that provides an advantage in creating highly integrated packages for clients.
"He's worked in every different division that impacts marketing partnerships, and his experience shows through," said Heidi Ueberroth, executive vice president of global media properties and marketing partnerships for NBA Entertainment. "Whether it's internal or external, Mark instills a lot of confidence in people because of his long history in working in sports."
Tatum's style also helps. He's seen as a consensus builder who can put a personal touch on deals based on financial analysis.
"Not only does he love what he does, but he enjoys the interaction with people," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "He delivers because he has the analysis and the facts to demonstrate why we are a good investment, and he does it with a business and personal perspective that makes him so successful."
Tatum's experience isn't limited to the NBA. Before graduating from Harvard Business School in 1998, he worked for Procter & Gamble and The Clorox Co., and then he was an intern in Pepsi's sports marketing department. That job led to a position in Major League Baseball's corporate sponsorship department. He then joined the NBA in 1999, just after the league's 1998-99 lockout.
He's seen both the ups and downs of the NBA's business, leveraging the league's stars such as LeBron James while also dealing with the fallout from last season's brawl in Detroit. Either way, Tatum keeps the same approach.
"No matter what's going on, the focus is the same," he said, "and the focus is know who our fans are and how can we help companies reach those fans."