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SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/Forty Under 40
Published March 12, 2007
In early 2006, Kathy Carter called together her sales team at Soccer United Marketing for what she considered to be "a come-to-Jesus" meeting.
The three agencies that SUM had hired to sell its 272 hours of TV programming for that summer's World Cup had sold only a fraction of that inventory. Carter, SUM's executive vice president, felt that if the organization was going to meet its sales goals over the next six months, her sales team and those agencies needed to quickly secure new business.
"It was all hands on deck to sell $60 million worth of media," recalled Doug Quinn, SUM's president. "And that's not what we're here to do."
Carter set up a war room where her team met daily to discuss its progress. Charts tracked performance, noting potential and completed sales. Over the ensuing months, the team made significant progress, but more than 30 percent of the inventory remained unsold a week before the World Cup, so Carter made one final push.
"She got [Commissioner] Don [Garber] to make calls, me to make calls, [MLS President] Mark Abbott to make calls," Quinn said. "She called in favors, and the ones she called in, she ended up doing them a favor."
Carter and her team managed to sell all the media before the tournament ended, and those who bought into the event participated in one of the most successful World Cups to date. More than 90 million viewers tuned in to the World Cup on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, helping SUM out-deliver its guarantees by 100 percent, according to Garber.
"It was without question one of the hardest projects I had to work on," Carter said.
And she did it all while continuing to manage SUM's primary responsibility, handling the marketing rights for MLS, the U.S. and Mexican national teams and two other properties. Sales across those assets increased SUM revenue by more than 20 percent last year, Carter said, though she declined to provide specific numbers.
This year, she's poised to grow revenue even further. With four new media partners paying rights fees to MLS, two more soccer-specific stadiums debuting and international superstar David Beckham preparing to join the league, she's confident that won't be a problem.
"Every announcement is one-upping the next one," Carter said. "It's just another indicator of what direction the game is going and the lengths the organization will go to grow the sport. Interest is at an all-time high."
— Tripp Mickle