SBJ/March 3 - 9, 2008/Forty Under 40
Published March 3, 2008
Chris Heck's first job out of college was working for the Class A minor league Frederick Keys, where he sold sponsorships, ran the box office and was the team's public relations director - all at the same time.
"And I was also in charge of the tarp during rain delays," Heck said. "That first summer I figured out that I was making 75 cents an hour, which included all the hot dogs I could eat. But it was a great learning experience."
Heck has come a long way since those days. Today, as a senior vice president in the NBA's team marketing and business operations department, Heck oversees a staff of 16 that works closely with all 30 NBA teams in selling tickets and sponsorships. He also works directly with the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards to help those teams do business, and he played a vital role in overseeing the business operations for the Hornets' temporary relocation to Oklahoma City.
Heck's particular expertise is in helping teams build their sponsorship base, and NBA team sponsorship revenue is up 17 percent over last season. Since he joined the NBA in 2004, team sponsorship revenue has grown annually by double digits.
"The function of NBA team sponsors has changed greatly," Heck said. "It is managed more tightly and it is more of a science than in the past, where it was heavily skewed toward the art of relationships. Teams have grasped that and have been able to use it as a tool."
Before joining the NBA in 2004, Heck worked for the Miami Heat as director of sponsorship sales, and he also sold sports marketing rights for Villanova University, where he doubled sponsorship inventory and cut television programming rights deals. While at Villanova, Heck was an adjunct professor, and he currently teaches marketing at Columbia University, also as an adjunct.
"I call him the professor because of the methodical way he approaches our business," said NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. "Teams love his analytical ability to break down best practices that can be shared in other markets throughout the league. Despite the fact that he is a professor, he approaches the business like a student who is eager to learn about new ways of selling and marketing."