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Published March 3, 2008
Mark Tatum was known as a slick-fielding infielder during his baseball career at Cornell University. Today, Tatum is proving to be just as nifty in his job as senior vice president of marketing partnerships for the NBA as he works to find ways to satisfy the league's marketing partners.
"Things today are changing so quickly that if you don't innovate and create an environment where our account team comes up with new ideas, then you are left behind," Tatum said. "It's the hardest part of my job, but we have been able to adapt to the changes."
What's keeping Tatum and his staff particularly occupied these days is aligning the NBA's digital assets with its sponsors' demands for a substantial digital presence. That's especially true in the NBA, which counts T-Mobile and Sprite as marketing partners.
"The challenge is to deliver value and results to our partners, " Tatum said. "The big trend now is in digital media, and we are developing more digital marketing programs that are relevant."
While meeting the digital challenges, Tatum also is responsible for roping in new business. So far this season, the NBA has added Wrigley's, Cisco and Kia as new partners, while renewing deals with Toyota, FedEx and Autotrader.com. The deals point to Tatum's reputation within the business as a friendly and personable negotiator.
"Mark has grown into a true marketing most valuable player," said NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. "He has outstanding relationship skills, which makes him a pleasure to deal with. We at the NBA love his easy style, as do our partners."
The NBA is counting on Tatum's "easy" style to translate overseas, where the league is rapidly expanding its business interests.
The NBA this year rolled out its NBA China entity, a separate division that actively is expanding the league's presence in China. Tatum, who in the past was instrumental in signing Chinese companies such as Lenovo and Haier to deals, must bring an even greater focus to finding marketing partners in Asia. In addition, Tatum is charged with retaining and attracting corporate partners for USA Basketball, which the NBA markets.
"I do spend a lot of time with global partners," Tatum said. "And I am making sure that with the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, we have appropriate marketing partnerships."
Tatum, 38, also has won high marks this year for helping the NBA develop an aggressive cause-related marketing program to offer to its roster of partners. The effort began last summer when Tatum played a key role in leading a rare forum for all of the NBA partners. During that meeting, Tatum presented the NBA's cause-related marketing plan for the 2007-08 season and around this year's All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.
"The big focus was to share our vision with our partners, and our goal was to get 100 percent participation," Tatum said, "and we got them all."