SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40
Published March 8, 2010
Few NBA executives have been immersed in as much of the league’s business as Rachel Jacobson. As senior vice president of business development, Jacobson has spent 14 years working in five departments over three NBA properties.
Her current job calls for strategic management and sponsorship sales for the NBA, WNBA and USA Basketball. It’s a broad set of responsibilities, but Jacobson can draw on her vast knowledge of the league that dates to when she was part of NBA Commissioner David Stern’s first management training program in 1996.
“The goal was to take very diverse people into a training program and understand the different departments,” Jacobson said. “I did that for a year, and then it was like a sorority rush. I wanted something in marketing and promotions.”
Her first assignment was with the league’s global marketing group, followed by a stint in marketing partnerships, where she helped land some of the league’s biggest deals, including the account with T-Mobile, one of the NBA’s most active partners.
Her success brought a promotion into the business development division, where she has flourished. She assumed oversight of sales for the WNBA and recently assumed her senior vice president slot.
“Rachel’s the NBA’s best-kept secret,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. “We are particularly proud of her. She was part of our first entry-level management class and has developed up through the system.”
Sports has always been in Jacobson’s blood. Before joining the NBA out of Cornell University, Jacobson interned at Monmouth Park Racetrack. She felt at home there because her grandparents owned thoroughbreds, and her father, an attorney, is a pedigree expert who advises owners on which horses to buy.
For Jacobson, handicapping a horse race is as natural as reading an NBA box score. “I don’t bet a lot,” she said, “but I can give good advice.”