SBJ/October 10-16, 2011/Game Changers

Game Changers: Marla Miller

GETTY IMAGES / MLB
Miller (center) with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden at the 2009 World Series.
Marla Miller
MLB
SVP, Special Events

MLB’s All-Star Game is perhaps the one such event among sports’ showcase games that still has importance and growth — and has not devolved into a meaningless exhibition. Marla Miller is a key reason why.

Miller first oversaw an expansion of the midsummer classic into a five-day cavalcade that, beyond the game, itself includes a well-attended FanFest, a Futures Game featuring promising minor leaguers, and a Home Run Derby that is ESPN’s most-watched event each summer. After a series of attendance and revenue records were set, Miller then led a deft shift to boost the event’s power as an instrument of community involvement. The All-Star Game now generates more than $5 million in annual donations to various national and local causes. It featured President Barack Obama in St. Louis in 2009.

The playoffs and World Series have in recent years seen a similar spike in reach and depth, also under Miller’s leadership.

“The idea was to go beyond the ballparks and use these events to make a major impact in the various communities,” Miller said. “It started with a basic idea of what other ancillary activities we could add [to the All-Star Game] and now takes on a much larger thematic approach.”

— Eric Fisher
  • First job: Internship at Grey Advertising.
  • Crowning professional achievement:  2008 New York All-Star summer.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Cancellation of the 1994 World Series.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Wanting every Major League Baseball All-Star Game to be better than the last one.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: No job too tall, no job too small.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Preparing for the unexpected — from weather issues to local politics that impact our events.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Loyalty.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Have been born 20 years later so I could have majored in sports management. The closest I got to studying the business of sports in college at NYU was attending a guest lecture by Howard Cosell

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“Marla and I spent a great deal of time together [planning the 2011 All-Star Game], and I quickly realized how strong, smart and prepared she is. She is a strategist and a problem solver. All of MLB’s special events appear to be finely tuned, and they are because Marla is at the helm.”

  • Derrick Hall, Arizona Diamondbacks president and chief executive
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