SBJ/October 10-16, 2011/Game Changers

Game Changers: Michelle Wilson

WWE
Wilson has rung up achievements in several sports.
Michelle Wilson
WWE
Chief Marketing Officer

Michelle Wilson has been an innovator throughout her career in sports marketing.

While at the U.S. Tennis Association, she played a key role in the implementation of blue courts at the U.S. Open, something that let the tournament “own a color” among the other Grand Slam events, she said. Prior to that, innovation was key in Wilson working to build the upstart XFL from step one. As vice president of marketing for the league, Wilson led the XFL to become, as she noted, the first pro sports league to sell season tickets online. The league also implemented the X-Cam — technology now frequently seen at sporting events and referred to as the “fly-over” camera.

But like all true innovators, Wilson believes her crowning professional achievement will be her next one. And that achievement is already fast taking shape, with the recent announcement of a WWE-branded network to debut in 2012.

— Katherine Zdrojeski

  • First job: Chemical engineer at Johnson & Johnson.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: There not being a second season for the XFL.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received?: Manage your own career because no one will manage it for you.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Everything during the week and nothing during the weekend.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Lesa France Kennedy, because she has been instrumental to International Speedway Corp.’s continued growth through her leadership, hard work and perseverance in the face of personal adversity.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: The over-reliance on tradition and lack of innovation.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: A sense of urgency.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“Michelle was a driving force behind the resurgence of the U.S. Open into a mainstream sports and entertainment spectacle and gained the respect of everyone from the boardroom to the locker room.”

  • Arlen Kantarian, former chief executive of pro tennis, U.S. Tennis Association
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