SBJ/February 13-19, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Hunt’s love for marketing takes her to CMO position at USTA

Sue Hunt has been a lifelong fan of tennis and the U.S. Open, but her true passion is marketing. Hunt was introduced to the sports business while working at Nabisco through its work with the MLB All-Star Game, then later while working for L’Oreal, one of the major sponsors of the WNBA. After five years at the USTA, Hunt is head of all marketing efforts, from youth participation to the U.S. Open. Hunt spoke with staff writer Kristen Heimstead.

Age: 47
New title: Chief marketing officer, United States Tennis Association
Previous job: Managing director of marketing
First job: Co-op position with Procter & Gamble, but before that, Pizza Hut
Education: Bachelor’s in economics, University of Connecticut (1986)
Resides: Fairfield, Conn., with husband Scott Slobin and children Alex, Sam and Katherine
Grew up: Lived around the world and moved every two years but was born in Bethlehem, Pa.
Executive most admired: Steve Jobs
Brand most admired: Apple
Favorite vacation spot: Barbados
Last book read: “The Art of Fielding,” by Chad Harbach
Favorite book: “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” by John Irving
Last movie seen: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”
Favorite movie: “Cinema Paradiso”
Favorite band/musician: Bruce Springsteen


What is the biggest challenge in your new position?
Making sure everyone in the tennis industry understands 10 and Under Tennis has to have a long-term focus. In order to really change the game and drive participation, we need to stay at this for years to come. … What I’m most excited about is we’ve actually created departments internally that are solely focused on 10 and Under Tennis.

What is the biggest risk you've taken in your career?
Putting all of our energy and resources and a very large part of our assets behind the initiative. This is us absolutely believing these changes … make so much sense that it’s worth taking the risk.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
The marketing I was able to work on with The Martin Agency in 2011 blows me away. To imagine we got a phone call from the first lady’s office asking to be a part of our campaign …

What is your biggest professional disappointment?
Every year at the U.S. Open our opening night is a really special event that we work on for probably 11 months. [Last year] we developed what we thought was going to be perhaps one of the best opening nights, with an amazing light show. … Then Hurricane Irene hit, and due to unbelievable rain and difficulty getting the facility back up we had to cancel our opening night show. It was very devastating for us all.

What career advice do you have for people wanting into this industry?
In my career I’ve worked on spaghetti sauce, dog biscuits, pizza and tennis, and my joy comes from my complete passion for understanding how to market a product. So I really want to advise people to focus on that passion first and then see how they can channel that into sports.

What is one element that you would like to change about the sports industry?
Many sports are on the decline among youth due to overspecialization and kids being asked to perform at such high levels at such young ages. I really hope that all the professional teams and associations are as focused as we are on participation and making sure that youth play is appropriate for kids. I think if we can do that … we’re going to make sure sports continue to really grow in this country.

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