SBJ/Sept. 9-15, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Mentoring vital in Premier Partnerships’ commitment to putting women in key roles

Women have always been an important part of the picture at Premier Partnerships, says Randy Bernstein (center), taking key roles in deals like the Portland naming-rights deal.

    Premier Partnerships recently sold the naming rights for the Portland Trail Blazers’ home arena, the Rose Garden, to Moda Health. Playing a major role for Premier in securing the 10-year, $40 million deal were Uzma Rawn, senior director of corporate marketing, and Erin Prober, director of marketing services.
    It was the latest deal for Premier in which its female employees have played a key role, but that’s not surprising; Premier for years has looked to mentor and develop women sports executives within its ranks. Along with Rawn and Prober, Premier employs on its 16-person staff Stephanie Cheng as vice president of marketing services, Christina Shaffer as director of corporate partnerships, Kaitlyn Beale as manager of corporate partnerships, and Caryn Rosoff as a revenue and property consulting analyst.
    SportsBusiness Journal staff writer John Lombardo spoke recently with Premier President and CEO Randy Bernstein about his company’s commitment to mentoring women sports executives.

How have women executive roles in the industry changed of late, and what impact are those changes having?
When I started in sports in 1982 … women had certain roles and men had certain roles, and it was always so odd to me. It was almost that if you knew about sports or players in sports and you were a man, you got the key positions. Really at the time, it stereotyped women into administrative positions despite the fact that women had the skill sets that were as good, if not better in many cases, than men in key executive positions. I am not surprised at all that women are finding a place at the top of organizational charts across many sports organizations. What is surprising is that it took so long. It comes down to opportunity. Title IX was all about opportunity on the field, but there is no such thing as Title IX in private enterprise in selecting employees. However, smart business leaders today are starting to understand what my business partner, Alan Rothenberg, and I have known for a long time.

What issues still remain?
Sports overall is a very small industry where people know each other and have access to key positions because of relationships. The issue is making sure that the younger generation of women who don’t have those long-term relationships are not overlooked. It comes down to mentorship and opportunity. It is incumbent upon men and women at higher levels to provide access to an expanding amount of job opportunities.

What has Premier Partnerships done in mentoring women in the industry?
We provide opportunities for women to play key roles across the board from a sales perspective. Historically, those jobs have been led by men, and we know we have equal opportunities for women to sell at the highest levels. When you see women involved in naming rights, it is not by accident. We knew early on it would pay off. They get intense training on what it takes to become successful.

What is the biggest hurdle women face in not just getting into the business but in making their mark?
Uzma [Rawn] said that “when people hear about me selling [the Blazers’ naming-rights deal], I want to sell four or five more, because I don’t want anyone to think it was a fluke.” The biggest hurdle is making sure that women are given the benefit of the doubt that when they succeed, it is not just a fluke. It is because of the hard work and talent.

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