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Volume 20 No. 41
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Forty Under 40

Before she was 30, WMG Consulting Co-President Denise Durante interned for IMG, worked for the NFL in corporate sales, earned a Stanford MBA, worked at NASCAR devising Nextel’s title sponsorship plans and brought T-Mobile into the NBA as one of its largest sponsors. So when sports marketing pros gush about her expertise, it just makes sense. And they do.

“Denise understands all sides: our brand, our business and sports marketing overall,” extolled Jennifer Storms, Pepsi senior vice president of sports marketing, for whom Durante helped renew the company’s NFL sponsorship. “She can synthesize every part of a sponsorship, from rights to retail.”

Durante wanted to be a professional dancer and took classes well into her college years. Since then, she has been dancing through the sports marketing world as if there were steps painted on the floor. That’s difficult enough for anyone, but in sports there’s still a notoriously low glass ceiling for women.

“She’s focused, strategic and knows what’s meaningful to talent and what’s important to marketers,” said Andrew Stroth of Impact Talent Associates, who negotiated Dwyane Wade’s T-Mobile endorsement deal with Durante.

An internship at IMG led Durante to a job at the NFL, where she worked on brands such as Visa, Staples and Ford.

“I saw a lot of intelligence and willingness to learn from someone who started at an entry level,” said Kansas City Chiefs President Mark Donovan. “Obviously, both of those qualities served her well.”

After Stanford, Durante held the title of Nextel brand manager within NASCAR and helped steer a rebrand successful enough that fans were quickly referring to the longtime Winston Cup Series as the Nextel Cup. Durante now acknowledges that the skills she honed working on some of sports’ biggest properties were ideal preparation.

“On the property side, you learn to develop relationships first,” she said. “It’s about anticipation.”

Since 2005, Durante has grown Wasserman’s consulting business from fewer than 10 employees to more than 70. Wasserman’s consulting revenue has grown eightfold since then, both organically and through acquisition. Still, there’s one unfulfilled goal.

“I haven’t figured out how to combine my passions for dancing and sports marketing,” Durante said wistfully, “but someday …”

Age: 34
Title: Co-President, consulting
COMPANY: Wasserman Media Group
Education: B.A., University of Notre Dame; MBA, Stanford University, 2003
Family: Single
Career: NFL corporate marketing (1998-2001); NASCAR’s Nextel brand manager (2003-05); Wasserman Media Group Consulting (2005-present)
Last vacation: Maui
what's on your ipod? Alicia Keys, Michael and Janet Jackson
Guilty pleasure: Dark chocolate and red wine
Best stress release: Dancing. I still take classes.
Pet peeve: People who are disrespectful
Fantasy job: Prima ballerina
WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT: Random ideas for clients, not yet fully developed.
Business advice: Treat everyone well. This business has less than one degree of separation.