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Volume 20 No. 42
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Game Changers: Sharon Byers

Byers, an Auburn graduate, is the force behind Coke’s
marketing efforts on college campuses.
Sharon Byers
SVP, Sports and Entertainment Marketing Partnerships

Coca-Cola is affiliated with more than 700 sports properties, including the NCAA, NBA, Olympics, NASCAR and LeBron James. Yet, years after earning her last degree, it is college campuses where the company’s Sharon Byers is focusing. Effectively attacking the many-headed hydra that is college marketing isn’t easy, especially since Coke has ties to more than 400 colleges, but it is an area with high consumption of Coke products and a place where consumers make brand decisions that last a lifetime. “This is a market where the target is tough to reach and very tricky, but that makes the challenge worthwhile,” said Byers, a 25-year Coke marketer.

Coke’s roster of entertainment properties is also top shelf, starting with “American Idol.” Byers’ next challenge is to combine the marketing power of entertainment and sports, the two most powerful “passion points” for most consumers. “Historically, companies have used sports and entertainment separately, but people don’t consume them separately,” Byers said. “Now the question is one of blending them into something even more compelling.”

— Terry Lefton
  • Crowning professional achievement: Getting Coca-Cola to focus on the college channel. Ten years ago, we didn’t have any brands interested; now, they all are there.
  • What is the best advice youve ever received?: My parents taught me that a career is a long time, and while people may say “no” to you, you should always hear “maybe.”
  • People who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Bea Perez, chief sustainability officer; and Alison Lewis, senior vice president, marketing, North America. Both women I admire; two who have good work/life balance and have given terrific coaching to me.
  • One attribute I look for in hiring is …: Eagerness and openness for change.
  • My vision of success is …: To be well-respected and viewed as an innovator.
  • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Animal rescue.


“Sharon is engaging, personable, genuine, and she really understands partnerships. The amount of programs we do together is testimony to all that.”

  • Mark Tatum, NBA, EVP of global marketing partnerships