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Volume 20 No. 45
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Forty Under 40

There are sports marketers who plan their careers adroitly and long in advance, expertly zigging and zagging from college athlete to marketing MBA to the front office of a glamour team or brand.

Then there’s Alexander Chang, a doctor’s son who was originally a pre-med student, who veered to a master’s degree in public health policy when he found the “blood and guts” endemic to practicing medicine unpalatable, and who now helps leverage the sponsorship portfolio of American Express.

Medicine’s loss has been sponsorship’s gain. Some say Chang’s lack of pedigree within the sports marketing field is actually an advantage.

“He’s got such a varied background that Alex always looks at things from a unique angle and can usually find and appreciate other new solutions to challenges,” said Elizabeth Lindsey, co-president of Wasserman Media Group’s corporate consulting unit.

After initially putting his public health policy expertise to use within Ernst & Young’s health care consulting practice, the initial dot-com boom brought Chang to New York City. He was recruited to AmEx’s nascent interactive strategy group in 2000 and eventually rose through the advertising and marketing group, working on launches including the Plum Card and event-marketing platforms like Small Business Saturday. Two years ago, a sponsorship position opened up, and now the former biology major is leveraging world-class properties such as the U.S. Open (both golf and tennis), the NBA, Fashion Week and a pan-AEG sponsorship.

“I always liked sports. I just never thought about it as a profession,” said Chang. “Now, I think it’s an industry I want to stay in.”

So maybe more aspiring sports marketers will start taking organic chemistry in their freshman year.

— Terry Lefton

Age: 36
Title: Vice president, sports and entertainment marketing
COMPANY: American Express Co.
EDUCATION: B.S., biology, Emory University; MPH (master’s, public health policy), Emory University
FAMILY: Wife, Menaka; sons Kalin (3) and Dhilin (5 months)
CAREER: Senior consultant, Ernst & Young (1999-2000); American Express: senior manager, interactive strategy (2000-02); senior manager, new customer acquisition (2003-04); director, new customer acquisition (2004-06); director, U.S. advertising (2006-09); vice president, U.S. advertising (2009-11); vice president, sports and entertainment marketing (2011-present)
FIRST JOB: Marketing for a children’s hospital in Atlanta.
HOW DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?: You have to make sure people around you know that it’s a personal priority, and act accordingly.
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE RECEIVED: You can’t control the future.
WORST ADVICE RECEIVED: Try to control your future.
PERSONALITY, IN A TWEET: I’m like your local news team: dedicated, determined, and dependable.
STRESS RELEASE: Playing golf
PET PEEVE: People who get angry on the golf course
GUILTY PLEASURE: Reality TV shows, especially “Pawn Stars”
FAVORITE MOVIE LINE: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”)