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Volume 20 No. 42
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Forty Under 40

When you are negotiating multimillion-dollar deals with NBA superstars, knowing the game brings a big advantage to the competition.

“It helps having an understanding of the sport and what the players go through,” said Chris Grancio, head of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas. “At the same time, I spend a lot of time with the players’ agents and with our partners to help build the brand.”

Grancio can relate both to the NBA and to big-time college programs doing business with Adidas because of his own playing career. He had a two-year stint playing pro basketball in Switzerland after a collegiate career at Harvard University, where he was a four-year starter on the basketball team in the mid-1990s.

Since joining Adidas in 2007, Grancio has played a critical role in managing the company’s basketball business. He handles player endorsement deals, the company’s partnership with the NBA, its 30 deals with major college programs and its international merchandise business.

“He is authentic, and that relevance has helped him do his job,” said Lawrence Norman, vice president of global basketball for Adidas.

Some of Grancio’s biggest accomplishments over the past year include re-signing Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose with a 14-year deal for a reported $260 million; creating innovative merchandise programs with the league surrounding its Christmas Day “Big” jerseys; developing the short-sleeved jerseys debuted by the Golden State Warriors last month; and helping rebrand the Brooklyn Nets. The result has been skyrocketing team merchandise sales for the company.

“It is a business I always thought I wanted to be in,” Grancio said, adding, “I had hundreds of pairs of shoes as a kid.”

Grancio came to Adidas after working for Staples in that company’s sports marketing division and then for New Balance, where he worked in product development. When Adidas approached him, he jumped at the opportunity, knowing that his mix of professional experience and love of the game would serve him well at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Portland.

“It was a no-brainer,” Grancio said. “I am motivated by how we can work with our partners to create campaigns that help us drive our business.”

— John Lombardo

Age: 37
Title: Head of global sports marketing, basketball
EDUCATION: B.A., Harvard University
FAMILY: Wife, Lauren; first child due in early April
CAREER: Played pro basketball in Europe for two years after graduation; five years at Staples in a variety of marketing roles; two years at New Balance in product management and marketing roles; past six years at Adidas: two leading U.S. Go To Market Basketball, two as head of the NBA partnership, and two as head of global basketball sports marketing

BEST BUSINESS ADVICE RECEIVED: Grow vines (from Ron Sargent, Staples CEO)

IPOD PLAYLIST: A$AP Rocky, Macklemore and The Gaslight Anthem join about 4,000 songs from the ’90s
FAVORITE IPAD APPS: Fly Delta, Open Table, Sonos, Facebook, ESPN ScoreCenter
PERSONALITY, IN A TWEET: Type A Bostonian, mellowed by the Northwest who enjoys a good challenge, a good debate, and a good bottle of wine
FAVORITE MOVIE LINE: “We have a pool, and a pond. The pond would be good for you.” (“Caddyshack”)