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Volume 21 No. 22
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Michelle Palmer, The Marketing Arm


hen Michelle Palmer joined The Marketing Arm in 2000, the Dallas-based marketing agency employed fewer than 30 people, and the number of women working in sports was relatively small. Palmer’s previous hands-on experience with sports marketing had been limited to a single deal, one in which she helped secure Tim Duncan for an SBC endorsement during his rookie year.

Michelle Palmer
Fast forward to this year, when Palmer was named president of sports and experiential at TMA, which now employs around 700 people, handles some of sports’ biggest spenders, and has grown from a sports shop to a full-service agency that even has a number of Super Bowl ads to its credit. Clients include State Farm and AT&T.

“We’ve grown as sports have,” Palmer said. “Sports are so big now they can be relevant for most brands.”

She’s advanced at TMA, and in the industry, from a rather inauspicious start. She was late for her first job interview at TMA and didn’t order what her interviewer suggested at lunch. She also suggested that her knowledge of sports marketing wasn’t good enough to do the job at what was then solely a sports marketing agency. She had acquired brand knowledge in her previous stops at agencies GSD&M and Bates, and at SBC/AT&T in corporate advertising, along with some genetic coding for the telecommunications industry. (Her father worked for Western Electric, a principal supplier to AT&T, a brand for which Palmer is still carrying the flag).

“Marketing isn’t something you can do singly,” Palmer said. “It has to be about unifying people as much as it is knowing a particular category. I like to think about a lot of things in new ways, and here I work across a lot of brands and lots of solutions. That’s fun for me.”

— Terry Lefton

  • An attribute I look for when hiring: Collaborative. Our business is all about people working together to create — ideas, strategies and innovative solutions.
  • A networking tip I’ve learned: Be proactive. Nothing happens if you sit and wait for things to come to you.
  • Biggest challenge I face working in sports: Sports business is very deep and very broad, and you simply cannot know everything. The key is to surround yourself with experts who can be tapped to share knowledge and collaborate on the right project at the right time.
  • Best advice I’ve received for career development: Do what you love. When you love what you do, the commitment, drive, creativity and energy it takes to grow your business and your career comes much more easily.
  • Woman in sports business I’d most like to meet: Junko Tabei, the first woman to summit Mount Everest and the first woman to reach the highest points on all seven continents. She now leads philanthropic organizations for sustainable mountaineering.
  • Most memorable sporting event attended: Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego, when the Denver Broncos won their first Super Bowl, playing against the Green Bay Packers. I grew up in Denver watching the Broncos every Sunday with my dad, so to watch them win live was a special experience.
  • Causes supported: Several personal causes related to interests, needs and medical issues affecting family, friends and colleagues.