Mary Ellen Curran, WWE
Running community relations for WWE, Mary Ellen Curran sometimes finds herself considering the sport’s dramatic storylines when matching talent to an appearance or campaign.
All sports properties play up their perceived heroes. But only WWE relies on an equal proportion of villains to execute a scripted plot.
“We are storytellers and we have antagonists and protagonists and eventually good overcomes evil,” said Curran, who oversees cause marketing initiatives and nonprofit partnerships at a global media company that ESPN recently honored with its League Humanitarian Leadership Award. “When we’re implementing our [anti-bullying curriculum], kids ask the same question: ‘You’re a bad guy.’
“‘I’m a bad guy on TV, but that’s not who I am in real life … In real life, we’re friends. And we would never do anything to each other that you might see us do in programming.’”
Curran started out at the U.S. Tennis Association, then moved to the NHL, working in communications, marketing and licensing. After a brief stint in consumer products, she found her niche in community relations at the NBA and WNBA.
Curran was assistant vice president of philanthropy at The Hartford six years ago when a former NBA colleague contacted her about an opportunity to reorganize and elevate community relations at WWE.
“I had background in a lot of areas and was able to bring that experience to community relations, which then translated into building platforms and programs and partnerships that really told a story,” Curran said.
— Bill King