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Volume 23 No. 13

Power Players

Photo: getty images / photo illustration
Photo: getty images / photo illustration
Photo: getty images / photo illustration

They are the executives everyone wants to get in front of, get to know and get to pitch. They are the executives challenged with positioning their brands with the right sport and getting the most out of their partnerships. They are the executives using the power of sports to build and define their brands.

The 48 individuals from 39 companies highlighted in the following pages have made a true investment in sports, which has allowed their brands to develop deeper relationships with consumers, while growing market share. From naming rights, to digital and social media content, event and experiential marketing, and creative advertising that captures the imagination of consumers and sports fans, these brand-side executives show how effectively sports can reach diverse audiences.

The individuals and brands chosen by the SBJ staff represent a wide variety of business sectors but they share a common commitment to sports sponsorship and marketing.

APPAREL

Adidas

Nike

AUTOMOBILE

Chevrolet

Lexus

Mercedes-Benz USA

Toyota North America

BEER

Anheuser-Busch InBev

Constellation Brands

MillerCoors

DELIVERY

FedEx

UPS

FINANCIAL SERVICES

American Express

Bank of America

Capital One

Citi

Mastercard

JPMorgan Chase

Visa

Wells Fargo

INSURANCE

Allstate

Geico

State Farm

QUICK-SERVICE RESTAURANT

Burger King

Dunkin' Donuts

McDonald's

Papa John's

Pizza Hut

SOFT DRINK

Coca-Cola

Gatorade

PepsiCo

TECHNOLOGY

IBM

Intel

Microsoft

Samsung

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

AT&T

T-Mobile

Verizon

OTHER

Delta Air Lines

Procter & Gamble

 

Photo: adidas
Photo: adidas
Photo: adidas

SIMON ATKINS
Senior Vice President and Brand Director
Adidas North America

Atkins has been with Adidas for more than 20 years, long enough to have seen it go in and out of fashion many times among the fickle shoe and apparel consumer base in the U.S. Lately, the brand has regained fashion cachet and sales domestically. As a domestic brand builder, Atkins is charged with maintaining that momentum without too much reliance on retro styles. 


John Slusher (left) and Elliott Hill
Photo: Nike (2)
John Slusher (left) and Elliott Hill
Photo: Nike (2)
John Slusher (left) and Elliott Hill
Photo: Nike (2)

JOHN SLUSHER
Executive Vice President, Global Sports Marketing
Nike

ELLIOTT HILL
President, Consumer and Marketplace
Nike

Arguably the most powerful brand in sports, Nike’s legacy and ubiquity are so established that consumers inevitably name it as an event or property sponsor — even when it isn’t. Slusher, who heads Nike’s enviable global portfolio of world-class athletes and properties, has been with the brand for 20 years and his father is a longtime confidant of Phil Knight. Hill, another 20-year Nike veteran, holds the same tight reins on sales and marketing, as well as the Jordan Brand and Nike’s growing direct-to-consumer business.

Photo: general motors
Photo: general motors
Photo: general motors

STEVE HAENER
Senior Manager, Media Strategy, Experiential Marketing and Brand Partnerships
Chevrolet

General Motors annually is one of the top corporate spenders in sports, and Haener is a key decision-maker for its flagship U.S. brand. In part under Haener’s guidance, Chevy has deepened its relationships with top sports properties such as Major League Baseball, created a series of youth-oriented fitness initiatives like Chevy Youth Baseball, and struck partnerships in country music to entrench itself there. Nearly a decade after GM filed for bankruptcy protection, Chevrolet is now posting record sales for many of its models. 

Photo: Joe Wilssens / Dallas Business Journal
Photo: Joe Wilssens / Dallas Business Journal
Photo: Joe Wilssens / Dallas Business Journal

COOPER ERICKSEN
Vice President, Marketing
Lexus

Ericksen is one of very few auto marketers qualified to do body work on a vehicle, and he’s enough of a gearhead that he also has a bachelor’s degree in diesel-power technology. The 27-year Toyota veteran leads marketing for its Lexus nameplate, which is third in the U.S. among luxury auto brands behind Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Lexus is a top-10 media spender and its overall media budget included a return to the Super Bowl last February.

MONIQUE HARRISON
Head of Brand Experience Marketing
Mercedes-Benz USA

Harrison, a former Verizon marketer, has helped grow Mercedes’ sales year over year through partnerships such as Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, tennis’ U.S. Open and the Masters. She added Rickie Fowler and Sloane Stephens to the company’s roster of brand ambassadors and signed a 10-year extension with Roger Federer. Closer to home, the luxury brand’s motorsports investments, which include Formula One, IMSA and Formula E, have more than tripled under her leadership.

Photo: toyota
Photo: toyota
Photo: toyota

ED LAUKES
Group Vice President, Toyota Division Marketing
Toyota Motor North America

Laukes directs Toyota’s marketing strategy, research, advertising and sponsorship, including its motorsports investments. Through his 29 years at Toyota, the carmaker has built an impressive sports portfolio that includes a large spend against NASCAR — Laukes was one of the execs who pioneered its entry — and other motorsports properties, as well as naming rights at several venues and a bevy of team sponsorships, all fueled by one of the biggest media budgets in America.

Photo: Anheuser-Busch InBev
Photo: Anheuser-Busch InBev
Photo: Anheuser-Busch InBev

NICK KELLY
Head of U.S. Sports Marketing
Anheuser-Busch InBev

Kelly is one of the ABI marketers doing the detail work as the brewer, long a sugar daddy for pro sports, looks to change the industry. By instituting incentives within the company’s plethora of sponsorships, the hope is more accountability from properties, which would be a sports marketing cultural sea change. Kelly worked his way up the PR side of the business, including three years at NASCAR, before shifting to marketing in 2015.

Photo: Constellation Brands
Photo: Constellation Brands
Photo: Constellation Brands

RENE RAMOS
Vice President of Field Marketing, Sponsorships and Activation
Constellation Brands

Since joining Constellation in 2016, Ramos has successfully expanded the company’s sports footprint beyond its long-standing boxing and soccer activations. Modelo sales at UFC events have exceeded projections, sometimes outselling the venue’s tenured competitors, and helped it gain permanent tap space in several arenas. Sales of Corona have increased 6 percent in Texas since the UT alum hooked the beer up with his beloved Longhorns in 2017, and Corona’s Kentucky Derby debut this year was a commercial success. 


Photo: MillerCoors
Photo: MillerCoors
Photo: MillerCoors

ADAM DETTMAN
Director, Brand Experience
MillerCoors

Which is a tougher task, maintaining one of the biggest sponsorship portfolios in sports or pushing a legacy beer brand when spirits, wine and craft beers are eroding the market for big-brand brews? Dettman, whose beverage marketing acumen was gleaned during prior stints with Anheuser-Busch, Jim Beam and Gatorade, has successfully used sports to deliver experiential rewards to consumers during his six years with MillerCoors. 


Photo: nyse
Photo: nyse
Photo: nyse

PATRICK FITZGERALD
Senior Vice President, Integrated Marketing and Communications
FedEx

Fitzgerald climbed his career ladder from the PR side of the business, including stints with Ketchum and Edelman, joining FedEx Ground in 2007 as director of communications. He now heads advertising, sponsorship, brand and communications, making him the chief storyteller for one of the country’s most indelible brands at a time when content is more important than ever. FedEx has long been one of the top b-to-b spenders across sports, including deals with the NFL and PGA Tour, and naming rights for the homes of the Washington Redskins and Memphis Grizzlies.

Photo: Shana Wittenwyler
Photo: Shana Wittenwyler
Photo: Shana Wittenwyler

RON ROGOWSKI
Vice President, Global Brand and Sponsorship
UPS

A 33-year veteran of the global shipping giant, Rogowski helps oversee a diverse sports sponsorship portfolio that includes deals in every major U.S. team sport, college athletics, golf, auto racing, running and horse racing. Rogowski also has played a sizable role in the company’s charitable, philanthropic and sustainability efforts in sports, including a relationship with the Green Sports Alliance.

Photo: Koury Angelo for American Express
Photo: Koury Angelo for American Express
Photo: Koury Angelo for American Express

DEBORAH CURTIS
Vice President, Head of Global Brand Experiences and Partnerships
American Express

Over 11 years at AmEx, Curtis has held the reins for sponsorships that have included the NBA, U.S. Open, USGA and other affinity-driven associations, such as those with AEG and Fashion Week. Her AmEx tenure is backed by years of brand marketing experience gained from five years at L’Oreal and time at ad agencies BBDO, J. Walter Thompson and others. Professionally, she’s passionate about expanding the role of women in sports. Away from work, her passion is being a single mom.

Photo: bank of america
Photo: bank of america
Photo: bank of america

CHARLES GREENSTEIN
Senior Vice President, Global Sponsorship Marketing
Bank of America

Trained as an accountant, it’s no wonder Greenstein was asking for accountability and ROI measures from sponsors long before it was de rigueur. Like any marketer in his category, Greenstein has to navigate a complex mix of b-to-b and b-to-c efforts, which often overlap. Greenstein has been with BofA since it acquired Fleet Bank in 2004 and directs a portfolio that includes MLB league rights and those of seven MLB teams, along with NFL stadium naming rights in Charlotte, PGA Tour and NASCAR assets, and a swath of team rights.

Byron Daub (left) and Ben Freidson
Photo: Capital One (2)
Byron Daub (left) and Ben Freidson
Photo: Capital One (2)
Byron Daub (left) and Ben Freidson
Photo: Capital One (2)

BYRON DAUB
Vice President,  Sponsorships and Experiential Marketing
Capital One

BEN FREIDSON
Senior Director, Social Media and Brand Content Marketing 
Capital One

Daub has spent 17 years as a Capital One marketer, the past 15 focused on sponsorship marketing. Freidson has been there since 2014 after sports marketing jobs with Volkswagen and D.C. United. What’s in their wallet? Naming rights for the University of Maryland’s football field and at the D.C. arena that houses the Wizards and Capitals, NCAA rights, the Capital One Orange Bowl and more than two dozen team sponsorships.

Photo: citi
Photo: citi
Photo: citi

TINA DAVIS
Managing Director, Corporate Sponsorship and Marketing
Citi

The financial services giant is perhaps best known in the sports industry for its large-scale partnership with the New York Mets that includes naming rights to the club’s ballpark, Citi Field. But Citi’s sponsorship activity under Davis stretches much further, extending deep into golf and tennis, and previously included an alignment with the U.S. Olympic Committee. As mobile payments have become an increasingly prevalent fixture of American commerce, Davis has aggressively moved to position Citi as a more nimble sponsorship entity amid that transition. 

Michael Robichaud (left) and Michael Goldstein
Photo: courtesy of mastercard
Michael Robichaud (left) and Michael Goldstein
Photo: courtesy of mastercard
Michael Robichaud (left) and Michael Goldstein
Photo: courtesy of mastercard

MICHAEL ROBICHAUD
Senior Vice President, Global Sponsorships
Mastercard

MICHAEL GOLDSTEIN
Vice President, Head of Sponsorships, North America
Mastercard

Robichaud, known widely as the man driving the car when Nextel signed its title deal with NASCAR in 2003, has headed Mastercard’s sports portfolio since 2008. Goldstein, in the Mastercard fold since 2012, recently switched from global to domestic responsibilities. Mastercard’s global rights include soccer deals with UEFA and CONCACAF, the British Open and the Rugby World Cup. On the domestic side, its MLB rights date to 1997, and it has a PGA Tour deal and more than two dozen team deals, including the Yankees, Cubs and Cowboys.

Photo: courtesy of jpmorgan chase
Photo: courtesy of jpmorgan chase
Photo: courtesy of jpmorgan chase

FRANK NAKANO
Managing Director, Sports and Entertainment Marketing
JPMorgan Chase

A former NBA marketer, Nakano has been directing Chase’s sports marketing at a time when the financial services giant is running a fast break. Nakano developed his brand marketing skills at Momentum Worldwide and during nine years with the NHL. Principal to the large Chase sports portfolio during the past few years have been naming rights to the Golden State Warriors’ new $1 billion San Francisco arena, opening next year. That deal added West Coast visibility and helped balance the bank’s massive MSG sponsorship.

Photo: visa
Photo: visa
Photo: visa

KATE JOHNSON
Vice President, Global Sponsorship Marketing
Visa

To the best of our knowledge, Johnson is the only Olympic medalist now leveraging those same rights for an Olympic sponsor. Johnson won a silver medal rowing for the U.S. in the women’s eight at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. She joined Visa in 2013, where she manages a top-shelf sponsorship portfolio, which includes the NFL, FIFA and, of course, global Olympic rights.


Photo: wells fargo
Photo: wells fargo
Photo: wells fargo

NICK CAREY
Senior Vice President, Head of Sponsorships and Hospitality
Wells Fargo

As if the contentious financial services category wasn’t demanding enough, marketers at Wells Fargo have an additional task that’s downright Herculean. They must marshal their marketing forces to help the bank recover from a fake-account scandal that left its 166-year-old brand battered. Carey, who joined Wells Fargo in 2012 after holding titles at SportsMark, Charles Schwab and ESPN, heads a large and diverse collection of rights that include the PGA Tour, MLS, a handful of facility naming-rights deals and a bevy of team rights.

Photo: Meg Wierzbecki; Steve Lebeau
Photo: Meg Wierzbecki; Steve Lebeau
Photo: Meg Wierzbecki; Steve Lebeau

PAM HOLLANDER
Vice President, Consumer Marketing
Allstate

DAN KEATS
Director, Consumer Marketing and Sponsorships
Allstate

The marketing arms race within the insurance category has seen spending increase by eight figures in the past decade. With no signs of an armistice, insurance remains one of the most active categories, both in sports marketing and marketing overall. Hollander and Keats have spent a combined quarter century at Allstate learning the new wave of marketing activity that can only be described as tornadic, including Allstate’s industry standard field-goal branding program and the award-winning “Mayhem” campaign. 

Photo: geico
Photo: geico
Photo: geico

MELISSA HALICY
Marketing Director
Geico

Even within the hyperbolic consumer insurance market, Geico is an outlier, since its private ownership allows it to spend well in excess of its market share. Geico’s league sponsorships with Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, and its 60-plus deals across MLB, NFL and NHL clubs, are testimony to that, as are its abundance of ads — whether they involve a lizard, a pig or a caveman. After 15 years at the Berkshire Hathaway-owned company, Halicy supervises all of those characters, overseeing broadcast and digital creative, media buying and sports marketing.

Photo: state farm
Photo: state farm
Photo: state farm

ED GOLD
Advertising Director
State Farm

After 15 years at State Farm, Gold directs the insurer’s sponsorships and media-buying efforts. In a category that seems to escalate spending on a daily basis, Gold has a clear idea of his most important mission. “We have to figure out ways to stand out,” he said, “whether that’s through sponsorship, ownership of a particular channel or putting our message in fewer places, versus putting it everywhere.”

Photo: burger king
Photo: burger king
Photo: burger king

DIEGO SUAREZ
Lead, U.S. Media, Advertising and Communications
Burger King

An accountant by trade, Suarez worked at Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers prior to joining Burger King’s finance department in 2010. Suarez spent five years counting Whoppers before coming to the ad side in 2015. Since then, he brought “The King” out of retirement to appear with Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor, Triple Crown-winning horse trainer Bob Baffert and Cheetos spokescat “Chester Cheetah,” and he reunited Napoleon Dynamite with Pedro
to help sell Cheesy Tots.


 

Photo: dunkin' donuts
Photo: dunkin' donuts
Photo: dunkin' donuts

TOM MANCHESTER
Vice President, Integrated Marketing
Dunkin’ Donuts

With breakfast a highly contested marketing battleground and Dunkin’ Donuts getting less regional as it moves westward, the archetypal New England brand is facing all sorts of new competition. Helping to keep the nearly 68-year-old chain running through America is Manchester, a 17-year veteran of the QSR, who also worked as a marketer with Gillette and Ocean Spray. Along with a heavyweight media budget, DD’s marketing arsenal includes an NHL league deal, more than 35 pro team sponsorships and more than two dozen college deals.

Photo: David Lubarsky
Photo: David Lubarsky
Photo: David Lubarsky

JOHN LEWICKI
Head of Global Alliances
McDonald’s

McDonald’s has seen a lot of marketing professionals come and go, but Lewicki is almost as much of a constant as the Big Mac. He’s been helping to direct strategy, negotiations and activation of the QSR’s top-tier properties since 2000, with partners that include the Olympics, FIFA, Euro Cup, McDonald’s All-American Basketball Game, U.S. Soccer, the NHL, NFL and Chip Ganassi Racing.


Photo: papa John's
Photo: papa John's
Photo: papa John's

MELISSA RICHARDS-PERSON
Vice President, Global Brand Strategy and Consumer Connections
Papa John’s

Richards-Person joined Papa John’s in 2009 as senior director of advertising and promotions and eventually moved on to international marketing before assuming her new position this summer. She negotiated the brand’s now-ended sponsorship agreement and renewal with the NFL, and the deals she brokered with MLB and the NHRA are wrapping up seasons three and two, respectively. In an effort to personalize the brand experience, Papa John’s offered “MVPizzas” to Houston-area customers this summer to honor the Rockets’ James Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP.


Photo: Yum! Brands
Photo: Yum! Brands
Photo: Yum! Brands

ZIPPORAH "ZIP" ALLEN
Chief Marketing Officer
Pizza Hut

Since being promoted to CMO in January, Allen helped make Pizza Hut the NFL’s official pizza, renewed a highly visible partnership with ESPN’s “College GameDay” and extended her brand’s NCAA partnership through the 2020-21 season. “We want to own the weekend with football,” she said, referring to Pizza Hut’s status as the only brand to have a sponsorship with both the NFL and NCAA. Allen also led the review that selected GSD&M as the brand’s sixth creative agency of record in less than a decade. Prior to Pizza Hut, Allen held various marketing roles at McDonald’s. 


John Cordova (left) and Ricardo Fort
Photo: Courtesy of John Cordova; Courtesy of Ricardo Fort
John Cordova (left) and Ricardo Fort
Photo: Courtesy of John Cordova; Courtesy of Ricardo Fort
John Cordova (left) and Ricardo Fort
Photo: Courtesy of John Cordova; Courtesy of Ricardo Fort

JOHN CORDOVA
Group Director, Sports Management
Coca-Cola

RICARDO FORT
Vice President, Global Sports Partnerships
Coca-Cola

Just as beer marketers are struggling with declining sales of their full-cal offerings, so are their brethren in the carbonated beverage market. And, of course, every marketer is struggling to adjust to the drastic changes in media consumption. Fort moved over from Visa in 2016 to deal with those challenges for what is arguably the world’s most indelible brand, with a property roster as large as any company that includes FIFA, the Olympics, MLB and NCAA rights. With Coke since 1994, Cordova was the steady hand negotiating many of those deals.

Brett O'Brien (left) and Jeff Kearney
Photo: gatorade
Brett O'Brien (left) and Jeff Kearney
Photo: gatorade
Brett O'Brien (left) and Jeff Kearney
Photo: gatorade

BRETT O'BRIEN
Senior Vice President and General Manager
Gatorade

JEFF KEARNEY
Global Head of Sports Marketing
Gatorade

If any brand has achieved ubiquity across sports, it’s Gatorade. Years of accomplished and far-reaching sports marketing have been the key, from the grassroots level to the priciest of marquees such as NFL sidelines. Leading the North American business at the Pepsi isotonic since 2012 is O’Brien, who has been with Pepsi since 2001. Among his responsibilities are product development, retail strategy and consumer marketing. Kearney, with Gatorade since 2004, heads a sports marketing group long considered a model for the industry, with assets including NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL league rights.

Adam Harter (left) and Justin Toman
Photo: pepsico (2)
Adam Harter (left) and Justin Toman
Photo: pepsico (2)
Adam Harter (left) and Justin Toman
Photo: pepsico (2)

ADAM HARTER
Vice President, Cultural Connections
PepsiCo

JUSTIN TOMAN
Head of Sports Marketing
PepsiCo

One of the better industry efforts at combining the passion points of sports and music is led by Harter, a 15-year Pepsi marketer on a quest to build the best branded content and distribute it effectively across a constantly shifting media landscape. Toman, a world-class gymnast at the University of Michigan, has no fewer than three degrees from the school. Pepsi’s sports marketing arsenal is well-stocked, including NBA, NFL and Super Bowl Halftime Show rights as well as dozens of endorsers and pro and college team deals.

Photo: Getty Images for IBM
Photo: Getty Images for IBM
Photo: Getty Images for IBM

NOAH SYKEN
Vice President, Sports and Entertainment Partnerships
IBM

Syken is another b-to-b marketer deploying tactics normally used to sell consumer products. He began his nearly 20-year run at IBM as a media planner, which may explain why he knew to ask about analytics and metrics long before that was in vogue. As the man most identified with IBM’s media, advertising and sponsorship strategy, he’s led impressively integrated efforts, utilizing assets like tennis’ Grand Slam events, the PGA Tour and even Watson, the company’s artificial intelligence ambassador and “Jeopardy” champion.

Photo: intel
Photo: intel
Photo: intel

JULIE COPPERNOLL
Chief Operating Officer, Team Olympics
Corporate Vice President and Director, Business Group Marketing
Intel

Nearly 20 years into her career at Intel, Coppernoll was given a massive, urgent task: Activate a new global Olympic sponsorship with the Winter Games just eight months away. Coppernoll helped create a program in South Korea that inserted Intel’s technology into experiments in VR coverage, an opening ceremony drone light show and next-generation 5G mobile connectivity. Coppernoll helped cement Intel’s reputation as the hardware behind the modern sports experience.

John Paddleford (left) and Rob Matthews
Photo: Microsoft (2)
John Paddleford (left) and Rob Matthews
Photo: Microsoft (2)
John Paddleford (left) and Rob Matthews
Photo: Microsoft (2)

JOHN PADDLEFORD
Senior Director of Business Development
Microsoft

ROB MATTHEWS
Chief Integrated Marketing Officer for Gaming
Microsoft

Paddleford and Matthews work to keep the legacy technology brand on the cutting edge of sports and gaming. Together they negotiated and delivered Microsoft’s deal to get an exclusive presence on all 32 NFL sidelines, which pushed brand recognition for its surface tablets to 70 percent. They acquired NFL content rights with Microsoft’s Xbox, Windows and tablet. Before that, Paddleford worked on Microsoft’s first partnerships with MLB, the NBA, NHL and UFC. Since May, Matthews has overseen marketing for gaming, a priority business line that includes hits like “Minecraft” and “Halo,” the Xbox platform, Mixer livestreaming and Microsoft Studios.

ALEX CHANG
Head of Partnership Marketing
Samsung

Chang, an SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree in 2013, is a doctor’s son who opted for an MBA instead of an M.D. He’s the man coordinating the sponsorship and media strategy designed to make the Korean electronics giant more approachable to American consumers — no easy task considering how well burnished the reputation of competitors like Apple are. Chang’s skills and reputation as a solid brand strategist were developed during 12 years at American Express and related experience at agencies Capgemini/Ernst & Young, IMG and Wasserman.

MARK WRIGHT
Vice President, Media Services and Sponsorships
AT&T

AT&T is one of the top three media spenders in sports, and one of the biggest in general media as well. Charged with blending that heady brew is former Anheuser-Busch marketing exec Wright, who came over to the communications giant in 2011 after 19 years at A-B. Wright runs herd over dozens of team and facility sponsorships, including naming rights at the home venues of the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco Giants. He’s responsible for media strategy and planning across AT&T’s businesses, along with sponsorship strategy and negotiation for sports, entertainment and cultural sponsorships.

Photo: Ackerman & Gruber
Photo: Ackerman & Gruber
Photo: Ackerman & Gruber

MEREDITH STARKEY
Vice President, Sponsorships and Events
T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s all-eggs-in-one-basket strategy has always made its sports marketing intriguing, whether it was all-in on the NBA or Major League Baseball, its sports platform of choice since 2013, or with arena naming rights on the Las Vegas Strip. Now that it’s merging with Sprint, budgets should get bigger, so things should get even more interesting for Starkey, who’s been at T-Mobile since 2009 after stints at Motorola and Genesco Sports. Maybe there’ll even be a T-Mobile sponsorship with her beloved Clemson Tigers.

John Nitti (left) and Robert Stecklow
Photo: Getty Images; Courtesy of Robert Stecklow
John Nitti (left) and Robert Stecklow
Photo: Getty Images; Courtesy of Robert Stecklow
John Nitti (left) and Robert Stecklow
Photo: Getty Images; Courtesy of Robert Stecklow

JOHN NITTI
Chief Media Officer
Verizon

ROBERT STECKLOW
Associate Director, Sponsorship and Events
Verizon

After more than 20 years of buying and planning experience for some of the biggest media agencies, along with a seven-year stint as director of media and sponsorships at AmEx, Nitti was well-prepared for his job at the helm of one of the largest media budgets inside or outside of sports. Stecklow jumped from the NFL last year and heads a portfolio that includes NBA and NFL league deals and a large collection of matching team rights. Are they foremost sponsorship deals or content deals? Depends on which man you ask.

Photo: Michelle Farsi / MSG Photos
Photo: Michelle Farsi / MSG Photos
Photo: Michelle Farsi / MSG Photos

BILL BETZ
General Manager, U.S. Sponsorships
Delta Air Lines

Betz has piloted the Atlanta-based brand through a busy two years, overseeing new partnerships with the hometown Braves, Falcons, Hawks and United. He also strengthened Delta’s New York foothold, renewing deals with the Mets, Yankees and Madison Square Garden’s multiple properties. Most of those deals include naming rights to a section in the team’s venue. Elsewhere, Betz oversees the airline's other MLS relationships — LAFC and Seattle Sounders — as well as its Seahawks partnership.

Photo: Procter & Gamble
Photo: Procter & Gamble
Photo: Procter & Gamble

JANET FLETCHER
Director, Olympics and Sports Marketing
Procter & Gamble

In the hands of a lesser marketer, Procter & Gamble might be known only as a maker of everyday household products. But Fletcher has leveraged the Olympics to transform P&G into a stalwart avatar of motherhood, family and grace. Its resilient “Thank you, Mom.” campaign has won multiple awards and audience praise. During the 2018 Games, P&G found new ground to cover by focusing on the role mothers can play in helping children overcome racial, ethnic and sexual bias. In less than a decade, Fletcher has vaulted P&G to Olympic brand royalty.