Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.
Veteran soccer marketer Kathy Carter’s next act will be in the Olympics.
Los Angeles 2028 has hired Carter as its chief revenue officer, putting her in charge of funding an ambitious $5 billion-plus budget through sponsorship, consumer products, tickets and hospitality. She also will become CEO of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Properties, the joint venture created by LA28 and the U.S. Olympic Committee to control all domestic Olympic rights from 2021 through 2028.
Carter comes to the organizing committee after eight years as president of Soccer United Marketing, the company that holds the U.S. Soccer Federation and Major League Soccer commercial portfolio. A founding MLS executive in the 1990s, Carter left SUM in April after finishing second in the hotly contested race for U.S. Soccer president.
After taking a few months to herself, she quickly saw the attraction of the Olympics opening.
Kathy Carter: On The Job
■ Soccer United Marketing, president, 2010-18; executive vice president, 2003-10
■ AEG Envision, senior vice president, sales and marketing, 2002-03; vice president, New York office, 2001-02
■ ISL, vice president, 1999-2001
■ Major League Soccer, vice president, corporate marketing, 1994-99
■ 1994 FIFA World Cup organizing committee, manager, partnership marketing, 1993-94
■ Booz Allen Hamilton, consultant, 1991-93
“There aren’t a lot of things out there that are bigger than, quite frankly, this opportunity,” said Carter, recalling a trip as a teen in 1984 to see Olympic soccer in Annapolis, Md., during the qualifying round of the last L.A. Games. “Just in terms of the ability to cut through the clutter, but more importantly, really to give people a reason to care. For me this isn’t a job. It’s actually something far bigger than that.”
LA28 Chairman Casey Wasserman had been discussing the role with Carter for a few months before they came to terms. Soccer United Marketing is comparable to the LA28-USOC joint venture, he said, because it is a single entity that’s in charge of monetizing a compendium of rights on behalf of distinct shareholders.
“She did that extraordinarily well, while also sitting inside a professional sports league that’s grown tremendously over the past decade, and has grown all of its revenue streams,” Wasserman said. “She had a significant hand in just about every part of that. We’re thrilled and lucky to be able to attract and work this out with Kathy.”
While at SUM, Carter oversaw massive commercial growth in the sport of soccer, signing major deals in recent years with brands such as Audi, Coca-Cola, Heineken and Target. In December 2017, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said SUM was worth more than $2 billion, more than triple its valuation in a 2011 deal to sell a 25 percent stake to Providence Equity Partners.
Carter will oversee all revenue-generating operations for the L.A. Games, but her first priority will be developing the domestic sponsorship sales strategy and closing the first of many deals that will be required to reach the revenue target. Wasserman has set a sponsorship goal of $2.5 billion, which includes a guarantee to the USOC.
There aren’t a lot of things out there that are bigger than, quite frankly, this opportunity. Just in terms of the ability to cut through the clutter, but more importantly, really to give people a reason to care. For me this isn’t a job. It’s actually something far bigger than that.
The International Olympic Committee requires local Games organizers and their national Olympic committee to combine sponsorship efforts, so a sponsor of the 2028 L.A. Games also would get the standard Team USA rights during the 2022, ’24 and ’26 Olympics overseas. This is done to keep the two organizations from competing with each other, and to ensure the Games don’t raise money at the expense of the USOC’s long-term stability.
The joint venture may begin signing deals as early as Jan. 1 in categories not currently held by USOC sponsors. All USOC deals expire after the Tokyo Summer Games in 2020.
Wasserman believes the pent-up market demand for an American Olympics, combined with the unusually long planning time due to the IOC’s decision to award the 2024 and ’28 Games together, creates an opportunity to innovate and find new ways of selling sponsorships.
“Why things were done in the past is almost irrelevant to me today,” Carter said. “It’s, ‘Why can’t we think of a different way of doing this?’ I’m not wedded to history, or tradition, if you will. This gives us the opportunity to press the boundaries.”
Right now, Carter will oversee a staff of about 30 at the joint venture, mostly U.S. Olympic Committee marketing staffers who recently shifted to the joint venture. The team will grow substantially over the next nine years, as will the direct employees of LA28 whom she will manage. Carter, a two-time Sports Business Journal Forty Under 40 honoree (2006 and 2007), will work out of the USOC’s marketing offices in midtown Manhattan.