Playing to win: how a love for marketing and sports led Pam El to her dream job.

Author:Connley, Courtney
Position:POWER PLAYER - Interview


AS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN AND FIRST WOMAN TO HOLD THE POSITION of chief marketing officer for the National Basketball Association, Pam El makes it clear that hard work and perseverance are the secret ingredients to her success.

Overseeing global marketing operations, brand development, and advertising for the NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League, El comes to the sports arena with more than 30 years of experience as a marketing executive. Before stepping into her position in August 2014, she held leadership roles at both Nationwide Insurance and State Farm, where she worked as a partner of the NBA for six years.

Now, as an executive for the top men's professional basketball league in the world, El shares how her corporate background in marketing served as a launching pad for her dream career in sports.

Has working for the NBA always been a dream of yours?

My favorite sport is basketball, and all I have ever done in my life from a professional standpoint is marketing. I really wanted to be a CMO, so there is only one job in the world for me and that was CMO of the NBA. I am very happy. But it's a really tough marketing job. People think because it's sports that it's really easy because there's such a passion for sports, but sports competes with everything else, so the marketing job is a very serious one.

How did your expectations for the job compare to your reality?

At State Farm, we had already been a partner of the NBA for six years. I was a client of my now boss, Mark Tatum. I spent a lot of time around the NBA as a sponsor with the people inside the NBA offices so I thought I knew what I was getting into. I didn't. It's very different. It's very 24/7 and very aggressive from a marketing standpoint. Worldwide marketing is very different from what I had the privilege of doing when I worked at State Farm and Nationwide. It was new and different for me but I loved it and I jumped right into it, both feet, and it was just amazing. What I've learned in the 18 months that I've been here is awesome. Adam Silver was fairly new to his job at the same time that I was new to my job. As a commissioner, he has done some amazing things over the last few years, and I feel like I have been able to learn and grow with him as well. It's been great.

As a marketer for a huge global brand, how does social media impact your message, your products, and your players?

I think that's where the opportunity comes in. That's where being a...

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