The Player - Nothing but Knicks: Sanders steps up to the line for team

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It's one thing, Anucha Browne Sanders believes, for fans of the New York Knicks to know the team. It's quite another for those same fans to have an emotional connection to the franchise.

"That in itself takes work," said the team's new senior VP-marketing and business operations. "It involves communicating to people what the organization stands for."

That, and to better leverage the Knicks' brand, is the task Ms. Sanders, 38, has been charged with as she steps into her newly created position with the team. Moreover, her promotion from VP-marketing creates a precedent. Ms. Sanders is now the third-highest-ranking female executive in the National Basketball Association behind Los Angeles Lakers President Jeannie Buss and Washington Wizards President Susan O'Malley, and she is the highest-ranking African-American female in major professional sports (NBA, Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Hockey League and Nascar).

"I think that's a phenomenal step and I'm happy about it," Ms. Sanders said. "But I'm more focused on doing the job I've been asked to do. The results will speak for themselves."

Steve Mills, president, Madison Square Garden Sports Team Operations, isn't worried. "She is one of the rising stars in the field," he said.

Ms. Sanders will be responsible for day-to-day management of the business side of the Knicks' front office. She will oversee all of the club's business agendas, including partnerships, fan development, field marketing, event presentation, community relations, special events and new media.

She will also work with the other two properties of parent Cablevision System Corp.'s triumvirate of teams-hockey's New York Rangers and women's basketball's New York Liberty-to help integrate the three brands.

sporting history

Ms. Sanders has only been with the Knicks for less than two years, but she's no stranger to sports. A two-time Big Ten Conference Player of the Year in basketball at Northwestern University, Ms. Sanders spent 11 years with IBM Corp., including a stint as program manager in the company's Worldwide Sports Office.

"It was probably a positive opportunity to have spent most of my years at IBM when they were struggling," she said. "I got a good sense of how important it was to service your customers."

And servicing a wide customer base is what Ms. Sanders must now do.

"That involves everything from how we project ourselves in the community and making sure people understand our players are good corporate citizens, to leveraging our brand over different forms of media," she said. "More and more, people want to know what a team stands for."

Fast Facts

Name: Anucha Browne Sanders

Age: 38

Now: Senior VP-marketing and business operations, New York Knicks

Challenge: To better leverage the Knicks' brand and to create an emotional connection with the team's fans.

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