Heidi Ueberroth

National Basketball Association

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Heidi Ueberroth is one of the most powerful women in sports.

As the president of the National Basketball Association's global marketing partnerships and international business operations, Ms. Ueberroth heads the NBA's prodigious international growth efforts. Her charge is to continue the NBA's emergence as a truly international brand -- it broadcasts in 214 countries and 43 languages worldwide -- and to help marketers ranging from international behemoths such as Coca-Cola Co., Adidas and Anheuser-Busch to local concerns such as Mongolian Milk tap into that growth.

So far, so good: International revenue has been growing at a double-digit clip, she says, and it's approaching 10% of the NBA's total.

"I knew this would be a growth area, but I didn't anticipate how fast," Ms. Ueberroth, 42, says during an interview days after returning from a trek that took her to the U.K., Spain and India, where she met with executives at Tata about a promotion.

Helping her cause is an NBA player pool that's become increasingly international. Eighty of the league's 400 players come from outside the U.S., boasting rabid fan bases in their home countries. The final four teams in the NBA playoffs included players from Spain, Serbia, Senegal, Slovenia, France, Argentina and Congo. And while China's Yao Ming, Spain's Pau Gasol and Germany's Dirk Nowitzki rank among the game's brightest stars -- an asset that can certainly be leveraged in their home countries -- Ms. Ueberroth says international fans aren't strictly provincial anymore.

"Players like Yao ... do bring more casual fans to the game, but the fans tend to be more sophisticated than that," she says. "They're talking about LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant], too."

Ms. Ueberroth's ascension in sports isn't the only one in her family: Her father organized the 1984 Summer Olympics and was a Major League Baseball commissioner.
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