The Player: Katz drafted to coordinate media offensive at ESPN

By Published on .

Sharon Katz loves sports. Not necessarily playing them, but the sheer thrill of watching and cheering on her favorite teams-the New York Knicks, Giants and naturally, the Yankees. She's a Rangers fan too: Her brother-in-law is a former pro-hockey player.

"I like the drama part of sports-it's the best reality show on television," says ESPN's newly appointed media strategist. Ms. Katz, who comes to the new position at ESPN after eight years at Modem Media, Stamford, Conn., is charged with coordinating strategy for all the marketing messages that are placed outside of the organization's own media, some $25 million to $50 million in spending. That includes "anything we don't own" that's outside the ESPN/ABC family, according to Lee Ann Daly, ESPN's senior VP-marketing and can mean Ms. Katz will be looking at radio, cable networks, out-of-home, magazines, newspapers, taxi tops, Internet placements, grass-roots and event marketing and sponsorships.

That role will grow in importance as ESPN moves aggressively into the creation of original entertainment, targeting and marketing to audiences it doesn't typically chase. Two of its original series' are "Around the Horn," featuring top sports journalists dishing on the biggest stories of the day and "The Block Party," an urban lifestyle variety show.

Ms. Daly hired Ms. Katz for her media research background, her passion for sports and appreciation of ESPN's creative heritage and says she embodies the ideal combination of traditional and non-traditional media expertise. "She'll be strategizing about how we use the assets we own, and those we don't own ... that's the job," Ms. Daly said.

At Modem, Ms. Katz served in a variety of positions over eight years, all related to interactive media and marketing and survived both the dot-com boom and bust. She ran the media department for Modem's consumer-products business, which includes clients Delta Airlines, Kraft Foods and AT&T. Her most recent position at Modem was VP-marketing strategy on Kraft Foods. She credits Kraft for its early risk-taking in Internet marketing and media.

Internet pioneer

Ms. Katz's career in media began at WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, in 1992 where pre- OgilvyOne, she became a true Internet pioneer working on the Prodigy and AOL accounts, and other non-traditional media. In 1994, she made the first Internet media buy for IBM Corp.-a banner ad on She eventually became an assistant media planner and then a non-traditional media planner at Ogilvy and continued to work on IBM and research placements with online media venues like Mosaic, now considered a dinosaur. She went to Modem in 1995 .

Now, Ms. Katz is over the moon about her gig at ESPN and it's not only because she's no longer commuting to Stamford and was recently wed. "At ESPN we're working on behalf of the fan and helping the fan learn everything they can about ESPN. ... And sports is a great communication tool," she said.

Fast Facts

Name: Sharon Katz

Age: 34

Now: Media Strategist, ESPN

Challenge: To more effectively deploy ESPN's media mix.

Most Popular
In this article: