With nearly 30 years of sport entertainment experience under her belt, Micky Lawler was appointed President of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in the fall of 2014 and is responsible for driving the WTA’s international growth strategy, business development, marketing, new fan engagement programs, and member & industry relations. The WTA is the global leader in women’s professional sport with more than 2,500 players representing 92 nations competing for a record $130 million in prize money at the WTA’s 57 events and four Grand Slams in 33 countries.
During her nearly three decades in sport entertainment, Lawler has played an important role in expanding the geographic footprint of women’s tennis, including the development of important initiatives in China. She has driven growth in several aspects of the tennis business including athletes, events, sponsorship sales and consultancy. In addition, she has provided strong strategic leadership during her 11 years as a WTA Board member, a role to which she dedicated an enormous amount of time in recent years.
She is known for her big-thinking, innovative initiatives and ground-breaking business development skills and was on the WTA Board when equal prize money as well as record breaking sponsorship and television partnerships were secured. Lawler began her career in sports in 1986 as a Communications Liaison for the Men’s Tennis Council, the predecessor to the ATP World Tour. She joined Advantage International (now Octagon) in 1988 as one of the first female agents in the industry and quickly made her mark in the representation business with her work for Alberto Mancini, Richard Krajicek, Paul Haarhuis, Amelie Mauresmo and several other top athletes.
Born in The Netherlands, Lawler is a certified simultaneous and consecutive language interpreter. She earned her undergraduate degree in Political Science from The American College in Paris and has a Masters in Applied Linguistics from the University of Delaware. She was named a “Game Changer: Women in Sports Business” by the Sports Business Journal in 2012, recognized by the Washington Business Journal as one of their “Women Who Mean Business” honorees in 2009 and recipient of the Warsaw-Thurston Award by the University of Oregon’s College of Business in 2012. Having lived in nine different countries across South America, Central America, Europe, Africa and the United States, Lawler is fluent in Dutch, Spanish, French, German and English.
She is the mother of three children, Charlotte, Trevor and Juliette.
Senior Marketing Manager & NBA Lead
Erica Smith is currently Senior Marketing Manager on the PepsiCo Sports Team, leading NBA. Since joining PepsiCo in 2017, she has also held roles on the Doritos brand and Tostitos and Dips innovation teams in the Frito-Lay division of the company.
Erica earned her MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and BBA from Howard University. Prior to business school, Erica worked in the media and marketing research industries at global research leader Nielsen.
President of Business Operations
Danita Johnson, President of Business Operations for D.C. United
Danita Johnson recently joined Major League Soccer club, D.C. United, as their President of Business Operations, making her the first Black President of an MLS Club and only the third woman in league history to serve in this role.
Johnson joins D.C. United with 15 years of experience in the sports industry, including several roles in the WNBA, NBA, and NBA G League, specializing in revenue generation, community programs, and digital media and marketing. Most recently, during her time with the Los Angeles Sparks, Johnson led the organization to a league-best in corporate sponsorship dollars earned and launched the annual #WeAreWomen campaign, which drew a historic attendance of 19,000 to Staples Center for a WNBA game. Additionally, under her leadership, the organization saw a 50% increase in ticket sales from 2014-2017 and led the WNBA in attendance in 2017 and 2019, including a 17.8% increase in fans per game in the 2017 season, her first as President and COO.
Prior to her time in Los Angeles, Johnson developed and led the Ticket Sales and Service department for the Washington Mystics while with Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Johnson also boasts NBA experience with the Los Angeles Clippers and played a pivotal role in launching professional basketball franchises, the Bakersfield Jam.
A native of Fayetteville, North Carolina and a graduate of Western Carolina University, Johnson sits on the board of the Share Winter Foundation, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and is a WISE Within Mentor.
Head of Player Engagement
Kick it out
Vice President of Integrated Marketing
Keisha Wright is Vice President, Integrated Marketing for THINK450, the partnership and innovation engine of the National Basketball Players Association. An expert brand strategist, Keisha has generated millions of dollars in revenue for Fortune 500 companies through the creation of strategic alliances with well-known consumer brands. Keisha has worked for the Brooklyn Nets, Macy’s, the NBA, InStyle Magazine, and MTV Networks, helping them to create and launch multi-platform marketing campaigns, inclusive of cause marketing initiatives, branded content, immersive events, and grassroots experiences which bring brands to life. Keisha holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Stanford University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Pepperdine University. Prior to her career as a marketing executive, Keisha spent 10 years in the field of Education, as both a teacher and lead curriculum developer for the University of California 4-H After School Activity Program where she created enrichment programs for children living in and near public housing communities throughout Los Angeles County. During her tenure with the University of California, she received the Department of Agriculture Secretary’s Award for Excellence. Keisha currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and 14-year-old son.
Co-Partner & Director for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
Edleen John (FCIPD) is the International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Director at The Football Association. Edleen is also a multi-award-winning diversity, inclusion, belonging and culture expert and consultant.
Edleen is a British-born Sierra Leonean, who grew up in South-East London after moving back from Sierra Leone to the UK as a toddler. She attended non-selective comprehensive schools in Lewisham, before completing her MA (Cantab) in Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge and it was through experience of her own personal life journey that her passion for diversity and inclusion was born.
She started her career as an Investment Banker at Lehman Brothers working in Debt Capital Markets and has held a variety of revenue-generating and support-function permanent roles across the Financial Services sector including Insurance Broking at Lloyd’s of London, Graduate Recruitment at Nomura, Vice President at Morgan Stanley and as a Director and the Co-Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Social Equality at KPMG.
Edleen is engaging, open and thought-provoking and shares her experience and knowledge of the challenges, benefits and solutions to diversity and inclusion within organisations having had experience as an employee and as a Consultant across sectors ranging from Financial Services to Retail, and from PR to Government Bodies. She shares pragmatic and tangible solutions for institutions and organisations to change the representation and culture at every stage of their employee life-cycle through training, advice and coaching. Edleen has shared her insights via multiple platforms, including podcasts, media interviews, at school/university campuses, diversity conferences and as a speaker at events for some of the world’s largest companies – with all sessions aiming to inspire, challenge and educate.
Besides her day job, Edleen is a School Governor at a community special school for young people with severe and profound disabilities, a Director of Tech Talent Charter, an International Trustee for Restless Development Charity and sits on the DIAL Global Advisory Board and the McKenzie-Delis Packer Review.
Aside from successful career milestones such as being the youngest person to be promoted to Vice President within HR EMEA at Morgan Stanley or being the youngest and only Black Director in the People function in the time she was at KPMG, Edleen has a number of accolades to her name including being a ‘We Are The City’ Rising Star in HR and Recruitment ; a Yahoo! Finance EMpower Top 100 Ethnic Minority Future Leader; a Top Ten BAME Inspirational Leader and a shortlisted National Diversity Award winner for a Positive Age Role model.
Black Collective of Media in Sports
Leon is one of the most respected and well-connected operators in the sports industry.
He began his career at Kick Racism Out of Football in 2002, before establishing himself as a leading broadcaster and film-maker for both BBC Sport and ITV Sport. As a consultant, he has worked with some of the biggest names in the sports industry and also helped respected sports authorities communicate effectively with their audiences.
Leon is a founder of the Black Collective of Media in Sport, Football Black List and the Sports People’s Think Tank – he is also the vice-chair of the Sports Journalists Association.
He is an innovator and passionate leader who has dedicated his professional career to helping to improve the sport and media industries.
Former England Women's National Team Player & Football Analyst
Lianne has amassed a wealth of experience playing for England, Arsenal, Chelsea, Philadelphia Union, Boston Breakers and Juventus.
The London-born striker broke into the Arsenal first team aged 15 and went on to win five Women’s’ Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the UEFA Cup.
Lianne won 50 caps for England scoring 15 goals and was part of the Lionesses squad who finished third in the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
She now connects with football fans around the world as a hugely respected analyst for Sky Sports, BBC, talkSPORT and the Premier League channel
Former Professional Rugby Union Player
James has spent over two decades in professional rugby playing in the top leagues in England and France, and as an England Sevens International, before becoming the first professional black head coach of an England rugby team. In this capacity, James lead the England Women’s Sevens team to a Bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, through a Rugby Sevens World Cup and qualification for the 2020 (2021) Tokyo Olympics.
Currently, James combines his roles as a coaching consultant, a Diversity and Inclusion Advisor for the Rugby Players Association (RPA), and sitting on the Rugby Football Union’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory group.
James is inspired to drive change in rugby and create a more representative and inclusive sport, while promoting culture-driven leadership.
Senior Director, Diversity & Inclusion
As Senior Director, Diversity & Inclusion for the National Basketball Association, Melissa Palarea develops and manages partnerships and programming to help the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League and NBA 2K League build and sustain an inclusive and equitable culture, and to recruit, retain and advance diverse talent at all levels. In her role, she oversees inclusion learning experiences for the league, leverages partnerships with a variety of affinity and professional organizations, and serves as a leadership resource and staff support for the NBA’s seven employee resource teams.
Palarea previously worked in the NBA’s Communications and Marketing departments, where she led executive, internal and fan communications for the league office. Prior to joining the NBA in 2008, Palarea was Public Affairs Manager for the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, where she was the first person to hold that position. Previously, she held roles with Americans for the Arts, a national arts advocacy organization, and U.S. Representative Stephen Horn in the House of Representatives.
Palarea holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in New York City with her husband and their three children.
Vice President of Brand Marketing
Jennifer joined PointsBet as Vice President of Brand Marketing in October 2019. In her position, she oversees strategic partnerships, creative design, events/activations, retail marketing, and brand marketing functions while maintaining a focus on continually evolving the PointsBet brand as the company grows into new markets.
Before PointsBet, Jennifer was the Senior Director of Marketing for Monumental Sports Network where she spearheaded all marketing, including: subscription bundle marketing, email marketing, communications, media buying, creative execution, events and grassroots activations. Notably, her work at Monumental Sports Network included the launch to an OTT platform in 2016.She began her career at Sports Illustrated, where she assisted with the marketing plan for the magazine’s 50th anniversary commemorative issue and the 40th anniversary of the world-famous Swimsuit Issue. She then ventured to ESPN where she worked on multiple marketing partnerships and helped relaunch ESPN Radio, as well as assist in the development of local ESPN websites. Following her stint at ESPN, she joined MSNBC to work on the creation of the ‘Lean Forward’ branding, along with leading marketing initiatives for several primetime programs. Jennifer was also part of the initial team that launched Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez’s English-language, Latino-focused cable network El Rey, a division of Univision.
Jennifer is a native New Yorker growing up on Long Island and currently residing in Manhattan. She attended Siena College where she attained a B.S. in marketing management and played Division I volleyball for the Saints.
Alex Parker is the Director of Marketing for the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. Alex is responsible for developing digital strategy across all platforms. A 2019 Sports Business Journal New Voices Under 30 recipient, Alex has rooted his career in driving revenue from social and digital platforms. Branded content, lead generation and direct purchase, and consumer engagement live at the heart of Alex’s passion for digital. Alex is driven by the support of his wife Ilana and son Grey.
Head of Digital
Finn recently moved to Dubai to join the International Cricket Council in the newly established head of digital role. Previously, he led the digital strategy for the Australian Open at Tennis Australia and established Cricket Australia’s digital program. Way before that he worked across magazines and digital for News Corp.
Head of Digital Media Rights
Adam joined F1 as Head of Digital Media shortly after the Liberty Media acquisition in 2017. In his role within the wider Media Rights team, Adam leads and oversees F1s growing digital media distribution business with specific areas of focus across F1s DTC OTT platform – F1 TV Pro, F1s social media distribution partnerships as well as F1s data and AV distribution business in the gaming sector. Prior to joining F1, Adam worked in the NBAs Global Content & Media Distribution team and before that in FIFAs Media Rights division.
Vice President of Gaming
Principal Solutions Architect
Amazon Web Services
Director of Digital & Data
VP of Communications
Becca Henry is the VP of Communications for Misfits Gaming Group, a global esports and entertainment company with permanent partnership in all three major franchised leagues: Call of Duty, Overwatch and League of Legends. Prior to Misfits Gaming, Becca led EU Esports Communications for Riot Games.
Co-Founder & Chief Executive
Mark Locke is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Genius Sports Group, with overall responsibility for the strategic, financial and operational performance of the organisation.
Mark has over 17 years’ experience in the sports betting, technology and media industries with a distinguished track record in growth management; both organic and through M&A. His journey with Genius began in 2000, with the launch of Betgenius (now the betting division of Genius Sports Group). In 2015, he launched Genius Sports (the sports facing division of the Group) to help facilitate the partnership between sport and sports betting operators in order to help protect and commercialise official sports data. Most recently, he launched Genius Sports Media, which leverages sports data and key sports partnerships to create market leading products and services for the international media market.
Through acquisitions in Australia and Europe, and expansion into the Americas, Asia Pacific and Africa; Genius has unrivalled depth and breadth of global sports coverage. Mark’s vision has been central to the Group’s partnerships with hundreds of sports governing bodies, including the Premier League, NBA, NCAA, MLB, PGA Tour, Bundesliga, Serie A, FIBA and NASCAR.
In 2018, Genius Sports Group was acquired by the leading private equity firm, Apax Partners, to accelerate its global growth. Genius was subsequently ranked 37th in the 2019 Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200, and as the only sports company in the Financial Times’ FT 1000 for 2020.
Under Mark’s leadership, Genius has grown exponentially to become one of the world’s largest sports data and technology companies and is a global leader in sports digital content, technology and integrity services.
Head of US Content Partnerships
Chief Marketing Officer
As Chief Marketing Officer, Heidi Browning leads the National Hockey League’s growth marketing strategy with a focus on digital, innovation and social media. With more than 25 years of marketing experience, including success with major brands in Silicon Valley, Browning brings a valuable mix of client, agency and media owner perspective to the NHL. Browning is known as a passionate pioneer in digital, mobile and social marketing and as an executive who advances new ideas and innovation within the industry. Inspired by the intersection of media, technology and culture, Browning studies generational trends in attention and brand engagement. Her experience marketing to Millennial and Gen Z audiences is essential for engaging young sports fans and will help guide her leadership of the NHL’s new fan database/analytics initiative.
Chief Growth Officer
Jené Elzie is Chief Growth Officer for Athletes First Partners, a sales and marketing agency which represents sports properties, including the National Basketball Players Association, the National Basketball Retired Players Association and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
Prior to joining Athletes First Partners, Jené served as Vice President of International Marketing for NBA, where she developed and oversaw the league’s marketing endeavors outside of the US. Prior to joining NBA, Jene served as Vice President of Commercial Development for the NBC Universal International Television Distribution group; Vice President of International Sales for Comcast; Vice President of Programming & Acquisitions at Tennis Channel.
Jené also serves on the board of governors of Stanford University’s Alumni Associates as well as Public Radio Exchange (PRX), one of the largest public media companies in the US.
Senior Vice President of Marketing
Barbara McHugh, is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Major League Baseball in New York City. In her role, McHugh oversees all aspects of MLB’s Marketing including New Media and Content Marketing, Club Marketing Initiatives, Digital Marketing & Media, Analytics and International Events.
Craig Levine is co-CEO at ESL, the world’s largest esports company. In his current role, Levine leads the global business strategy and operations. Previously, Levine served as CEO of North America and Global Chief Strategy Officer, focusing on strategic partnerships and strengthening ESL’s digital platforms and technology to engage fans and players worldwide.
Levine has helped pioneer the esports industry for over 20 years. As a longtime gamer, Levine founded Team 3D, the first truly professional and successful video game team in North America, in April 2002. In addition, Levine also co-founded ESS Agency, an event marketing and technology
company specializing in video game entertainment. ESS Agency was acquired by ESL in 2014 to expand ESL’s global footprint to North America.
Levine holds a B.S. in Information Systems and Management and Organizational Behavior from the Stern Business School at New York University.
Innovation Strategy Specialist
Jean-Baptiste has worked in the sport industry for the past 7 years across multiple positions which lead him to drive the innovation strategy within UEFA and set up the UEFA Innovation Hub. Among his new responsibilities, he is now in charge of defining and implementing the innovation strategy at UEFA to support the organisation in achieving the recently approved UEFA corporate strategy 2019-2024, in close cooperation with the newly created UEFA Intelligence Centre.
Head of Sports Partnerships
Anmol Malhotra oversees sports partnerships globally at Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, leading relationships with leagues, broadcasters, and rights holders including the NFL, NBA, MLB, UFC, FIFA, Fox, Turner Sports, and NBC. In this role, he also focuses on strategy for several content partnerships and sales initiatives with leagues, teams, and athletes to help them engage new audiences, experiment with innovative forms of distribution and achieve their business objectives. In addition, Anmol helps manage international growth initiatives with sports partners across Asia, Europe, MENA, and Latin America.
Anmol is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and resides in New York City.
Marketing Head-Culture & Brand Experience, Europe & Australasia
Head of Video Product Management
Darren Lepke is the Head of Video Product Management for Verizon Media. Their platform powers the next generation of OTT and TV Everywhere experiences for large broadcasters, digital publishers and video content owners, including Disney, ESPN, Fox, Sinclair, Discovery, and more. With over 15 years of technology leadership, Darren has built a proven track record in product management, marketing, and business development. He has deep technical knowledge in software development (large scale cloud SaaS, mobile apps, connected device applications), web services APIs, online advertising, streaming media formats and metadata management.
Alex Ferrer Kristjansson
Senior Director, Marketing and Communication
Born in Barcelona, Alex Ferrer Kristjansson studied Business Administration at the Universitat de Barcelona and Hàskoli Íslands, and holds a post-graduate degree in Marketing and Sports Management from Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia. After a short time in the automotive industry at German firm Robert Bosch, Alex has developed his career in professional sports since 2004 at Euroleague Basketball (EB), the organization that manages the premier competitions in European club basketball. Within EB, Alex had been immersed in different initiatives, most related to marketing, until he was appointed to head the Marketing and Communication area, leading the organization in strategic marketing, brand, media, content and digital operations, among others.
Senior Brand Manager
Erin Millard is the Senior Brand Manager for Gillette at Procter & Gamble. Through this role, she leads Gillette North America’s esports and gaming efforts, including partnerships with EA NFL Madden, the Gillette Gaming Alliance—a roster of top global streamers who serve as brand ambassadors, and the strategy behind the wildly popular “Bits for Blades” program with Twitch. Erin has been with Procter & Gamble since May 2018; prior to joining P&G she led social media at TripAdvisor.
Deepen is a Partner at Courtside Ventures, which is an early-stage VC fund, backed by Dan Gilbert (Cleveland Cavaliers) and WPP. They focus on investing in technology companies across the sports, athlete performance, media and gaming verticals. At Courtside, some of his investments include 100 Thieves, Beam (acquired by Microsoft and rebranded as Mixer), The Athletic and Religion of Sports.
Prior, he was a Partner at Interplay Ventures, a NY based incubator and early-stage investor. He also co-founded NYVC Sports with the mission of bridging the gap between sports leagues, teams, investors, entrepreneurs, and media companies.
Deepen started his career at UBS and earned his BA in Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Alex J. Nuñez
Partnerships & Advertising Lead, EA SPORTS Madden NFL
Chief Commercial Officer
Chief Executive & Managing Partner
Meredith McPherron is DRIVE’s CEO & Managing Partner, overseeing all investments, portfolio construction, and operations. She has 25+ years of investing, operating and executive experience driving early and growth stage ventures to scale and exit.
Prior to joining DRIVE, McPherron served as a Venture Partner with Glasswing Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm investing in the next generation of AI, cybersecurity and intelligent enterprise startups. She also served as a mentor for the MIT DesignX accelerator, an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab, an Innovation Fellow at the Harvard School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, and was a board member and close strategic advisor for BFY Brands, which sold to PepsiCo in February.
Co-founder & Chief Executive
Daniel Kirschner is the co-founder and CEO of Greenfly, the leader in short-form media distribution for sports. A veteran in software, sports and media, he has held senior positions as the President of the Harvard Law Review, Head of Internet Policy at the FCC, and Head of Corporate Affairs at Activision Blizzard.
Advising some of the biggest brands in sports entertainment, he has helped them increase customer engagement and build brand value by harnessing the power of their athletes, talent, advocates and ambassadors.
Through his experience, Daniel has come to appreciate the many challenges and opportunities that sports organizations face as we quickly become a digital-first society.
Daniel holds an A.B. from Harvard University and a J.D from Harvard Law School
General Manager, Marketing & Commercial Growth
Drone Racing League
Head of Knowledge Development & Innovation
Royal Netherlands Football Association
Giel Kirkels is responsible for knowledge development and innovation at the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB). He works on a variety of innovation topics, including referee technology (VAR), data intelligence and stadium experience. He was responsible for the development of the new national training center for the Dutch national teams, the KNVB Campus. He has also launched the KNVB Football Innovation Center #11, which is home to a network of >30 companies that work with the KNVB on various innovation projects. Recently he has launched the Football Innovation Platform in cooperation with other leading organizations such as UEFA, City Football Group and the Johan Cruijff Arena.
As CEO and founder of Delmondo, a social video analytics and audience insights software platform, Nick joined Conviva with its acquisition in 2018. Nick is focused on extending Conviva’s portfolio of video measurement capabilities with Social Insights, a comprehensive cross-platform social video intelligence product. In his 15 years in the industry, Nick has been at the forefront of numerous industry firsts including creating the first enterprise analytics solutions for Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Facebook Live, and has worked with some of the world’s largest brands and publishers, including ABC News, Turner, Viacom, NASCAR, Red Bull, Universal Music Group, and TED.