As the NHL's senior vice president of integrated marketing, Susan Cohig wears many hats. Dealing with the NHL's corporate partners is the perhaps the largest sombrero in her collection. Once the league signs an advertising deal with a corporation, it's Cohig (and her partnership marketing groups) who make sure the company's advertising vision is executed to perfection. Cohig also manages the NHL's club services, working with each team in the league on its sales and marketing, as well as on its business operations issues. With the Stanley Cup playoffs in full swing, it's also Cohig's job to make sure that the playoff teams are ready to take full advantage of the success that comes their way. How does she do it all? Cohig explains in the first of espnW's Power Players series highlighting women in the sports business.
espnW: What's the first thing you do when you get to your desk in the morning?
SC: Check and answer emails!
espnW: We at espnW can definitely relate to that. What's it like being a female senior executive in such a male-dominated field?
SC: I'm fortunate in that I get to work with a number of talented people, male and female, so it really isn't an issue or consideration.
espnW: What advice do you have for women coming up the ranks who are interested in becoming sports executives?
SC: Don't be afraid to work hard, learn everything you can about the business, don't be timid and understand that a commitment to providing customer service for fans, business partners and colleagues is essential for success.
espnW: What career path did you follow to reach your current position?
SC: I started out in marketing at a family of radio stations in Denver. From that opportunity I was recruited to work in the sponsorship group at the Denver Nuggets and was tapped to run the department a year later. Our management team orchestrated the move of the NHL Quebec Nordiques to Denver and launched them as the Colorado Avalanche. Through that experience and with the team winning the Stanley Cup in its inaugural season, I had the opportunity to work closely with the NHL's league office. Through that interaction I relocated to the NHL in New York when an opportunity became available with NHL.com.
Over the time I've been with the NHL, my role has evolved and expanded to encompass marketing, club services, sales, partnership marketing and legal/compliance matters. The latter enabled me to make use of the law degree I earned while working at the NHL.
espnW: So you've got a full time job and you're getting a law degree? That's impressive. What's the coolest thing you get to do as part of your job?
SC: I get to go to hockey games, of course!
espnW: We're guessing you may be biased, but what's your favorite sport?
SC: Once you experience an NHL game live, most other sports pale in comparison. Our players are such great athletes, fierce competitors, while at the same time being so approachable and down to earth when engaging with fans. It's difficult not to love hockey.
espnW: What's a goal you've set for but haven't been able to accomplish yet?
SC: To run the New York Marathon.
espnW: Do you have kids? How do you balance work and law school with being a mom?
SC: Finding a work/life balance is the biggest challenge I face in my job. I have a wonderful 5-year-old daughter -- my greatest achievement. Balance is tricky but I have great support and a very caring family. My idea of happiness is hearing my daughter laugh. It's really joyful and infectious.