The Name of the Game - Uzma Rawn '06

The 2015 Forbes “30 under 30” list for professional sports contains some of the most popular athletes competing today—James Harden, Buster Posey, and Cristiano Ronaldo. It also includes names that the average sports fan wouldn’t recognize: the stars who work behind the scenes in the business side of the industry.

Among them is Uzma Rawn ’06, who orchestrated a multimillion-dollar naming rights deal between the Portland Trail Blazers and Moda Health. The 10-year deal, which renamed the home of the Trail Blazers to the Moda Center, is reportedly worth $40 million and helped land Rawn on the Forbes list. Rawn was especially thrilled because Forbes is a magazine her father often reads, unlike the trade journals that might feature some of the projects she’s worked on.

“It really did put a smile on my face to know this wasn’t something I was just going to be forwarding to him,” she says. “If I didn’t let him know beforehand, he probably would have seen it anyway.”

Her accomplishments are impressive particularly in light of the fact that she started selling corporate partnerships beginning in 2010, when she joined Premiere Partnerships with very little previous sales experience.

In some ways, her career started with basketball. Though she stopped playing for her high school team as a sophomore, she volunteered with the boys’ team at the suggestion of the coach. She made sure equipment was ready for practices, packed up the buses for away games, kept stats during games, and did other tasks a team manager might do. It got her thinking that she might be interested in the business aspect of sports. Rawn discovered Ithaca College while researching programs. A visit to the school and meetings with faculty confirmed IC as her choice. She majored in sport management and minored in integrated marketing communications. In 2006, she shared a byline with her professor and advisor, John Wolohan, on a paper that appeared in Athletic Business magazine after he included some information Rawn had researched for a class paper. She also worked with the men’s varsity basketball team in the same capacity as she had with the boys’ basketball team in high school.

Shortly after graduating from IC, Rawn landed a position with the marketing and business operations department of the NBA, which she describes as an in-house marketing consultant office for teams in the league. In addition to helping with marketing strategy, she also had opportunities to assist individual teams with revenue streams such as ticket sales and corporate sponsorships—and she relished those experiences.

She met the president of Premiere Partnerships in 2009 while working for the NBA. She interviewed for a position in the New York City office, and since landing the job, she’s helped broker deals between the Texas Rangers and CyrusOne and the Brooklyn Nets and the Insurance Office of America, Coca-Cola, and the Intrepid Museum. She secured the deal between the Trail Blazers and Moda in the summer of 2013. By the end of last year Rawn was promoted to vice president, heading up the New York office. 

This spring Rawn accepted a new challenge – she signed on with Major League Baseball as the senior director of sponsorships sales for the organization. She is also on the board of the John Starks Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by the former NBA star that provides academic scholarships to high school seniors. And she’s hoping to maintain the momentum that made her a “30 under 30.”