In our series 10 minutes with, we introduce some of our senior executives and uncover their unique approaches to leadership, their career learnings and their perspectives on how the media and technology landscape is changing.
Meka Morris is a sports and entertainment sponsorship sales veteran, former University of Kansas track and field scholar athlete and quintessential team player. She is a firm believer in empowering others, growing and retaining top talent, and trusting in the power of the team. To her, good people are the heartbeat of any successful organization, and failure is an inherent part of growth. Morris is the champion of new business and revenue generation for ISM Connect. She resides in Plano, Texas with her husband.
ISM: As a female CRO of a sports and entertainment technology company, describe the opportunity you have as a revenue generator and a role model.
MM: It’s such an interesting question. I don’t take being a role model lightly. I think women and minorities have fought tooth and nail for their space in this world for a long time. What that means to me is that I get to empower other people, in much the same way that others have empowered me. I feel privileged and honored to sit in the seat that I’m in, and I understand the responsibility that the seat requires. It has to be handled with care.
ISM: How does diversity and inclusion play a role in your approach to building a team?
To me, diversity doesn’t just mean diversity in terms of the color of our skin or our gender; it’s diversity in thought. I’m going to select the very best people regardless of what they look like or where they come from. You can’t put a whole bunch of people in a room with similar backgrounds and skill sets and expect something uniquely different to come out of that. You need to recruit people who see the world from many different perspectives. What comes out of that is something really beautiful
ISM: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
MM: For me, it’s the people. It’s growing talent. While I’ve had really good jobs and worked for really good companies and sold a lot of really great product, growing talent is what gets me jacked. Every time I bring somebody in and help them see themselves for more, show them how to manage people, grow people and determine what they’re best at, it makes me really happy.
ISM: Who has empowered you in your career?
MM: As my career has progressed, there have been people who’ve taken real interest in me and coached me along the way. There is Nicole Jeter West, CMO of Legends, who has been a mentor to me for a long time. Chad Estis, EVP of the Dallas Cowboys, Mike Ondrejko, President of Legends Global Sales and Todd Fleming, also VP/GM at Legends, who recommended me for my first job ever in sports — long before women really had opportunities from a revenue generating standpoint.
ISM: How have you empowered others?
MM: I think sometimes young people want somebody just take them under their wing, and the reality is that we’re all busy. There has to be a real connection. I have to really believe in someone’s talent. It’s something that happens genuinely, and then the relationship grows. There was a young woman who worked for me in a past job, and I’m proud to say that she’s now the operations lead at Google for their international cloud division. That’s the stuff that makes me proud.
ISM: What is your leadership mantra?
MM: I want people to go beyond me. I’m not the benchmark. I want them to do better than me, and I don’t want them to have the same road that I had, because part of paving the road is giving them the ability to ride that street easier than I did. I’m giving strategic direction. They’re ultimately executing. A wise man once told me that the best leaders hire the best people and let them tell you what to do, no the other way around.
ISM: How did being an athlete impact your career path?
MM: Being an athlete was huge. The discipline, the grit, the ability to overcome adversity. The tenacity and training translates directly into a business setting. I don’t care what you do — marketing, PR, sales — the road is never easy and a lot of people want to bail when times get tough. But I think when you’ve experienced that competitive spirit and the will to win, I think it carries you forward.
ISM: What organizations have you been a part of over the course of your career that have made an impact on your success?
MM: I’m a huge believer in Big Brothers Big Sisters. I always say to people, how do you know to strive for something if you’ve never seen it? It’s like trying to explain to a three year old what a kangaroo is. And so think about that. If you are a youth and part of an underserved community, believing that you can achieve things outside of what you see… I think there’s something magical about that — impressing upon them that opportunities can be afforded to them if they work hard. If I can represent that to even one young person and they see something bigger than their environment, this will have all been worth it.
ISM: What are some of the innovations you see happening in live event advertising?
MM: Right now what’s most important is reaching a fan base where they want to be met and presenting authenticity in doing so. It’s understanding how to speak to them in a way that’s high touch, high feel without just putting out a brand message straight away. That method just doesn’t make sense anymore. Today we’re seeing brands engage with fans through things like eSports, Facebook and Instagram — through just about anything that really engages them to convert and participate. And then, it’s really about data.
ISM: How can data be used to understand the modern fan?
MM: Data is king, and everybody wants data. When you can look at who is in a venue, understand their buying behavior and then craft your brand messaging to be consistent with how they want to engage in a product or service — that’s nirvana. A lot of times this data is third party sourced. We (ISM) can tell you — first party — who’s really buying and who’s really there. This helps marketers really define and better target their advertising to speak to those consumers in real time.
ISM: Where do you think live event advertising will be in five years?
MM: For sponsorship revenue to continue to grow, venues will have to get smarter. This could be through facial ticketing, biometrics on purchasing, biometrics as a way to determine if you are of age to drink or not. And then it’s about using the aggregate of that data to say, hey, brand X, this is how many people engaged, and here’s what their demographics look like. That’s magic, and that’s where we’re headed.
Amie Sheridan is a Philadelphia-based writer and content strategist serving sports technology startups. Her work has appeared in Sports Business Journal.