The job life span of C-suite marketers is notoriously short, but NHL marketing chief Susan Cohig has defied the industry odds, clocking more than 17 years in her current role with the league—and that’s because she’s able to blend innovation with sense. Not only is she instrumental in promoting the NHL’s women’s hockey initiative, but she’s also elevated the entire brand. In 2013 Sports Business ranked the NHL as having the highest fan loyalty of any of the four major national sports.
Marketing strategy: Always listen to your fans. Understand what they’re interested in and what their passion is—and then figure out a way to connect to that. I try to be systematic about how I approach things, but I also know what happens to best laid plans, which is why I try to be as nimble in the moment as I can be.
Winning ways: We’ve had tremendous success at the NHL over the past few years with our large scale outdoor events. Our fans have embraced them and our partners have supported them. This year we held five outdoor games: two in New York, one in LA, one in Chicago, and another in Vancouver.
Defining moment: The opportunity to come to New York [from Colorado] put me on the path I’m on today. And while I’ve been here at the NHL, I took on going to law school at night while working full time. I had the business experience and the marketing experience, but I also wanted the skills law school would afford me from a business standpoint.
Trend watching: I think a lot of people would say social media, but it’s true: Social media has broken down the barriers when it comes to how people can connect with respect to their interests, whatever they are—and they can do it directly.
Words to live by: I’m guided by two things. One, always listen—whether it’s to colleagues, business partners, your customers, or your fan base. And two, be a student of your business. Understands all aspects of it; even the simplest things are important.
Good read: I have an eight-year-old daughter and together we’re voracious readers. Right now she and I are working our way through the Harry Potter series. I also read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal every day. It’s maybe a little old school, but I really enjoy having a surround-sound view of the world-related business and finance, but also about what’s happening in culture and entertainment. It all impacts what we do.
Good advice: Always be curious, inquisitive, and continually learning. Never stop learning. Also, know how to communicate. Young people graduating from school don’t think about it because we live in a world of social media and 140 characters, but one of the best things law school taught me how to do is to write in a clear, concise way and to unpack dense ideas.