The Most Powerful Women in Sports: 35 Executives and Influencers Winning Over the Next Generation of Fans

Our second-annual list of the MVPs of the sports marketing world

Photograph: Sasha Maslov; Styling: Stephanie Flor

Adweek went far afield for our second annual list of Powerful Women in Sports, selecting leaders from the burgeoning world of esports, the ascendant women’s soccer arena and a brand-new basketball league—plus the mar-tech and artificial-intelligence innovators serving the sports marketing ecosystem. Here, Adweek honors the 35 female executives and influencers who are winning over the next generation of fans and scoring new partnerships with brands.

Katrina Adams
Chairman, president, CEO, United States Tennis Association;
chairman, U.S. Open


The firsts keep stacking up for Adams, the first pro player, the first African American and the youngest person to serve as the top executive of the U.S. Tennis Association. In January, she started a second two-year term, becoming the first person to do so in the organization’s history. The former pro singles and doubles player, who hit her first tennis ball when she was 6 years old, has made inclusiveness and access a priority during her tenure, aiming to further diversify the game. Her outreach effort to Hispanics grew that audience of tennis players by double digits in its first year.

Christina Alejandre
General manager, ELeague; vp, esports


Where others failed to make compelling television out of esports, Alejandre succeeded with the launch early last year of ELeague. The property, nominated for a Sports Emmy this spring and airing on TBS, recently broke Twitch records (1 million-plus views), attracting new sponsors Geico, Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. Its event coverage, including partnerships with Blizzard and Capcom, keeps growing. Next: another round of red-hot Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in September. Alejandre, a 15-year industry vet whose gamer bona fides stretch from Atari to Nintendo Switch, knows her crowd, making esports “more digestible to a casual audience,” she says, while staying “authentic to the space and without dumbing down the experience for the passionate community.”

Erin Andrews
Broadcaster, Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1


Television viewers may think of Andrews as indefatigable, seeing her diligent and ever-present reporting from major events like the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500, along with her co-hosting gig on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Her dedication became even more obvious when she was back on the sidelines covering a Packers-Cowboys game last October five days after surgery for cervical cancer, having told her doctor, “I’m not watching any football games at home,” she said to Sports Illustrated early this year when she revealed her illness. Andrews, an ESPN vet, has renewed her multi-year contract with Fox Sports to focus solely on the NFL.

Lisa Borders
President, WNBA


A former Coca-Cola executive and longtime WNBA fan, Borders shook up the 20-year-old league in 2016, allowing the two top teams from the same conference (Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx) to go toe-to-toe for what became a heart-pounding, five-game championship series. TV audiences for the season jumped double digits on ESPN, social media followers and video views soared, merchandise sales bumped up 30 percent and attendance hit a five-year high. The league added Exxon and signed Verizon as its marquee sponsor. Up next: more livestreaming on Twitter and daily fantasy games that will, Borders says, “reflect our commitment to building on last season’s momentum and continuing to broaden our reach.”

Karen Brodkin
Evp, content strategy and partnerships, WME | IMG


The idea of airing video game tournaments on television might’ve seemed like a head-scratcher not long ago. Now, less than two years into the launch of ELeague, an IMG and Turner collaboration, it’s an unqualified hit and a fast-growing sports entertainment property, having spread to 80 countries. But Brodkin, one of its architects, sees bigger numbers ahead, aiming to add to the 1 trillion-plus total minutes of consumption ELeague has already racked up across digital and linear platforms to date. A veteran of Fox Sports, Brodkin also works with the firm’s college sports clients, global brand partnership group and media rights division, where she’s guiding Fightball, sometimes described as a gladiator version of one-on-one basketball.

This story first appeared in the June 26, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.