Growing up, Heidi Pellerano wanted to be an Olympic athlete and the first Puerto Rican woman on the moon. Instead, she earned a degree in electrical engineering from Duke University and got a job working for a consulting firm embedded at the Pentagon with the Air Force’s B-1 bomber team, which sought to rebuild the plane for the post-Cold War era. If that wasn’t enough, Pellerano moonlighted as a youth basketball coach.
“I was doing a pretty high-level job right out of school, and I went through that process of ‘What comes next?’” she said. “I really started to understand early on that having a good-paying job with tons of upward mobility isn’t enough.”
And that’s when she realized sports were central to what she wanted to do next.
A role combining analytics with sports wasn’t exactly a straightforward transition, so she earned two master’s degrees—one in sports management at UMass Amherst, followed by an MBA at Duke. Along the way, she interned with the NBA’s Orlando Magic—her first marketing position—and Russell Athletics. Pellerano parlayed this experience into a job with the WNBA before landing a full-time role at sports marketing agency OnSport, where she was senior manager of the American Express account and focused on sports partnerships.
Wasserman acquired OnSport in 2007, when she was director of the Nokia account. She helped the client get out of its NBA partnership to focus on music, resulting in partnerships with Live Nation and the American Music Awards. After that, she led T-Mobile’s NBA and Hispanic marketing strategies, including an activation for the 2010 World Cup.
In working with T-Mobile, Pellerano realized the brand was talking to traditional Hispanic agencies to reach Latinos in the U.S., and there was an opportunity in the segment to bring value with Wasserman’s data-driven approach. From there, Wasserman’s multicultural practice was born, which now serves clients like AT&T, Nationwide, Scotts and Diageo.
“Everything I’ve gone through in this quest to get where I am has prepared me to be where I am,” Pellerano said. “I see myself and my colleagues—I do think differently, but I think it’s beneficial to the company to have that point of view.”
Evp, brands, Wasserman
Svp, projects and business development, Wasserman
Vp, T-Mobile account, Wasserman
Director, Nokia account, OnSport/Wasserman
Senior manager, American Express account, OnSport
Coordinator, player development, WNBA
Communications assistant, WNBA
Research analyst, Analytic Services Corp.
Pellerano is an evp at Wasserman, where she leads the brands team and the multicultural practice.
How She Got the Gig
Pellerano pivoted from consulting to the Air Force B-1 bomber team to sports marketing with two master’s degrees and two internships.
“You have to be true to yourself,” Pellerano said. “Every time I worked through different options, nothing [seemed] more fulfilling to me than participating, coaching or watching sports. It was so core to who I had become.”