Brand Strategy

From basketball to boxing: How one exec made her way through the sports marketing world

“There comes a point in your life where you just are like, ‘I deserve a seat at this table,’” Morgan Dewan, Top Rank’s chief brand officer, said.
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Morgan Dewan

· 5 min read

This story is the fourth in a series on women leaders in sports and sports marketing. Read the rest of the profiles here and keep reading Marketing Brew for more profiles to come.

Morgan Dewan knows what it’s like to be an outsider in parts of the sports world.

She started her first official sports job as a director of social media in 2013, a time when broadcast ruled the industry and many execs weren’t convinced that social would be more than a fad, she said. There’s also the fact that Dewan is a woman, and though more are working their way into executive roles in sports, there’s still evidence that they’re significantly outnumbered in sports business leadership: As of last year, only about 27% of international federation execs were women, according to a report from the Sport Integrity Global Alliance.

Dewan works in boxing, a sport that’s particularly populated by men, from the ring to the major governing bodies and promotion companies like Top Rank, where Dewan is the chief brand officer. Boxing is “a very cottage industry, a fairly family-driven industry,” she said, and she didn’t grow up around the sport.

But with her sports content production background, newcomer’s perspective, and a mentality of saying yes to new opportunities, Dewan is working to rebrand a sport that’s perhaps not as popular as it once was, as well as make her mark in a male-dominated sport and industry.

See her to be her

Dewan didn’t always dream of being a sports exec. In fact, she said the thought of working in sports hadn’t crossed her mind until the head of sports marketing at Duke, whom she worked for in the sports information director’s (SID) office, suggested she try to get a job in that industry.

“There were no women working in the SID’s office,” Dewan told Marketing Brew. “There was [sportscaster] Melissa Stark, who was on-camera and doing sideline reporting, but I had no interest in doing that. You have to see it to want to become it, and so it wasn’t until he told me that that I was like, ‘Oh, that could really be an option.’”

Dewan instead started her post-college career in brand marketing and public relations roles, but in 2011, she joined AT&T as senior manager of social and emerging media, where she was able to work on the London Summer Olympics, which she said reignited her passion for sports.

Around that time, she started looking for a change in company. Turner Sports was hiring, and she essentially cold-applied, but got the job as director of social media anyway. She went from leading a team of three to a team of 30 in 18 months, she said, eventually becoming VP of social media, then VP of production development, then VP of content partnerships while also helping to lead content development for B/R Studio at Bleacher Report, which Turner acquired in 2012.

All roads games lead to Rome

In 2021, Dewan jumped ship to serve as VP of content and distribution for Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SSE). She got the job from Brandon Gayle, then an executive at SSE, who previously worked as head of global sports partnerships for Instagram and director of global sports partnerships and solutions for Facebook.

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“She was an amazing hire and a much-needed addition to the team for us to revamp how we thought about storytelling, engaging the next generation of audiences, and also how we thought about navigating the disruption that was happening from a local media perspective,” Gayle told us.

The job was perfect on paper, Dewan said, but she found herself wanting “to spice things up.” So when the president of Top Rank came knocking on her door looking for a chief brand officer, she said yes, leaving behind basketball for an arguably riskier career in boxing.

“The sport, to me, was fascinating,” Dewan told Marketing Brew. “You could argue that boxing hasn’t been hyper-relevant for a moment, since we’ve had characters like Mike Tyson, and to bring that back to where it was, and to come from a position of the underdog versus the leader was really, really interesting to me.”

“I deserve a seat at this table”

Her experience coming up in the control rooms at Turner, plus a certain measure of “sustained success” in subsequent years, helped her step confidently into the role of chief brand officer at Top Rank.

“There comes a point in your life where you just are like, ‘I deserve a seat at this table,’” Dewan said. “I have no problem going into a group of men who have grown up in the boxing industry and know everything that there is about every single fighter and being like, ‘I don’t know your sport, but that’s not threatening to me, and I shouldn’t be threatening to you. Here’s what I do know, and here’s what I’m good at. Let’s work together.’”

Though Dewan said she doesn’t have the “intrinsic knowledge” of the sport that some of her colleagues do, the lessons she’s learned in previous jobs are proving applicable to boxing.

“Be willing to listen to your fans, and be okay with criticism, because no matter what sport you’re working on, whether it’s Nascar or baseball or boxing, there’s going to be this really hard-core group,” Dewan said. “They continue to drive the sport, and consumption, and that’s great, but in order to move the sport forward, you have to be able to try things that that group is probably not going to like.”

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