Get to Know: Major League Soccer CMO Howard Handler
In January of 2012, Howard Handler was named CMO of Major League Soccer, driving the league’s marketing, digital, programming and content efforts, along with overseeing CRM, fan insights and special events initiatives. Handler has built and burnished some of the most well-known brands in the world, including The Madison Square Garden Company, the artists of EMI […]
In January of 2012, Howard Handler was named CMO of Major League Soccer, driving the league’s marketing, digital, programming and content efforts, along with overseeing CRM, fan insights and special events initiatives.
Handler has built and burnished some of the most well-known brands in the world, including The Madison Square Garden Company, the artists of EMI Music, Virgin Mobile, The National Football League, MTV, Saturday Night Live and The Quaker Oats Company.
While at MTV, he played a central role in the launch of “Beavis & Butthead,” “The Jon Stewart Show,” “The Real World,” and the Peabody Award-winning “Choose or Lose” voter awareness campaign, and was recognized as one of America’s Top 100 Marketers by Advertising Age.
His sports marketing background includes time as the senior vice president of marketing and fan development for The National Football League. During his six-year tenure for the league, he led the creation of its first imaging campaign, “Feel The Power,” developed the NFL’s integrated youth initiative “Play Football,” and built up the company’s retail division with the introduction of the “NFL Shop.”
In addition to his more than 25 years in marketing, Handler was CEO for Burly Bear Network, a start-up cable network and youth marketing company. While leading Burley Bear Network, he more than tripled revenues in two years time before selling the business to National Lampoon.
Originally from Detroit, Handler holds a bachelor’s degree and an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.
CMO @ Major League Soccer
- Age: 53
- HQ: New York, New York
- First Job: Marketing Assistant at Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
- Apple or Android? Apple
- Hobby: Tennis, Kayaking, Hiking, Live Music
- First Car: ’74 Toyota Celica ST
What mobile device can you not live without?
Can we take a peek at your phone’s home screen?
Which apps do you use most often for work?
Twitter keeps me plugged in.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
Instagram for friends, family, etc.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Email, MLSsoccer.com, Twitter, Yahoo News Digest.
Take me through your typical workday.
No such thing; Major League Soccer and the global soccer business world is as dynamic, rhythmic and ever-changing as a game on the field. Every day is a bit unscripted.
What does your desk look like?
There’s a photo on my desk of my great-uncle Lou Handler as referee holding up Jake LaMotta’s arm at the conclusion of his World Middleweight Championship fight in 1950.
My Uncle Lou was a renaissance man in the truest sense – first guy in our family to go to college, an athlete, an outdoorsman and a leader. His character and legacy inspire me every day.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
The recent announcement of our eight year integrated partnerships with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision – rocket fuel for accelerated growth.
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
Approximately 50,000 miles. Brazil was a stand-out trip; seeing the US Men’s National Team make it out of the Group of Death, and stand tall with some of the greatest teams in the world was something I’ll never forget.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
Striking the right balance between planning and leveraging big topical breaking events…a big player signing like Frank Lampard, or the announcement of Landon Donovan’s retirement.
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
We’ve made plenty of mistakes like anyone but ‘test and learn’ is so deeply embedded in how we think and approach things that when something doesn’t go our way, we’re mostly focused on what we’ve learned, how to adjust and get better. This covers campaigns, creative, media, digital products, events – you name it.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
My Dad: integrity, honor.
Lorne Michaels: how to get the best work out of creative people.
Richard Branson: how to listen to the heartbeat of your consumer.
Don Garber: vision, passion, perseverance, compassion.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
Energy, curiosity, ideas, humility, commitment.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
I’m an outdoorsman at heart. If you put me in a canoe on a beautiful lake, I’m in my happy place.
Why did you go into marketing?
Marketing felt like a great fit from the moment I started at the Quaker Oats Company way back when. All the people I’ve worked with over the years share a passion to understand what drives people’s attitudes, behavior, what moves the media and culture, and the ultimate drive for ideas that build brands and businesses.
What other career would you like to try and why?
Music is at my core and I’ve been around the business side quite a bit throughout my career, but it would be a blast to give my all to singing and playing in a band, no matter how few people might be interested!
What’s the last business book you read?
The Art Of Possibility by Benjamin Zander. It’s a game-changing book about the powerful role that the notion of possibility can play in every aspect of our lives.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign or video caught your eye recently?
The RE2PECT campaign and Nike’s short film to celebrate Derek Jeter’s career is a fitting tribute and an absolute work of art.