Betsy’s first experience with marketing came when she entered business school at the University of Virginia and became inspired by a marketing professor. Her first opportunity to apply her education came with a 14-year stint at HBO, where she held various positions in sales and marketing launching new products, the most successful of which was Multiplex.
Following HBO, Betsy went on to work for Time Life (as President of their Video and Television Division), Hallmark and Henson, before landing a job at Madison Square Garden as senior vice president of corporate marketing in 2001. Betsy’s role was to give the company strategic leadership and a fresh look into the future. In her current capacity as head of corporate marketing, Betsy spearheads all marketing initiatives that come out of the organization.
Madison Square Garden has never had trouble filling seats. However, the Garden is much more than the venue itself. Controlled by Cablevision Systems, the Garden’s siblings include the National Basketball Association’s New York Knicks, the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers,the WNBA’s New York Liberty and Radio City Music Hall. So the biggest challenge Betsy has faced is encouraging an organization that didn’t have to aggressively market itself to adopt marketing principles. “The entertainment part of the business is very good at marketing itself, but this is not universal to the organization.”
How does she integrate the different elements of Madison Square Garden? “The key is finding the common denominator amongst the various brands. In this case the venues themselves are a critical part of the brand experiences. I look at the key leverage points in each individual brand,” Betsy answers. To do the job right, “it takes an understanding of the different disciplines and how they need to work together. It takes an ability to quickly determine where the leverage points are for the different brands while finding synergies. We have limited resources so they must carefully allocated, and as efficiently as possible.”
“The hardest thing about marketing is to make sure that everyone in the organization understands the personality [of the brand] and everything that touches the consumer is part of your brand message – everything,” she says.
According to Betsy, the corporate culture at the Garden is not a marketing culture. Therefore, it takes someone with a certain level of experience to internally sell the importance of marketing, both short-term and long-term (the latter of which is most challenging). Establishing a personality for the Garden is “like picking the low hanging fruit” because “the reality is you walk in there and get a sense of the personality.” The real challenge is to have that personality communicated internally.
The good news is that she feels optimistic about the talents of the Garden’s branding agency for the venue itself; her next goal is to find the best agency for each discipline. Currently, she believes that direct marketing is the common denominator that could make [the Garden] a more efficient marketing organization. Meanwhile she is concentrating on marketing to growth segments such as children and Hispanic markets. “I am peeling away the layers, not trying to do everything.”
Betsy adores the strategy behind marketing. What’s more, she feels she has been fortunate enough to work for fabulous brands. HBO was a brand in development while she was there in the 1980s. “I watched it leverage a unique space and it has never wavered in its personality.” Other brands that Betsy admires include Target because “everything speaks to the same personality,” and BMW because “every detail is on strategy and on message.”
One of her techniques is to encourage the people around her. “Respect for other people and what they know is something I have worked on, and knowing what I don’t know and not being afraid to admit it,” Betsy explains. “There is nothing I like better than getting a bunch of smart people in a room together – I find it difficult to work with people who don‘t enjoy a collaborative process.” Although the concept of getting everyone in a room to kick around ideas is somewhat new at the Garden, her colleagues seem to enjoy the opportunity. And she’s not afraid to call in the experts when she can’t find a solution in-house. “I see myself as a leader in introducing outside resources – rarely does an organization possess all their resources internally.”
Betsy may have the ideal job, but she doesn’t restrict the good times to just work. Armed with a good sense of humor, she has a passion for outdoor activities (from skiing to fly fishing), loves to travel and devours fiction to relax. In twenty years she foresees herself retired and running a travel business out of a small hotel in the mountains. In the meantime, however, her primary goal is “to turn [the Garden] into a stellar marketing organization.”