In January, Uzma Rawn, who graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in sport management, was named to Forbes’ 2015 30 Under 30 sports list, which names 30 of the most influential people in sports. The exclusive list includes both athletes — including MLB’s Buster Posey, the NBA’s Chris Paul and the NFL’s Joe Flacco — and people on the business side of sport.
Rawn currently serves as the vice president of corporate partnerships at Premier Partnerships, a company that, according to its website, primarily deals with “development and execution of customized commercial sales strategies for top tier facilities, sports and entertainment destinations, league and team properties, as well as municipal projects.” She also heads the company’s New York office and recently worked on the deal that allowed for the name change of the Portland Trail Blazers’ stadium to Moda Center.
Sports Editor Kristen Gowdy spoke with Rawn about her recent naming rights deal, her award and her time at the college.
Kristen Gowdy: You recently worked on the naming rights deal with the Portland Trail Blazers’ stadium. What was your role in that?
Uzma Rawn: We were working with the Trail Blazers, mainly focusing on their naming rights to bring on a partner for what at the time was called the Rose Garden, and they had never had a naming rights partner before at the arena. I was focusing on really mining the Portland market. They say that 75 percent or 80 percent of the naming rights deals that are done for arenas and stadiums are done by companies that are in a 75 or 100-mile radius of the arena. So whenever Premier brings on a new client for naming rights, our entire team makes sure that we are reaching out and talking to all of the brands that are headquartered there, moving their headquarters there, have large employee bases there or have a presence in that market. My role there was just to do exactly that — to make sure I was talking to a number of brands. I specifically focused on the health insurance category because of what was happening in the health insurance industry as a whole with Obamacare. That’s how I discovered Modah and that they were rebranding themselves. This naming rights platform allowed them a great opportunity to leverage a partnership, to really introduce their new brand to the community and to communicate who they are or were as a health insurance company, what they represent, what their story is and why consumers should choose them over other suppliers in that market.
KG: How did you get chosen for Forbes’ “30 Under 30 List for Most Influential People in Sport”?
UR: To be honest with you, I actually don’t know who nominated me. I got a call from Forbes in December  telling me that I had been nominated, and they asked me if I would accept the award if I was chosen. I, of course, said yes, and they asked me to complete a questionnaire which then told me that I was [to] be notified on Jan. 5 if I was selected. So I was so honored and humbled to be chosen to be part of that list among some very inspirational individuals, and I think that something that helped in terms of exposure for me was definitely the Modah naming rights deal that I did. There was an article that was written in Sports Business Journal, so it just helped get me a little more exposure. I would say that someone took notice and decided that they wanted to put my name in the hat for that, and I’m so grateful and I’d love to find out who it is so I can thank them.
KG: How did your experiences at Ithaca College help you to get where you are now?
UR: Ithaca was so great. I loved my four years there. My professors in the sports management program were phenomenal. The reason I chose Ithaca to begin with is that I always thought, after visiting the [college], that it had a great sports management program and curriculum, and the professors were really involved with the students. There were a lot of opportunities after students graduated where the professors would really help their students with the next step, getting their career in terms of introducing them to other alumni that were working in the sports industry or getting them connected to other sports organizations whether it was agencies or teams that the [college] had relationships with. That’s one of the main reasons why I chose to go there.
KG: What’s next for you? Do you have any future plans or goals with Premier?
UR: I’m really excited about this new role that I’m in here in New York and leading the New York office. We are a company that’s headquartered in LA, where our headquarters are in Santa Monica, and we opened up this New York office about a year and a half ago and we’ve officially planted our flag here. I’m excited to really grow Premier’s east-coast presence and really grow our impact and penetration here in New York to make sure we’re continuously thought of as the top tier and we keep our standing as the high-level top-tier agency.