Melissa Proctor learned early that persistence pays off. As a teenager, she dreamed of being the first female coach in the NBA. She repeatedly contacted her local team, the Miami Heat, about a job, and despite warnings of late nights and hard work, Proctor became the franchise’s first ball girl. “That’s how I got my start, mopping up sweat for the Heat,” laughs Proctor, 38.
She went on to study communications, art, and design at Wake Forest University and the London Institute. After graduating, she quickly become a trailblazer in brand development and strategy at Turner Broadcasting, serving in senior positions, until joining the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena in 2014 as chief marketing officer. In that role, Proctor is charged with building the team’s brand and engaging its fan base. She led marketing efforts for the $192.5 million renovation of Philips Arena and revamped the team’s social media, mobile, and web presence, hoping to target a younger audience. “A lot of people move to Atlanta from other cities and end up settling here, having kids here,” she says. “We may not be able to convert the lifelong fan of another team in another city, but we can definitely be the team for their children.”
Proctor, who has a young daughter, credits her own mother and an early mentor at Turner with giving her the confidence to be herself at work. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of—that I have never had to change who I am, how I dress, or how I look in order to continue to grow my career,” she says. Looking to pay her success forward, Proctor mentors members of her staff and other women in the male-dominated field of sports business. Her advice? “Nobody gets to where they are on their own.”