Robyn Miller’s life choices did not seem like
they were leading to the post of senior VP of
marketing for Tennis Channel. And it’s not just
that she’s “a little embarrassed” to admit she’s one
of the few employees who doesn’t play the game.
(“I’ve taken a few lessons, but I suck,” she says.)
In college, Miller studied French literature and
linguistics. After some “dead-end jobs” in New
York, she headed west, earning a more pragmatic
master’s in business at UCLA. “That set
me on fire—I realized I had a real passion for
international marketing,” she says.
But Miller wasn’t pursuing a career in sports
marketing. She began working for Max Factor
and other high-end cosmetics companies.
“Sports was nowhere on my radar,” she says.
In 1985 she shifted gears. She joined Disney,
which was starting Buena Vista Home Video. “I
jumped at the chance,” she says.
She loved her time there, but eventually she
was ready for something new. “The job had certain
limitations,” she says. “You can only market
Pinocchio so many times—video, DVD, Blu-ray.”
Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon first recruited
Miller for Fine Living Network—where
she was able to draw on her lifestyle marketing
experience from her cosmetic days—before
bringing her over to Tennis Channel. The
whole experience was freeing. “We have only
about 100 people here, while at Disney there
were no less than 20 people in any meeting,”
Miller says. “I was 12 levels down from Michael
Eisner; but here I report directly to Ken.
I have a greater sense of ownership here, [and]
we are much more agile here.”
She doesn’t even miss the “phenomenal”
Disney budgets; Tennis Channel requires a
staff volleying of a different sort.
“My hands are tied and I’m constantly asking
my staff, ‘How much does this cost?’ And
I have proposals that are burning a hole in my
desk right now,” she says. But being forced to
brainstorm “outside the box” is more rewarding
she says, whether it’s partnering with French
food trucks in major cities during the French
Open, or negotiating deals to get the channel’s
highlights and programs shown—at no cost—
in places such as Best Buy, Costco, Burger King
and airports. “It has compelled us to be more
creative, and I love it.”