Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.
Jocelyn Monroe is a goal getter. She sees a dream, aims for it, and bullseye: mission accomplished. The accomplished entertainment and sports marketing maven wants nothing more than to share that golden touch with her clients. Making their dreams come true and putting a system in place for the future generation of business leaders at Creative Artist Agency (CAA) is what she looks forward to every day.
Since her days of working for the pioneering public relations and personal brand builder Terrie Williams, Monroe has had one major desire—to garner the highest level of trust and respect from her clients. And whether it’s serving as the liaison between an international mega brand and the NBA, or helping to shape and build DEI strategy within CAA’s brand consulting group, Monroe jumps in headfirst and stays laser focused on mastering what is directly in front of her.
The coveted Madison Square Garden is where this Albany State College (bachelors in marketing), and North Carolina State University (masters in sports management) graduate took her baby steps toward becoming an executive in the sports world. Not bad for a first job as a marketing rep, a role that spring-boarded her to the Terrie Williams Agency, where she was brought in to start the sports arm of the agency; Allan Houston Enterprises; and then Chinese sports brand Li-Ning, where she became the catalyst for the first deal between China and the NBA.
After stints at Coca-Cola and OMD USA, Monroe landed at what many consider a dream company, CAA. In her role as an entertainment and sports marketing mastermind, Monroe is also focusing is currently on helping her organization build strong relationships that can create opportunities for HBCU students. “I have a passion for really wanting to see young women like me, who are sitting in smaller institutions, become more aware of what jobs are available to them,” says Monroe, who, along with a colleague on the CAA golf team, began to build on conversations about diversity.
“My personal part in this framework is to go to HBCU campuses and speak to the students in the business and communication schools about my journey,” she says. “And to let them know there is an opportunity for them to connect with this organization if they’re interested.”
Embracing connectivity has been a major conduit to Monroe’s success. When she was ready to leave Allan Houston Enterprises, she decided that the corporate sector would be her next target. Yvette Chavis, a good friend who was working at the NBA at the time, knew that Monroe would be a great fit for a pivotal role at Li-Ning (the “Nike of China”). Securing this position would not only change Monroe’s life for her, but it would also shift the relationship between the NBA and international sports marketing relations.
The largest Chinese-owned sporting goods brand, at the time, needed help working with US players and understanding their culture. Monroe was the ideal liaison. Chavis told her that “to really leverage and to be able to work with the NBA properly, Li-Ning needs someone in America who can be their connectivity and navigate them through how to work in the American marketplace.”
As the US marketing manager for Li-Ning, Monroe laid the foundation for it to become the first Chinese-owned company to be an NBA sponsor. Now it’s an amazing memory, but at the time, Monroe was terrified about the opportunity. However, she carefully and strategically made the most of it.
“It was probably my first real understanding of selling myself, my ideas, and what I brought to the table,” she says. “These were people who had no clue of who I was. They didn’t have an idea who Terrie Williams was, and the schools that I went to meant nothing to them. I was selling what was right in front of them. Me and my brain.”
She went on to explain that “Chinese culture wants to connect with you in a way that’s just beyond business. They want to feel like we are working as a family. That is very important to them,” Monroe says. “I was a Southern girl from a small town in Georgia, who was working with a national brand, and an international brand that’s based in China. I was probably a foreign concept to them as a human being.”
Ultimately, she left the Li-Ning executives feeling very competent and that helped set a true foundation to be successful in the US market. Monroe made her next career move to OMD Worldwide prior to Li-Ning’s first inked US deal. However, she had cracked open the floodgates to this international relationship, which set the tone for sports icon Shaquille O’Neal to leave Reebok and sign with Li-Ning. Retired basketball sensation Dwayne Wade is celebrating his 10th year in partnership with the brand. “I tried to help them lay a great foundation where they could get the attention and really establish the brand as a viable opportunity for American athletes on a national scale,” Monroe says.
The former Coca-Cola marketing manager also dabbled in entertainment with a few of the music industry’s biggest names long before they were multi-Grammy award winners. “We did a music series called ‘Uncapped’ and it was showing what at that point were unknown artists like Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar,” she says. “Kendrick performed on a little stage for 175 people at an indoor skate park in Portland at a very early stage in his career when nobody knew who he was. It was a great opportunity to be able to leverage the power of Coca-Cola and work on brands that were doing amazing things.”
The Nissan College 100 at OMD Worldwide was another career first that allowed Monroe to begin to focus on her HBCU and diversity mission. She worked on the Japanese car brand’s 100 deals with 100 different schools in a span of six to eight weeks. At the time, it was the largest deal in collegiate sports. “I think we had all of the Power 5 conferences in the country,” she says. “We included all 22 sports, and we had five or six HBCUs.”
The former high school cheerleader and college dance team member, continues rooting for the next generation of executives and helping them achieve their dream careers just like her mentors prepared her for success. People like Jeannette Solomon, who Monroe worked for throughout her college years, and who inspired her to do anything she wanted in life; and Darryl Cobbin, the former Coca-Cola executive who was key in creating Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst,” slogan, have been instrumental in her life. “They’ve just opened up their treasure trove of knowledge and said, ‘I’m available for you.’”
And she has every intention of keeping that legacy going strong. “I want people to look back and say that because Jocelyn was here, there are others who have gotten opportunities,” Monroe says. “The diversity pipeline is very important to me because it opens opportunities for students of color to come in and be successful. And when I say we make people’s dreams come true, I take that seriously. I want to work with someone in such a way that they want to pay it forward and open the opportunity for someone else who looks like me.”
Bryna Jean-Marie is a contributor for Power Onyxa diverse multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.