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Lesa Ukman

Chief Insights Officer,
Lesa Ukman Partnerships
Chicago, IL, USA
While working for the City of Chicago’s Mayor’s Office of Special Events in 1980, Lesa leveraged the power of festivals to transform the City’s image and increase tourism.

The success of the program was amplified by her creation of the then new idea of public/private partnerships. Sponsorships from the business sector more than quadrupled the program’s budget within the first year.

Recognizing the power of her idea—that rather than interrupting people with advertising, brands could partner with the cities, sports, events and nonprofits that people love—and grow both financial and social capital, Lesa left the City to launch IEG in 1982. Through her publications, conference, Valuation Service, and consulting, IEG defined and spawned an industry that today is worth more than $70 billion worldwide.

Lesa and her colleagues at IEG have consulted to everyone from the International Olympic Council, Asian Games, Canadian Olympic Committee, NFL and NCAA to Cirque du Soleil, NASA, UNICEF and World Wildlife Fund.

Brand side clients are equally global and diverse: Aon, AT&T, BNP Paribas, BMO, Chevron, Cisco, Citi, Credit Suisse, IBM and Samsung.

She coined the term Corporate Social Opportunity to replace Corporate Social Responsibility reflecting her observation of how much more value—social and financial—could be created when businesses unsiloed “good” from philanthropy or community affairs and instead made it part of their corporate DNA.

Lesa sold IEG to publically traded WPP—the world’s largest media and marketing holding company—in 2006. She remains an avid champion of the industry, Lesa’s blog can be found on www.sponsorship.com.

She is the author/editor of Measuring Sponsorship’s ROI, the IEG Legal Guide to Sponsorship, IEG Legal to Cause Marketing and IEG Guide to Strategic Philanthropy.

Lesa is also a professor at Northwestern University graduate program in Sports & Entertainment Marketing.

She is a student of festivals and World’s Fairs and wonders what Victor Turner would make of Burning Man and the increasing premiumization of the festival experience.