By Jacqueline Holness

When Miami magnet arts high school student Melissa Proctor, then McGhie, began designing envelopes and mailing them to the Miami Heat staff, she had no inkling that her creative and strategic approach would be the qualities eventually leading to her being the chief marketing officer for the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club and Philips Arena today.

“I started watching Miami Heat basketball games with my cousin who was a huge fan, and I decided I wanted to be the first female coach in the NBA although I never played basketball,” says Proctor with a laugh. “And the irony is because I never played basketball, I started writing letters to Miami Heat’s equipment manager saying I’d love to work for your organization and I would design all of the envelopes and I would mail these letters because there wasn’t e-mail.”

Proctor’s initiative resulted in her becoming the team’s first ball girl and eventually an Atlanta Hawks ball girl, her first job for the team while she also worked as a Turner Broadcasting intern. Now, Proctor, who has a master’s degree in design studies/branding from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design at The London Institute, employs creativity and strategy to market the Atlanta Hawks brand. She began working with the franchise in a business capacity in 2014, as vice president of brand strategy before landing her current position this year. A PR crisis erupting from an e-mail from then majority owner Bruce Levenson in which he stated that white fans may be put off by black fans was one of the challenges Proctor faced when she started.

“There was a lot of passion for the NBA in the city of Atlanta, but for the Hawks specifically, there wasn’t as much fandom for the team,” Proctor says. “So what that crisis did was kind of brought the team’s name to the forefront and gave us relevance. From there, we’ve really worked hard as a leadership team to figure out how to convert that relevance and rebuild trust with the city of Atlanta.”
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