Chief Marketing Officer, New England Sports Network (NESN)
Although more complicated distribution systems mean more complicated marketing, that to me is more interesting and more fun.
By Betsy Vereckey
As the chief marketing officer for the New England Sports Network (NESN), Ahmed Darwish T’14 has perhaps the most enviable job for fans of the Boston Red Sox, not to mention the Bruins, and other New England sports teams.
“I admittedly have it very easy,” he says, laughing. “Fandom in New England is unlike anywhere else. People are going to come to NESN to watch the game, but when they do, I get to engage them in different ways.”
Darwish came to marketing with an appreciation for data, having majored in engineering as an undergrad at the University of Southern California. He worked on the analytics side of the business at DirecTV, immersed in metrics like customer lifetime value and churn rates. And as a vice president of product and marketing at STARZ, Darwish tested into how to leverage promotions that would increase conversion rates by 30 percent on the dot.
But when Darwish took the CMO position at NESN in 2022, he began to appreciate the more nuanced side of marketing. How can you build on a brand that resonates with your customers? One that they feel really represents their community, teams, and who they are?
“One of the things that I’ve tried to do at NESN is push ironically less on the analytical and more on—how do we get the creative and the storytelling across in a way that reminds people of why they watch or why they like NESN?” he says.
Recent NESN ads celebrating Red Sox Opening Day and the beginning of Bruins season touched on the teams’ historical legacies to tug on fans’ heartstrings. NESN also leans into the reasons we all want to watch a game in the first place, to hear a thrilling story of a team coming from behind or defending a championship.
“One of the really cool things about NESN is that we have higher brand awareness in New England than ESPN, and part of that is because everybody grew up watching the Red Sox or the Bruins,” he says. “There’s so many memories people have of watching a game with their families, and the power of something like that—you can’t capture it analytically necessarily—but it is such an important facet, and to me, a big piece of what marketing needs to pay homage to.”
One of the first things Darwish did when arriving at NESN was launch a direct-to-consumer service called NESN 360—a digital subscription service that gives fans access to both live programming and video-on-demand content. Users who already have NESN via a cable subscription have access to the app as well, which means they can watch the game wherever they want, even on their phones.
“We want to make sure that we’re giving our customers more opportunities to engage however they want,” he says. “It’s less about—how do I get customers into my world? And more about—how do I keep them in my world and engage them holistically. I think when you intertwine the product development, distribution ecosystem, and the experience that customers go through with the marketing, you start to do really interesting things faster and to greater effect.”
This story originally appeared in print in the summer 2023 issue of Tuck Today magazine.
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