Kate Jhaveri

Global Head of Marketing, TikTok

Storytelling is what sells; data is what tells us if it worked. The joy, for me, is the ability to blend these skills together.

Building strong, vibrant, and supportive communities like the one she joined at Tuck has been a central theme throughout Kate Jhaveri’s decorated career.

As global head of marketing at TikTok, Jhaveri T’03 says she gleans all that she can from the Tuck community and the powerful way it draws together people from different backgrounds and lived experiences to connect and grow relationships around their shared goals, values, and interests. The parallels can be seen in the community TikTok seeks to create for its consumers.

My experience is totally different from your experience and yet we feel part of the same community, says Jhaveri. At TikTok, we want to provide users with this sense of really being seen, whether on the screen or in the ability to share in these common moments with other humans around the globe.

Whether you are interested in physics—a topic currently on her feed—cooking, the latest music, or the latest Hollywood gossip, Jhaveri says there is content and community to be found on TikTok with evidence to suggest millions of users are benefiting from the time they spend on the platform.

Our research tells us that users feel better when they finish using TikTok than when they started which is very important to us and pretty unique for a social platform, says Jhaveri. Community-building is just one aspect of a marketer’s role, which Jhaveri describes as a true marriage of art and science. A central component of the job is leveraging data to better understand your communities. But equally important is the need to reach those communities with creative storytelling that is persuasive, thoughtful, and beautiful.

Ultimately, storytelling is what sells; data is what tells us if it worked, explains Jhaveri. The joy, for me, is the ability to blend these skills together in the work I do every day.

To address recent scrutiny TikTok is facing over the company’s governance and concerns about data security, Jhaveri’s role has also required a focus on public policy and understanding the guts of the platform.

We want to ensure people have the facts and that we are transparent about how data is used and where it sits, she says. Ultimately, we want to be industry leaders in data security and privacy and help set the standard for how government examines these issues for all companies, not just ours.

During her career, Jhaveri has had the opportunity to build her marketing muscles at some of the most legendary tech companies in the world as well as the National Basketball Association, where she spent three years as CMO before joining TikTok.

By the time she joined the NBA in 2019, she previously led consumer marketing at Microsoft, guided Facebook and Twitter through successful IPOs, and helped inspire the boom of influencer marketing during her time with the interactive livestreaming platform Twitch.

Understandably, Jhaveri felt she knew the tech space well and looked forward to a new opportunity at the intersection of technology, entertainment, and sports with the NBA. For reasons she never could have predicted, it became one of the most challenging and
rewarding experiences of her career.

Just six months into her tenure, the first two NBA players tested positive for COVID-19. That news in early March of 2020 quickly put the league on a five-month hiatus and had broader implications as well.

As the first professional sports league in the U.S. to postpone its season, the NBA became somewhat of a bellwether for society in understanding how serious of an issue the pandemic was, shares Jhaveri.

During the five-month delay in the season, Jhaveri and her team worked swiftly to create a variety of digital and TV programs to keep fans engaged and also provide a welcome distraction amid the uncertainty. In place of live contests, classic NBA games aired alongside 2K gaming tournaments and socially distanced games of H-O-R-S-E between players. Eventually, live basketball resumed in the Orlando bubble—a first-of-its kind experiment that brought teams into a quarantined environment with strict protocols that allowed them to safely finish the season.

During the summer of 2020, the NBA and the nation at large were also reckoning with racial injustice, including the killing of George Floyd. The impact of these events was sharply felt across a league in which 95 percent of players are African American.

Being an ally and standing behind players at that moment felt natural for us, not only as the NBA brand but as a community, says Jhaveri.

She also knew that standing behind the players would require more than a social media statement or words on a jersey. To back up their words with action, the league created the NBA Foundation, devoting $300 million to economic empowerment within Black communities in local NBA markets. They also launched the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition to unite players, coaches, team governors, and executives in advocacy work that aims to dismantle racial inequality and advance social justice.

Jhaveri says it was an honor to lead the NBA brand through such a critical moment and she sees her current role at TikTok as the perfect opportunity to apply all she has learned.

It is the kind of challenge and opportunity I have always gravitated toward, she says. I feel fortunate to be leading a team that is really at the forefront of building culture and community.

This story originally appeared in print in the summer 2023 issue of Tuck Today magazine.

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