The success of the National Women’s Hockey League on and off the ice is made possible in large part by passionate and visionary supporters investing in the value of the league and our players. During the season, we are sharing the stories of some of the leading partners in our business. Here was the first in the series, on Neil Leibman, a co-owner and the COO of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers.
Today we are proud to introduce you to Lee Heffernan, an invaluable partner of the NWHL since 2016.
“Lee’s experience in marketing, sponsorship and events, knowledge of the industry, and boundless energy and enthusiasm have been key factors in the strides our league has made,” said NWHL Founder and Commissioner Dani Rylan. “Lee works diligently behind the scenes, and it’s important that our fans, players and everyone who believes in professional women’s hockey in North America know that Lee Heffernan is an incredible ally.”
NWHL Board Member/Investor
Founder, The W Agency
Why the NWHL: Heffernan – “I was inspired to become involved in the NWHL from my first phone conversation with Dani. I remember it clearly: we discussed sponsorship sales, strategic planning, the league’s trajectory, the teams, markets and tactical data points.
“I said to Dani, ‘Great, I’m a huge hockey fan, but what do you and the NWHL stand for?’ Without hesitation she said, ‘We believe in a world where girls should be able to dream as big as their brothers.’ I immediately responded, ‘Okay, then count me in,’ and I remain a big believer in the WHY of our League.”
Sports and Marketing Experience:
Coca-Cola: As a marketing and sports operations executive at Coca-Cola, Heffernan managed and oversaw many activation programs, including the Olympics (featuring one right in Coke’s backyard, Atlanta), the NFL and various Super Bowl projects, NHL initiatives (including promotions with Brett Hull), and U.S. World Cup hosting responsibilities.
Heffernan Interactive: Heffernan left Coca Cola after almost 15 years to create a company of his own – starting Heffernan Interactive, an experiential marketing agency. What followed was 20-plus years of agency success, including work with all of the professional sports leagues in the U.S. as well as the NCAA, and special experiences such as the Olympic Torch Relay throughout Italy. Ultimately, Lee and his award-winning team ended up in a strategic alliance with IMG/Endeavor, an industry leader in sports marketing. Their experiential agency, IMG LIVE, was acquired in 2016.
“One of the best and most satisfying decisions was to go out on my own,” said Heffernan. “I was blessed to work beside some of the most talented people in the industry while creating a culture of family and trust.”
Advice on Marketing: “The secret to great marketing is to always remember what your finish line is,” Heffernan says. “Find the sweet spot between the property, the brand and the consumer that capitalizes on passion and values, and then execute with integrated teams of experts. Over time, you will see the fruits of this approach in the NWHL.”
Current Business: Heffernan is the founder of The W. Agency (thewagencyllc.com), which he created in 2017 to provide services for women’s leagues and athletes in sponsorship sales and representation.
Personal: Originally from Boston, Lee played football and hockey at the College of the Holy Cross. Lee and his wife Ruth reside in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, and they have three children and two grandchildren. The Heffernans enjoy golf, college football and still passionately follow Boston’s teams, including of course the Boston Pride.
Heffernan’s Outlook: “It’s exciting to watch the league grow day by day, game by game, season by season. My first experience as a women’s hockey fan was a few years ago. I was at Frozen Fenway with Dani watching a college game and there was also a Dunkin’ Donuts clinic led by some of the NWHL players. Afterwards the players held a Q&A with the fans. The players were so fan-friendly and passionate and caring with the fans. And to see the young girls’ faces as they looked at their heroes with such admiration, filled with dreams of their own, was inspirational. It shouted out to me, ‘See it...Dream it ...Be it!’ That’s what we do in the NWHL, and there’s much more to come.”
What’s Next: “Wow, a lot! We will aim to capitalize on our growth in a very strategic way by using our resources to continually surround ourselves with the best – the best athletes, media partners, sponsors, management. The future is most certainly female, and I am very happy to be part of the team with my fellow partners and investors, and with leaders like Dani and [deputy commissioner] Hayley Moore that support this vision and shine a spotlight on the remarkable athletes of the NWHL.”