One-on-One With Jay Parry

By Kurt Pfannenstiel,
Posted: July 13, 2009

Six years ago, Jay Parry led the marketing and sponsorship division of Bank of America in the Central Division, working with teams like the Phoenix Mercury. After a brief stint to work on her golf game, Parry took on a new adventure as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Mercury and hasnít slowed down since hitting the ground running five seasons ago. caught up with Parry to inquire about her past accomplishments and her new goals for the Mercury organization and its fans. You had been involved with marketing for Bank of America and you were named the Executive Vice President for B of A in Dallas. Being very successful in the banking industry, what pushed you into the basketball side of marketing and why did you choose the Mercury?

Parry: I have always been interested in business and the business side of everything. For me, I had a great career at Bank of America and I decided that I wanted to make a change. As I was looking for my second career, I was approached by the organization to join the Mercury because I had been a sponsor at Bank of America of the Suns and the Mercury. The franchise really wanted to focus on the fan experience, building the brand, and building our sponsor engagements. It was kind of a serendipitous way that it all came together. It was based on having great relationships when I was in business with Bank of America. It just turned in to this. Holding the title Chief Operating Officer of a professional basketball team is a big investment in terms of time and effort. What are the biggest challenges and rewards that come from being the COO?

Parry: I think that the biggest rewards come from being able to promote womenís basketball in our community as a part of the WNBA. I think it really is an asset to our community to have these world class athletes in Arizona acting as role models as well as giving us high-caliber entertainment so fans can enjoy basketball 12 months a year. So being a part of that has been great, as well as interacting with the fans and really trying to grow the fan base and grow our marketing partnerships. Exposing people to the phenomenal product that we have is really fun. The challenges are that there are some pre-existing ideas about what womenís basketball is. It is actually different when you come and experience it than what their pre-disposition is. So the challenge is to get people to try it. Once they try it and get exposed to the product, they really like it. Itís kind of breaking down barriers and just getting people to take the blinders off. When you are at a Mercury game, do you find yourself rooting for the team as a fan or more than that because of your involvement with the team?

Parry: We have the most passionate fans in the WNBA so I probably donít root any louder for our team, but it does kind of feel like part of your family is out there on the court. I was sitting at a game the other night with somebody from the league and I was cheering loudly. Always on the positive of course, I was not yelling at the refs or anything. They asked if I cheered for my team and I said definitely. They had thought that I wouldnít and would stay impartial or something. Iím like the next screaming fan. You have been a part of the Mercury organization as the Chief Operating Officer for five years now. Where does winning a WNBA championship with the Mercury in 2007 rank in terms of greatest accomplishments?

Parry: Itís definitely top three, in terms of my entire business career. What was different about it was that it exceeded any expectations that I ever had of what it would be like to be a part of a championship team. In that way it is almost indescribable, but you look back and think about the players, the coaching staff, the fans, and the marketing partners that were all involved in that year of 2007. You just know that it was a really special bond that we created that can never be duplicated. As we work to get towards the playoffs this year, and hopefully into that position again in 2009, even when we get there I know it will be different. 2007 was never to be duplicated and was very unique. Some would think that having a basketball background would be a pre requisite for a job in the front office of a WNBA franchise. However, do you think that not being involved in high level basketball before has given you a perspective that the Mercury were in need of?

Parry: Absolutely. That is a good way to put it, because even though it is basketball, itís the business of basketball. Just bringing some strong, proven business skills to our franchise has made it stronger. I think having that unique perspective is very valuable. Everybody brings something different to a role or a position no matter where you are. I grew up being a sports fan and participated in a lot of different sports. My dad was always taking us to sporting events and we were always trying different sports. It was definitely in my blood, but just in a different way. What are your goals for the Mercury outside of the arena and in the community?

Parry: The Mercury and the Suns have a very long history of being involved in the community and supporting the community and giving back. It is really exciting to see the Mercury and all of our players and coaches just get out and being involved. We are involved in so many ways that I know we have touched people in a way that it has changed their life forever. One of my favorite programs is our Adopt a Team program where we adopt a title one high school for one year and we are now doing that for the second year in 2009. We give them basketball skills, life skills and mentoring; I know they wouldnít get that any other way. I see the looks on their faces and I know that we have changed their lives. The more we can do that the better. What impression are you trying to make on the organization during your time here?

Parry: I really would like the Mercury to stand for the highest caliber of people and basketball. That is what I try to bring to our organization and our franchise every day. I think that is in keeping with what our whole franchise including the Suns, the Mercury and the Center. That is what our organization stands for so Iím just trying to be in keeping with that.