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VOL. 129 | NO. 71 | Friday, April 11, 2014

Charlotte’s World

NFL’s ‘most influential woman’ speaks in Memphis

By Don Wade

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The first sentence of a recent national news story described Charlotte Jones Anderson as the “most influential woman in the NFL.”

Charlotte Jones Anderson, described as the “most influential woman in the NFL,” spoke Thursday at The Salvation Army’s Executive Women’s Networking Breakfast at the Kroc Center.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

If it’s possible, that might be understating things.

Anderson’s father is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. And if it’s easy to surmise her initial opportunity was mainly about the bloodline, she won’t disagree.

“Yes, my dad got me here,” Anderson said in the story. “But I kept myself here.”

Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989, and while the better-known story is all about the controversial owner, his alternately great and underachieving team, superstar players and most recently the building of AT&T Stadium in Arlington – “Jerry’s World” – there is solid subplot in one Charlotte Jones Anderson.

Anderson spoke at The Salvation Army’s Executive Women’s Networking Breakfast, held Thursday, April 10, at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. By title, she is the Cowboys’ chief brand officer and an executive vice president. In 2010, she became the first woman to chair The Salvation Army National Advisory Board and was recently named chairman of the NFL Foundation, overseeing the league’s efforts in youth football participation, health and safety, and community outreach. She is also married with three children, including two sons who play football.

As she told her personal story Thursday, she recalled all the advisers who told her dad that buying the Cowboys – then bleeding money off the field and losses on the field – was a bad idea.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more passionate than my father,” she said in explaining why he went ahead and made the decision of a lifetime.

Soon, the father was calling his daughter – a Stanford graduate working in an Arkansas congressman’s office in Washington – to help solve one of the early mini-crises of his ownership: the notion he was going to change the famous Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders’ uniforms.

A short time later, the daughter was working full-time for her father, and she recently said she threatened to “quit” several times.

“In my 25 years of working for the Dallas Cowboys, I had underestimated the magnitude of the brand and the star.”

–Charlotte Jones Anderson
Dallas Cowboys, chief brand officer and executive vice president

But she never did, and there are more things connected to the Cowboys that bear her stamp than you might imagine. For example, her father first charged her with finding a way to stop the hemorrhaging of money. She identified holding training camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif., as an unnecessary $2 million expense and moved training camp to Texas. That flowed right into establishing partnerships with local businesses – the beginning of sports marketing that is now commonplace in all major pro leagues.

As the Cowboys returned to their winning ways in the 1990s and the franchise became one of the most highly valued in all of sports, it was only natural to think of what should come next.

One was the partnership the team formed with The Salvation Army, an effort led in large part by Anderson. She used the Cowboys’ nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game halftime show to promote The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign. And she says in the 18 years of the partnership, more than $1.8 billion has been raised for The Salvation Army.

It proved a perfect marriage, she said Thursday, because The Salvation Army was looking to raise its profile at a time when the Cowboys were looking to repair their image after a player made headlines for an off-the-field incident.

“In my 25 years of working for the Dallas Cowboys, I had underestimated the magnitude of the brand and the star,” she said, referring to the team’s iconic logo.

But the biggest challenge was “Jerry’s World,” which opened in 2009 and cost well north of $1 billion. Already, the venue has played host to an NBA All-Star Game, the Super Bowl and, just last weekend, the Final Four.

Anderson remembers that after they did a preview to show media and others what the stadium would look like, the most vocal and critical Dallas-Fort Worth sports talk radio voice heaped praise on the project, saying it was “beyond my wildest imagination.”

From that moment on, Anderson says, she went into meetings saying “great” wasn’t good enough, that everything connected to the new stadium had to be beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.

Turns out, that’s not a bad description for her career and status as the most influential woman in the NFL.

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