The longtime executive details her career journey to her current role as the head of marketing and brand engagement for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics.
Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.
Marketing powerhouse Nicole Jeter West didn’t take a typical path into sports business.
“My whole career has been a series of ‘never, ever would I have thought this would happen to me,’” the longtime executive says. “I am truly living a fantasy life.”
Though she now serves as the head of marketing and brand engagement for LA 2028 (LA28), the Los Angeles Organizing Committee for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Jeter West says she just hoped to land a job in advertising when she began her career a couple of decades ago. As it turned out, she became a seasoned deal-maker at the young age of 22 and ultimately created a role she wanted to carry on with.
“I started straight out of college thinking I would come to New York and work for a major advertising agency,” she recalls. “I got offers from a few, but then I got another opportunity very serendipitously.”
On this particular day, Jeter West says, she had finished an interview with an agency and went to meet a friend who worked at the New York Knicks organization. “I was wearing my one blue suit, with my one striped shirt, and I was sitting there with my little leather padfolio with all my résumés in it, and someone from the Knicks saw me and said, ‘Hi, do you have time for one more interview?’ ”
That someone turned out to be the Knicks’ vice president of marketing at the time. “Ultimately he offered me a one-year trainee position,” she says, “which was really a glorified internship at Madison Square Garden.” But she accepted the role. Jeter West says the Knicks job was nothing like the full-time offers she’d received from the ad agencies: The pay was hourly, there were no benefits and they didn’t promise anything at the end of the year.
“I remember telling my parents, ‘I’m going to go work for the Knicks and live at home,’” she says with a laugh.
After about six months on the job, she made up her mind: She was going to become indispensable. Jeter West says she came up with a grassroots marketing campaign to drive fan excitement and plant a strong foothold in the community. “I ran the first Knicks’ Groove Truck,” she says. “We would drive around and hand out fliers, making appearances at schools, basketball tournaments and other community events.” The Groove Truck became an important part of the Knicks’ marketing strategy for almost a decade. “By the end of the year, they were asking, ‘Well, if she leaves, who’s going to run this?’ So, I ended up staying on,” she says with a grin.
For Jeter West, success hasn’t necessarily come from having her back against the wall. She graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing, and then worked hard, earned respect, and built a solid reputation for being a creative problem solver and natural-born leader. After working with the Knicks, she ran her own consulting business, did a second stint with the Knicks as the director of marketing, and accepted leadership positions with the United States Tennis Association and Legends, a global branding and marketing agency.
A marriage and three kids later, she makes it all work on her own terms with a superpower she didn’t realize she possessed. Her college sweetheart and now husband, Rodney, put a name to it: infinite tenacity.
“I have this entrepreneurial spirit, so every four or five years, I completely step aside and do these things that are out of the box for me,” she says. “It’s always been really beneficial in helping me grow into my next plateau.”
She once proved that during her work with USTA. Jeter West was originally hired to oversee all ticket sales and operations for the U.S. Open, but her boss expanded her role to head up a new division that would develop all U.S. Open digital properties, including mobile and tablet apps, live streaming, desktop and mobile-friendly websites.
“I said no to him several times,” she says, admitting that she was afraid. “I was working with IBM to build all of this technology, which I’d never done before.”
But her superpower convinced her to go for it. “My infinite tenacity reminded me that when fear pushes in or when I’m in an uncomfortable space, leadership doesn’t mean you have all the answers,” she says. “It doesn’t mean you have to be the most experienced person in the room.” She says she began to understand that the opportunity was pushing her to a new level, and if she could do it, she would ace the next thing.
Jeter West says that success mentality is a gift handed down from her two grandmothers. She credits them with being the most independent women in her life. Their examples help ease the pressure of finding a certain equilibrium. “Balance doesn’t work for me, because whenever you think of balance, you think of a scale. Once you put something on or take something off, you’re off balance right away,” she says. “I’m trying to have harmony in my life.”
Lessons from Shirley Chisholm, the country’s first Black congresswoman, also influenced Jeter West and helped her to be bold in challenging or uncertain situations. “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” was an adage of Chisholm’s, meaning, “If someone’s not seeing the experience, the knowledge, the capabilities you have, or the authentic person you are, bring your folding chair. That’s when you really own what it is you’re meant to do,” says Jeter West.
Those tenets have guided her all the way to her dream job as the head of marketing for the third Olympics (and the first Paralympics) in Los Angeles in 2028. She first joined the project while working as chief marketing officer for Legends. The organizing committee selected her to manage all sponsorships for the LA28 Summer Games. Jeter West says she was probably spending 10% of her time on the project when the LA28 CEO, Kathy Carter, came to her and asked: “What can we do to get all your time?”
“There was something really humbling in that,” Jeter West says.
The organizing committee will spend the next six and a half years working around the clock to welcome the world to Los Angeles. “We get to tell the stories of all people and cultures that make up L.A. in a way that is authentic, and that carries the message of the reason why we are welcoming the world to L.A., is because the world is already here,” says Jeter West.
According to Jeter West, the committee is a group of selfless, egoless people focused on leaving more than new buildings behind when the Games are over. She says their work will impact youth sports, embrace inclusivity and make sure people can celebrate the amazing things Paralympians are able to do.
“Kathy drafted this all-star team for LA28 and I get to play a position,” says Jeter West. “That kind of validation allows you to see your value, what value you can bring and how you own that value. And when others recognize your value, it’s awesome.”
Madelyne Woods is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a diverse multichannel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.