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.
Kenyatta Bynoe, vice president of creative strategy and marketing for OneTeam Partners, is a lifelong sports fanatic whose purpose has always been crystal clear. The self-described “strategic thinker with a passion for writing” established herself as an industry giant early in her career, with notable marketing roles at companies like Jeep, Microsoft and Volkswagen—often one of few Black women holding rank. But, as Bynoe puts it, “I always knew that I would land in the sports industry. I was ready to attack that passion, as a fan.” Now working at OneTeam Partners, she helps empower athletes to maintain agency over their name, image and likeness. In 2017, Bynoe was recognized as part of Adweek’s Most Powerful Women in Sports and Sports Business Journal’s Game Changers for the ground-up work she’s done across the industry and the future she’s helping to create for Black athletes and executives.
Before OneTeam, Bynoe served as the VP of global brand marketing and partnerships at Spalding, where she pioneered an all-new visual identity, global brand strategy, brand experience and e-commerce platform. She also maintained key relationships with the NBA and the NCAA, including oversight of marketing, licensing and athlete endorsements.
“I was fortunate to be able to really tap into the passion of a sports fan. I was able to help reinvent the brand and start to build more of an emotional connection between athletes and fans,” Bynoe says. “It really brought out my entrepreneurial spirit. When I joined the company, there wasn’t a marketing plan in place. There wasn’t a team in place. There wasn’t a strategy. I had to build that from the ground up.”
During her time at Spalding, she launched one of the company’s very first, and most successful, global marketing campaigns. “I think that was my biggest accomplishment—they had campaigns before, but this was the first executed globally. We did a series of research projects, uncovering what our true north was going to be. We centered it around the notion of being a true believer—being about the work that goes into sports, as opposed to the hype that’s around it,” she says. Bynoe led the campaign’s execution across digital platforms, websites, social media and her work to develop their overall e-commerce strategy created an entirely new revenue stream for Spalding.
While impacting global sports giants on an organizational and financial level is a career highlight, Bynoe’s roots as a sports fanatic bring each moment an entirely new level of appreciation and help her to remain steadfast in her passion. Bynoe says there are too many moments to name, but one balmy night in 2017 at the Staples Center stands out in particular. “I will never forget the jersey retirement ceremony for Kobe Bryant,” she says.
With the likes of Shaquile O’Neal, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and others in attendance, Bynoe watched as Bryant’s jersey floated up to the rafters while industry legends reflected on his iconic, 20-season career in the NBA. “I was a part of a team that developed a custom basketball that was one of the many gifts that he received that night,” Bynoe says. “Just being able to see all of the highlights of his incredible career and to feel the energy … it was such a monumental moment in time. It’s a day that I'll never forget. I definitely feel fortunate and blessed to have witnessed it.”
Now at OneTeam leading overall growth, Bynoe’s focused on doing what she’s best at—crafting a long-term vision for what’s possible, from the ground up. Her mission at the company is simple: empowering athletes to maintain agency over their own name, image and likeness. In her words, they are working to create an “ecosystem” in the industry, where players can leverage their personal brands with intention and control, and be able to support themselves independently. “We’re creating this world where athletes can collectively align with licensees, brands and partners to actually maximize the value of their name, image and likeness. It gives them an opportunity to tell and own the full breadth of their story, both on and off the field,” Bynoe says. “I believe that the extent to which athletes are able to manage and monetize their personal brand impacts how successful they’ll be in their sports career, as well as in their life.”
Though Bynoe has more than 20 years of experience under her belt, she’s not solely focused on working with legends and veterans who are already successful in the NBA and beyond. She’s passionately and meticulously looking out for the next generation of players coming up, signing deals and preparing to go pro, to ensure that they are equipped with the information they need as they make crucial decisions about their own brands. “I’m excited to be a part of helping to drive that both in the professional sports space, as well as in the collegiate space. Just really being able to play a hand in helping to empower athletes and help them realize some of their goals and dreams,” she says.
Though Black athletes make up the majority of major American sports industries like basketball and football, Bynoe’s keenly aware that there isn’t much representation when it comes to decision making, behind the scenes and at the executive level. “I mean, I do think it’s kind of a responsibility of ours. There’s so many young athletes coming into the sports arena through college and there are those moving right into the professional space. It’s our job to be a guide and to be someone who is an advocate for their success,” she says. “I think it’s important to remember that we’re talking about a personal brand that’s attached to an individual. That needs to be respected, and it needs to be handled with the best of care.”
That representation becomes even more scarce when you scale it back to Black women in executive positions in the sports industry. Bynoe is hopeful, however, that many more Black women are preparing to lead. She is already feeling the tactical effects of pressure to diversify the leagues and associated companies at every single level. Today, she continues to focus on the future of what’s possible for Black women in the sports industry, and the insurmountable ripple effects she anticipates from more diverse leadership. When it comes to her advice for younger Black girls coming up after her, she implores them to do two things: connect and persevere.
“I think there's an opportunity to be more intentional about creating pipelines and pathways that are really designed to advance us into leadership ranks and into the areas where they can make the greatest contribution,” Bynoe says. “We are seeing more and more Black women in leadership roles and executive roles, especially in the team environment, as presidents, general managers, and more.
“But what is so incredible about that, is not only are these women stepping into their moment, but they’re reaching back, mentoring and doing work in the community to make sure that they’re not the last to step into that moment. As I climb, I know that it’s essential for me to also be a rung on that ladder that someone else’s climbing. We definitely have to be in this together. I live by that.”
Naya Samuel is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a diverse multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.