The National Lacrosse League (@NLL), the largest and most successful professional lacrosse property in the world, today announced industry veteran Kurt Hunzeker has been named to the newly created position of Executive Vice President of Commercial Operations. Hunzeker brings more than 20 years of executive sales, marketing, and brand building to the NLL, most recently as Vice President, Minor League Business Operations for Major League Baseball. He will report directly to NLL Commissioner Brett Frood and will begin his work this week.
“The National Lacrosse League is enjoying a post-pandemic rebirth on and off the field, as evidenced by our rise in attendance and revenue, media exposure and the expansion of partnership programs by our teams,” Commissioner Frood said. “Kurt has the perfect blend of creative and practical business experience to help us capitalize on this next vital phase of enterprise growth. His experience with disruptive properties like the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks, and with emerging businesses like MiLB, provide the right mix to help shape and grow the NLL business and promotional platforms like never before.”
“I look at the NLL as a property that has exactly what brands and consumers want—fast paced excitement, great athletes, a growing fan base, a solid ownership structure, and great media partners in ESPN and TSN—and I am looking forward to helping the League realize its business and brand potential beyond what exists today,” Hunzeker said. “The industry has heard about the emerging growth of lacrosse as a sport, now it’s time for the NLL to push the narrative to an even wider audience, while continuing to engage and develop that stronger base of fans who have enjoyed the NLL for years.”
Hunzeker joins the NLL after overseeing all business-driving and revenue-generating functions of MLB’s restructured player development system and its 120 MiLB teams since 2021, including: national commercial sales and partnership activation, marketing and communications, content strategy and creation, media production and multimedia platforms, community relations and fan engagement, ticketing strategy, licensed consumer products, and ecommerce. He also authored the initial five-year business strategy and activation plan for MiLB’s new centralized business fully integrated within MLB, and generated the most commercial revenue in MiLB’s 122-year history in 2022.
It was Hunzeker’s second successful stint in baseball, having served as Vice President, Marketing Strategy and Research for Minor League Baseball from January 2015 to June 2019 where he built, enacted and measured the go-to-market corporate partnership and fan engagement strategies, focused on brand amplification, consumer acquisition, and unprecedented revenue growth for MiLB’s national commercial sales and marketing enterprise representing all 160 MiLB communities at the time. He led the creation of MiLB Copa de la Diversión™ (the “Fun Cup”), and designed and implemented MiLB’s 10-year strategic marketing plan in 2017, including its first-ever national campaign, MiLB It’s Fun to Be a Fan®, amplifying all 160 MiLB Clubs’ fan recruitment and engagement efforts.
Between his time at MiLB and MLB, Kurt was President of the St. Louis BattleHawks of the XFL, leading the team to landmark growth for the startup league before it was shut down due to the pandemic. The BattleHawks were the XFL’s leader in almost all business categories, surpassing all sales, social media and marketing goals by as much as 97% before the league shutdown. That success also included the signing of a record 12 Founding Partnerships, including national brands with deep, local market connections such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Centene and McDonald’s.
The St. Louis native and University of Missouri graduate was also Senior Director, Brand Marketing for the Rawlings Sporting Goods Company for four years before MiLB, where he managed the global brand marketing and media buying efforts for the iconic sports brand, focusing on creating engagement platforms targeting next-level players, coaches and parents to maximize brand awareness, drive purchase intent and generate revenues with high potential consumers worldwide.