Ebony Barbosa knows what it takes to compete as a top-notch athlete.
She was a standout athlete in three sports at Allen High School, and then played Division I volleyball at Youngstown State.
It’s no wonder she says that “Growing up, sports was everything to me. It was my passion.”
In college, Barbosa also developed a passion for visual merchandising. So, the challenge after graduation was to find a career that integrated those two passions.
She has found that role as a global basketball marketing manager for New Balance, where she gets to travel throughout the country and also work with several NBA players.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “I wanted to figure out what my career journey was going to be and I have always been so passionate about basketball, volleyball, and track. Being around my brother [Allen legend and current Executive Education coach Ray Barbosa] and my cousins and other family and friends groups, basketball has always been a big part of my life. It was everything to me. So this is definitely a good fit.”
Barbosa graduated with a degree in fashion merchandising and wanted to get into a retail company or the sports industry.
“It wanted to be at the forefront of sport meeting fashion, so I got into New Balance and started out as a store manager for the headquarters and as I began to build more relationships internally I realized that there was more to offer there in terms of positions. Working the brand, there was a position in sports marketing where you got to work directly with the athletes on behalf of the brand. That was something I really wanted to be a part of.”
Barbosa said the kind of positions she desired don’t open up often. So, when the opportunity arose for her, so didn’t miss her shot.
“New Balance is amazing in terms of growth, family, culture, and opportunities that have presented themselves,” she said. “I’ve been with the company for six years now and in this current role for about a year and a half and I love it.”
The NBA players she works with include Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers, Zach LaVine of the Bulls, Jamal Murray of the Nuggets, Dejounte Murray of the Spurs, Darious Bazley of the Thunder and Aaron Nesmith of the Celtics.
“Thse are guys that we have signed on to our brand and they embody the overall family culture that New Balance promotes,” Barbosa said. “They are all around good people and they are good players on and off the court. They are elite athletes who have made a name for themselve.”
Barbosa works with the pros on their day-to-day initiatives.
“I’m basically the communication piece from the athletes to the brand and I also make sure that whatever initiative comes across their plate, whether it’s marketing or a product, it’s the best fit for them,” she said. “I’m kind of their voice in terms of where they fit in. I’m the person who speaks on their behalf while we’re in these meetings. Anything that comes across has got to be authentic for that player.”
She said that she has had nothing but good experiences.
“They’re all great and unique in their own way,” she said. “Every single guy that we have on our team really wants to be part of the brand, and you can really see and feel that when you’re talking to them. Everybody has their own personality and it’s nice to see those personalities shine through and you get to see who they really are.”
Barbosa lives near Boston with her husband, Adam Jones, a Parkland High grad and a multi-sport athlete himself. New Balance is headquartered in Boston, although her job requires a lot of travel for NBA-related events.
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“We have a train station right behind our building and I’m like two stops away from the TD Garden where the Celtics play, so I can get to their games in 15 minutes,” she said. “Everything is great right now because I love being great with the brand and there are so many cool things that we’re doing with the brand. I’m definitely looking to grow with the company and seeing where my career journey takes me, because there’s so much opportunity in this space.”
New Balance is always looking for new talent to add to the family, but they won’t just add anybody, even in the highly-competitive sneakers landscape.
“We try to get to know the players and have genuine conversations to see if it will be a good fit,” she said. “You have to take that time to get to know the players and their agencies. It’s truly important. We want to figure out what we need as a brand, but also what will make the players feel comfortable. Every day is new experience and that’s what is so exciting about my job. I love the challenge of solving problems, while at the same time I’m enjoying working with great people.”
Barbosa, a 2005 Allen graduate — she was the school’s senior athlete of the year and Lehigh Valley athlete of the year — always belongs in the great category. She worked hard for everything she earned as a high school, club and college athlete and is now doing the same in the business world. It’s no wonder she relates well to some of the best basketball players in the world.
A lot of the things she learned from sports have driven her to become a success in business.
“The biggest thing is teamwork, being a part of a team and making adjustments to make the team work,” she said. “When I was young, I was on so many different teams at some many different levels. I worked so many different people and I do the same thing now. You’re always adjusting and adapting as you meet new people and build those relationships. You have to learn and grow from each experience.”
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