Anita Elberse

Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration

Anita Elberse is the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. 

An award-winning teacher and scholar, Professor Elberse develops and teaches a course on Strategic Marketing in Creative Industries, covering the businesses of entertainment, media, and sports, which ranks among the most sought-after courses in the School’s curriculum for MBA students. She is the faculty chair of a new executive education program on the business of entertainment, and she teaches in other short programs for executives. In her research, Professor Elberse primarily aims to understand what drives the success of products in the entertainment, media, sports, and other creative industries, and how firms can develop effective marketing strategies for such products. She is acclaimed for her work on digital-media strategies. Professor Elberse has conducted case studies on dozens of entertainment companies, personalities, and other entities. Many of these are described in her first book, Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment.

Professor Elberse is one of the youngest female professors to have been promoted to full professor with tenure in Harvard Business School's history.

Anita Elberse is the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Professor Elberse develops and teaches a course on Strategic Marketing in Creative Industries, covering the businesses of entertainment, media, and sports, which ranks among the most sought-after courses in the School’s curriculum for MBA students. She is the faculty chair of a new executive education program on the business of entertainment, and she teaches in other short programs for executives. Poets & Quants named her one of the world's 40 best business school professors under the age of 40, and she has received teaching awards on multiple occasions from both the Harvard Business School and its students, including the Charles M. Williams Award for excellence in teaching, "Best of EC Year" honors (for top faculty teaching in the Elective Curriculum), and the Faculty Teaching Award.

In her research, Professor Elberse primarily aims to understand what drives the success of products in the entertainment, media, sports, and other creative industries, and how firms can develop effective marketing strategies for such products. She is acclaimed for her work on digital-media strategies, and frequently uses econometric modeling techniques to examine marketing problems. Her work has been published in the Harvard Business Review, Marketing Science, the Journal of Marketing, and several other journals. She was named a Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar in 2011, and serves on the editorial boards of Marketing Science and the Journal of Advertising Research.

Professor Elberse has conducted case studies on dozens of entertainment companies, personalities, and other entities. These include record label A&M/Octone Records, cable operator Comcast, book publisher Grand Central Publishing, online video provider Hulu, the campaign for Jay-Z's book Decoded by advertising agency Droga5, entertainment company Marvel Enterprises, nightlife business Marquee, the Metropolitan Opera, sports leagues MLB and the NFL, soccer clubs Real Madrid and Boca Juniors, Vogue magazine, soccer coach Sir Alex Ferguson, and superstars Lady Gaga, LeBron James, and Maria Sharapova. Many of these case studies are described in her first book, Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment, which Amazon named one of its Best Books of 2013.

Prior to joining Harvard Business School, professor Elberse was a Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. She holds a PhD from London Business School, an MA in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, and an MA in Communication Science from the University of Amsterdam (cum laude). A native of The Netherlands but now an American citizen, she was awarded a Netherland-America Foundation/Fulbright Fellowship.

Professor Elberse is one of the youngest female professors to have been promoted to full professor with tenure in Harvard Business School's history.

  1. Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment

    What’s behind the phenomenal success of entertainment businesses such as Warner Bros., Marvel Enterprises, and the NFL—along with such stars as Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and LeBron James? Which strategies give leaders in film, television, music, publishing, and sports an edge over their rivals?

    In this book, drawing on my case studies and other research on the worlds of media and sports, I explain a powerful truth about the fiercely competitive world of entertainment: building a business around blockbuster products—the movies, television shows, songs, and books that are hugely expensive to produce and market—is the surest path to long-term success. Along the way, I reveal why entertainment executives often spend outrageous amounts of money in search of the next blockbuster, why superstars are paid unimaginable sums, and how digital technologies are transforming the entertainment landscape.

    Full of inside stories about some of the world’s most successful entertainment brands, Blockbusters is aimed at anyone seeking to understand how the entertainment industry really works—and how to navigate today’s high-stakes business world at large.

    "There is hope—because the world truly is entertaining. Blockbusters is a delightful, thought-provoking book." — Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator's Dilemma.

    Named one of Amazon's "Best Books of 2013."
  2. The Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports

    In the business of entertainment, digital technologies are dramatically disrupting the way products are developed, marketed, and distributed. As a result of this paradigm shift, entertainment executives and content producers are challenged to effectively allocate limited resources—both human and financial—across a seemingly infinite array of fragmented channels in order to survive. With an increasing number of musicians, athletes, stars, and authors promoting their brands via a wide range of online and offline channels, intermediaries must reinvent their strategies to compete effectively. This innovative new program provides proven approaches for marketing creative products and portfolios, managing and marketing talent, determining when to make smaller versus blockbuster bets, and identifying and capitalizing on market disruptions.
  3. Sir Alex Ferguson: Managing Manchester United

    Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in British football history, is preparing for the 2012-2013 season -- his record-setting 26th as manager of one of the world's most decorated professional football clubs and one of sport's biggest franchises. Over the years Ferguson has overcome several major challengers to United. The newest rival can be found close to home: since Manchester City, United's "noisy neighbors," has switched owners, the club has invested unprecedented amounts of money in new players, resulting in its first league title in decades. How can Ferguson lead his team to another victory, and bring the next chapter in United's illustrious history to a successful end?

    "The best footballing read of the year," according to ESPN.
  4. Droga5: Launching Jay-Z's Decoded

    In 2010, David Droga and Andrew Essex, co-founders of advertising agency Droga5, hope to convince both John Meneilly, manager of hip-hop star Shawn Carter -- better known as Jay-Z -- and a partner in Carter's company Roc Nation and Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Services division, to enter into an unprecedented, high-stakes partnership to benefit the launch of Carter's new lyrical memoir, Decoded. Droga5 wrestles with two disparate challenges: developing a campaign for the book's launch and finding a way to drive trial for Bing, Microsoft's new search engine. Droga5's innovative solution is to kill two birds with one idea: a massive, interactive scavenger hunt involving outdoor, bespoke, and digital media. Because Spiegel & Grau, a Random House imprint that holds the rights to the book, lacks the funds to market Carter's memoir at a scale deserving of a superstar, Droga5 is asking Microsoft to shoulder most of the campaign's costs. How can Droga5 broker a deal between Roc Nation, Random House, and Microsoft, and ensure success for each of the parties? And is pursuing this campaign idea a smart investment for the young agency?