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 also is the faculty chair of a new executive education program on The Business of Media, Entertainment, and Sports. 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 also is the faculty chair of a new executive education program on The Business of Media, Entertainment, and Sports, of the Summer Venture in Management Program, and of the annual START program for incoming HBS faculty. 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, MRC's drama series House of Cards, 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. Research Focus

    My research focuses on "creative industries," defined as industries that supply goods that we commonly associate with artistic, cultural, or entertainment value -- including book and magazine publishing, film, music, television, video games, the performing arts, sports, advertising, and perhaps fashion. I borrow the term from the economist Richard Caves, who argued that these industries share certain key economic properties: among other things, demand is highly uncertain, products are primarily differentiated based on subjective rather than objective dimensions of quality, and time is of the essence in that there is a need for a tight coordination of production activities and a timely realization of revenues. While it is difficult to come to an exact definition, taken together, these properties distinguish creative industries from other sectors of the economy. The industries that feature in my research are essentially content industries that compete for the attention of audiences (or "eyeballs") and, often, the advertisers that seek access to those audiences.
  2. Research Questions

    One overarching question drives my research: What are effective marketing strategies for managers in creative industries?

    I focus on three sub-questions:

    1. How can managers in creative industries effectively manage products and product portfolios?
    2. How can managers in creative industries effectively manage and market talent?
    3. How can managers in creative industries effectively respond to advances in digital technology?
    I consider strategic marketing challenges from a number of different viewpoints, but the dominant perspective is that of a manager of a firm that produces content, such as a book publisher, film or television studio, record label, or sports team or league. The three questions capture what are arguably the main challenges that today's content producers face in serving consumers. The questions relate directly to the producers' position in the marketing channel, which also consists of the talent (authors, actors, musicians, athletes, and other "creative workers") they employ to create goods, and the content retailers or aggregators (such as book or music stores, theater chains, television networks, and online video sites) through which they distribute and market those goods -- a marketing channel that is severely impacted by the rise of digital technology.