James E. Sparks
The Sparks Solutions Group
James E. Sparks (Jim) currently leads The Sparks Solutions Group, a communications and branding company he founded to help companies create and sustain growth and navigate the challenges that come with business cycles and expansion. Jim was one of the original marketing members of the successful launch of the Discover Card the multi-billion dollar financial services corporation. He established the company's strategic business plans. These included the original co-op advertising plan, merchant acquisition and CRM plans and developed and managed the National Sales Relationship team that was responsible for the top 500 merchants who accepted the Discover Card worldwide.
Jim was instrumental in designing the Discover Card Merchant Acquirer Relations program and negotiated the contracts of major acquirers including Elavon (previously NOVA), Global Payments, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS Lynk) and others. His efforts led to the successful conversion of 22 million merchants to Discover Card and the sale of six multi-million dollar acquirer portfolios. Jim also helped Discover expand international acceptance to key merchants.
Before joining Discover Card, Jim worked for Continental Bank where he was responsible for marketing communications to high-net-worth customers introducing the Gold MasterCard, MoneyNetwork Card (ATM) and held account management positions with several advertising agencies, including Ketchum M&S. He started his advertising and marketing career with the Chicago Sun-Times.
Jim serves as trustee at the Apostolic Faith Church in Chicago, a member of the Booth Alumni Non-Profit Consultants, and a former trustee for McCormick Theological Seminary. He also serves as an advisor for several start-up companies and school alumni boards. Jim earned a bachelor's degree in advertising and marketing from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and his MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business. He is also currently an adjunct professor of marketing strategy at National Louis University and Indiana Wesleyan University.