Rafael Eli, Hispanic Marketer, Soccer Specialist, Dies from COVID-19 Pneumonia

Rafael Eli, partner and COO at New York based Schramm Marketing Group, has lost his five-week battle with coronavirus pneumonia and died Thursday (April 16). He contracted the virus in mid-March and for the past 18 days has been under the care of the dedicated medical team at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 68 years old.

Rafael Eli was known in business as a specialist in the areas of Hispanic marketing, sponsorship sales and the promotion of international soccer. Eli’s business partner and close friend of 30 years, Joe Schramm, said: “Rafael was proud of his active role in promoting sold-out international soccer events featuring world-class soccer teams at great venues like Giants Stadium, MetLife and Citifield.”

Rafael Eli is familiar to those within the Hispanic television, digital, print and radio communities and has been the behind-the-scenes co-producer of the annual Hispanic Television Summit for the past 18 years. The summit is presented annually by Future’s television industry magazines, Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News. Eli often influenced the selection of the Summit’s award recipients, notably Hispanic TV talent and celebrities with whom he had a personal relationship, including talk-show host Cristina Saralegui, sportscaster Andrés Cantor, news anchors Jose Diaz Balart and Jorge Ramos.

Ten years ago, Eli leveraged his relationships with noted on-air personalities to successfully conduct a pro-bono Spanish-language, mass media campaign to encourage organ donation on behalf of website, Matchingdonors.com. Eli benefited personally from this campaign when he himself became the recipient of a kidney from a live donor.

Prior to becoming a partner at Schramm, Rafael Eli was employed in content distribution sales for ABC Radio, and earlier in Hispanic marketing for AT&T. He made life-long friends with co-workers and many in the Hispanic media and advertising industries. While at AT&T, he played a role in helping the company initiate its sponsorships of televised boxing championship bouts featuring gold-medalist Oscar De La Hoya, and of Major League Soccer (MLS). Schramm added, “Rafael was especially excited to represent AT&T at the soccer league’s launch event in New York City by making a speech in both English and Spanish. It was an opportunity for him to emphasize that soccer is a sport inclusive of all Americans.”

Eli was a member of the New York chapter board of directors of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and was proud of a special event that he orchestrated at the New-York Historical Society that partnered an exhibit from Mexico with the Mexican consul to New York and had the support of AJC.

Rafael Eli was born in Havana, Cuba, on February 20, 1952. In the early 1960s, at age 10, he migrated with his parents and sister first to Beverly, Massachusetts, then Brooklyn, New York, and ultimately settled in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At age 18, he moved to the New York metro area to attend Rutgers University in New Jersey, and later earned an MBA from Fordham University.

He has remained a loyal New Yorker ever since. He enjoyed summer days on Fire Island; scanning through old books at the Strand Bookstore; learning foreign languages; exploring historical sites; sharing facts about Jewish culture and stories of his childhood in Havana; attending movies; writing fiction in Spanish; Broadway; spiritual journeys, personal development and photography.

Schramm said, “What Rafael enjoyed most, was being with others. He stayed in communication with many people he met through business, volunteerism, family, or his personal interests. As a result, Rafael Eli is a man with many friends.”

Eli leaves a sister, Myriam Eli; a brother-in-law, Joe Zeytoonian of Margate, Florida, and many relatives in his native Cuba, Florida, New York, Israel and Spain. Rafael is also an “official” member of the Schramm family.

In closing, Joe Schramm said, “Rafael is a loyal and beloved friend. He would treat others with kindness, conduct business with integrity, mentored our staff, and he believed in me and what we could accomplish together. I recognize that close friendships like this are rare in life.”

Burial will be in Florida and is limited to a small gathering due to the restrictions of the current pandemic. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be planned for a future date in New York City.

Condolences may be sent to his sister Myriam Eli at 3210 Holiday Springs Blvd. #307, Margate FL 33603 or email at myriam@harmonicmotion.org and to Joe Schramm at his home, 222 Ocean Avenue, Northport, NY 11768 or by email to jschramm@schrammnyc.com. Contributions may be made in his name to Matchingdonors.com at ceo@matchingdonors.com or to the New York Chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) at newyork@ajc.org or 212.891.1443.