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The “executive champion” (or “executive sponsor,” “corporate advocate,” etc.) is usually a C-level or executive corporate leader with a vested interest in the proposed project, and who is generally responsible for securing the funding and resources for it. The executive champion also is the corporate voice of the project, visibly promoting the project and its benefits throughout the organization.
While the project manager is responsible for the day-to-day activities of the project itself, this executive champion provides support as needed and is heavily involved in the decision-making / approval process.
Also see "successor champion" and "vanishing champion."