IMG World Congress of Sports

Q&A with MLBPA’s Michael Weiner

We talked with union chief Michael Weiner about the labor process for MLB, the state of baseball and his observations about what’s going on in other sports.

Q&A with Subway’s Tony Pace

Subway’s chief marketing officer talks about the mood of the industry, how information is creating more passionate fans and what sponsors can do in the face of labor strife.

Q&A with NASCAR’s Jim O’Connell

NASCAR’s chief sales officer discusses the start of the season, capitalizing on a new generation of drivers and the state of the sponsorship market.

Q&A with the New York Cosmos' Rick Parry

Cosmos board member Rick Parry talks about the rebirth of a famous brand, and the importance of understanding the values of an organization before buying into it.

Q&A with Octagon's Phil de Picciotto

The Octagon president talks about growth opportunities coming out of a recession, plus issues that arise from labor problems in the NFL.

Q&A with Coca-Cola's Bea Perez

The Coca-Cola CMO talks about the mood of the sports industry, what marketers can do during labor unrest, and how social media is a part of keeping the passion alive for fans.

Corporate CMOs talk about the value of sports and social media

Some of the biggest marketers in the industry gathered on a panel this morning to talk about why sports continues to provide a worthy marketing platform for brands.

The panel featured Reliant Energy CMO Karen Jones; Farmers Insurance Exec VP & CMO Kevin Kelso; Subway Senior VP & CMO Tony Pace; and Coca-Cola North America CMO Bea Perez. The CMOs all weighed in on how important sports are to their respective brands. “It’s very important for our brand,” Pace said. “We try to be somewhat surgical with what we do in sports. When we focus on athletes, we pick an athlete first and foremost if they’re a Subway fan. Then you have to look at their short-term growth, long-term potential.” Jones, whose company title sponsors the Texans’ stadium in Houston, said, “It is increasingly important for us.”

Kelso provided a different perspective, since Farmers is relatively new to the sports marketplace but made a huge splash earlier this year by agreeing to a $600 million to $700 million naming-rights agreement for AEG’s proposed events center/NFL stadium in downtown L.A. “Sports marketing is a new area for us to participate in,” Kelso said. “It’s been very high-profile for us.” On MLB’s Opening Day, Perez recalled some Coca-Cola history to describe how important sports has been for her brand. “The reason why Coca-Cola went into bottles,” Perez said, “is two gentlemen came to us ... and said, ‘We’d really like to be able to drink Coca-Cola at a baseball game.’” She added, “It’s a big part of the fabric of our brand, the DNA.”

WE ARE FARMERS: Kelso took conference attendees a little deeper into Farmers Insurance’s thoughts behind the L.A. stadium agreement. “Just the strength of the announcement really was a powerful thing for us,” said Kelso. He noted that the California-based firm already has seen $3.8 million worth of ad equivalency value just in media from the January announcement, adding that Farmers does not actually pay AEG until it is clear the stadium is going to be built. “One of our goals for the Farmers Field deal, for sure, was to put the brand on the national stage and let people know who we are,” Kelso said. “I think it’s changed consumers’ perceptions. We live in a category that’s very noisy and didn’t used to be. ... Just because there’s so much noise in the category, we’ve had to try to create a national brand.” On a similar note, Jones discussed the competition Reliant faces in Texas, since the state deregulated the energy industry 10 years ago, which has led to more than 60 companies competing for consumers. “Three things we love in Texas: trucks, our big hair and sports,” said Jones, who also expounded on the various ways Reliant uses its partnership with the Texans to reach fans on Sundays at Reliant Stadium.

THE VALUE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: The marketers touched on the power of social media, a big theme throughout the two-day conference. “If you view digital and social media as part of the conversation,” Pace said, “you have to continue to push stuff out there.” Pace specifically highlighted endorser Apolo Anton Ohno’s activity on Twitter as a great plus for the Subway brand. Perez agreed with her Subway counterpart about the importance of social media, while acknowledging that Coca-Cola hasn’t quite figure it out yet. “We believe that will drive purchase, that will drive transactions,” she said. “Today, can I show you a spreadsheet that shows it translates to sales? No, I can’t. ... But we believe this is a space we will continue to learn from, and will be important to our business.” Kelso said social media is a way for Farmers to stand out in the crowded insurance space. “We are doing a lot of things in social media,” he said. “It’s a great place for us to engage with people. I think we’re all trying to figure out what to do with it. ... In terms of just promoting it, updating the brand, all that’s working.” Jones noted Reliant deploys 12 internal ambassadors to monitor customer feedback throughout different social media platforms, allowing the company to respond to complaints and address them directly. “We’ve found it to be a great retention tool for us, an up-sell tool,” Jones said. She added, “I do think it is an important part of our strategy. We’re also using mobile quite a bit.”

Q&A with AEG's Tim Leiweke

The AEG chief executive talks about the state of the industry, his company's success worldwide, and the L.A. stadium deal with Farmers.

Q&A with MLS Commissioner Don Garber

The commissioner stopped by to talk about the start of the new season, and how soccer is getting a great response in Canada.

Q&A with Topps CEO Ryan O'Hara

O'Hara stopped by to talk about how the company has rebounded, plus the success it is having on Twitter and Facebook.

Q&A with the MSG's Scott O'Neil

The MSG exec stopped by to talk about the Madison Square Garden renovation project, and how having two teams make the playoffs affects the overall operation.

Q&A with Dan Marino

In addition to his one-on-one interview on the World Congress of Sports stage, Marino chatted with us about golf, business and the NFL lockout. 

Q&A with Chip Ganassi Racing's Steve Lauletta

Racing exec Steve Lauletta talked with us about the state of NASCAR -- the on-track product, the sponsor market and the overall mood of the sport. 

Q&A with Mark Wright of Anheuser-Busch

A-B's Wright talks about the rebound in the media market and why he thinks the sports industry is stronger than ever.

Q&A with the NFL's Chris Parsons

International VP Chris Parsons talks about the growth of the NFL brand, and which teams are most popular around the world.

NFL uncertainty forcing marketers to make contingency plans

The NFL lockout is forcing corporate marketers to spend twice as much time developing activation plans for the 2011 season, a panel of sponsorship executives said during a session titled, "Sponsorship Value and Innovation: The New Realities of Sports Marketing."

Marketers are developing both regular and contingency activation plans for the NFL season. It's an effort that Jeff Dubiel, Pepsi vice president of sports marketing, called duplicative. "It's extra resources and extra time," Dubiel said. It is also an effort that could hurt the return on Pepsi's activation because it has had to water down its NFL-themed retail displays so that they can be switched from an authentic NFL display to a local college football team. Dubiel said, "It dumbs down the authenticity of the program we're trying to deliver."

Gillette and Proctor & Gamble are in a similar situation and have reached a pivotal point in NFL activation plans, said Global Sports Marketing Director Greg Via. The company has developed both NFL and non-NFL-related point-of-sale displays, and retailers will make a decision this May as to which one to feature.

Similarly, Visa has been speaking to its member banks to keep them abreast of the NFL's situation so that they can determine which marketing materials they choose to use this season. Lynch: "Our plans and our hope is that we're all systems go. ...Everyone is hoping like hell it's going to be reconciled in time. It's that powerful a property that we are planning as if things are going to happen."

Anheuser-Busch, which is starting the first year of a six-year deal valued at more than $1 billion, will test the public appetite for the NFL during the lockout by launching a Bud Light promotion against the upcoming NFL Draft. A-B VP of Media, Sports and Entertainment Marketing Mark Wright said, "We're all guns ablazing."

The ever-elusive ROI: Marketers are still struggling to measure return-on-investment effectively, but the recent recession helped them unearth some formulas that work for their brands. Pepsi has begun measuring a sponsorship's effect on brand health, how it delivers against key objectives, and whether it is using all of the assets delivered in a sponsorship contract. Dubiel: "We have a disciplined audit process where a couple of times a year we're going to report out - yes we got it, down to the picture at an NFL stadium. It forces everyone to think a lot harder about the returns and what we've signed up for."

Lynch said that since Visa went public in 2008, the company's management has been increasingly insistent that he show the value of a sponsorship. Lynch: "I can't talk to my management now without talking numbers first. ...As a global company, are we making money off this investment or not? If we're not making money, we won't be renewing this deal."

P&G's marketing objectives increasingly focus on what the results of a promotion are at retail, so it has pushed its agency partners to be more creative in designing programs that help move products. Via said, "We don't have a good handle on it at all. We know when we run a commercial and that commercial is tied to a property and tied to retail activation and shelf space, we can say, 'OK. We sold product off that.' And that's the best way we've found."

Q&A with ESPN founder Bill Rassmussen

We caught up with Bill Rassmussen to find out about the early days of the network, and why it landed in Bristol in the first place.

Champions panel offers reflections, advice on the sports business

In addition to introducing them during a lunch session yesterday, SportsBusiness Journal/Daily honored this year's class of "The Champions: Pioneers & Innovators in Sports Business," during a panel discussion at the end of the day. The five recipients -- former WNBA and USA Basketball President Val Ackerman; former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman; IMG Media Exec VP Barry Frank; ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen; and Premier Partnerships Chairman Alan Rothenberg -- reflected on their years in sports and how the industry has evolved.

Each panelist addressed their many accomplishments, and what made them successful. Beman said, "If you play golf, you know you fail more than you win. ... I think I was successful because I wasn't afraid to fail. I wasn't afraid to advance an idea that might be difficult." Rasmussen also cited not fearing failure. "I never really accepted no for an answer," Rasmussen said. "I was never afraid to fail. In fact, ESPN got started because I got fired from my job at the Whalers." He added, "You really have to trust your instincts, your passion, your energy." Frank recalled his early days in sports business. "A large part of my success was due to that I wouldn't quit," he said. "The first big deal I made was for the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, and I knew there was big money there. ... I made about four trips out to Calgary to convince (the IOC) that I could get them more money than they could get themselves." Rothenberg chimed in, "It's the ability to seize an opportunity that's in front of you, then work energetically. ... You build a reputation over time as a person who can accomplish great things."

ON TOP OF THE WORLD: The panelists engaged in a good back-and-forth about what the future may hold for ESPN. Rasmussen, understandably not wanting to seem too biased, suggested that even the new NBC Sports conglomerate will not be able to challenge ESPN. Frank took it a step further, declaring that no one will unseat ESPN from its chair atop the sports media landscape. "That's not my opinion," he added. "It's a fact."

LOOKING FORWARD: In addition to recalling their careers in sports business, the panelists also discussed what's ahead for the industry. Frank and Rasmussen agreed that college sports could experience a rebirth in the coming years. "With production equipments costs coming down," Rasmussen said, "technology improving every hour on the hour, even the smaller colleges are going to figure out how to produce games." Looking at the current sports landscape, the panelists were asked about which league they would like to run today. Beman said, "I think everyone would like to run the PGA Tour. ... There are challenges, but not the problems other sports have." Frank took a different angle on the question, mentioning the biggest league in North America. "There's only one league to run today if you want to be powerful, and that's the NFL," he said. Rasmussen provoked laughter from the audience when he said, "Is Bud Selig retiring soon? I don't want all the problems he has, but it's a fun job." The five didn't bite much when asked about regrets and mistakes in their careers, though Ackerman chimed in with what she deemed a smaller issue. "I regret that I don't speak any language other than English," she said. "I function now a little in the international world ... and the ability not to be able to converse with people in the downtime -- I try to cough up a few pleasantries -- I regret that." Beman joked, "I don't have too many regrets as commissioner. I'm a little upset I didn't make one more birdie in the U.S. Open in 1969. I might not have had to take the job as commissioner."

FINAL THOUGHTS: The panelists were asked, "What advice do you give to young people wanting to get into the sports business industry?"

Rothenberg: "Knock on every door. Take the first and best opportunity you're given. Then do a phenomenal job."

Rasmussen: "Go to the local radio station, go to the local TV station. Make a pest of yourself if you have to, just get yourself in the door."

Frank: "The job you want to take, for your first job, is anything that has upward mobility as a possibility."

Beman: "I agree with Barry. You have to want to be in the sports business bad enough to start at the bottom. Jim Nantz is the perfect example -- he started as a runner."

Ackerman: "You have to pick a specialty. If you want to work in PR, there's this skill set and this career path. If you want to work in marketing, there's this skill set and this career path. ... Your attitude has to be: no job is too small."

Q&A with MLB's Tim Brosnan

Tim Brosnan stopped by for a quick chat about ticket sales, corporate sponsors and what to expect this season from MLB Network.

Dan Marino talks about his career, his movie stardom and NFL labor

Miami favorite Dan Marino took the stage yesterday afternoon for a featured interview at SBJ/SBD's IMG World Congress of Sports, during which the Pro Football HOFer turned CBS NFL analyst discussed his playing career, his brief stint as a movie star, efforts as a philanthropist and, of course, the labor situation. Here is a portion of the Q&A:

Q: The biggest story is the NFL lockout. What are your thoughts on that?
Marino: I wish that both sides at the table -- the money the league is making, the owners are making -- would be able to work something out. I hope they don't cancel games, because I would have a job. If they don't, then I'm not going to be working either.

Q: I think a big question is player solidarity. How tough will it be for them to keep together on this?
Marino: I think because of history, they'll learn from the past. But when you start missing games, and you start losing paychecks, that could change a lot.

Q: When you were playing, were there times you knew you were off the record?
Marino: Back then, we had relationships with some reporters. Now, guys have to be a little more careful. Texting, Tweeting, Facebook. You have to be careful.

Q: How would it be different if you played in the NFL now?
Marino: My bank account would be a lot bigger.

Q: A lot of concern on player safety and concussions. Talk about that.
Marino: It's a serious problem, I think, as players get older and you see the effect it has on them. I think the league is doing a good job. ... The thing Roger (Goodell) has done well is add the sideline testing.

Q: Do you still have Isotoner gloves?
Marino: I don't. But that's marketing! A guy from South Florida selling gloves.

Q: What's the best run organization in the NFL?
Marino: They're all pretty well run. If you look at winning and stability, I'd have to say Pittsburgh. The Rooney family has done a great job with them.

Q: Is team management something you'd consider?
Marino: It's something I would think about doing again. Not right now. ... There may be a time for it. But right now, I enjoy doing TV, working with companies. ... Five or six years ago, I was going to be the personnel guy with Mr. Huizenga. But I wasn't ready then, and decided to stay on TV.

Q: Ace Ventura 3?
Marino: Ace Ventura 3? I wasn't even invited to do Ace Ventura 2. ... I made Jim Carrey a star!

Q: No more movies?
Marino: I'd do more movies (laughter).

Q: Which NFL player do you enjoy watching the most?
Marino: At the end of the year, Aaron Rodgers' play was pretty special.

Q: Finish the sentence: The biggest mistake athletes make when starting their own foundation is ...
Marino: Understanding all the things that are involved with it, and making sure you know all the business things involved with it.

Q: Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Who will be playing?
Marino: In the NFC, if Green Bay can continue that run, they'll get back. ... In the AFC, we've always got Pittsburgh and the Colts, but New England also is a team that's getting younger.

Champions of sports business reflect on their years in the industry

During the Champions Luncheon yesterday at the IMG World Congress of Sports, the recipients of this year's awards, who were recognized as pioneers and innovators in Sport Business, were announced. Upon receiving their awards, each took a moment to reflect on their years in the business.

"I've had the privilege of working with and for some of the greatest minds in our business." – Val Ackerman, former President, WNBA; former President, USA Basketball

"Taking golf from where it was in 1975, a minor sport…the progress we made over the years has been phenomenal. I am proud to have been a part of it." – Deane Beman, former Commissioner, PGA Tour

"The business I'm in is the relationship business. To all those younger than me, take a good look at the relationship business. It's what kept me in the game for 53 years and it is what will keep you going for years to come." – Barry Frank, Executive Vice President, IMG Media Sports Programming

"I can't help but imagine how many people would be here had there not been ESPN…every facet of the sports business has been affected by ESPN." – Bill Rasmussen, founder, ESPN

"It has been such a joy to combine my avocation with my vocation." – Alan Rothenberg, founding chairman, MLS; chairman, Premier Partnerships

Marvin Miller, former MLBPA Executive Director, was the final recipient of the award, but was unable to accept his award in person.

-- Jennifer Rodrigues

Q&A with the NFL's Frank Supovitz

After giving a presentation on the highs and lows of the 2011 Super Bowl, Supovitz talked with us about what went right in North Texas, and how the league's contingency planning has changed because of this year's event.

See previous posts from World Congress of Sports

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