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SBD/December 15, 2010/People and Pop CulturePrint All
IMG today announced that NBA D-League VP & General Counsel BOBBY SHARMA has joined the company as Senior VP/Global Business Development for Basketball. Sharma, who expects to start at IMG around mid-January, will oversee the growth of the company's basketball business around the world. He will initially relocate to Mumbai, India, likely in the first quarter of '11, where he will oversee grassroots efforts to grow the game, as well as the development of a professional basketball league. IMG Reliance, a joint venture between IMG and Reliance Industries Ltd., signed a 30-year agreement with the Basketball Federation of India in June for all commercial rights to basketball in the country. Sharma said there is not yet a timeframe for achieving IMG's goals in India. "Once I get in there, I'm going to do all the due diligence I can -- in terms of where things stand, what we know, what we don't know -- then bring to the table my perspective and experience and we'll start making decisions along those lines," he said. Sharma also will be responsible for overseeing the growth of basketball in other emerging economies, such as Brazil, though India will be his initial focus. "My purview is global, with India being the most advanced opportunity and perhaps the opportunity with the most upside," he said. "India is probably the cleanest slate in terms of a country with a tremendous sports appetite." Prior to joining the NBA in '02, Sharma practiced litigation with Cravath, Swaine & Moore in DC, S.F. and N.Y.
When Elizabeth Conlisk joined the Big Ten Network in '07, she fulfilled a dream that dated back to her days at Harvard, where she obtained her Masters in Public Administration. As a sports fan who grew up in the Big Ten footprint and later attended and worked for Ohio State, the opportunity to help launch the conference's network was a dream come true. Now in her fourth year as VP/Communications & University Relations for the Big Ten Network, Conlisk still faces the challenge of growing the network and making sure fans know where to find it. Events like last weekend's Big Chill hockey game at Michigan Stadium certainly help in that effort, and Conlisk took some time earlier this week to chat with Staff Writer Erik Swanson about the interest in that game, the biggest challenges for the young network and the impact of social media on her job.
Technology you can't do without? iPad
Favorite non-Big Ten bookmarks? N.Y. Times, SportsBusiness Daily, CNN
Legends or Leaders? Both, they're all my teams
Q: What were the biggest challenges in launching a new network?
Conlisk: Painting a picture for fans of a change in how they were going to see their games without having the actual pictures to describe it, not being on the air yet. We knew that once people saw it, they would really like what they saw.
Q: What was your biggest challenge from a PR standpoint in the last three-plus years?
Conlisk: I have to say that nothing has been as challenging as the bruising distribution issue. We've benefited actually from all of the discussion on Big Ten expansion. Earlier this year, we were in the news for quite a while past the time that we've been talked about previously.
Q: What was your strategy in handling the distribution issue?
Conlisk: We took some alternative routes. We reached out to blogs and message boards and really tried to connect directly with the fan. Also, through sports talk radio; our President, MARK SILVERMAN, was very engaging with fans on sports talk radio. I think over time, people got to know him and got to understand that the network was going to be a good thing for the fan. I think we won fans over bit by bit.
Q: What kind of interest did you see around the Big Chill hockey game?
Conlisk: There was a lot of excitement. It certainly, and not surprisingly, was our highest-rated hockey game on the network ever. Michigan did such a great job getting the Big House ready, and the weather cooperated. I think all in all, everything fell into place, certainly after a long planning period.
Q: What would our readers be most surprised to learn about your typical day?
Conlisk: I guess that there isn't one (laughs). I have a pretty broad portfolio. I'm responsible for media relations, I'm responsible for university relations, for customer service operations, so there are any number of those things that could be at the forefront unexpectedly.
Q: What comprises the bulk of your day on average?
Conlisk: You probably get this one a lot, but meetings. Outside of meetings, really looking ahead for the next phase of growth and doing some planning for that. Looking ahead to the integration of Nebraska into the network. Really looking ahead.
Q: What's the biggest challenge you face? What keeps you up at night?
Conlisk: Thinking about ways to increase viewership. And to make sure people know that we're a national network available in all 50 states, and internationally through our streaming product.
Q: How has social media changed the way you do your job?
Conlisk: When we launched, there was no such thing, so it has changed significantly. My staff spends a significant amount of time in social media. We spend a significant amount of time planning social media strategy and looking at ways to integrate both media relations and marketing and our online efforts, and uniting them in the social media space.
Q: How big of a role does Twitter play in your ability to get the message out about the network?
Conlisk: It will play a role more and more. I'm kind of new to it. I think there are a lot of people who are really good at it, and I would like to become really good at it. I do think that it's an art, and not everybody is able to but I really want to become good at it.
Q: Who has been influential in your career development?
Conlisk: I've been really fortunate my entire career. I spent some time at Miller in my 20s and had some really phenomenal mentors and leaders. I had the same experience at Ohio State and now at the network, working under the leadership of Mark Silverman. I've really been fortunate.
Q: You spent some time running your own consultancy. Do you see yourself ever going back, or do you see yourself staying in-house from here on out?
Conlisk: I think it's likely that I would stay in-house. I had a phenomenal experience owning my own consulting business and doing speaker coaching and media strategy. I worked on a presidential campaign, which was really exciting. But I think I prefer the environment that I'm in right now.
Q: If you weren't working for the Big Ten Network right now, what would you be doing? What's your dream job?
Conlisk: I don't know, I kind of think I have a dream job. Helping to launch the first nationally distributed conference network, loving sports as much as I do, loving the Big Ten and growing up in the Big Ten. When I heard about the concept of the network I was still at Harvard and I remember sitting in my teeny tiny apartment and saying to myself, "What a great idea. I hope I can somehow play a role in that when I go back to Ohio State." And it all worked out.
MLS Chivas USA VP/Soccer Operations STEPHEN HAMILTON has decided to step down from his post. He will continue working with the club in an advisory role. Chivas has named advisor JOSE DOMENE as interim GM (Chivas). Hamilton is the "third major Chivas figure to step down or be fired since the club finished in October its worst season since its inaugural season" in '05. The club also is "searching for a new head coach and president" (ESPNLA.com, 12/14).
EXECS: The Ducks signed Senior VP/Hockey Operations DAVID MCNAB to a one-year contract extension through the '11-12 season (Ducks)....The MLL Toronto Nationals have hired JODY GAGE as GM. Gage currently serves as VP/Player Personnel for the NLL Rochester Knighthawks and Dir of Player Personnel for the AHL Rochester Americans, both of which are also owned by Nationals Owner CURT STYRES (NLL)....The Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville named Associate AD for Media Relations ANTOINE BELL interim AD, "two days after the death" of AD JIM HARRIS (HUNTSVILLE TIMES, 12/14)....The Rugby Football Union named Dir of Business Operations PAUL VAUGHAN CEO of England Rugby 2015, effective Jan. 4 (PA, 12/14)....Image Impact VP/Business Development & Sales MIKE BARON is leaving the company to join Fox Sports Enterprises, based in L.A. (THE DAILY)....Nelligan Sports Marketing named BEN BURKE GM for Cal Poly and BETH MESSER Sales & Marketing Coordinator for Missouri State Univ. (Nelligan)....Iowa Speedway VP & GM CRAIG ARMSTRONG, who has been with the track since '06, said that his contract "has not been renewed" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 12/14).
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In N.Y., Kaja Whitehouse reports Supatcha Resources, a "little-known gold exploration company," last Friday "pumped its penny stock with a press release claiming that a company called OXM Group ... was moving forward with an 'unsolicited bid' to buy Supatcha's outstanding stock for $1.75 a share." Supatcha in the release said that OXM "is controlled by" Nets Owner MIKHAIL PROKHOROV. But Prokhorov "denies any involvement with Supatcha," and sources said that the SEC "has been bombarded by cries of foul play" (N.Y. POST, 12/15).
OVERDUE INDUCTION: Bobcats Owner MICHAEL JORDAN was inducted into the N.C. Sports HOF last night during halftime of the Raptors-Bobcats game at Time Warner Cable Arena. Jordan was elected to the HOF in '93, but he "never got around to attending an induction ceremony in Raleigh" (AP, 12/14). Jordan was escorted to mid-court for the ceremony by former Univ. of North Carolina men's basketball coach DEAN SMITH. The two walked on a "light blue carpet" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/15).
SCORING WELL: Paramount Pictures’ “THE FIGHTER,” which stars MARK WAHLBERG and CHRISTIAN BALE and opens nationwide Friday, received six Golden Globe nominations, including Best Motion Picture -- Drama and Wahlberg for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture -- Drama. Wahlberg said, “We tried so hard to get this movie made. We fought tooth and nail, and to have this kind of reaction -- I always thought it could be special” (L.A. TIMES, 12/15). Additionally, Wahlberg and Bale appear on the cover of the Dec. 20 issue of SI. It marks the first time an entertainer has graced the cover since STEPHEN COLBERT did so on the Dec. 21, 2009, issue (THE DAILY).
NAMES: Patriots Owner ROBERT KRAFT last night spoke at the Patriots Charitable Foundation's "annual holiday party for kids" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/15). The party was held at Gillette Stadium, and "dozens of kids from Massachusetts and Rhode Island gathered" for the festivities (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/15)....Phillies CF SHANE VICTORINO "is having his third annual toy drive Sunday" in Las Vegas, where he "makes his off-season home" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 12/15)....Double-A Texas League Midland Rockhounds GM MONTY HOPPEL was named Baseball America's '10 Minor League Exec of the Year (BASEBALLAMERICA.com, 12/14)....Phillies P ROY HALLADAY will be honored by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Jan. 31 as its '10 Outstanding Professional Athlete (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 12/15)....Former golfer ANNIKA SORENSTAM is "expecting another child." The timing "ought to be interesting since Sorenstam" is Honorary Chair for the July 7-10 U.S. Women's Open (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 12/15).