SBD/Issue 62/Sports Industrialists

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  • Seeing Double: N.Y. Times Profiles Yormark Twins' Rise In Sports

    Nets CEO BRETT YORMARK and NHL Panthers President & COO MICHAEL YORMARK “have become two of the most aggressive, innovative and sometimes controversial salesmen in sports,” according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The twins, 44, have “embraced their roles as underdogs, working long days, sometimes up to 18 hours, to promote most anything that keeps their teams in the news and generates income for their money-losing franchises.” Their “almost pitbull-like drive and a willingness to sign almost any deal has prompted critics to describe them as the sports equivalent of used-car salesmen,” and critics contend that they “chase too many small deals.” But the Yormarks' work ethic has “brought accolades from clients of their teams, especially corporate sponsors.” Party City CEO GERRY RITTENBERG, whose company has sponsorships with both the Nets and the Panthers, said, “These guys are two of the most efficient guys I’ve ever met. I’ve been a CEO for 25 years and it’s unusual for someone of their level to be so involved in these details.” Rittenberg said as a result, “I advertise more with them.” Michael Yormark said, “There are benefits of working in nontraditional environments. I like to wake up in the morning and be ultracreative. It’s forced us to diversify.” Belson notes the Yormarks "routinely send their first e-mails of the day around 4 a.m., telling their staff in sentences peppered with exclamation marks what went right and wrong the previous day, and what goals should be met in the coming day." Michael and Brett "train at their team’s facilities hours before the sun rises." Michael is "more fanatical about his health; he has not sipped anything but water in three years." They say that their exercise regimens "give them the energy to work long hours" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/9).

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  • Thinking Back, Looking Ahead With Fox' Jon Nesvig

    Fox' Nesvig Retiring After 40+
    Year Career In Advertising

    After a career that has spanned 40 years, Fox Broadcasting Co. President of Sales and Fox Television Exec VP JON NESVIG is retiring at the end of the year. Having started his career with the ad agency Benton & Bowles in the '60s, Nesvig has seen striking changes in the sales process. Today's sales office, he says, is "eerily silent" with e-mails transmitting rather than phones ringing. Nesvig sat down with SportsBusiness Journal staff writer John Ourand last month to discuss some of the changes he has seen in the media market during the past four decades.

    Q: You've been in the business since the mid-1960s. How has the sales process changed?

    Nesvig: Relationships are still very important, but it's gotten much more impersonal. It's more data-driven. I used to say that it was a good business for C students. Now, that saying annoys the shit out of me. It is a very complex, demanding business that requires an awful lot of knowledge and insight. Relationships are still important, and having a basis of trust is key. It allows you to do a better job in terms of expanding marketing partnerships. They're so much more complex than just selling spots. While the sale itself is more data-driven, the more interesting part of the sale still depends quite a bit on relationships.

    Q: What were sales like in the 1960s?

    Nesvig: I started at an agency here in New York in 1967 called Benton & Bowles. The media director at the time was a big-time Columbia basketball fan. For my interview to get the job, I had to take a basic math test and listen to him talk about Columbia basketball for a while. That was a Thursday. He said I could start on Monday. Those days really were the "Mad Men" days in terms of smoking in the office. We usually had a few pops for lunch and a few pops after work.

    Q: Do you watch "Mad Men?"

    Nesvig: I've seen it. I think it's pretty accurate in terms of the 1960s being sexist and the drinking and smoking. The only thing that I can see that they missed is the noise. We had Monro-Matics, which were mechanical calculators with wheels. The wheels would actually roll when you did your numbers. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk, ker-chunk. And phones were ringing constantly because the only form of communication was basically by telephone. You walk around here now, and it's sort of eerily silent because you've got electronic communications, and the phones don't ring.

    Q: How did you first get involved with the TV business?

    Nesvig: I moved out to Los Angeles with ABC Radio. I remember that CLINTON E. FRANK had the Toyota account at the time. They didn't use any radio. And I was pestering the media director so much that when a job opened at NBC, he called the head of West Coast sales at NBC and said, "Why don't you hire this guy and get him off my back."

    Q: What do you remember most about working in L.A. during the 1970s?

    Nesvig: The first Super Bowl I ever went to was Jan. 9, 1977. It was in Pasadena. I remember that date because I'm a Vikings fan and the Vikings were in there playing against the Raiders. My daughter was born at 5:22 a.m., and I made a 9 a.m. bus to the Super Bowl in Pasadena. My wife said, "There's nothing here. You might as well go."

    Nesvig Excited By Opportunity To
    Sell Ad Space For Super Bowl

    Q: What's it like selling a Super Bowl?

    Nesvig: It's exciting. This year has been truly amazing in terms of literally being sold out in advance. It's probably more fun in a down market, but it gets scary. That last unit is probably sold on the bus on Friday afternoon when you're trying to play golf.

    Q: Did you feel like an order taker this year?

    Nesvig: It wasn't that. In so much of sales, the final step is anticlimactic. There are so many conversations that build up to it. The Super Bowl is an unbelievable property, but the tension in the marketplace is at what price. A lot of the sale is the result of conversations that go on for a long time, guessing what the demand is in setting a price and the scrutiny you get from the consumer and trade press for everything you do.

    Q: What's Super Bowl Sunday like for you when you have the game?

    Nesvig: If you blow a commercial during the game, there isn't any place to make it up. There is coordination between the sales guys and the production trucks to make sure that everything runs. There's a lot of pressure on the sales guys and the guys in the trucks to do a great job in covering the game but making sure that they don't mess up any of the commercials, either.

    Q: What would happen if a game went into overtime?

    Nesvig: During one of the Super Bowls, the game was close, and we didn't have any backup. We had the A-B guys with us. We had the Pepsi guys with us. We were asking, "Who's got something? Here we go. We want cash."

    Q: When you started your career, could you ever have imagined 30 seconds for $3 million?

    Nesvig: When I was selling radio, ABC had four radio networks: ABC Contemporary, ABC Information, ABC Entertainment and ABC FM. The FM network was $200 for a 60-second spot and $150 for a 30-second spot. $3 million was more than a year's sales in those days.

    Q: When did money start to flow into sports?

    Nesvig: I guess you look for the marketing wars. The first big influx of money was probably the marketing wars when Miller was trying to dethrone Anheuser-Busch [throughout the 1980s].

    Q: How involved were you in bringing the NFL to Fox?

    Nesvig: From the beginning days of Fox, we talked to the NFL broadcast committee two or three times. In 1993, the other networks were on the cover of Sports Illustrated saying that the prices had to go down. The league was interested in at least having Fox as a stalking horse. We met the league guys and the broadcast committee on a Tuesday morning after a Monday night game in Dallas in 1993. It was sort of a chilly meeting. We were trying to establish our bona fides and tell them how much we could do for them from the marketing side. Finally, [Broncos Owner] PAT BOWLEN turned around and said, "You know, I don't know about these guys, but it's nice to have somebody telling us they want us and think our product's great rather than how much they were losing money on us and didn't want to be with us." That one comment turned that meeting around.

    Q: What was the "Nesvig premium" that was part of Fox' first couple of NFL business plans?

    Nesvig: We had spent so much money getting JOHN MADDEN, PAT SUMMERALL, TERRY BRADSHAW and the production guys from CBS. [Fox Sports executives] ED GOREN and DAVID HILL were convinced that JIMMY JOHNSON would add a different dimension to the pregame show. [Our finance department] said, "Can you guarantee me, if you pay this amount, that there will be additional sales to have Jimmy?" I said yes. So they put a line in the budget that was called the Jimmy Johnson-Nesvig sales premium.

    Q: Your son, TIM, died in 2005 at age 28 from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. How did you turn that into a foundation to raise funds for the City of Hope?

    Nesvig: Out of bad things, I guess you hope some good things can come. It has been very gratifying to me and my family that this industry -- our competitors, customers, league partners -- have all gotten behind this. My son worked at ESPN. He died five years ago. We raised $7 million for research. We raised enough money to permanently endow the fellowship. The first golf tournament raised $500,000 to $600,000. The last one netted over $1 million. It just kept growing.

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  • Executive Transactions

    Turner Sports has hired IMG VP/Consulting GREG MILLARD as VP/NCAA Partnerships, reporting to Turner Sports Senior VP/NCAA Partnerships & Branded Programming WILL FUNK. Millard will work alongside CBS and the NCAA in developing new Corporate Champion and Corporate Partner relationships, while expanding existing partnerships. He will be based in N.Y. (Turner).

    EXECS: 49ers VP/Communications & Government Relations LISA LANG Monday announced that she is "stepping down after almost 6 years" in the position. Lang "most recently has helped to shepherd the team's plans for a new stadium in Santa Clara through a series of hearings and public votes" (, 12/6)....DirecTV Sports Networks promoted FSN Pittsburgh VP, Assistant GM & Exec Producer SHAWN MCCLINTOCK to Senior VP & GM for the RSN. McClintock will report to DirecTV Sports Networks President & CEO MARK SHUKEN (DirecTV)....Easton Hockey named JIM DARBY VP/Corporate Affairs & Hockey Sports Marketing (Easton)....Twins VP/Corporate Partnerships ERIC CURRY "has resigned after 10 years with the organization" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/8)....The Astros named PAUL RUNGE Minor League Field Coordinator, replacing DICK SCOTT, who left to join the Mets in the same position (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/8)....The Mets named D'Backs Dir of Int'l Scouting CHAD MACDONALD Amateur Scouting Dir (, 12/7)....Little League Int'l promoted Marketing Coordinator DAWN HALL to Sponsorship & Marketing Manager and Softball Manager SARA THOMPSON to Dir of Softball Development (Little League)....The Fantasy Sports Trade Association has hired TRAVIS MCCOY as Chief Lobbyist & Political Consultant. McCoy spent the past four years working for the U.S. Congress (FSTA)....Spurs Sports & Entertainment named AHL Rockford IceHogs VP/Ticket Sales JASON DAWBIN Franchise Ticket Manager (THE DAILY).

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  • Names In The News

    Scott Made Controversial
    Comments About Obama

    In Baltimore, Dan Connolly reports the Orioles have “distanced” themselves for comments DH LUKE SCOTT made about President OBAMA, but “not from the slugger’s right to speak his mind.” Orioles Dir of Communications GREG BADER said, “Luke Scott’s comments do not reflect the opinion of the Baltimore Orioles organization. The fact is that Barack Obama is our president, duly elected by the people of the United States. End of story” (Baltimore SUN, 12/9). Scott on Tuesday said Obama “was not born here.” Scott: “If someone accuses me of not being born here, I can go -- within 10 minutes -- to my filing cabinet and I can pick up my real birth certificate and I can go, ‘See? Look! Here it is.’ The man has dodged everything. He dodges questions, he doesn’t answer anything. And why? Because he’s hiding something” (, 12/7).

    FOR A GOOD CAUSE: ESPN L.A.’s Dave McMenamin notes Lakers F RON ARTEST on July 1 will “announce just how much of his 2011-12 salary he will donate to charities to benefit mental health awareness.” Artest said he will donate “either all or some” of his salary. Artest said that he “has already received enough publicity for raffling off his 2010 NBA Championship ring on his personal website for charity.” The raffle as of last week had raised $464,525, and the winner will be selected on Christmas Day during the Heat-Lakers game (, 12/9).

    STUDYING ABROAD: Yankees CF Curtis Granderson, Rangers P C.J. Wilson and Brewers 1B Prince Fielder each will participate in the MLB Int'l Ambassador program, traveling abroad over the coming weeks to host youth clinics, attend tournaments, make media appearances and aid in the global growth of baseball. Granderson, making his fourth trip as an MLBI Ambassador, will tour New Zealand in late January. Wilson will travel to South Africa in early January, and Fielder will be in China and Japan for eight days beginning tomorrow (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

    PAYING THEIR RESPECTS: In Philadelphia, John Smallwood notes the funeral service for late Philadelphia Daily News 76ers beat writer PHIL JASNER was held yesterday. 76ers coach DOUG COLLINS, former Daily News columnist and Sports Editor STAN HOCHMAN, Eagles radio play-by-play announcer MERRILL REESE, Daily News writer DICK JERARDI and Comcast SportsNet’s MICHAEL BARKANN spoke at the ceremony (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 12/9)….Daytona Int'l Speedway yesterday hosted a memorial service for late NASCAR VP/Corporate Communications JIM HUNTER, who died last month at the age of 70 after a “yearlong battle with cancer.” Hundreds of “friends, family and fans turned out for the celebration of life ceremony that included a touching video of Hunter through the years.” NASCAR Chair & CEO BRIAN FRANCE “presented Hunter’s family with an award for 35 years of service to NASCAR” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 12/9).

    NAMES: Baseball America named Rangers GM JON DANIELS its Major League Exec of the Year (, 12/8)....U.S. Airways Magazine recently named UNC-Charlotte AD JUDY ROSE "one of the 20 most dynamic women in Charlotte" (UNCC)....Heat F LEBRON JAMES "has bought a three-story mansion overlooking Biscayne Bay" in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood for $9M. The 12,178-square-foot estate "has six bedrooms and eight and a half bathrooms and boasts water views from every room" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/9)....St. Louis-based NFL agent HAROLD LEWIS was the sole bidder for a $27M mansion in Lake St. Louis that was "built with the allegedly ill-gotten gains of US Fidelis." Lewis, who bid $4.75M for the home, said that he plans to "use the mansion for charity fundraising events and to entertain professional athletes and their families" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/9).

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