SBJ/December 17 - 23, 2001/Marketingsponsorship
Figure-skating business insider could write a book and he just might
Published December 17, 2001
An era of sold-out ice skating tours and double-digit TV ratings for competitions and entertainment events was born eight years ago next month, after the hired attack on eventual Olympic skating silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan.
One of the people who lived through it all is retiring. Agent Michael Rosenberg, 58, said he is stepping down at month's end as president of Clear Channel Entertainment's SFX Skating division.
He is departing as the business of skating has returned to more sustainable levels, in contrast to the event-saturated mid-1990s. Rosenberg said he might consider writing a book about his years as a skating insider, but he foresees returning to his roots — music entertainment — when the economy rebounds.
Rosenberg's Marco Entertainment was launched 25 years ago to promote the Ice Capades. He signed his first skating client, Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill, in 1978, and later added pairs skaters Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner.
Marco evolved into an agency with a lengthy roster of clients and was operator of a tour headlined by Canadian champion Elvis Stojko. MagicWorks acquired the agency in the late '90s, then was acquired by SFX in its quest to compete with IMG's skating division.
He was drawn briefly into the 1994 Kerrigan scandal as the agent to Kerrigan rival Tonya Harding, who was banned from the sport after being linked to planning the attack. Two months before the 1994 Olympics, Rosenberg terminated his deal with Harding on what he calls "the luckiest day of my life" as it spared him from Harding's subsequent legal battles. He also represented Ukrainian skater Oksana Baiul, who edged Kerrigan for the Olympic gold medal.
ICE IS NICE: Olympic sponsor Bank of America elected to roll out its pre-Salt Lake 2002 push on a network that owns a piece of NFL Sundays (Fox) rather than the network that owns rights to the Olympic rings (NBC).
One of six partner-level sponsors of the U.S. Olympic team and Salt Lake Games, Bank of America paid about $400,000 to buy 90 minutes of Sunday afternoon programming time Dec. 9 on Fox as title sponsor of "Celebration of Gold," a tribute event featuring special performances by past Olympic skating champions. The bank used the time period to air a series of humorous Olympic-themed ads.
Hallmark, a U.S. Olympic team and Games sponsor, licensee and supplier of floral bouquets for Salt Lake award ceremonies, also introduced a skating-related title sponsorship, the Hallmark Skaters' Championships, which appeared twice on NBC on Dec. 8, first in an afternoon slot and later in prime time.
Meanwhile, Toronto-based skating news portal iskater.com reached an agreement, just under the wire, with the International Skating Union to provide real-time coverage of the recent Grand Prix Final championship in Kitchener, Ontario. The ISU event is a major international competition with added significance leading to an Olympic year. The site also has been granted one credential for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games. Former Canadian and world pairs skating champion Paul Martini is president of iskater.com.
JUST FOR KICKS? Colorado mogul William Hybl, a two-time U.S. Olympic Committee president, recently said he would relinquish his membership on the International Olympic Committee so current USOC President Sandra Baldwin can be nominated for the seat.
Hybl is the U.S. delegate, appointed by the Bush administration, to the United Nations General Assembly. He also sits on several corporate boards. Despite his challenging schedule, Hybl apparently is not ready to sever ties to the international sports community. The German newsletter Sport Intern reports that Hybl will become vice president of the World Taekwondo Federation.
If Hybl eventually ascends to the presidency, he presumably would be poised to regain IOC membership in the future, as federation heads are desirable appointees. The current federation head is its founder, Korea's Un Yong Kim, 70, a controversial IOC member who waged an unsuccessful campaign last summer for the IOC presidency.
RING TOSSES: With both left-wing political parties officially on board, Berlin's candidacy to host the 2012 Olympic Games is rolling forward. But the German Olympic committee has yet to officially name Berlin as the country's candidate. It also will consider prospective campaigns by Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig and Stuttgart. ... Government-owned Beijing Telecom is investing $6.7 billion on a fiber-optics "communications hub" for the 2008 Olympics, according to a report in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.
Steve Woodward can be reached at SteveWoodwardHere@hotmail.com.