SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Forty Under 40
Published November 10, 2003
For a principal at an agency where staying out of the limelight is a foundation of the corporate culture, John Tatum has this reputation for talking. Not a lot, but at length.
As is the case with anyone from Genesco Sports Enterprises, the sports marketing agency Tatum co-founded with Charlie Turano in 1994, there's no hyperbole evident in his conversation. It's just a peculiarity, akin to another man's tic, that Tatum tends to speak in sentences so protracted that no one could punctuate them. Or maybe it is all one sentence.
Many days, Pepsi sports marketing chief John Galloway, a major Genesco client, begins his drive home by dialing Tatum's cell phone and asking a single question.
"I'm pulling in my driveway 30 minutes later and he's still talking, and I haven't said another word," Galloway said. "But he knows my business so well, he's given me all the answers I need."
Tatum started his career in sports marketing as an intern at Advantage International. Working with such athletes as Dan Marino and Darrell Green, he developed a fondness for agency work and in 1992 found himself working at Omnicom marketing agency Tracy Locke.
A bit later, the agency set up Tatum and Turano as its in-house sports agency. Almost immediately, the two realized they could do better on their own.
So, in March 1994, they opened Genesco Sports Enterprises in Dallas, with a mission to show clients how to bring their increasingly expensive sports sponsorships to life, particularly at retail. The mission statement is deceptively simple: "to grow business by efficiently and effectively leveraging sports."
Certainly that's what any efficient marketing platform is supposed to do, but the affinity that makes sports an effective marketing ploy can also blind marketers.
"Companies dive in because of the sex appeal of sports," Tatum said. "We try to tell them how to be smart."
As testimony, Tatum's clients often talk about the focus the agency has brought to their own sports marketing department.
Genesco started with a retainer from Tracy Locke, got some Pepsi and Mountain Dew work early on and has established that relationship as the bedrock account of the agency. Genesco's Pepsi assignments (around 30 percent of its billings) represent Pepsi corporate on its MLB, NFL, AVP and motorsports relationships. Genesco also works with various Pepsi bottlers, including the biggest.
Other big brands, such as MasterCard and RadioShack, are giving the agency increased responsibility. In nearly 10 years, Genesco has grown from the original pair of Turano and Tatum to around 45 people, with revenue in the mid-seven figures.
A passion for business, a knack for relationship-building and a reputation for treating clients' marketing dollars as if they were his own are all qualities that have set Tatum, and Genesco, apart. Tatum's enthusiasm is just like his speech pattern — endless and inexhaustible.
"John brings a high energy level and a real passion to everything," said MasterCard vice president of global sponsorships and event marketing Bob Cramer, who uses Genesco to activate the payment-card brand's MLB sponsorship, and for its growing collection of NFL team sponsorships. "What's really impressed us is that he's found a way to infuse that enthusiasm into every person that works for Genesco."
So, maybe that's it. Tatum is enjoying what he's doing so much, he can't stop and take a breath.
"I won't draw a line between business and personal," Tatum said. "If you're really committed to your clients, it is pretty much the same thing."
Or as Galloway, who worked with Tatum at Tracy Locke, explains, "I've got Pepsi running through my veins and so does he."
Genesco negotiates many of the biggest sports property and athlete deals for Pepsi and MasterCard. Tatum and Genesco get plaudits for being intelligent buyers.
"He's a tireless and savvy negotiator and he knows both sides of the business [buying and selling]," Cramer said.
Independence is one thing both Tatum and his clients prize most. Still, in an age of agency consolidation, "We've had offers from every entity you can imagine," Tatum said. "I never say 'never' to anything, but we're building something I'd like my son, Jack, to work at, and he was born Sept. 15."