SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40

John Brody

JOHN BRODY, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

BY TERRY LEFTON
STAFF WRITER

In the business of high-profile sports sponsorships, there are salesmen who dabble in marketing and marketers who practice some salesmanship. MLB senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing John Brody artfully blends both disciplines in a business where there are few who’ve mastered either.

John Brody
• Age: 32
• Title: Senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing
• League: Major League Baseball
• Education: B.A., political science, Tufts University, 1995
• Family: Wife, Gayle; son, Michael, 19 months
• Career: Young & Rubicam, 1995-1998; corporate marketing, MLB, 1998-2002; executive vice president of marketing, Boston Celtics, 2002-2004; MLB senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing, 2004-present
• Last vacation: Chatham, Cape Cod, last summer
• Last book read: I read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" to my son daily, but for me it was "Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season" by Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King.
• Last movie seen: "The Aviator"
• Greatest achievement: I love coming to work and I love going home — not everyone can say that, so I'm lucky.
• Greatest disappointment: Not having my father around anymore to share my life with
• Executive most admired: Michael Dell
• Business advice: Love what you do and don't think your life has to be a Horatio Alger story. Not many presidents start in the mail room of their company anymore.
With little in the way of tangible rights to sell, MLB marketers have always had to build unique marketing platforms in order to attract new business. Brody has mastered that challenge. In 1999, he helped turn a rather unexceptional sponsorship by John Hancock of the annual All-Star Fan Fest when the game was in Boston into a multiyear deal by selling the Boston-based company on the value of the fan fest every year in every All-Star market. More recently, he signed Bank of America to a national MLB partnership by piecing together a baseball-centric sponsorship that included MLB assets along with those of Minor League Baseball and Little League Baseball.

Complicating matters was the fact that MLB already had five incumbent financial service sponsors: Century 21, MasterCard, MBNA, Ameriquest and John Hancock. It was more about giving the customer what it wanted than artful category surgery.

“He’s a consummate professional,” said John Lynch, Reebok’s vice president of sports marketing, who worked with Brody when he was with MLB and the Boston Celtics. “John spends a lot of time understanding what the customer’s needs are and looks to find a marketing solution, as opposed to just selling inventory.”

“What I tell everyone in this department — and try to keep in mind myself — is that while anyone we’re talking to has an affinity for baseball, what matters to Viagra is vastly different from what’s important to MasterCard,” said Brody, who counts the payment-card association’s All-Century Team (1999) and Memorable Moments (2002) promotions as two of the best he has worked on.

Brody originally joined MLB in 1998 after four years at Young & Rubicam. After The Baseball Network debacle, in which marketing rights were sold as a throw-in to media buys, MLB was trying to build a sponsorship business, and Brody helped restore it with new categories like Claritin (then a prescription drug), Viagra and Century 21.

“Traditional partners like Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi are our bread and butter,” Brody said, “but with non-traditional partners, we got baseball in new places and new faces.”

Returning to his native New England in 2002, Brody spent two seasons with the Celtics as executive vice president of marketing. He returned in March 2004 to MLB’s long-vacant top sales job, with a new perspective he now says is as valuable as his fervent curiosity about consumer behavior.

“What I thought teams did every day is much different from what I found you actually did,” Brody said. “I didn’t appreciate what priority sales and sponsorship has to a team. Sales are important, but they can’t be the only piece or the most important piece when you have to be concerned with getting a product on the floor and selling seats every night.”

It didn’t take Brody long to attract new business last year, landing Bank of America, along with Taco Bell, MLB’s first fast-food sponsor in years, and Ameriquest Mortgage. Combined with A-B, Gillette and Century 21 renewals, sponsorship revenue was up 25 percent in 2004, with sponsorship activation dollars at an all-time high of more than $110 million.

“A lot of people with marketing positions in sports treat you as if there’s an endless supply of sponsors,” said former John Hancock CEO David D’Alessandro. “John always treats you like you’re the only client he has. He realizes that retaining clients is as important as selling new ones.”

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