SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40
Published March 20, 2006
By Scott Warfield
• Age: 37
• Title: Vice president, sports marketing
• Company: Sprint Nextel
• Education: B.S., civil and environmental engineering, VMI, 1991; MBA, William and Mary, 1998
• Family: Wife, Beth
• Career: Five years as an environmental engineer; spent the last nine years with Sprint Nextel.
• Last vacation: Naples, Fla.
• Last book read: "1776" by David McCullough
• Last movie seen: "Wedding Crashers"
• Pet peeve: Conference calls
• Greatest achievement: Adding our new NFL partnership to the new Sprint Nextel, while still being fortunate to work with a great team on another successful Nextel Cup season
• Greatest disappointment: Not being able to spend enough time with my family and friends
• Executive most admired: Roger Penske
• Business advice: Find someone besides a manager or family member who can give you objective advice about your abilities. Be prepared to hear things that will make you uncomfortable.
Michael Robichaud, vice president of sports marketing for Sprint Nextel, had a very busy summer.
After its $35 billion merger was completed in mid-August, Sprint Nextel launched its new brand on Labor Day weekend at the 2005 U.S. Open. From Flushing Meadows, N.Y., Robichaud and his team headed north to Foxboro, Mass., to launch its new $600 million official wireless sponsorship with the NFL.
"At the same time we were launching our relationship with the NFL, we were in the throes of the Chase for the Nextel Cup," Robichaud said. "Sports was a pretty big part of our marketing campaign when we launched the new company."
In addition to title sponsorship of NASCAR's premier series and official deals with the NFL and USTA, the combined company of Nextel and Sprint now has sponsorship agreements with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, eight NHL teams, seven NFL teams and a handful of MLB and NBA teams. Add to that the PGA of America, Dallas' American Airlines Center and Kansas City's new Sprint Center when it opens next year, and Sprint Nextel becomes one of the largest sports sponsorship spenders in the country.
Robichaud, 37, was born in Newport News, Va., and went to college at Virginia Military Institute, where he studied engineering before working as an environmental engineer for five years.
"Marketing has a lot of math and science to it, and the return-on-investment question gets asked on a daily basis," Robichaud said. "So it's nice to be able to sit down with your CFO and with your finance group and have a conversation from their point of view."
Luckily for Robichaud, ROI conversations are pretty easy when it comes to the NFL and NASCAR.
As the official wireless telecommunications service sponsor, Sprint Nextel is able to deliver exclusive and original NFL content to mobile phones. Sprint customers receive exclusive audio and video highlights following the conclusion of game broadcasts, as well as audio and video highlights, live text updates, scores, stats and more during games.
And in year two of its 10-year, $750 million series sponsorship with NASCAR, Sprint Nextel avoided what many were expecting to be a sophomore slump and continued to build equity in its Nextel brand.
"The Nextel brand and the Nextel product set is vital," Robichaud said when asked about the possibility of rebranding the name of the Cup Series to include the Sprint name as well. "We've got, of our 40 million customers, almost half of them, 17 million-plus of them, are Nextel people using push to talk. So our research showed if the Nextel brand name went away, people thought the product went away, and we clearly can't have that."
For 2006, Robichaud said his focus will be on a possible NASCAR Cup rebranding in 2007 and the enhancement of the company's NFL activation plans.
"We are going to work very hard and you are going to see us go active with our NFL sponsorship much, much earlier as we try to create some different things for the fans," he said.
And on off days, Robichaud will work on his 12 handicap golf game that has seen little progress over the years because of a hectic work schedule.
"Given life, I can't seem to get into that coveted single-digit area," Robichaud said. "But you've got to keep trying. I'll take my clubs on the road a little bit more this year."