SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/Forty Under 40

Dan Mannix

DAN MANNIX
LEADDOG MARKETING GROUP

Dan Mannix
Age: 39
Titles: President and CEO
Company: LeadDog Marketing Group
Education: B.A., history and sociology, University of Richmond, 1989
Family: Wife, Michelle Lee
Career: Started career working at the Houston Astrodome in 1989; joined the NBA in 1992; founded LeadDog Marketing in 1999.
Last vacation: Round Hill, Jamaica
Last book read: "What is the What,” by Dave Eggers
Last movie seen: "Little Miss Sunshine”
TV show you never miss: "Curb Your Enthusiasm”
What’s on your iPod: Lots of Bruce Springsteen and my wife’s eclectic mix
Pet peeve: People who look at the glass half empty
Greatest achievement: Personally, my marriage; otherwise creating a nonprofit organization to benefit minority students
Greatest disappointment: That my grandfather isn’t around to share in any of this, because he was such a sportsman
Best sporting event you’ve ever attended: The European basketball championships in Athens in 1995. The most intense political/sports environment I’ve ever been in, considering what was going on in Eastern Europe at the time.
Fantasy job: To be in a position that would enable more minorities to have a stronger presence on the business side of sports
Executive you most admire: Former NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik, because of his perspective and balance
Business advice: Embrace you own creativity, make your own luck, and you’ll stand out

A recent hire at LeadDog Marketing Group asked founder Dan Mannix what she thought were simple questions: What time do people show up at work? When do they leave? What's the dress code? Was she expected to be on call 24/7 to the agency's biggest clients?

At the eight-year-old New York marketing firm, those aren't easy questions to answer. Some show up at 8 a.m., others closer to 10. Dress varies by whim. And as for always being available, the answer is a timeworn agency promise.

"Having a life is more important," said Mannix, who founded the agency in 1999 after seven years at the NBA that saw him help launch the Jam Session All-Star Fan Fest and the WNBA. "Success is defined by our reputation and our culture. That's more important to me than money. So I'm the guy insisting that employees take vacation at the end of the year instead of carrying it over."

It's a culture that's bred success.

With a rare mix of league acumen, marketing expertise and event management savvy, LeadDog has grown into a 41-person shop with revenue estimated at $3.3 million by Promo Magazine — enough to make it one of the fastest-growing agencies three years running in that publication's annual ranking.

LeadDog has worked on some of the biggest events in sports. Its first check was for work on MLB's All-Century Team in 1999. Since then, it has worked with the USTA, the NHL's All-Star Game, WWE's Road to Wrestlemania Tour and on a recent commemoration of Madison Square Garden's 50 Greatest Moments.

Outside of sports, LeadDog has a strong base of media clients: ABC TV and Self magazine have been happy to let LeadDog transform their brands into three-dimensional consumer experiences, like a forthcoming tour to push the next season of "Dancing With The Stars."

LeadDog's longevity with most clients bears testimony to the firm's creativity.

"He's always been open to new ideas, he knows how to attract good people and they like working for him," said MLB spokesman Pat Courtney, who's known Mannix since college.

 Ken Yaffe, NHL senior vice president of business affairs, said LeadDog's culture is its strength.

"They're talented, creative people who like being there, so they all work hard," Yaffe said.

At a time of continuing agency consolidation, Mannix has already had knocks on the door. For now, he's content to grow through acquisition. LeadDog acquired the events division of NMG, and followed that with the purchase of Inzecto Design in 2006.

However LeadDog grows, Mannix vows it will never get overly corporate.

He did institute a slight dress code, though, prompted by an abundance of flip-flop-wearing 20-somethings. "I didn't like it, but we told them they had to put their flip-flops back on when walking around," Mannix said.

That shouldn't put too much of a leash on LeadDog's pups.

— Terry Lefton

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