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

Matthew Kauffman


Matthew Kauffman
Age: 38
Title: Group director, partnership marketing
Company: Visa USA
Education: B.A., communications, University of Michigan, 1990
Family: Wife, Christy; son, Kellen, 10; daughters, Ella, 7, and Zarin, 5
Career: Started out as an account executive with Carlson Marketing Group, Detroit, from 1990-95; hired to help start GM Event Works in 1995, most recently serving as vice president of sports and entertainment marketing; joined Visa in 2005.
Last vacation: Yosemite last summer
Last book read: "The Case for Christ,” by Lee Strobel (I’ve always been fascinated with the historical Jesus.)
Last movie seen: "Flags of Our Fathers”
TV show you never miss: "Lost”
What’s on your iPod: U2 and Coldplay
Pet peeve: A negative attitude
Greatest achievement: Professionally, it’s been applying a disciplined approach to measurement within two of the best sponsorship portfolios in sports at General Motors and Visa.
Greatest disappointment: None
Best sporting event you’ve ever attended: Super Bowl XXXVI. A great game and a coming-out party for the Patriots and Tom Brady, who’s also a Michigan guy.
Fantasy job: Being a filmmaker
Executive you most admire: Bono
Business advice: Follow your passions.

Matthew Kauffman started his career working at Carlson Marketing Group on the launch of GM's Saturn brand, then so embryonic that he often didn't have the most basic weapon in a car marketer's arsenal.

"Usually we were lucky if we had one car to display at our launch events," Kauffman said.

An early marketing lesson from that: A strong brand can carry a product — at least for a while.

"Coming out of the gate, Saturn wasn't as good as the Toyotas and Hondas we were selling against," Kauffman said, "but it was so well-positioned and branded, that didn't matter."

Kauffman has since developed strategy and property management with some of the top sponsorship portfolios around, initially while one of the first employees at GM Event Works and, since December 2005, as Visa's group director of partnership marketing. It still starts with the brand, he says, with sports sponsorships as tools.

"Professionally, my passion is for marketing," Kauffman said. "Sport just happens to be my medium."

Kauffman has been tasked with one of the most nettlesome problems in the business: crafting a reliable return-on-investment metric for Visa's many sponsorships, which include the Olympics and the NFL. While he is loath to discuss specifics, Kauffman said Visa has built a dependable ROI model. "It's like sports, if you don't know the score, you don't know who won," he said. "We know."

Since joining Visa, Kauffman has worked on all of its larger sponsorships. Now he's assisting Michael Lynch, senior vice president of event and sponsorship marketing, with overall strategy while overseeing Visa's Signature card. The combination of product and marketing responsibility is unusual and bears testimony to Signature's importance within Visa's product portfolio.

"Matt's perspective across both properties and media enable him to excel in the 21st century sports business landscape," said Ray Katz, U.S. director of sports marketing at OMD's Optimum Sports, which counts Visa as a client.

Kauffman will likely never have to launch a Visa card without a card to show consumers. Still, as the Visa brand migrates to other forms of commerce, like consumer payment via wireless devices, he'll no doubt be one of the stewards ensuring that the Visa brand will prosper well into an age when cash becomes an anachronism.

— Terry Lefton

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