SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/Forty Under 40
Published March 12, 2007
Scott O'Neil has been successful enough in helping the NBA annually break its record gate that now he can afford to turn his attention more toward helping teams boost their sponsorship business.
Given the track record of the NBA's senior vice president of team marketing and business operations, teams are likely to see the same results in increasing sponsorship revenue as the league has been in breaking its average attendance record each year since 2005. The league's attendance at the end of February is tracking 1.7 percent ahead of last year's record-setting pace, allowing O'Neil to concentrate on generating more sponsorship dollars.
"There is a lot of upside on the sponsorship level," said O'Neil, who also said he expects the NBA this year to break last season's record average attendance mark. "We are investing more in research and doubling down on what matters."
A big challenge for O'Neil is to transfer some of the same success he's had at the NBA level to the WNBA and NBA Development League.
"The D-League is on the rise, and it's all about rolling up our sleeves with the WNBA," O'Neil said. "We've got to sell the WNBA all year long."
O'Neil and his team services department operate with the "best practices" motto, which means that they travel to various teams, collect what works and what doesn't and disseminate the good stuff to other teams.
"What Scott has done, quite simply, is to develop a complete in-house team marketing and business consultancy," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "Our teams have extraordinary confidence in him, and he's not afraid to take risks and push them. Scott has set a standard of professionalism that our teams have increasingly demonstrated. It's fun to watch the team presidents push at Scott and he push at them. The results have been extraordinary."
O'Neil's team services department has 46 employees, including three account managers who divide up consulting duties for the league's 30 teams. It makes for a competitive environment fostered by O'Neil, who this year for the first time handed out awards to the 30 teams in various selling categories at the league's annual team marketing meetings.
The competition comes naturally to O'Neil, who has three brothers and a sister.
"He has a better understanding of the business the teams are in than any other person at the NBA or any other league," said Rick Welts, president of the Phoenix Suns. "Because of that, he's been able to advocate important changes in policy and streamlined the decision-making timeline to the best it's ever been. [Scott] is not afraid to give you an answer you don't like, but is always a thoughtful and well-researched response. Scott really cares, and it shows.
"My only constructive criticism would be that someone needs to take away his BlackBerry between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m."
— John Lombardo