SBJ/March 3 - 9, 2008/Forty Under 40
Published March 3, 2008
Like an investor who only plays in emerging markets, Gabby Roe has a penchant for what he terms "high-growth sports."
Roe, who last month took on the role of president of action sports producer and programmer ASA Entertainment, played in the indoor National Lacrosse League before switching to the front office and helping launch Major League Lacrosse as executive director. He was on the ground floor of beach soccer in Europe and South America, now legitimate enough that FIFA sanctions its championships.
Then there's the AVP, where Roe worked for the past six years, most recently as chief growth officer. It's an apt title.
During Roe's tenure, the pro beach volleyball league has increased from six events to 20, from zero sponsors to around 20, and the number of outdoor events from seven to 20. More recently, it added both an indoor league and an Australian AVP. An aborted sale to Shamrock Holdings last year was a disappointment, but it did place a $40 million valuation on a league that declared bankruptcy in 1998.
Roe also helped the league shift from a centralized ownership model to one in which local promoters take on event ownership and risk. That business model has attracted the likes of the San Francisco Giants, Hicks Sports Marketing, the Miami Heat, and Nets Sports and Entertainment as local promoters. Continuing in the growth mode, Roe is forecasting that the AVP will turn its first profit this year.
Roe has sold and serviced sponsorships, worked with TV and other content rights holders, put up stands, had his hands in licensing, and made endless cold calls on behalf of a property that a lot of would-be sponsors still don't know well.
"Never once in all of our conversations did I feel like he was trying to unload inventory," said Kevin Adler, founder of Engage Marketing, Chicago, the sponsorship agency for Crocs, which sponsors all three AVP tours. "It was always very much about legitimately understanding a client's objectives and creating a solution."