SBJ/March 3 - 9, 2008/Forty Under 40

Steve Gaffney

For someone who says he just fell into a sports career, Sprint's Steve Gaffney is right on the cutting edge of sports and digital media. So if he happens to fall into the morass of possibilities awaiting anyone trying to figure out the changing world of sport content distribution, that's fine, too.

Steve Gaffney
Age: 38
Title: Director of sports marketing
Company: Sprint
Education: B.S., sports management, Springfield College, 1993
Family: Wife, Kay; twin daughters Reaghan and Keira
Career: Began career with the USOC; moved to the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1996 Summer Games; group director/consulting, Octagon Marketing; director of Nextel Cup marketing, Nextel Communications; director of sports marketing, Sprint.
Last vacation: New York, over the Christmas holidays, to visit family
Last book read: I read “The Knuffle Bunny,” by Mo Willems, to my daughters; for me it was “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” by Michael Chabon.
Greatest achievement: My twins are No. 1, but I qualified for the Boston Marathon last year and I thought that was pretty cool. I’m planning to run it in 2009.
Greatest disappointment: I handed Muhammad Ali the Olympic torch he used to begin the Olympic Games in Atlanta, and I forgot my camera.
Fantasy job: Center fielder for the Yankees
Executive you most admire: Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co.

In the meantime, Sprint's mega deals with the NFL and NASCAR are driving minutes, while most cell-phone offerings are becoming commoditized.

"It's all the same stuff about 'most minutes' and 'best network,'" Gaffney said. "The connection we make with the NFL, NASCAR and all of our properties creates an emotional bond that's stronger than all of that."

Having NASCAR and NFL content available on Sprint's network drives usage as well. The NFL Network is streamed 24/7 - except during live games, when Sprint customers can access the same thing available on NFL.com, a mix of live action and a studio show. Gaffney said that application alone accounted for more than 1 million minutes of usage.

Gaffney began in the business when cell phones were about the size of footballs. One of his early jobs, with the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee, included an 84-day trip across the country shepherding the Olympic Torch Run.

"That really allowed me to see the power sports has," he said.

A subsequent position at Octagon led to a job with client Nextel in 2004, where he worked on the initial year of renaming the Winston Cup to Nextel.

Gaffney moved into his current slot, where he's responsible for Sprint's sports portfolio, after the Sprint/Nextel merger in 2005. Faced with a new rebrand, including another naming of NASCAR's top series, it's the convergence of digital media that has Gaffney most excited.

"There's a time in the not-too-distant future when the idea of a traditional cell-phone sponsorship will be a thing of the past and we'll become a real medium for mass distribution," he said. "Then things will get really interesting."

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