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SBJ/March 3 - 9, 2008/Forty Under 40
Published March 3, 2008
When you ask Wally Hayward how he's changed in the three years since he won his first of three Forty Under 40 awards, he honestly can't think of anything.
What's changed is just about everything else around him.
Since its founding six years ago, Relay Worldwide - now a Publicis company - has evolved from specializing in sports marketing consulting and then sponsorship, to more recently moving heavily into events and "live experiences" of all kinds - sports, music, entertainment - backed by a heavy emphasis on research intelligence. There's even been a name change along the way.
All the while, the company has been profitable, with bottom-line growth each year, although Hayward, the chairman and CEO, won't disclose specifics.
"If you were a (venture capitalist) and you put money into Relay six years ago, you would be very happy with your investment," he said.
Strategically, "we realized that marketing America is changing and the consumer is changing so quickly that we must change, too, and adapt to them to stay relevant," Hayward said. "America has lost a lot of personal relationships with consumers in the marketplace. You used to have your personal gas station attendant and your personal grocer, but things move so quickly now that marketers now are struggling with how to attract and spend the $310 billion that's in play."
Hayward said Relay now focuses on "the role of live experiences in the marketing mix." Putting its money where its mouth is, the company's Web site is live. No longer a multipaged "portfolio," it's now a single page featuring the live video feed of a white board that constantly changes, often adorned with call-to-action messages or acting as a backdrop for live interviews with executives or clients, touted by e-mail blasts to clients and potential clients.
In the same vein, Hayward said this year Relay will announce "multiple exclusive relationships with national sports and entertainment organizations and properties that will really be at the heart of building community." Also expected are "strategic relationships with intelligence providers and universities," he said.
Washington Mutual and Sharp Electronics are new Relay clients in the past year, and its ongoing relationships include AT&T, Coca-Cola, the International Olympic Committee, FIFA and more.
Barry Frank, vice chairman for IMG Media, has known Hayward for years and says his personal touch with clients has accounted for a big part of Relay's growth.
"He's taken this little company called Relay into a major sports marketing concern," Frank said. "Most important is his ability to get along with people and make friends and be trusted. ? He's one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and that counts."
As part of Relay's push into research, Hayward hired industry research specialist Rich Luker 18 months ago as chief strategy officer. Luker has known Hayward for a decade, and true to his nature as a numbers guy, Luker quickly offers three reasons why Hayward has proved an exceptional leader.
"One, he listens, and as a leader in a very dynamic area where it's awfully tempting to forge your own way and force everyone to follow, Wally listens," Luker said. "In almost every meeting, his is the last word, but almost never the first or second.
"Second, it's always best foot forward with Wally. He's never defeated by things when they don't go the way we want. Grace under pressure - I've never seen him blow up in any situation.
"And third, Wally has a better sense of what it is that the people are craving than anyone I've ever met. He doesn't start with, 'Where can I make a lot of money,' but 'What do people want that they're not getting enough of?'"