SBJ/20090323/Forty Under 40

Robert Birge

Age: 39
Title: Chief marketing officer
Company: IMG
Education: A.B., history and government, Dartmouth College, 1992; MBA, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, 1999
Family: Wife, Catherine; daughter, Isabel, 6
Career: Marketing Corp. of America, 1993-96; Miller Brewing Co., 1996-98; Boston Consulting Group, 1998-2001; TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, 2001-06; joined IMG in 2006.
Last vacation: Las Vegas in January
Favorite book: Musashi, by Eiji Yoshikawa
Favorite movie: The Godfather: Part II
Whats on your iPod? Rock to classical to jazz everything but country
Pet peeve: Disorganization
Greatest achievement: Making it to age 39
Greatest disappointment: Not being good enough to play in the NFL after playing football at Dartmouth
Fantasy job: Manager of my own investments
Executive you most admire: Steve Jobs unrelenting, uncompromising pursuit of a creative vision
Business advice: Have fun and make money.

Ask IMG’s chief marketing officer what he loves about his job and he won’t hesitate with the answer. “I love the variety,” Robert Birge says.

It’s easy to see why. In 2006, Birge left an ad agency world where he might have serviced 30 clients at most. At IMG, he has 1,000 talent clients and 700 event and media properties to work with.

Robert
Birge
IMG

“When I was looking at this job, the one thing I could not get over was the list of brands here,” Birge said. “It’s the equivalent of a candy store for any marketer.”

A typical week for Birge might involve anything from fashion and modeling clients to the Indian Premier Cricket League, from the National Hot Rod Association to IMG’s budding college sports division.

“There’s so many properties and we’re such an entrepreneurial company that I’ve learned the discipline of‘focus, deliver and move on,’” Birge said.

Working for what may be the most sales-oriented company in sports management, Birge found himself in a unique situation when he joined IMG. No one had done much work on the IMG brand itself, but Birge now feels the company speaks with a singular marketing voice worldwide.

“Consistency is important,” said the former Miller Brewing marketer. A positioning line developed for IMG is that it is “the world leader in creating and capturing consumer devotion.”

As IMG’s first CMO, Birge said process has also been important. He has built the marketing function with an in-house staff totaling 30-plus in New York and London that does everything from logo creation to advertising. He’s helped develop “Icon Engineering,” a set of tools for crafting and positioning properties, which has helped solidify events such as the Sony Ericsson Open.

“With so many properties, I’m kind of the man behind the curtain,” Birge said, “but I like that about the job, too.”

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