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SBJ/20090323/Forty Under 40
Published March 23, 2009
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.
“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.”