SBJ/20090323/Forty Under 40

Ryan Steelberg

Age: 35
Titles: President and CEO
Company: Brand Affinity Technologies Inc.
Education: Attended UCLA
Family: Wife, Jessica; son Jack, 4; daughter Emma, 2; baby boy due in August
Career: Co-founder and EVP of AdForce Inc. in 1995; company went public in 1999 and sold to CMGi later that year; co-founder, CEO and president of 2CAN Media in 1998; sold to CMGi (name changed to AdSmart) in 2000; co-CEO of Winfire Inc., 2000-01; co-founder and president, dMarc Broadcasting Inc. (sold to Google in 2006), 2002-06; head of audio, Google Inc., 2006-07; co-founded Brand Affinity Technologies Inc. in 2007.
Last vacation: Skiing in Snowmass, Colo.
Favorite book: Lord of the Rings trilogy
Favorite movie: How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Whats on your iPod? Everything country, rock, pop, reggae
Pet peeve: Pessimism
Greatest disappointment: Winfire, our DSL company that was founded in 2000 and shut down in 2001.
Fantasy job: Producer (and judge) of American Idol
Executive you most admire: Steve Jobs
Business advice: Do not be afraid to make the big decision, and sticking to it.

If the realm of celebrity endorsement is a dying field, as some in the industry have alleged, Ryan Steelberg hasn’t received the message.

Brand Affinity Technologies

The serial entrepreneur and head of California-based Brand Affinity Technologies first made major headlines in early 2006 when he and his brother, Chad, sold their radio ad shop, dMarc Technologies, to Google in a much-ballyhooed nine-figure deal. Steelberg now has his sights set on marrying brand marketers with athletes and entertainment personalities using an online system BAT has devised to create, execute and monitor advertising programs.

“What we’re doing isn’t rocket science, but we’ve figured out a targeted software solution that offers a very high degree of efficiency and scalability for marketing, which these days is more important than ever,” Steelberg said.

BAT’s emerging platform, which is particularly active in online marketing strategies, has clients across a wide variety of consumer brands activating with dozens of pro athletes, including the Chicago Bears’ Devin Hester and NBA legend Walt Frazier. But some of its most notable successes to date have been for personalities who are deeply beloved in certain geographic and demographic pockets but not necessarily atop national Q-score ratings, like baseball hall of famer Brooks Robinson. The system also has been a boon for companies operating in categories where a competitor has locked up a large, national-level sponsorship with a pro league or marquee team.

“If you’re advertising on ‘Monday Night Football’ or‘American Idol,’ you don’t want Brooks Robinson,” Steelberg said. “That’s a different, mass-market kind of situation that obviously is going to call for somebody younger. But he carries a lot of very good attributes, and these days, you have to find your consumers and your markets, and having a guy like him can be very helpful once you do.”

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