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Alec Scheiner’s main claim to athletic fame may be that he played basketball at his high school, Lower Merion outside Philadelphia, the same school attended by Kobe Bryant. Of course, Scheiner was cut after ninth grade. Bryant made it a bit further.Alec
But Scheiner has made his mark in other ways in sports. As the general counsel for the Dallas Cowboys, Scheiner has his fingerprints on almost every key off-field decision, most notably the planning, financing and construction of the team’s new stadium.
Now with the stadium done, Scheiner is looking to broaden his role. “I have tried to transition my role a bit with the help of the Joneses and not pigeonhole myself into being just an attorney,” he said.
Age: 39 Titles: Senior vice president and general counsel Team: Dallas Cowboys Education: BSFS, economics and Latin American studies, Georgetown University, 1992; J.D., Georgetown University Law Center, 1997 Family: Nadya and Norah (3); baby son due in a week Career: Seven years with WilmerHale (formerly Wilmer Cutler and Pickering), 1997-2004; joined the Cowboys in 2004 Last vacation: Punta Mita, Mexico Favorite book: "Magic Mountain," by Thomas Mann Favorite movie: "The Thin Red Line" What's on your iPod? Mad Men and The Wire episodes Pet peeve: When people are not straight shooters Greatest achievement: Navigating the various minefields (eminent domain, financings, sales during a recession, etc.) to play a small part in helping make Cowboys Stadium a reality Greatest disappointment: That we havent won a Super Bowl since Ive been here Fantasy job: Point guard for the Sixers Executive you most admire: Easy one: Jerry Jones vision Business advice: Be organized in your thoughts and work habits.
Jerry Jones and his family own the team. Scheiner is on the board of directors of Legends Hospitality, the new concessionaire company owned by the Cowboys and the New York Yankees; he helps with operations of the new stadium; and he attends league meetings with the Joneses.
“You can’t be a good lawyer if you don’t have reasonable business judgment,” he said. “You can’t cling to legal points and sacrifice the bigger picture.”
An East Coast guy, moving to Dallas might have been a tough decision. He was a lawyer in New York, where his firm handled Cowboys business, when the morning after being offered the job in 2004, a New York tabloid featured a picture of the Citibank building on its cover and an alleged terror plot against it. The location of Scheiner’s office: The Citibank building.
Scheiner said it didn’t really affect him, but he said his mom urged him to leave. And mom always knows best.
Through 10 years at Momentum Worldwide and the rest of his career at Visa, Andrew Cohen has worked on every domestic sports property of any stature. Yet, he says every sponsorship pitch submitted to Visa’s U.S. headquarters in San Francisco gets reviewed.
“As far as I know, we’ve never done a sponsorship that came to us ‘over the transom,’” Cohen said, “but there’s an obligation for us to see what’s out there and stay in touch with the market.”
Cohen runs Visa’s non-Olympic and non FIFA-related sponsorships in the U.S., including the NFL, NASCAR and the Kentucky Derby, along with entertainment properties such as Broadway shows, and other music and film properties.
That kind of attention to detail, and Visa’s long-standing insistence on ROI measures, now heightened by its two-year-old status as a publicly traded company, are at the root of the success of Cohen, and Visa.
As a TOP Olympic sponsor since 1986, “We’ve been focused on sponsorship returns for some time, but now we’re turning the dial up,” Cohen said. “Post-recession, no one is going to be able to get away without justifying and quantifying sponsorships; before, some did.”
Cohen also rides herd on integrating top-shelf experiences into Visa’s top-shelf Signature card. So at the most recent Super Bowl, you might have found Signature cardholders on field at halftime, watching The Who perform. At the NFL draft, cardholders can earn or win the right to deliver a cap to players who are selected.
While acknowledging that no U.S. property has the reach of the NFL, Cohen takes as much pride in fashioning a promotion with Fandango, Broadway or Visa’s recent sponsorship of the “We Are the World” renaissance as he does in creating one that tied Visa and GameStop to the release of EA’s juggernaut Madden NFL video game.
“Whatever the property, it’s all about brand fit, measurable result, revenue and cardholder access opportunities,” he said.
You don’t have to have worked on every big property to know that — but it doesn’t hurt.
When Bastien Renard joined Nike in 1997, he never imagined the company would become a final destination. He saw it as a layover on his path to a job in action sports.
That all changed when Nike added a new action sports line in 2005. Now, the 35-year-old Renard, who is the global manager of Nike SB, Nike 6.0 and Nike Snowboarding, can’t imagine working anywhere else.
“I always wanted to be in those sports,” Renard said. “I wasn’t planning to stay long, but then came this really incredible opportunity. I love it.”
Renard has had a lifelong passion for action sports. He grew up in Paris and spent his summers surfing along the coast of Spain and Portugal and his winters snowboarding in the French mountains.
After studying business in England and France, he joined Nike as an intern. He spent a few years in the company’s Amsterdam office before moving to Portland in 2002 to work on a lifestyle line. His move coincided with the company’s push into action sports, and he wound up getting pulled into the launch of a new apparel line that drew its influence from action sports but targeted a broader consumer base.
The line became known as Nike 6.0 for the six major action sports — surf, skate, snow, moto, BMX and wake. The company, whose past efforts to enter action sports had failed, decided to build the brand from the ground up by signing young unknown athletes rather than stars like Shaun White and Kelly Slater. Its gamble paid off when 15-year-olds like BMX rider Dennis Enarson, now 18, became stars.
Those decisions turned Nike’s action sports lines into some of the fastest-growing divisions at the company. With Renard at the helm, the company’s visibility in action sports continues to grow and its future is promising.
“He’s masterfully crafted their strategy and been patient, smart and aggressive all at the right time,” said Wade Martin, the president of Alli and the Dew Tour. “He doesn’t look at sports through the lens of what’s good for Nike. He looks at it through the lens of, ‘What’s good for action sports will be good for Nike.’”
Bill Rhoda has played a key role in developing 75 percent of the big league and NCAA Division I sports facilities built over the past 15 years.
This year is no exception. Rhoda, as a Dallas-based principal of CSL International, completed market studies for the New York Red Bulls, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia Union, Pittsburgh Penguins and University of Oregon, all opening new buildings in the next year. Rhoda’s research determined the right mix of suite and club-seat revenue to pay construction debt.
Three years ago, Rhoda started CSL Marketing Group, a separate firm that has generated $1 billion in sales by selling premium inventory for Yankee Stadium and New Meadowlands Stadium.
Rhoda says his entry into sports came by accident in 1992. At the time, he worked for the old Coopers & Lybrand in Dallas, an accounting firm that had Ford Motor Co. and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner’s off-field interests as clients.
In those days, accountants did all the feasibility studies for teams striving to build new venues, and there was plenty of work during the building boom of the 1990s. In 1996, Rhoda and Craig Skiem, his business partner, broke off from Coopers & Lybrand and founded CSL, focusing on sports.
The Magic, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals and New York Mets were among CSL’s first clients. “Our work with the Mets goes back to 1992-93,” Rhoda said. “Believe it or not, it took that long for them to actually get to a new building.”
Compiling an impressive array of relationships in sports means a new job is always just a phone call away, as is the chance to provide a valuable piece of information to a past client. Such was the case in Dallas, where American Airlines Center officials leaned on Rhoda’s extensive database to answer a question about the average term of a concessions deal, said Brad Mayne, the facility’s president.
“We were making a change in food and beverage providers, and our two owners [Mark Cuban and Tom Hicks] both wanted different information,” Mayne said. “We called Bill and got an answer in less than 30 minutes.”
AT&T Park has held a reputation as one of the most technically advanced sports facilities in the world, and San Francisco Giants chief information officer Bill Schlough is a major reason why.
Schlough’s prior efforts at the ballpark have included the trailblazing Double Play Ticket Window and the first full-stadium Wi-Fi network in pro sports. He continued the innovation in 2009 by expanding the club’s Digital Dugout service, aiding Sportvision on the new Field f/x system that performed key beta tests at AT&T Park, and working with the team’s ticket sales operation on a new variable ticket pricing model in partnership with Qcue.
The Field f/x work, tracking the location and speed of the ball and every player on the field, promises to transform the landscape of defensive and base-running metrics in baseball. The Qcue system incorporates many dynamics from secondary ticketing into the primary market for single-game seats, and garnered more than a half-million dollars in incremental revenue for the club last season.
The Digital Dugout, meanwhile, received a significant upgrade last summer under Schlough’s guidance that included a new smartphone-friendly interface to capitalize on rising mobile data traffic at AT&T Park. That upgrade included exclusive video content, closed captioning of public address announcements, tools to locate stadium amenities, and live game content from MLB Advanced Media.
“We’re out there trying to take risks, but the same time, we know we have to continue to deliver a differentiated experience for the fan,” Schlough said. “It’s a much bigger challenge to do some of these things in a 10-year-old facility as opposed to a new one, but being out on the leading edge is what our fans and our ownership demand. Innovation is the sixth word in our mission statement, and we take that very seriously.”
In the days when Cameron Hall Wagner acted in the annual high school play, her drama teacher often reminded her: “Never break your character.”
It’s a lesson Wagner took with her to the business world, which has included stints at IMG and more recently at GMR Marketing, where she is vice president, client services.
Wagner primarily oversees the Procter & Gamble business, which includes everything from the Gillette Young Guns in NASCAR to the handful of brands that activated around the Winter Olympics.
“In business, you find yourself in high-pressure situations and you can’t afford to lose your cool,” said Wagner, whose credits included playing Corie in “Barefoot in the Park.”
“You’ve got to maintain your head and get through it. ‘Never break your character’ has really served me well.”
Wagner grew up in the heart of NASCAR country, in Charlotte, but she never envisioned herself working in the sport. After college, she moved to Atlanta and began the search for a job in public relations. Pretty soon she was handling PR for a fan and sponsor event in Daytona called “NASCAR World.” She read everything about the sport she could get her hands on.
That led to a nine-year stint at IMG, where she studied under Max Muhleman and worked on the Coca-Cola business with Coke executive Bea Perez. She eventually landed at GMR’s Charlotte office in 2007.
Wagner was originally hired to manage GMR’s Alltel business, but things changed when Alltel was acquired by Verizon. She then was put on the P&G account, which includes Old Spice on Tony Stewart’s No. 14 car, Gillette’s NASCAR sponsorship and general sports consulting, including the Olympics and NFL.
“When I was younger, I never wanted to be anything other than an actress,” Wagner said. “I never had any idea I’d be working in sports.”
Chris Brearton abides by a simple axiom: Swim your own race. The philosophy, rooted in his years on the University of Georgia swim team, has come in handy as the attorneys at O’Melveny & Myers gradually expand the firm’s sports practice.
Brearton began working with his first major sports client in 2003 when the International Olympic Committee asked O'Melveny to assist it with U.S.
television rights negotiations. Since then, O'Melveny has expanded its role with the IOC to work on all rights worldwide and added clients including the San Francisco Giants, the San Diego Padres, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Univision’s license for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup.
“Chris has really put a lot of effort into our sports push,” said Joe Calabrese, O’Melveny & Myers senior partner. “He really has grabbed this practice and said, ‘Let’s make something of it.’”
Brearton joined O’Melveny & Myers in 1998 after working as an accountant at KPMG for three years and earning a law degree from the University of Virginia.
“He can clearly describe concepts and provide solutions,” said Timo Lumme, senior director of IOC Television and Marketing Services. “He’s a very hands-on, proficient and pro-active lawyer, and he’s a very hands-on commercial negotiator.”
Brearton has been a central player in negotiations on behalf of O’Melveny & Myers’ biggest sports client, the IOC. He led media negotiations in China last year when the IOC negotiated a $100 million rights agreement with China Central Television for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics, a more than 400 percent increase from the previous deal.
In total, he and the O’Melveny team also did deals in 160 territories for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics. He will be at the table again when the IOC begins negotiations for U.S. television rights, which are expected to fetch more than $2 billion.
“When I saw the U.S. score the winning goal in 1980 hockey in Lake Placid, I’ve been an Olympic nut ever since,” Brearton said. “I’m excited as can be about it. It’s the market I’m most familiar with and it’s where I’m a consumer. Will it be the most exciting thing I work on this year? Time will tell, but that’s definitely going to be up there.”
Shortly before the 2006 MLS Cup at Pizza Hut Park, then-AEG executive Shawn Hunter gave a quick tour of the facility’s club to Phil Anschutz. When the two stopped and looked out at the field, Hunter caught a glimpse of Houston Dynamo executive Chris Canetti in the distance.
“You’ve got to meet him,” Hunter told Anschutz. “He’s one of our brightest young stars.”
Later that day, Canetti reddened when told what Hunter had said. It was Hunter, after all, who lured the reserved and unassuming executive from New York to Houston to lead the Dynamo’s business operations. It was a move that allowed Canetti to challenge himself and helped him become one of MLS’s top team executives.
“I would have never been here without Shawn,” Canetti said. “I owe him a lot.”
After relocating the San Jose Earthquakes to Houston, Hunter approached Canetti, former assistant general manager with the NY/NJ MetroStars, about leading business operations for the new Texas team. Hunter was willing to take a chance on a young but experienced executive, and Canetti has made it pay off. He was named MLS’s team executive of the year in 2008 when the club signed a jersey partnership with Amigo Energy and delivered the league’s second-highest attendance increase.
Last year, the team increased its sponsorship sales 16 percent and kept its ticket sales flat despite a challenging economy. It consistently ranks fourth or fifth in the league in sponsorship sales and sixth in ticket sales — not bad for a club that doesn’t own its stadium.
“He has a great combination of vision, creativity and persistence that really resonates with ownership, his staff and players,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “I truly believe he is one of the best young pro team executives in the sports business.”
Though the club remains fourth in its market behind the Texans, Astros and Rockets, the Dynamo is one of just a handful of MLS teams to be treated like a major league club. Canetti’s goal is to cement the club’s position as a major league brand.
“We want to be lumped in with those guys,” Canetti said of the city’s other major teams. “I think we’ve accomplished that. People know the Dynamo here.”
If Chris Granger ever gets tired of running the NBA’s team marketing and business operations department, he might consider putting himself in charge of team mascots. After all, one of his first jobs out of college was dressing as “Garfield The Cat” at character breakfasts in Orlando.
“After college I wanted to work for Disney, so I packed up my car and drove to Orlando assuming they would welcome me with open arms,” Granger said. “But they did not.”
After eight months, Granger ditched the character breakfast circuit when Disney hired him into the company’s management training program. Five years and a variety of executive jobs later, Granger left Disney for business school at Yale. He joined the NBA in 1999 after he met David Stern when the NBA commissioner spoke at the business school.
“I introduced myself and two days later, his office asked that I call him,” Granger said. “I was a big fan but I didn’t know the business of sports. But then I met with everyone at the NBA and made up a little job for myself. Now it is 11 years later and it has led to the greatest things.”
As senior vice president of team marketing and business operations, Granger and his department function as an in-house business consultant to the NBA, WNBA and D-League. He was promoted to his current job in August 2008, not long before the recession. Typically, the forward-thinking Granger saw the economic downturn as an opportunity to help teams learn new ways of doing business.
“It has been the best time to get the job,” Granger said. “It has required everyone to think differently and that would have never happened if that challenge hadn’t been so great.”
Granger has helped prevent any major erosion of NBA ticket sales and has led new efforts such as selling sponsorships on NBA practice jerseys and corporate branding on WNBA game jerseys.
“Chris is super smart and is extraordinarily professional,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. “He has unlimited capacity, which he applies to every project he oversees. He has endless potential on top of the enormous success he’s already had.”
At Red Bull, sports marketing is more about creating events than renting equity from established competitions. So while the company has premier athletes like Olympian Shaun White on its roster and spends serious money in motorsports, U.S. sports marketing chief Chris Mater would much rather talk about projects such as Red Bull Flugtag, in which contestants design, build and pilot flying machines from a 30-foot perch.
“The rule here is that if someone else could do it, then we shouldn’t,” said Mater, who oversees about 100 events and the same number of athletes.
Mater, an Australian who was a member of that country’s ski team for six years, seems particularly suited to his job. After all, Red Bull gained early traction and popularity among the ski crowd.
After his career as a pro skier ebbed, Mater worked in sales and marketing for a group of Aussie ski, snow and action sports magazines. It was a natural jump to Red Bull in 1999, when the brand was launching Down Under. Mater eventually moved to the United States, working in regional sports marketing and content development, as director of athlete marketing and, finally, in his current job.
You can’t say Red Bull invented the energy drink category; coffee and colas have been there for quite a while. Red Bull just made it cool, and it garnered distribution in bars as a potent mixer for all-night partiers.
“We have a simple proposition,” Mater said. “Selling additional energy: Everyone wants that, and it means we can still take share away from coffee on down.”
Red Bull built a billion-dollar brand under a cloak of secrecy still so tight that originally the company did not want Mater interviewed for this story. “Most of us would cringe at the term ‘corporate culture’ here,” he said.
So what’s the mantra inside Red Bull?
“Keeping authenticity and innovation top of mind,” Mater said. “We’re such change agents that we want to push anything we do to the edge while still having a healthy respect for the established sports we are in.”
Damon Phillips cuts a familiar figure at his kids’ Saturday morning soccer games. With the game going on in front of him, Phillips can’t keep from looking down at his iPhone, checking out the usage stats and video quality reports for his broadband network, ESPN360.
Phillips’ Saturday afternoons in the fall are spent much the same way, with most of his attention going to ESPN360. He sets up in his living room, with three computers (a Mac and two PCs) and a television bringing video from games on his network. He regularly monitors Twitter and blogs to keep abreast of how ESPN360 is performing. “I need to make sure that the ship is headed in the right direction,” Phillips said.
ESPN360 is a broadband site that shows live and archived sporting events from around the world. The site carries everything from major U.S. college and pro games to Russian soccer and Indian cricket. Last month, it carried the America’s Cup yacht race, which at one time had been on television.
Phillips approaches his job as general managers run their TV networks. He deals with the same marketing, programming, affiliate relations and ad sales challenges as every other cable network head.
To Phillips, it’s important not to view ESPN360 as just a broadband site. That’s one of the reasons why the channel is rebranding from ESPN360 to ESPN3, so that it can be more readily identified with ESPN’s main television channels.
“It’s a TV network,” he said. “One of the fundamental shifts we had to make was in how we thought about it.”
In the past year, the service has seen a huge amount of growth. Thanks to a deal with the country’s biggest cable network, Comcast, ESPN360 has grown its distribution to about 50 million subscribers.
Phillips listed Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman as one of his mentors, having worked with him several times. Silverman said Phillips has the temperament to be successful with ESPN360.
“I have always greatly respected his level-headedness and problem-solving ability,” Silverman said. “He has a great demeanor and winning personality which has enabled him to become very successful at a very young age.”
Daryl Morey holds an MBA from MIT and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Northwestern University. Still, even he couldn’t have calculated that in 2007, at the age of 34, he would be named general manager of the Houston Rockets, a year after joining the franchise.
Morey said Rockets owner Leslie Alexander “gave me a shot and I’ve been trying not to screw it up. I got here and I just tried to fit in.”
Morey has done far more than fit in. He has distinguished himself in the industry for applying statistical analysis in creating the Rockets’ roster. It’s an inexact science, but one Morey sees as a way to more accurately determine a player’s value.
“It’s very difficult to do in basketball, but one of the pieces of the puzzle is applying data to decisions,” Morey said. “It can definitely help you from fooling yourself. Often, it’s the owner’s whim or the loudest voice in the room that prevails over a decision. But analytics helps reduce the risk.”
Morey wanted to work for a professional sports franchise when he graduated from Northwestern, but he took an indirect path to the NBA. After working for Stats, Morey left the company to attend MIT.
“I had worked like hell to get a job in sports but no one would return my call so I thought it was pointless,” Morey said.
After earning his MBA, Morey was working as a consultant for the Parthenon Group when Wyc Grousbeck retained the company to evaluate his purchase of the Boston Celtics. Morey impressed the Celtics’ new owner and was hired to work for the franchise in 2003. The Rockets came calling in 2006.
“I was looking for someone who could help us effectively manage the risks associated with talent acquisition, while also building a model for long-term success,” Alexander said. “Daryl has already established himself as an innovator in the field of talent evaluation and player acquisition.”
After a new ballpark opens, much is quickly forgotten about the hard political wrangling, late-hour negotiations and grunt work needed to get the facility approved and funded.
Such will likely happen in Miami, where a new venue is under construction for the Marlins after more than a decade of fruitless pursuit. But Derek Jackson is among a key group of executives who helped rescue the ballpark deal from several near-fatal scrapes and likely saved MLB in South Florida.
Jackson, a former attorney in MLB’s labor relations office, came to the Marlins in 2003. By his own admission, he did not fully understand upon arriving the gravity of the club’s uphill fight for public aid for a new ballpark.
Unpopular previous team ownerships and a 1998 gutting of a defending World Series championship team had left fans and politicians cold to the idea of public assistance to build a new Marlins ballpark. A politically tense working relationship between the city of Miami and Dade County, and competing private interests such as a legal challenge from former Philadelphia Eagles owner and South Florida car mogul Norman Braman, only heightened the toxic environment pitted against the Marlins.
But over time, the club and MLB successfully convinced the local governments of the pressing need for a new ballpark in Miami, notably because of the club’s revenue limitations and competitive disadvantages in the stadium it now shares with the Miami Dolphins. Buttressed in part by a pledged team contribution of $155 million, Jackson played a critical role in closing the deal with the city and county governments and seeing the project through to its final agreements.
Jackson also oversees the club’s contract management and general legal affairs and was involved in the club’s recent agreement with the MLB Players Association to boost payroll as the Marlins approach the planned 2012 opening of the new ballpark.
“Being part of a team is like being in a family,” Jackson said. “It feels like you’re really a part of something. We feel like we have a big future in front of us, particularly with a state-of-the-art ballpark on the way.”
Elizabeth Lindsey is a movie buff who has won her Oscar pool three years running, so it makes sense that upon receiving an award she issues a statement of gratitude for something that paved the way for her success.
“I thank taco night and Dos Equis,” she says.
On a Friday night in 2002, Lindsey and then-OnSport executive Sarah Hirshland discussed their careers during happy hour at a Durham, N.C., restaurant named Bandido’s. Hirshland mentioned that OnSport was expanding and asked Lindsey whether she was interested in speaking with owner Gary Stevenson. A week later she interviewed and was immediately hired to work on the agency’s American Express account.
Stevenson uses words like “intelligent” and “tenacious” to describe Lindsey, attributes that have served her well at WMG, where she manages the strategic direction for American Express on venues, ticketing and sports.
“I never met anyone so conscientious that works so hard on our business that really wants to do the right thing for our cardmembers,” said Rich Lehrfeld, vice president of global sponsorship and access for American Express. “She picks up the phone and says, ‘How can I help you?’ Who does that?”
Using the company’s U.S. Tennis Association sponsorship as a model, she advised dropping high-dollar branding deals in golf, including an endorsement deal with Tiger Woods. In their place she negotiated more cost-effective, customized sponsorships with the PGA of America and U.S. Golf Association that provided cardmembers with access to major golf events, exclusive golf courses and teaching professionals.
In the same vein, Lindsey has also increased access to concerts and arenas by expanding relationships between American Express and MSG, AEG and Ticketmaster.
Lindsey previously worked in sports and entertainment marketing and public relations at Nortel. She joins fellow Forty Under 40 alums Hirshland and Malcolm Turner on the senior leadership team of Wasserman Media Group Consulting.
In January, the same week Eric Shanks started overseeing DirecTV’s three regional sports networks, he received a call from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
FSN Pittsburgh, one of three regional sports networks that Shanks oversees, had withheld replays that would have showed the Flyers scoring a disputed goal against the Penguins. The goal was not allowed, and Bettman was calling Shanks to find out what happened.
For Shanks, the call represented another in an ever-expanding list of responsibilities the executive has taken on during his DirecTV career.
Programming? That’s on Shanks. (And everyone refers to him as Shanks; some longtime friends have trouble remembering that his first name is Eric.) He’s the executive primarily responsible for buying Dan Patrick’s radio show and simulcasting it on The 101. Similarly, he plucked the NBC series “Friday Night Lights” — which has a small but devoted audience — for The 101, too. And he’s looking around for more. In the two months that he’s overseen DirecTV’s three RSNs, he’s approved two rights deals extensions, one with the Jazz and another not yet made public.
Ad sales? That’s under Shanks, too. He has overseen it since he arrived at DirecTV in 2004. After deciding to bring sales in-house for the two minutes an hour that DirecTV is allowed to sell across every channel, he saw almost immediate results. Revenue grew threefold. He had particular success this winter with an Olympic ad sales package.
Shanks’ multiple responsibilities were evident last month in Miami. On the Friday night before the Super Bowl, Shanks dined in a South Beach steakhouse with the crew of Patrick’s show to celebrate a successful run of Super Bowl week shows. The former head of a national online sports site and a reporter also attended the dinner. Once it ended, Shanks put on another one of his hats and made his way to another DirecTV-sponsored event for affiliates.
“Shanks is an innovative dealmaker willing to take chances,” said Ray Hopkins, chief operating officer of YES Network. “He gets things done. One of the most highly respected DirecTV executives.”
This marks the third time Shanks has made this list, meaning that he is entering the Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame. In the past, he was recognized for his outsized reputation for staying a step or two (or four) ahead of the competition with new technologies and new revenue streams.
That hasn’t changed.
Given responsibility of NFL Sunday Ticket, Shanks decided to launch DirecTV’s Red Zone Channel in 2005, four years before NFL Network rolled out its version. He’s already launched the service on cell phones, something the NFL plans to do next season.
Shanks pushed DirecTV to take more HD content while his cable competitors were focused on video-on-demand, a decision that helped give DirecTV an edge over cable among sports fans.
And he has overseen interactive applications around big sporting events — the Masters, the U.S. Open and Yankees games — that are vastly superior to anything cable has been able to offer.
It was no surprise to see Shanks ahead of the 3-D television curve at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
“In the early days of Fox Sports, it was ingrained in you that you should try new things and always push the envelope,” Shanks said.
Shanks’ mentor, Fox Sports Chairman David Hill, recalled recognizing Shanks’ skills at Fox Sports in the mid-1990s, when Hill promoted the budding executive from John Madden’s football production crew to work with Gary Hartley in the graphics department.
The move infuriated Madden, who called and screamed at Hill, “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You’re going to ruin that kid’s career!”
According to Hill, Madden grudgingly accepted the move.
“Fifteen years have gone by, and Eric Shanks has just continued to cover himself with accolades with his no-nonsense, common-sense, and people-first approach to life and business,” Hill said. “But, despite all that, I know that deep down John would have loved to have Eric there in the truck with him.”
Forty Under 40: By The Numbers
A look inside the makeup of this year’s honorees
33 WERE HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES ... THOUGH THREE SPECIFIED THAT THEY WEREN’T VERY GOOD 5 HAVE A LAW DEGREE 21 STARTED THEIR CAREERS IN SPORTS 8 OCCASIONALLY WALK OR RIDE A BIKE TO WORK 37 HAVE WALKED DOWN THE AISLE AND SAID, â??I DOâ? 7 HAVE ATTEMPTED A DIET IN THE LAST 30 DAYS 43 THE NUMBER OF FORTY UNDER 40 HALL OF FAMERS 5 ARE FLUENT IN A SECOND LANGUAGE 11 GENERALLY SLEEP LESS THAN SIX HOURS A NIGHT 3 HAVE A TATTOO ... BUT WE’RE NOT TELLING WHERE 14 HAVE A GRADUATE DEGREE 34 HAVE CHILDREN 5 HAVE STUCK WITH THAT DIET 0 ARE VEGETARIAN 32 DRIVE TO WORK 293 THE NUMBER OF FORTY UNDER 40 WINNERS THROUGH THE YEARS 15 WERE COLLEGE ATHLETES 35 WOULD TAKE A JOB OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES 22 HAVE BEEN TO THE MOVIES IN THE LAST 30 DAYS 18 HAVE BEEN TO A CONCERT OR THE THEATER IN THE LAST 30 DAYS 27 HAVE BEEN TO A SPORTS EVENT IN THE LAST 30 DAYS UNRELATED TO WORK 25 OCCASIONALLY WEAR JEANS TO WORK 2 HAVE BEEN FIRED 1 SMOKES ... OR AT LEAST ADMITS TO IT 18 WORK OUT AT LEAST FOUR DAYS A WEEK 5 HAVE COMPLETED A MARATHON 17 PLAY VIDEO GAMES 11 THE NUMBER OF YEARS WE’VE HONORED FORTY UNDER 40
Here’s how Jamie Zaninovich’s typical day went in 1995, when he worked as a volunteer for the Stanford basketball team:
He arose before 6 a.m. and was in the office where he worked as a junior analyst for a hedge fund by 6:30. He stayed there until noon, grabbed lunch on the run, and drove to Stanford’s campus for the pre-practice meeting. He worked with the team through the afternoon, watched over study hall that evening, and usually made it back home by midnight. Then he’d do it all over again the next day.
The hedge fund job helped pay the bills, but it was that experience as an administrative assistant for Coach Mike Montgomery that helped Zaninovich see a path in athletic administration.
“That’s where I realized my passion,” said Zaninovich, who is in his second year as commissioner of the West Coast Conference.
That stint with Montgomery led to a full-time job in administration at Stanford and later Princeton. The commissioner’s job at the WCC didn’t interest him at first, but the more people he talked to, the more he liked the idea of returning to the West Coast to manage an eight-team conference with an evolving strength in basketball. Gonzaga is clearly the league’s banner team, but St. Mary’s and Portland are emerging and Pepperdine has a history of success.
“We think the WCC can be a destination conference for top basketball recruits,” Zaninovich said. “We’re not a BCS conference, we get that, but this can be an elite basketball conference with great championships and a phenomenal TV deal with ESPN.”
On top of that, the conference moved its flagship event, the basketball tournament, to Las Vegas last year with resounding results. A new title sponsor, Zippos.com, came on board, and the first year of a neutral-site tournament sold out four weeks before the first tip. The tournament had been on campus before.
“Moving it to a neutral site, into a bigger building, it was just a slam dunk for us,” Zaninovich said. “We proved that a neutral-site model can work for us and that’s a big step for the conference.”
A faltering economy spells opportunity for Jeff Eccleston, who as vice president and group director of Sponsorship Research International helps clients maximize the value of their sports sponsorship deals.
“When the market goes south everyone asks more questions, and CMOs are asking a lot of tough questions these days,” Eccleston said.
Eccleston does more than just provide research to justify his clients’ marketing spend. He works to optimize his clients’ marketing opportunities as much as he evaluates a sponsor’s return on its investment.
“We are developing tools that delve into not what has happened but why it has happened,” Eccleston said. “We look at how we can do things to help clients save money by eliminating wasteful spending on sponsorships.”
SRi has long provided its services to brands, but now Eccleston is leading the effort to help properties create customized programs to attract more sponsors.
“Historically, most of the work was with brands, but now we are working with rights holders,” Eccleston said. “They are waking up and playing in this space more than they were five years ago.”
Eccleston, a Penn State graduate, has spent more than 15 years in market research, joining SRi in 1999 when the company was a division of ISL. SRi was acquired by Velocity Sports in 2001, but operates mostly independent from its parent.
“What is unique about Jeff is that he not only gives you the data, but he gives you a lot of analysis as to what is useful,” said Harlan Stone, chief business and marketing officer of the U.S. Tennis Association, who worked at Velocity Sports when it acquired SRi. “He tries to put on your hat to solve the puzzle.”
While some may see the research as a dull but necessary business tool, Eccleston works to inject life into the numbers.
“We are taking what many perceive as a boring or less glamorous topic and turning it into something that is actionable or, dare I say, fun and interesting,” Eccleston said.
MLB Advanced Media’s flurry of new products and advances in 2009 might be considered something of a high-profile lab experiment on the future of digital media. If so, Joe Inzerillo would be one of the chief scientists.
A key lieutenant to MLBAM chief executive Bob Bowman, Inzerillo was among the lead executives making sure all the technical codes worked and the video flowed for the wave of new initiatives. Those included an entirely rebuilt version of the MLB.TV out-of-market package, two major updates to the award-winning MLB.com At Bat mobile application — with live mobile audio and then video distribution of the entire MLB schedule to the iPhone — and a historic launch of in-market live game streaming with the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres.
Inzerillo additionally played a key role in handling the technical implementation of MLB’s instant replay system that debuted in 2008, saw its first full season of use last year, and then made its postseason entrance on an Alex Rodriguez home run during last fall’s World Series.
“For MLB.TV, there was not a single line of code that was carried over from 2008 to 2009,” Inzerillo said of one of MLBAM’s chief revenue sources that attracts roughly a half-million subscribers and more than $40 million in fees. “There was a lot of risk there, but the early tests were encouraging and showed the quality was leaps and bounds better, and that gave us a lot of confidence going forward.”
While it may seem like a frenetic sprint between MLBAM’s humble beginnings a decade ago and the constant wave of market-moving developments now, Inzerillo attributes the noted successes to the company’s original structure created by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and others, as well as a patient, methodical operating approach.
“Things like in-market really came along on their own natural flow. If we tried to tackle something like that right away, it would have been a disaster,” Inzerillo said. “All of sports have been trying to crack that nut particularly. There are still some challenges, like everything else, but we gave birth to it and are poised to see it grow.”
John Entz had barely unpacked his belongings in MLB Network’s Secaucus, N.J., office in mid-September 2008 when the first job seeker came through his door. Then came another. And another.
During the first three days at his new job as the channel’s senior vice president of programming, Entz interviewed a steady stream of applicants — one every 30 minutes with a short break for lunch — as he ramped up a full production department of 45 staffers.
MLB Network’s launch made headlines primarily for its distribution successes. By debuting to about 50 million on Jan. 1, 2009, MLB became the most successful cable network startup in history.
But the launch would have been a failure if Entz and his boss, Tony Petitti, had failed to make the programming as first-class as the distribution.
The network’s programming debuted to almost universally positive reviews, and Entz was the one who hired the on-air talent and production staff to make it happen.
“John built an incredible production team from scratch in less than three months,” said Petitti, president of MLB Network. “At the same time, he participated in hundreds of creative and content decisions. To put it simply, John was critical to our successful launch.”
The year was filled with programming highlights for the channel, from its comprehensive coverage of Alex Rodriguez’s steroid scandal last spring to All-Star Game coverage that was universally praised.
But when asked to recall the most memorable program of that first year, Entz brought up the Hall of Fame selection show from earlier this year. He remembers the planning for that show more than the show itself. For Entz, an indelible impression was made when he led a production meeting to go over the show, which would be MLB Network’s first show with Peter Gammons, who came over from ESPN.
Entz looked at the talent in the meeting, talent that he had brought to the network. Along with Gammons, Bob Costas was there. So was Matt Vasgersian. Harold Reynolds, Tom Verducci, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman.
“I remember sitting and thinking that this was a pretty impressive group of baseball minds,” he said.
Julie Tyson sat at a dinner while on vacation with friends in the mid-1990s and they began tossing around things they wanted to accomplish before the age of 40.
“Top on the list was being a sports agent,” Tyson recalled. “Honestly, until I said it aloud at dinner that night, I’d never really thought about that job, but all of the sudden I couldn’t shake the strong desire to pursue it.”
Tyson began her career in sales at places like Raycom and ESPN Regional TV, and in 1996 ran the national cable office for FSN and FX, becoming the first Fox employee in the U.S. to sell dual networks.
Shortly after that vacation, she put in a blind call to the LPGA, thinking that golf would provide a good foray into the agent business. She was connected with Ty Votaw, who was then in charge of tournament business affairs.
“For about two years I would touch base every once in a while, but eventually came the realization that maybe the LPGA wasn’t what fate had in store for me,” she said. “So in what I presumed to be our last conversation, I laughingly told Ty that we should talk again when he became commissioner and promised to come work for the LPGA when that occurred.”
Shortly after he indeed became commissioner, Votaw hired Tyson in 1999 to handle tournament business affairs and then lead business development. During her tenure, Tyson closed deals with ADT and State Farm that represented the largest individual sponsorships in the tour’s history.
Tyson followed Votaw to the PGA Tour in 2007, where she now manages relationships with companies representing more than $130 million in sponsorships, including some of the longer-tenured blue-chip companies on tour, such as AT&T, Shell and Deutsche Bank.
Among the other “bucket lists” that Tyson and her friends discussed on that vacation were places they wanted to see and skills they wanted to acquire.
“I’d better get moving on some of the other things on that list, because 40 is definitely gaining on me,” she said.
From the day that Katie Boes opened The New York Times job section in the fall of 1994 and answered a want ad for a job at Trans World International, she’s made the most out of being in the right place at the right time.
Fifteen years later, she is president of Reel Enterprises, the North American arm of a company that has worked with clients like the International Olympic Committee, the NFL and the English Premier League.
Boes joined TWI (now known as IMG Media) in 1994, working under longtime international media gurus such as Wayne Becker and Peter Smith. She handled accounts like the PGA Tour, PGA of America and the U.S. Golf Association when Tiger Woods turned professional, and worked with the NCAA and NASCAR as its popularity was gaining traction.
Smith describes Boes as “frighteningly talented” and “one of the first people to really get her arms around new media.” Boes was asked by the late Mark McCormack to head IMG’s fledgling new media division in 1999 and flew all over the world doing some of the first syndication deals for online sports content.
The NFL came calling in 2000 and tabbed Boes to run the international distribution group, where she doubled revenue in four years. She negotiated the first simulcast of the Super Bowl in Mexico on Azteca and Televisa, and in 2003 put the Super Bowl on free TV in the U.K. for the first time since 1996, which helped revive a dormant market and eventually led to regular-season games in London.
In her final year before moving over to NFL Network as senior director of programming, the league’s games were available in a record 500 million homes outside the U.S., a year-over-year increase of more than 40 percent.
In her first three years at Reel Enterprises, she has focused on emerging international sports like soccer, rugby and cricket, most recently doubling the international rights revenue of Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara.
Keith Wachtel may have dropped part of his title this year, but that certainly didn’t curb his responsibilities.
To capitalize on the launch of the NHL Network and a new mobile venture in Canada, as well as the expanding popularity of the Winter Classic, the NHL in the last year combined its sales and marketing efforts under Wachtel and Brian Jennings, the league’s executive vice president of marketing. Jennings added responsibilities for partnership marketing, which allowed Wachtel to spend more time on strategic sales.
It also put corporate, NHL Network and NHL.com sales under one roof. The goal: create a structure that would allow traditional sponsorship deals to fuel media sales, and vice versa.
“A lot of our business now is being generated by media, because the traditional licensing model really doesn’t exist anymore,” said Wachtel, senior vice president of integrated sales. “As a result we found that we were able to drive business from all three of those disciplines.”
In the first year it led to the U.S. Army, a six-figure media buyer on NHL.com, buying inventory from NHL Network and a presenting sponsorship of the Winter Classic, additions that pushed it into the seven figures.
It also helped to generate renewals with Bell and Verizon, as well as new deals with Compuware, Geico and Enterprise. The latter represents the first time the NHL has packaged rights to the league and all 30 of its teams, and Wachtel is working on similar proposals for other prospects.
The new mobile deal is just one venture that the NHL is hoping to launch in Canada, where Wachtel is spending much of his time, as the league considers adding an additional outdoor game north of the Lower 48.
“We’re trying to build various businesses that work on both sides of the border,” he said.
He and his wife are expecting their first child in July.
When Kirby Hocutt arrived at Kansas State as a freshman football player in 1990, the Wildcats were one of the worst programs in the country. In fact, a 1989 Sports Illustrated story labeled K-State “Futility U.”
But one thing is certain about Hocutt, now the athletic director at the University of Miami: He’s never shrunk from a challenge.
As a member of new coach Bill Snyder’s first recruiting class, Hocutt helped restore credibility to the Wildcats’ hapless program.
“What I saw under Coach Snyder was that there are certain principles for success and you have to be unwavering in terms of following them,” Hocutt said. “He was committed to a plan and I saw his vision for the program. We did it with a lot of overachieving blue-collar athletes and it showed what could be done if you’re determined to outwork people. Anything worth having isn’t going to come easy.”
Hocutt took those lessons with him, learning at the feet of some of the giants in college administration. There was Chuck Neinas at the College Football Association and later Joe Castiglione at Oklahoma.
Then Hocutt got his own chance to run a program as athletic director at Ohio University, another program in the Mid-American Conference in need of a roll-your-sleeves-up approach. That led to his current position as AD at the “U.”
“The thing is that the mission stays the same,” said Hocutt, who also is an avid reader of John Wooden’s books. “The mission is education through intercollegiate athletics. That’s powerful. The thing that changes from school to school is the priority on athletics and the commitment.
“You cannot find a university where athletics plays a greater role than the University of Miami. At this level, if you’re going to participate, you play to win.”
For a young kid from Texas, who grew up living and breathing sports, a career in administration was the logical next step after his playing career ended at K-State. Coaching wasn’t for him, he thought, so administration opened another door.
“It’s always been a part of my life,” Hocutt said. “I can’t imagine being away from sports.”
In the middle of IMG College’s explosive growth the last few years, Lawton Logan was an integral member of a team that added and now manages close to $700 million in multimedia rights. It’s right where Logan hoped to be when he graduated from the University of Richmond.
“Sports and entertainment were areas that really interested me early,” said Logan, a senior vice president with IMG College in its Lexington, Ky., office. “I was always attracted to the business side of sports and it’s something that still drives me today. When I entered the business 15 years ago, the college space was wide open. It was like the next frontier.”
Logan began with a small marketing agency in Atlanta that worked on Braves promotions. He subsequently moved to Cox, which had the radio rights for the University of Georgia, and gained his first exposure to the college business.
For 10 years, Logan worked with the Bulldogs’ network, at the same time studying for his MBA at Georgia State. Then, in 2004, Logan decided to take a chance. New management had come in to run Host Communications, a multimedia rights holder that at one time had been a giant in college marketing and media but had fallen on hard times.
Logan was drawn to Host by new CEO Tom Stultz and went right to work on securing the hometown team, the University of Kentucky. The negotiations resulted in a 10-year, $80 million bundled rights package that sent shockwaves across the collegiate landscape.
As Host attempted to gather momentum, with Logan at the forefront of seeking new business, IMG acquired the company in 2007. High-dollar deals followed with premium properties like Florida and Ohio State.
With so many long-term deals, many stretching out 10 years or more, Logan’s focus has transitioned a bit, from new business to helping manage the current properties more efficiently.
“With these very significant contracts, the expenses are fixed,” Logan said of the rights fees IMG College pays the schools. “Growth has to come from top-line revenue. We’re always looking for new properties, but there aren’t really that many schools left out there without a long-term deal. So we’re really focused on the growth of our existing properties and execution now.”
Marc Bruno’s world travels in the sports food business began in Little Italy, on Chicago’s West Side.
Since then Bruno, president of Aramark Sports, Entertainment and Conventions, has fed athletes and media at four Summer Olympics, dating back to the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Most recently, Bruno finished working his first Winter Games at General Motors Place in Vancouver, where Aramark served thousands of spectators attending 35 hockey games in 14 days. It’s like cramming 90 percent of an NHL season into two weeks, Bruno said.
He learned the ropes in food service as a teenager working at Ristorante Italia, the Chicago eatery that the Bruno family owned for 21 years, until 2000. He cooked, cleaned, served meals and counted money, receiving a strong education in the work force at an early age.
“My first love is being around the kitchen,” Bruno said. “I thought I was going to run the family restaurant.”
Bruno switched gears in college after hearing an Aramark executive speak about the experience of working the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Bruno thought it would be interesting to work abroad and landed a summer internship for Aramark. He became a full-time employee in 1993 after graduation and was picked for the Atlanta team in 1994.
His role developing Olympic food programs for Aramark expanded over the years while he held several domestic and international positions with the company. Bruno was Aramark’s executive director at Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.
In May 2008, Bruno was promoted to his current position, shortly before the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, where he was responsible for negotiating and signing Aramark’s largest Olympics contract to date. Aramark served more than 3.5 million meals in 60 days.
His experience paid off for Aramark at the most recent NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston, where the firm normally serves Red Sox fans during baseball season.
“The notion of gearing up for one big event and then shutting down was much easier to fathom after having the Olympics under your belt,” Bruno said.
Chances are, Mark Whitaker may be the only self-described computer nerd and poetry major toiling in professional sports. And not only does Whitaker have a degree in Renaissance poetry, he says it helps him as a sports finance legal specialist. Really.
“The study of poetry is about trying to determine the meaning of the poet,” Whitaker said. “As a guy who spends his entire professional life either drafting or reviewing contractual obligations that directly affect my clientele, I spend my time trying to be sure the meaning of the contracts that underlie the deals are clear and unambiguous.”
Whitaker’s area is the loans and bond offerings that help finance stadiums and fund team purchases. He has worked on ballpark financing for the New York Yankees and New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs acquisition, refinancing Gillette Stadium, and financing for the new stadium for the New York Jets and Giants.
His job is to ensure the deals comply with league debt rules, meet tax-exempt standards if necessary, and ensure that the greatest amount of cash flows from the proceeds to the borrower. “It’s on the structural side where I earn my keep,” Whitaker said.
The big change in the last several years is not surprising: Borrowers increasingly are facing steeper financial requirements as lenders get shy about extending credit.
“Creditors are much more in your day-to-day business,” Whitaker said.
After college, Whitaker worked in computers for a year before going back to school to get a law degree. Poetry majors, he said, either end up teaching poetry or in another line of work.
While employed at his firm, Nixon Peabody, Whitaker spent time working on the sale of the Ottawa Senators. That fairly quickly developed into an overall expertise in sports finance, which now consumes most of his work hours.
Last year saw Turner Sports’ aggressive, multiplatform content strategy hit full steam, and senior vice president Matt Hong played a critical role in the long-desired strategy’s execution.
After spending several years accumulating content agreements and extending existing pacts, Turner hit the market with an extensive suite of assets that includes management of the PGA Tour and NASCAR Web sites, the NBA Digital joint venture for the online, network and mobile properties, a content and sales relationship with Yahoo!, and a relaunched TBS Hot Corner in partnership with MLB Advanced Media.
Within that framework, Hong also oversaw the development of additional elements such as new iPhone applications and social-networking components for several key events, including the PGA Championship and NBA Playoffs, as well as a revamped Hot Corner that included additional video content and Twitter feeds from network announcers.
Not surprisingly, every major digital property in the Turner portfolio posted significant metrics growth in 2009 compared with the prior year, usually by high double-digit and triple-digit percentages.
Hong was promoted last summer to senior vice president and general manager of Turner Sports, putting him in charge of the day-to-day operation of the TV and digital businesses.
“Last year was about really delivering on the strategy we laid out, being active across all platforms,” he said. “In each of these instances, we were able to provide a meaningful, complementary experience to the user, get them deeper inside these events, and in many instances, get out in front with some new technology.”
It took one infamous moment to drive Matt Pensinger out of public relations and into sports marketing. While working in PR for the U.S. figure skating team in 1994, Pensinger found himself handling the media frenzy after the assault on Nancy Kerrigan that involved rival Tonya Harding.
“That got me out of public relations,” Pensinger said. “There was just two of us working in PR for the skating team and it was an avalanche.”
The PR industry’s loss was the sports marketing industry’s gain. After moving into marketing for the U.S. Figure Skating Association, Pensinger helped work on the association’s 10-year, $100 million deal with ABC. The experience launched Pensinger’s career, which has since aligned him with some of the industry’s biggest spenders.
Pensinger moved to General Motors in 1998 when the car company signed its Olympic sponsorship and worked in Detroit for seven years helping GM with its NCAA and Major League Baseball deals. All the while, Pensinger, a Chicago-area native, was commuting to the University of Chicago, where he earned his MBA.
In 2005, Pensinger joined Relay Worldwide as the agency looked to develop a consulting division.
“I had done a ton at GM and was interested in getting back to Chicago,” Pensinger said. “I was fortunate to have spent time on the brand side and property side, and to be able to bring that understanding to bear at an agency.”
Today, as senior vice president of marketing services and consulting for Relay, Pensinger helps the agency build its consulting business and works with top brands like McDonald’s, Toyota and Sharp Electronics.
“We rely on him to put together a coherent overview and raise the overall value of our program,” said Andrew Kritzer, associate vice president of Sharp Electronics. “Matt services our group from a managerial standpoint and he has done a terrific job.”
As Max Eisenbud tells it, his IQ took a dramatic leap forward in a matter of hours. On the morning of July 3, 2004, he now says tongue-in-cheek, he called himself an idiot. By that afternoon, he was a genius.
That’s the day his then largely unheralded client, Maria Sharapova, shocked the world and won Wimbledon at the age of 17. The victory unleashed a marketing blitz that had never been seen before in professional sports, making Sharapova far and away the top-paid female endorser in history.
“2004 changed my life,” Eisenbud said. “The year she won Wimbledon, I had my flight booked to leave the Tuesday of the second week.
“She won Wimbledon and this unbelievable thing that she worked her whole life for, and me as her manager a part of it, it was an amazing feeling.”
A graduate of Purdue, where he was on the tennis team, Eisenbud got his start in the business side of the sport by putting together a charity event for ATP player Justin Gimelstob, whom he grew up with in New Jersey. Eisenbud flooded IMG with letters trying to get a job there, and was rewarded with a new position handling young clients at the Bollettieri Academy.
The young Sharapova and her dad had recently arrived at the academy, and Eisenbud gained their confidence. When she went on tour, Sharapova and her father wanted Eisenbud with them.
Eisenbud credits the IMG machine for making Sharapova the nearly $30 million-a-year woman, but good agents are only as good as the trust their clients have in them. It was Eisenbud’s idea that Nike expand its ties with Sharapova to the company’s Cole Haan unit, and he is constantly pressuring her sponsors to activate around her.
Now Eisenbud is shepherding projects that he hopes will see Sharapova through past the end of her playing career. She is getting into TV, and Eisenbud is pitching a permanent Sharapova Nike line that other players will one day wear, the way some NBA players today wear the Jordan brand.
Less than two years after a radical corporate reorganization, Citizen Sports Network and its chief executive, Mike Kerns, are now part of the conversation among major digital sports media properties.
The former operator of the stock market-inspired fantasy operation ProTrade reconstituted itself in 2008 as a large-scale purveyor of fan communities and fantasy gaming via social-networking portals and through mobile devices.
As a result, Citizen Sports Network was among the vanguard of creating a distributed content strategy in which it leveraged the power of external networks such as Facebook as opposed to trying to draw users to the single destination site it operates.
The new operating model paid big dividends during 2009, a year in which Kerns and Citizen Sports struck a sales and content partnership with MLB Advanced Media, more than doubled its revenue and its aggregate audience to more than 3 million unique users per month, and achieved intermittent profitability. It launched fantasy games for the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga, and a large suite of iPhone and Android applications through its Sportacular unit that drew more than 2.5 million total installations.
An expanded sales force has paved the way for major advertising deals with top corporate clients such as Burger King, AT&T, Marriott, Miller Lite and Finish Line.
“People are turning to our services. We feel like we’ve definitely connected with a segment of the market,” Kerns said. “We staked out a position where we can successfully compete and coexist with the traditional operators.”
Mike McCarley had an epiphany over Thanksgiving weekend in 2008. The NBC executive had just awakened at his in-laws’ house in Dayton, Ohio, and was half asleep as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
The “Today Show” was on in the background when he heard his mother-in-law imitating Al Roker giving the weather forecast for the upcoming “Sunday Night Football” game.
“If my mother-in-law knows about the Sunday night game, then there are people all across the country who aren’t big football fans that know about the game,” McCarley said.
The moment made an impression on McCarley, who developed a successful blueprint for broad-based marketing campaigns designed to attract non-sports fans to NBC’s biggest sporting events.
NBC’s ratings have been nothing short of spectacular during the time McCarley rolled out his marketing strategy. The result was a Super Bowl that set a viewership record (which has since been broken), the most-watched Kentucky Derby in 20 years, and the most-watched NHL game in 37 years.
In each case, McCarley worked closely with league partners to develop the campaigns. Maintaining those strong partnerships has been a priority for NBC Sports’ executive team for decades, and one McCarley takes seriously.
“He has taken on a much broader role in the industry, especially with our league partners and top advertisers, that has enabled him to become one of the most important executives in his field,” said NBC Universal Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol.
It’s impossible to talk about McCarley without referencing Ebersol, the legendary sports TV executive who has brought McCarley into his trusted inner circle.
Ebersol refers to McCarley as “one of my closest confidants and most trusted advisers. … He is one of the few leaders that truly touches all areas of NBC Sports. He has been entrusted as a key steward of the NBC Sports brand that I hold very close to my heart.”
A key component of that brand is delivering large broadcast audiences through broad promotion. McCarley clearly has been successful achieving that goal over the last year.
Bleary-eyed East Coasters should send Mike Mulvihill a thank-you note for his role in having Fox push World Series start times earlier last year. NASCAR fans excited by the circuit’s “Back to Basics” approach also should send kudos Mulvihill’s way.
It’s not that Mulvihill, Fox’s vice president of programming and research, made these decisions. But he provided the research that gave Fox’s top brass assurances that both moves would work.
Throughout his career at Fox, Mulvihill has proved to be a valued behind-the-scenes force who helps the network’s top executives figure out what events to air and when to air them. “Sometimes you need more than just a gut feeling,” Mulvihill said.
Fox Sports Chairman David Hill and President Ed Goren increasingly have come to rely on Mulvihill to put hard numbers behind the network’s sports schedule.
“Mike is always dead on in his forecasting,” said Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive vice president of business. “He is a big contributor to the strength of our Fox partnership.”
Fox’s move to push up the start times of World Series games is emblematic of the value Mulvihill brings to the network.
Mulvihill always had been a staunch supporter of later start times, with decades’ worth of statistics demonstrating that later start times would lead to bigger television ratings. But as Mulvihill scoured the ratings reports from the 2008 World Series, he saw ratings drop off quickly after the traditional 11 p.m. ET bounce.
The key was 11 p.m. Typically, televised sports events would see a bump at that hour, when viewers click away from the end of prime time to sample a game. Mulvihill found that audiences stayed with games if they were in the seventh inning or later at 11 p.m. The problem with the 2008 Series was that the games were in the fifth or sixth inning at 11 p.m.
Mulvihill believed the time had come to start the games earlier. He sent an e-mail to Hill advocating the change. Hill contacted MLB and kept Mulvihill by his side for a series of meetings that led to earlier start times last fall.
Mark Abbott, Major League Soccer (2001, 2002)
David Abrutyn, IMG Consulting (2008)
Hank Adams, Ignite Sports (2002)
Rick Adams, East Coast Hockey League (1999)
Bill Allard, SFX Sports Group (1999)
Paul Archey, Major League Baseball (2002)
Steve Astephen, Wasserman Media Group (2008)
Mike Bartelli, Millsport (2005)
Mark Bartelstein, Mark Bartelstein and Associates (1999)
Steve Battista, Under Armour (2009)
Patrick Battle, Collegiate Licensing Co. (1999)
David Baxter, Reebok (2001, 2003)
Billy Beane, Oakland A’s (2001)
Dan Beckerman*, Anschutz Entertainment Group (2003, 2008, 2009)
Ed Bennett, NASCAR (2007)
Seth Berger, And 1 (1999, 2002)
Randy Bernard, Professional Bull Riders Inc. (2006)
David Berson*, ESPN (2007, 2008, 2009)
Pete Bevacqua, United States Golf Association (2009)
David Bialek, ANC Sports Marketing (2009)
Robert Birge, IMG (2009)
Katie Blackburn, Cincinnati Bengals (2000)
Ken Block, DC Shoes (2005)
Colin Boatwright, Total Sports Inc. (2000)
Brooks Boyer, Chicago White Sox (2007)
Russ Brandon, Buffalo Bills (2001)
John Brody*, Major League Baseball (2005, 2006, 2007)
Paul Brooks*, NASCAR (2001, 2002, 2005)
Zak Brown, Just Marketing International (2006, 2007)
Anucha Browne Sanders, New York Knicks (2002)
Scott Brubaker, Arizona Diamondbacks (2002)
Willy Burkhardt, ESPN International and ESPN Enterprises (2000, 2001)
August Busch IV, Anheuser-Busch Cos. (1999)
Greg Busch, GMR Marketing (2008)
Faust Capobianco IV, Majestic Athletic (2005, 2006)
Peter Carlisle*, Octagon (2002, 2005, 2007)
Marshall Carlson, Hendrick Motorsports (2009)
Bill Carter, Fuse Integrated Sports Marketing (2001)
Kathy Carter, Soccer United Marketing (2006, 2007)
Brian Cashman*, New York Yankees (1999, 2000, 2001)
Dan Champeau, Fitch Ratings (2003)
Steve Chiang, EA Sports (2008)
Joie Chitwood III, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2009)
Dockery Clark, Bank of America Corp. (1999)
Greg Clark, FleetBoston (2001)
Ray Clark, The Marketing Arm (2001, 2002)
Casey Close, IMG Baseball (2000, 2001)
Bryan Colangelo, Phoenix Suns (2000)
David Cope, Washington Redskins (1999)
Brian Corcoran, NASCAR (2008)
Bob Cramer*, MasterCard International (2001, 2002, 2003)
Michael Crowley, Oakland A’s (2002)
Lee Ann Daly, ESPN (1999, 2000)
William Daly*, NHL (2001, 2002, 2003)
Mike Dee, San Diego Padres (2000)
Jason Dial, Procter & Gamble (2009)
Ben Dogra, SFX Football (2005)
Mark Donovan, Philadelphia Eagles (2005)
Mark Dowley*, Momentum Worldwide/McCann Erickson World Group (1999, 2000, 2001)
Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons (2002)
Chris Dunlavey, Brailsford & Dunlavey (2005)
David Ehrlich, Kroenke Sports Enterprises (2005)
Derek Eiler, Collegiate Licensing Co. (2009)
Theo Epstein, Boston Red Sox (2005)
Damon Evans*, University of Georgia (2005, 2006, 2008)
Peter Farnsworth, NBA (2009)
Marc Fein, Versus (2009)
Ted Fikre, Anschutz Entertainment Group (2005)
Jeff Fluhr, StubHub (2006, 2007)
Tom Fox, Gatorade (2001, 2002)
Brian France, NASCAR (2000)
Todd France, France Athlete Management Enterprises Inc. (2006)
Kathy Francis, Major League Baseball (1999)
Steve Gaffney, Sprint (2008)
John Galloway*, Pepsi (2002, 2003, 2005)
Greg Genske, Legacy Sports Group (2009)
Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. (1999)
Jeffrey Gewirtz, Nets Basketball/Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (2009)
Frank Gibeau, EA Sports (2006, 2007)
Neil Glat, NFL (2003, 2005)
Tom Glick, Lansing Lugnuts/Sacramento River Cats (1999, 2000)
Tony Godsick, IMG (2008)
Todd Goldstein, AEG (2008)
David Grant, Velocity Sports & Entertainment (2000)
Brian Grey, Yahoo! Sports (2005)
Derrick Hall, Arizona Diamondbacks (2008)
Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk Inc. and Birdhouse Projects (2002)
Wally Hayward*, Relay Worldwide (2006, 2007, 2008)
Chris Heck, NBA (2008)
Derrick Heggans, AOL Sports (2009)
Adam Helfant, Nike (2003)
Sean Henry, Palace Sports and Entertainment (2006)
Sarah Hirshland, Wasserman Media Group (2008)
Adam Holzer, Fox Cable Networks (2007)
Tim Hofferth, Nelligan Sports Marketing (2001)
Ed Horne, NHL Enterprises (2002)
Mark Howorth, National Mobile Television Inc. (2005)
Shawn Hunter, Phoenix Coyotes (1999)
Michael Huyghue, Jacksonville Jaguars (1999, 2000)
Michael Jackson, YankeeNets Media (2001)
Charlie Jacobs, Boston Bruins/Delaware North Cos. (2009)
Jeremy Jacobs Jr., Sportservice and Delaware North Cos. (2001)
Louis Jacobs, Delaware North Cos. (2003)
Gary Jacobus, IMG (1999)
Brian Jennings, NHL Enterprises (1999)
Kristi Jernigan, Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation (2001)
Bill Johnson, Ellerbe Becket (1999)
Paul Johnson, PGA Tour (2006)
Jerry Jones Jr., Dallas Cowboys (2008, 2009)
Michael Jordan, NBA athlete (1999)
Dave Katz, Yahoo! (2006)
Wayne Katz*, Proskauer Rose (2000, 2001, 2002)
Matthew Kauffman, Visa USA (2007)
Michael Kelly, South Florida Super Bowl XLI Host Committee (2006)
Lesa Kennedy, International Speedway Corp. (1999)
Sam Kennedy, Boston Red Sox/Fenway Sports Group (2008)
Billy King, Philadelphia 76ers (2001, 2003)
Barry Klarberg, KRT Business Management (2000)
George Kliavkoff, Major League Baseball Advanced Media (2006)
Rick Kloiber, Fox Broadcasting Co. (2008)
Jonathan Kraft, The Kraft Group and the New England Patriots (2002, 2003)
Katie Lacey, Pepsi-Cola North America (2000, 2001)
Janeen Lalik, ISP Sports (2009)
Sal LaRocca, NBA (2003)
Steve Lauletta, Miller Brewing Co. (2002, 2003)
Mark Lazarus*, Turner Sports (2000, 2001, 2002)
Peter Lazarus, NBC Universal/IMG (2006, 2007)
Rita Benson LeBlanc, New Orleans Saints (2007, 2008)
Joe Leccese, Proskauer Rose (1999)
Rich Lehrfeld, American Express (2007)
Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins (2000)
Michael Levine*, Van Wagner Sports Group/CAA Sports (2006, 2007, 2008)
Sam Levinson, ACES (2003)
Tom Lewand, Detriot Lions (2003, 2005)
Mark Lewis, Olympic Properties of the United States and Salt Lake Organizing Committee/Utah Athletic Foundation (2001, 2002)
Jon Litner*, ABC Sports/NHL (1999, 2000, 2001)
Dan Lozano, Beverly Hills Sports Council (2002, 2005)
Ellen Lucey, Coca-Cola Co. (2006)
Greg Luckman, GroupM ESP (2009)
Burke Magnus, ESPNU (2006)
Dan Mannix, LeadDog Marketing Group (2007)
Warde Manuel, University of Buffalo (2008)
Wade Martin, Dew Action Sports Tour (2005)
Elliott McCabe, Bank of America (2002, 2003)
Mike McCarley, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics (2009)
Kevin McClatchy*, Pittsburgh Pirates (1999, 2000, 2001)
Patrick McGee, Octagon (2002, 2003)
Tom McGovern, OMD (2002, 2003)
Chris McGuire, Adidas America (2009)
Duane McLean, Seattle Seahawks (2001)
Dan Meis, NBBJ Sports and Entertainment (1999, 2000)
Marla Messing, Women’s World Cup (1999)
Bruce Miller, HOK Sport + Venue + Event (2003)
Percy Miller, No Limit Sports (1999)
David Mingey, Johnson & Johnson (2009)
Bernard Muir, Georgetown University (2007)
Peter Murray, NFL (2005, 2006)
Sarah Nettinga, NASCAR (2007)
Jon Niemuth, Ellerbe Becket (2006)
Howard Nuchow*, Mandalay Sports Entertainment/CAA Sports (2003, 2007, 2008)
Mary O’Connor, The Marketing Arm (2009)
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR (2008)
Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Gatorade (2009)
Susan O’Malley, Washington Sports and Entertainment (1999, 2000)
Scott O’Neil*, NBA (2005, 2006, 2007)
Jon Oram, Proskauer Rose (2008, 2009)
Ethan Orlinsky, Major League Baseball (2003)
Alan Ostfield*, Palace Sports & Entertainment (2000, 2001, 2002)
Rohan Oza, Glacéau (2008, 2009)
Scott Paddock, Gatorade (2008)
Jacqueline Parkes, Major League Baseball (2003, 2005)
David Paro, SFX Sports Group (2000)
David Payne, CNN/Sports Illustrated Interactive (2000)
Bea Perez*, Coca-Cola North America (2001, 2002, 2003)
Doug Perlman*, NHL/IMG Media North America (2003, 2006, 2007)
Tim Pernetti, CBS College Sports Network (2008)
Tony Petitti, WCBS and CBS Sports (2000)
Peter Pezaris, SportsLine.com (2003)
Steve Phelps, NFL Properties (2000, 2001)
James Pitaro, Yahoo! Sports (2009)
Kevin Plank*, Under Armour (2005, 2006, 2007)
John Pleasants, Ticketmaster (2002, 2003)
Jon Podany, PGA Tour (2003, 2005)
Ed Policy*, Arena Football League (2006, 2007, 2008)
Curtis Polk, SFX Sports Group (1999)
Jeffrey Pollack, NBA (1999)
Jamie Pollard, University of Wisconsin and Collegiate Financial Services (2003)
George Postolos, Houston Rockets (2002)
Gerardo Prado, HNTB Architecture (2007)
David Preschlack*, Disney and ESPN Media Networks Group (2007, 2008, 2009)
Jeff Price, MasterCard International (1999, 2000)
Mike Principe, BEST (2009)
Tom Proebstle, Crawford Architects (2006)
George Pyne*, NASCAR (1999, 2002, 2003)
Scott Radecic, HOK Sport + Venue + Event (2001)
Bob Reif, Miami Dolphins and Pro Player Stadium/Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League (1999, 2000)
Geoff Reiss, ESPN Internet Ventures (1999)
Michael Robichaud, Nextel Communications/Sprint Nextel (2005, 2006)
Gabby Roe, AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour (2008)
Perry Rogers, Premier Integrated Sports Management (2006)
Brian Rolapp*, NFL (2007, 2008, 2009)
Kris Rone*, Los Angeles Dodgers (2000, 2001, 2002)
Jamey Rootes, Houston Texans (2002, 2003)
Drew Rosenhaus, Rosenhaus Sports Representation (2005)
Robert Rowell, Golden State Warriors (2001)
Michael Rubin, Global Sports/GSI Commerce (2001, 2002)
Chris Russo*, NFL (2000, 2001, 2002)
David Salomon, Millsport (2000)
David Samson, Florida Marlins (2003, 2005)
Ralph Santana, Pepsi-Cola North America (2007)
Issa Sawabini, Fuse (2009)
Darryl Seibel, U.S. Olympic Committee (2007)
Wendy Selig-Prieb, Milwaukee Brewers (1999)
Greg Shaheen*, NCAA (2005, 2006, 2007)
Eric Shanks*, DirecTV (2007, 2008)
Mark Shapiro, Cleveland Indians (2006)
Mark Shapiro*, ESPN (2002, 2003, 2005)
Adam Shaw, NFL Network (2006)
John Shea, Octagon (2008, 2009)
Jeff Shell*, Fox Sports Net/Fox Cable Networks (1999, 2000, 2001)
David Shoemaker, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour (2008)
Adam Silver, NBA Entertainment (2000, 2001)
Matt Silverman, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2007, 2009)
John Slusher, Nike (2008)
Daniel Snyder*, Washington Redskins (1999, 2000, 2001)
Molly Solomon, NBC Universal (2005)
Brenda Spoonemore, NBA Entertainment (2002)
Dave St. Peter, Minnesota Twins (2003, 2005)
Ryan Steelberg, Brand Affinity Technologies (2009)
Mark Steinberg*, IMG (2000, 2001, 2002)
Peter Stern, Strategic Sports Group (2006)
David Sternberg*, Fox Cable Networks Group (2003, 2005, 2008)
Jennifer Storms*, Turner Sports (2007, 2008, 2009)
Andrew Sturner, SportsLine.com (1999, 2000)
Shawn Sullivan, Boston Celtics (2009)
Sam Sussman, Starcom USA (2007)
Jim Tanner, Williams & Connolly (2006)
John Tatum, Genesco Sports Enterprises (2003, 2005)
Mark Tatum*, NBA (2006, 2007, 2008)
Shannon Terry*, Rivals.com (2006, 2007, 2008)
Neal Tiles, Fox Sports Marketing Group/Fox Television (2002, 2003)
Rob Tilliss, Chase Manhattan Corp. (1999, 2000)
Malcolm Turner, OnSport (2007)
Heidi Ueberroth*, NBA Entertainment (2000, 2001, 2002)
Keith Wachtel, NHL (2009)
Clay Walker, Players Inc. (2005)
Stacy Wall, Wieden & Kennedy (1999)
Bill Wanger, Fox Sports (2007)
Casey Wasserman*, Wasserman Media Group (2003, 2005, 2007)
Chris Weil, Momentum Worldwide (2003, 2005)
John Weisbrod, Orlando Magic & RDV Sports (2005)
Robbie Weiss, NASCAR (2009)
Dorothy Whitehouse, ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales (2006)
Kim Williams, NFL Network (2007)
Russell Wolff*, ESPN International (2003, 2005, 2006)
Brett Yormark*, NASCAR/New Jersey Nets & Brooklyn Sports/Nets Sports and Entertainment (2003, 2005, 2006)
Michael Yormark, Sunrise Sports and Entertainment (2006)
Peter Zern, Covington & Burling LLP (2008, 2009)
Mitchell Ziets, Legg Mason (2000)
Dana Zimmer, Comcast Networks (2009)
Alan Zucker, IMG (2006)
* Forty Under 40 Hall of Famers
Note: Companies are listed as they were at the time the recipients were selected Forty Under 40 winners. There were no 2004 winners because the award moved from being announced in the fall to being announced the following spring.
Some guys are born salesmen. CAA’s Paul Danforth is one of them. Consider that he was hired in 1994 on straight commission by the New York Mets to sell sponsorships — during a work stoppage. Danforth’s first sale was a million-dollar deal with Dunkin’ Donuts, signed during the 232-day strike.
Plenty of salesmen are glib. Danforth combines that ability with an enviable understanding of human psychology.
“Paul has magnetism; people want to be around him,” said Mark Bingham, who hired Danforth at the Mets and is now senior vice president of premium partnerships at the New Meadowlands Stadium. “He has this absolute passion to get to the next goal.”
Danforth makes his craft sound effortless. “Listening,” he answers, when asked about a salesman’s most indispensable skill. “Too many guys just sell inventory. You have to ask about goals and objectives first.”
Danforth didn’t know anything about the business of sports until he was introduced to General Sports and Entertainment CEO Andy Appleby through a family connection. Danforth interned there and at the New Jersey Nets, followed by jobs with CBA teams, before Bingham brought him in.
With the Mets, Danforth helped land the Citi naming-rights deal, launch the team’s regional sports network and develop a new stadium. He came to CAA in 2007, and since has sold two milestone deals: Delta’s omnibus sponsorship with MSG, and what amounted to a presenting sponsorship to the new Yankee Stadium, before the bank backed out as the financial sector crumbled.
“Every day, there’s a new conversation,” he said, by a Miami pool, during Super Bowl week. “We represent some of the best properties in the world. I’m working with friends I grew up with in the business, and we’re building something special. That’s a lot of ‘wow’ for a guy who was living with five frat brothers in a two-bedroom apartment not so long ago.”
MSG Sports President Scott O’Neil has known Danforth since Paul was a Nets intern. “He’s always looking to make a deal,” said O’Neil, in the midst of a massive renovation project. “If I had an $800 million project to sell, he’s the guy I’d call — and I did.”
Few NBA executives have been immersed in as much of the league’s business as Rachel Jacobson. As senior vice president of business development, Jacobson has spent 14 years working in five departments over three NBA properties.
Her current job calls for strategic management and sponsorship sales for the NBA, WNBA and USA Basketball. It’s a broad set of responsibilities, but Jacobson can draw on her vast knowledge of the league that dates to when she was part of NBA Commissioner David Stern’s first management training program in 1996.
“The goal was to take very diverse people into a training program and understand the different departments,” Jacobson said. “I did that for a year, and then it was like a sorority rush. I wanted something in marketing and promotions.”
Her first assignment was with the league’s global marketing group, followed by a stint in marketing partnerships, where she helped land some of the league’s biggest deals, including the account with T-Mobile, one of the NBA’s most active partners.
Her success brought a promotion into the business development division, where she has flourished. She assumed oversight of sales for the WNBA and recently assumed her senior vice president slot.
“Rachel’s the NBA’s best-kept secret,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. “We are particularly proud of her. She was part of our first entry-level management class and has developed up through the system.”
Sports has always been in Jacobson’s blood. Before joining the NBA out of Cornell University, Jacobson interned at Monmouth Park Racetrack. She felt at home there because her grandparents owned thoroughbreds, and her father, an attorney, is a pedigree expert who advises owners on which horses to buy.
For Jacobson, handicapping a horse race is as natural as reading an NBA box score. “I don’t bet a lot,” she said, “but I can give good advice.”
Major change was in the air in Boston last spring when Mike Dee, Red Sox chief operating officer and Fenway Sports Group president, departed the Hub after seven years to become chief executive of the Miami Dolphins and their home stadium.
But rather than look outside for new operational leadership, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino stayed in-house and promoted Sam Kennedy to largely assume Dee’s responsibilities. Kennedy was Dee’s right-hand man and already a key executive for both the Red Sox and FSG.
Shouldered with the additional burdens, Kennedy did not disappoint. While the Red Sox were quickly bounced from the MLB playoffs, the club’s league-record sellout streak at Fenway Park passed the 500-game mark last year and remains alive and well. Club sponsorship revenue actually grew slightly in 2009 despite the global economic recession, with 15 new deals, including ones with JetBlue, Comcast and Qdoba.
FSG, under Kennedy’s guidance, added several clients, including Athletes’ Performance and English Premier League team Fulham FC, and did important early work on Dee’s new stadium naming-rights deal in Florida with Sun Life Financial. And Kennedy was a key liaison with the NHL for January’s wildly successful Winter Classic at Fenway Park.
“You’re always going to have changeover sometimes,” Kennedy said of the period around Dee’s departure. “But what ownership did was refocus and recommit to what made us successful, and made the decision to retain and lock up a number of key members. That really gave us the drive to go after business knowing we were all singing from the same sheet of music.”
Shawn Tilger can trace the start of his career to the day he suffered a serious shoulder injury during football training camp his senior year at Lafayette (Pa.) College.
“My biggest disappointment was also my biggest opportunity,” Tilger said.
With his playing days finished prematurely, Tilger became a student assistant coach at Lafayette and thought seriously about working toward a head coaching job at the college level.
To earn the master’s degree many schools require for those jobs, Tilger studied sports management at Springfield (Mass.) College, where he was a graduate assistant. He completed an internship for the Philadelphia 76ers, and the connections he made in the NBA led to a job as regional marketing manager for the Harlem Globetrotters, covering 38 cities annually over three years.
“Baptism by fire,” Tilger said, describing the frenetic pace of selling tickets, keeping the books and marketing the Trotters.
He kept in touch with his friends in Philly, and in 1998 Tilger was hired as marketing director at Wachovia Center. He moved quickly up the ladder, becoming the arena’s vice president of marketing in 2000 before moving to the Flyers in the same position from 2002 to 2004.
Tilger does a great job of developing successful marketing programs to support the ticket sales staff, said Peter Luukko, president and chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Flyers and the arena. Too often in sports, there’s a breakdown in communication between the two departments, Luukko said.
For example, Tilger, now in his seventh season as the Flyers’ senior vice president of business operations, has been instrumental in developing the Flyers Ticket Marketplace on the team’s Web site, where more than 80 percent of the team’s season-ticket holders share tickets.
Most recently, he was primarily responsible for the Flyers’ generating $400,000 in gross income from the recent NHL Winter Classic in Boston.
Tilger developed travel packages to Beantown for fans attending the game and special events at the South Philly Sports Complex tied to the Winter Classic, where fans could pick up their tickets and buy special-edition merchandise. Not bad for a road team.
Building an $850 million company in 14 years is noteworthy, but the most intriguing thing about Under Armour’s ascension is that it poached a lot of its business and some of its positioning from Nike, sport’s most indelible brand — keeping in mind, of course, that relative size is important. Nike is a $19.2 billion company; Under Armour’s 2009 revenues were $856.4 million.
For Under Armour to close that gap, it will have to maintain its brand equity of energy, authenticity and youthful enthusiasm, tempered by a cachet of cool. Normally, when you get close to a billion, it’s tough to be cool.
“Growth is not the risk,” said Steve Battista, keeper of the brand at Under Armour, hired in 2000 as employee No. 17 in what’s now a 3,000-person company.
“Our challenge is growing the business while keeping the brand premium, so the most important job I have is saying ‘no,’ because so many people want to work with us.”
Consequently, a company seeking to license the Under Armour name for winter canine couture got the cold shoulder.
Battista was trained as a writer and his first job at UA was writing copy. Maybe that’s why UA founder Kevin Plank likes to refer to Battista’s job as “writing chapters in a book.” When asked what he’s most often heard saying around the office, two of the responses played back to Battista by his co-workers are: “The brand is our sacred cow” and “No one person is bigger than the brand. No athlete, either.”
Staying close to your consumer isn’t easy once you start counting revenue in the billions. That’s one reason there’s a new emphasis on consumer insight at UA. Battista wants to be in the market watching how his consumers are styling the product. These days, he’s also often heard saying “Listen more than you talk.”
So while Nike is around 20 times bigger than UA in revenue, brandwise, the two are considerably closer.
“Our consumers always assumed we were much larger,” Battista said. “Once they do that, you have to support that notion on a level with every competitive brand. That’s a big challenge for us.”
With New Meadowlands Stadium scheduled to open in a matter of weeks, Thad Sheely may be forgiven for chuckling about the dark days of the summer of 2005. That’s when, after five years of effort, the New York Jets’ dream of a Manhattan stadium flamed out amid unexpected political opposition and pressure from Madison Square Garden.
“At the time, it definitely felt like failure,” Sheely said. “In retrospect, the position we are in today is the best position for the Jets.”
That summer, the Jets had no backup plan, and their lease was running out in four short years. Mere months later, the team had struck an alliance with the New York Giants, and on April 10 of this year, the club’s vision will be realized with the stadium’s first event, a lacrosse game.
Jay Cross spearheaded the Jets’ stadium effort as the team’s president. When he left for a real estate job two years ago, Sheely assumed responsibility for the team’s stadium operations.
It was Cross who brought Sheely to the Jets in 2001. Sheely got to know Cross when Cross worked for the Toronto Raptors while the club was developing Air Canada Centre. Sheely worked for Prudential Securities, one of the lenders.
Sheely left to get a degree at Stanford business school and interned with Cross at the Miami Heat to help the team with the financing of its new arena. By the end of the summer, Cross offered Sheely a full-time job.
Sheely chose to go back to school, but the Heat job was still his when he graduated in 1998. When Cross left for the Jets in the fall of 2000, Sheely wasn’t far behind.
Now, Sheely has seen through the most expensive stadium in U.S. history, the only facility to house two NFL teams.
“I am in the sports business because it is a business and not because it is sports,” Sheely said. “Sports is the X factor that allows you to do things that you couldn’t do elsewhere.”
At a time when many new sports facilities have struggled to find corporate sponsors, Todd Goldstein, the president of AEG Global Partnerships, was able late last year to secure the first arena naming-rights deal in China for the new Shanghai Arena, a joint venture among AEG, the NBA and the state-owned Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group.
The deal, with Mercedes-Benz, is said to be valued at between $80 million and $100 million over 10 years.
It’s not the first major naming-rights deal Goldstein has done. He sold Nokia the naming rights to multiple areas at L.A. Live, secured the naming-rights deal for O2 Arena in London, and closed many other deals with the nearly 100 sports and entertainment facilities AEG owns or manages worldwide.
Goldstein started at AEG as a sales executive in 2001 and was promoted up through the organization. In 2008, when AEG Global Partnerships was launched, he was named president of the new division. Goldstein reports directly to AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke.
Goldstein says Leiweke “taught me everything I know.”
Leiweke said of Goldstein: “To see him running a division that generates almost a quarter of a billion dollars a year, to see partners grow with us and all of our endeavors, is a real credit to Todd, his work ethic, enthusiasm for life and leadership abilities.”
Goldstein says the global economic recession has taught him “to listen better to the person across the table from me and see things through their eyes.”
“When you come close to consummating a deal,” he said, “you almost have to be on their side [of the table] because to get board approval for these long-term deals is not nearly as easy as it has been in the past.”
Todd Krinsky is the only Forty Under 40 winner who started in the mailroom of the company where he’s still employed. The funny thing is, Krinsky had to work his way into THAT job.
Fresh out of college in the early ’90s, Krinsky arrived at Reebok with a longing. After high school and college years spent listening to hip-hop, playing hoops, selling at Foot Locker, and “spending every dime on sneaks,” Krinsky figured he was a natural. After all, he had 65 pairs of sneakers in his closet. But he flunked the typing test and left Reebok thinking he’d never work there.
Two weeks later, Krinsky had a part-time gig, folding T-shirts. He “parlayed” that into a year in the mailroom. When you deliver mail, you know everybody. One of them, Glenn Bennett (now head of global operations for Adidas), hired him out of the mailroom.
Krinsky wanted to be a marketer, but he knew it was important to learn about product first. He did just that, eventually working at a Reebok R&D manufacturing center in Korea. Soon enough, he was back in the U.S. signing stars like Allen Iverson and forging the convergence of athletes and music that became the Rbk brand. To complement AI, Krinsky signed rappers like Jay-Z. “No one thought we’d sign him,” Krinsky recalled, “and his first shoe is still our fastest seller.”
If there is any continuity in Reebok’s marketing department, Krinsky may be it. CMOs have come and gone at Reebok like cars on the nearby Mass Pike during Krinsky’s 17 years, but now the company seems settled on a positioning.
“If Nike and Adi are about on-field sport, we are more about fitness and training,” Krinsky explained. “It’s still about top athletes, but more on how they prepare and get better. It feels good. It feels like the place we should be.”
Now that he has 120 pairs of kicks in his closet, 20-somethings are starting to ask Krinsky about breaking into sports. His answer is deceptively simple: “Love what you do and remember what everyone told me — product is king.”