SBJ/Jan. 10-16, 2011/Facilities

Legends adds premium sales training

The joint venture established by the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees is expanding its business to sales training and installing customer relationship management systems while ramping up staff.

Legends Premium Services, a new division of Legends Hospitality Management, the company that runs stadium concessions and premium dining for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, has deals in place with six big league clubs for sales training.

In addition, Legends is installing proprietary CRM software systems for the San Francisco 49ers and the Rose Bowl Operating Co., two clients where Premium Services has full-time employees selling suites and club seats for stadium projects. Legends had been working for the 49ers as a consultant to set prices for suites and club seats. In Pasadena, the deal involves IMG-Legends, a separate joint venture between Legends Premium Services and IMG College focusing on selling premium seats for college sports facilities.

For Legends, the two new lines of business, plus the premium seat sales piece, are part of the plan to expand its parent company, owned by the Cowboys, Yankees and two private equity firms, Goldman Sachs and CIC Partners. Legends Hospitality Management is a separate entity from the two teams, but the clubs have officials sitting on Legends’ board of directors.

“When we started Legends in [October 2008] we wanted to make sure we took care of Yankee Stadium and Cowboys Stadium and build a hell of a food and beverage company, and I think we have,” said Mike Rawlings, Legends Hospitality Management’s CEO. “But it’s not going to be just [food]. The idea was we would be acquiring and starting new divisions and the first one is Legends Premium Sales. We have created a strategy around not just selling premium seats but being the expert in all that and bringing new capabilities in each one of those areas and picking up some accounts. This business is now up and running, and we expect very big things of it.”

Chad Estis is president of Legends Premium Sales. He has hired nine full-time employees for premium-seat sales, sales training and CRM installations. Estis, principally involved in producing $550 million in revenue tied to 300 suites and 15,000 club seats at Cowboys Stadium, continues his job as the Cowboys’ senior vice president of
Chad Estis
Estis
marketing and event booking, but his primary role now will be leading Legends Premium Sales out of Arlington, Texas, site of Cowboys Stadium.

By branching out into premium-seat sales, Legends will compete primarily against CSL Marketing Group. CSL principal Bill Rhoda consulted with the Cowboys to develop their premium-seat campaign in the early days of planning their $1.2 billion stadium, and his firm was a finalist for the Rose Bowl job.

Estis has tabbed Lance Tyson as Legends Premium Services’ vice president of training. Tyson, based in Columbus, Ohio, ran his own sales consulting business for 15 years and worked with the Eagles and with Estis at the Cowboys to sell premium seats for their new stadiums. Tyson and Estis have used their contacts at past employers to sign sales training deals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Columbus Crew, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Those agreements range from monthly to quarterly sessions where Tyson comes into town for a few days and works with both front-line sales people and their managers. As is customary, the initial deals are relationship based. The Philadelphia 76ers’ Joe Ondrejko, the team’s new vice president of ticket sales, worked with Tyson while at the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Tyson came to Philadelphia in August, one month after Ondrejko started with the Sixers, to help him train a 30-person sales staff. Since that time, the NBA club has seen mini-plan sales escalate 120 percent this season compared with last year. Ondrejko said Tyson’s expertise played a big part in that growth of the business.

“Lance has worked across all leagues, and I think he’s the best sales trainer out there that understands selling within the sports environment,” Estis said. “He’s versatile, offers a wide variety of services to the teams with an emphasis on training premium sales but also sponsorship, which our industry has probably been lacking in utilizing outside training.”

The Padres, a current client, have Tyson booked for Petco Park the first week of February. They are also using independent ticket sales consultant Charlie Chislaghi to train a new class of 20 inside sales representatives as the club searches for new ways to rebuild its season-ticket base, said Brent Stehlik, the Padres’ senior vice president of ballpark operations, tickets sales and service and non-baseball events. Stehlik worked with Estis at the Cowboys and Tampa Bay Lightning.

By focusing on sales training, Legends Premium Services joins other entities such as Chislaghi’s Sports Sales Consulting, Game Face and, in the college ranks, The Aspire Group and The DiFebo Co.

On the CRM side, Legends is installing Microsoft Dynamics programs for both the 49ers and Rose Bowl stadium projects and customizing the software to meet the needs for each facility. Moving forward, Estis said Legends can do additional installations and train staff on those systems within a 45-day period. Kore Interactive of Scottsdale, Ariz., for example, is a competitor for CRM installations, Estis said.

“We come at that business from a little bit of a different angle,” he said. “We’re not a tech company. We really approach it from a sales and marketing perspective. We think we’ve created a simplified CRM system that has high usage rates and we apply a lot of training to it, with the end goal being that you’re going to get your salespeople to fully adopt and use it.”

On the college front, IMG-Legends has signed a 15-year deal with the Rose Bowl to sell 44 suites, 1,428 club seats and 32 loge boxes, said Darryl Dunn, the stadium’s general manager. Those new premium seats will help fund the stadium’s $170 million renovation.

Legends hired Jason Gonella, previously AEG’s vice president of premium sales, as vice president in charge of the Rose Bowl renovation. He’s joined by James Peterson, Legends’ director of sales, who sold premium seats for Cowboys Stadium. Both are based in Southern California.

IMG-Legends is also selling premium seats for Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn., the home of University of Connecticut football. That deal is a result of IMG College holding the Big East Conference school’s multimedia rights, said Mark Dyer, the firm’s senior vice president of strategic planning and development.
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