SBJ/July 2-8, 2012/In Depth

All American Games

Headquarters: Wharton, N.J.

What they do:
Own and operate all-star football games and camps spanning middle school to high school seniors. The flagship U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio features the top 90 high school football players in the nation. Backers include the U.S. Army, Eastbay, Oakley, Gatorade and Adidas. Revenue for the company overall ranges from $10 million to $12 million annually and company executives say it is profitable.

What’s next: The company wants to expand its football camps domestically and overseas, and apply the same structure used for its football camps and all-star games for other team sports.

A look at the résumés assembled by players who have gone through the games and camps organized by All American Games tells the story of a company with considerable clout.

Since the company started in 2000 with the first U.S. Army All-American Bowl, pitting the nation’s best high school players in an East-West matchup, 400 alums have gone on to play college football, 200 became NFL draft picks and seven won Super Bowl rings. This year, Andrew Luck became the first alum selected as the No. 1 overall draft pick.

Other than that, the company hasn’t achieved much. Unless, of course, you consider a long-running broadcast contract with NBC of significance. Or an expanding sponsorship with Adidas that will make the company the head-to-toe supplier (minus shoulder pads and helmets) for football players in the all-star game, 40 spinoff instructional camps for elite players, and related properties for middle-school standouts.

Photo by: COURTESY OF ALL AMERICAN GAMES
Chairman Doug Berman and President Rich McGuinness first met in 1989 when Berman was campaign manager for New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Jim Florio. After Florio won the election, Berman became his treasurer and McGuinness, who had recently graduated from college, joined the administration as Berman’s driver and assistant.

They went their separate ways but reunited in 2000 with the creation of SportsLink, the company’s name until it switched to All American Games two years ago. The privately held company created the all-star high school football game in the vein of the McDonald’s All-American basketball game.

“If you could bring together all of the top-flight athletes in their senior year, that would be an event interesting to people who follow sports,” Berman said, recalling the inspiration for the game. “And it has the opportunity to connect those companies that are interested in reaching high school and youth athletes as a vehicle.”

Over the years, the football all-star game morphed into a weeklong series of events. The Alamodome hosts the game, with attendance of 40,000 fans. Band and cheerleader contests, a youth combine and other tie-ins bring thousands of coaches, players and parents to Texas every January.

Its national youth academy, Football University, stages intense weekend instructional camps across the country starting after the San Antonio all-star game and running up to the cusp of the new season in July. Former NFL coaches lead the sessions, emphasizing technique at 40 camps with attendance of 220 to 300 players each. Each player pays $589.

Between the youth combines, the camps and the all-star game, All American Games enjoys years-long relationships with elite players. Sponsors embrace the formula, since connecting with elite athletes who tend to have influence with their peers offers an inviting target.

“It’s the gold standard,” said Mark Daniels, director of football for Adidas. “We like to be able to get our product on the best kids in the country.”

Erik Spanberg writes for Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

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