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With more that 20 years in sports marketing, Kim Smither has worked in everything from the Olympics and Paralympics to the NBA and MLB. Having worked in Toronto and now in London as senior vice president of major games for Octagon, Smither is making the move to Los Angeles in September as senior vice president for Wasserman Media Group. She spoke about the change with staff writer Stephanie Brown.
Smither won’t win at Wimbledon, but she can dream, can’t she?
Photo:COURTESY OF KIM SMITHER
■ New title: Senior vice president, Wasserman Media Group
■ Previous title: Senior vice president of major games, Octagon
■ First job: Selling apples from my backyard in a street stall outside my house.
■ College education: Undergraduate from the University of Toronto in physical and health education, 1988. Postgraduate degree in sports marketing from George Brown College in Toronto, 1995.
■ Grew up: Welland, Ontario.
■ Executive most admired: Michael Woodford, the guy who blew the lid off the corruption in Olympus. Proved you can have some morals and still be successful.
■ Last movie seen: I’m embarrassed to admit it, but “Fast and Furious 6” — and it wasn’t my choice. I lost a bet.
■ Favorite movie: Probably not one most people know: “Best in Show.” It’s a comedy about a dog show, a lot of Canadian actors, very funny.
■ Favorite musician/band: Anything disco. Love disco music. It’s just happy music. You can’t help but to just move your feet and dance.
■ What will be the biggest challenge in your new position?
I think the biggest challenge, quite honestly, is that they have so much talent and expertise across different specialties, [so] making sure that I work across all areas. Just integrating all the great talent.
■ What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Breaking out on my own, definitely. And that was when I started my own business in 2000. And then I figured I would take another leap and it was coming over to London with no guarantee of a job, just relocating on my own.
■ What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
Maintaining my integrity and relationships throughout my career. I’ve been in the business a long time, 20-plus years, and some of my former staff and colleagues I’m still very good friends with. And whether I work for the company, there are always people I can call.
■ What is your biggest professional disappointment?
That I never played in a World Cup or Wimbledon final. I wanted to be an athlete. I don’t think professionally I can say that I have a real big disappointment, to be honest with you. I would’ve just preferred to be on the field than in the boardroom.
■ What career advice do you have for people wanting into the sports industry?
Very, very simple: Pay attention to the people who are around you, because the people you pass on the way up could be your boss or your client one day.
■ What is one story you are continuing to watch in the sports world today?
I think probably something that everyone is watching is digital technology and social media. It’s totally changing everything. How it’s consumed, how it’s programmed, how it’s marketed: It’s basically changing our world.
■ What is the one element you would like to see changed about the sports industry?
For RFPs and regular pitches, we’re often asked to provide spec work. I’d like to see clients do away with it. While I appreciate they’d like us to demonstrate our capabilities, I think our credentials, case studies and references can provide the same reassurances. Spec work is expensive, time consuming, and it’s challenging to do on an ongoing basis — particularly when there’s no guarantee of getting the business.
The WNBA’s Atlanta Dream hired Sarah Ryan as sponsorship sales consultant.
The Charlotte Bobcats promoted Larry Jordan to director of player personnel.
The Denver Nuggets named Arturas Karnisovas assistant general manager. Karnisovas was a player personnel executive for the Houston Rockets.
The Orlando Magic named Travis Apple senior director of ticket sales. Apple was director of new business development for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Northwestern State University named Adam Jonson associate athletic director for external relations and executive director of the NSU Athletic Association. Jonson was assistant athletic director for ticketing and operations at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
Northern Illinois University named Sean Frazier associate vice president and athletic director. Frazier was deputy director of athletics for the University of Wisconsin.
Florida International University named Sean Todd director of football operations. Todd was director of football operations for Florida Atlantic University.
St. John’s University named Alioune Ndiaye women’s basketball video coordinator. Ndiaye was assistant coach at Dowling College.
The University of Memphis named Jason Gray assistant athletic director for compliance. Gray was senior associate athletic director for compliance at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Virginia Tech University hired Robert Harris as director of men’s basketball operations.
American Airlines Center named Andrew Silverman chief revenue officer. Silverman was senior vice president of sales and service for the Miami Marlins.
The Green Bay Packers hired Tony Fisher as player/alumni senior coordinator. Fisher is a former running back for the Packers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers promoted Ben Milsom to chief ticketing officer, Deno Anagnost to director of sales and Terry Roy to group sales manager.
The Detroit Red Wings named Tyler Wright director of amateur scouting. Wright was director of amateur scouting for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads named Dirk Manley director of new business and Audrey Adair and Steven Anderson account executives.
The Philadelphia Flyers named Ron Hextall assistant general manager and director of hockey operations. Hextall was vice president and assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Kings.
Coyne Public Relations named Heather Krug general manager of Coyne West Coast and senior vice president.
GMR Marketing hired Julie Yenichek as vice president of client management, replacing Sarah Davis, who left the agency. Yenichek was director of public relations for Lowe’s.
Lagardère Unlimited promoted Ben Harrison to senior vice president of golf.
Fox Sports Arizona named Jeff England local sales manager. England was president and market manager for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment in Phoenix.
The Williams F1 Team named Pat Symonds chief technical officer, effective Aug. 19. Symonds was technical consultant for the Marussia F1 Team.
Insignia Sports & Entertainment hired Brett Ehrlich as vice president of corporate partnerships and media sales.
Sporting Goods and Apparel
Columbia Sportswear named Russ Hopcus to the newly created position of senior vice president of North American sales. Hopcus was vice president of global sales and market development for Keen.
Fanatics named Paul Volen vice president of business operations.
LaCrosse Footwear President Robert Sasaki stepped down from the position.
Awards and Boards
The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics named Mike Alden president, Jim Phillips first vice president, Tim Selgo second vice president, Chris Plonsky third vice president, and Don Tencher secretary. Greg Byrne, Brenda Hampton, Marcus Manning, Lee Reed and Jack Sullivan were also selected as members of the executive committee.
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ACC aligns with New Era Pinstripe Bowl
The Atlantic Coast Conference announced a six-year partnership with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl that will begin after the 2014 regular season. At the Yankee Stadium news conference June 25 were Chris Koch of New Era Cap Co., Mark Holtzman of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, the ACC’s John Swofford, and Randy Levine and Lonn Trost of the New York Yankees.
Photo by:COURTESY OF ACC
Happy campers in Charlotte
The Charlotte Bobcats’ Fred Whitfield (center) hosted his annual Achievements Unlimited Basketball School and accompanying HoopTee Classic July 11 at the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge in Charlotte. With him are longtime camp counselor Kelvin Healey (left) and Garry Howard of Sporting News Media, who has worked as a counselor at Fred’s camp.
Photo by:LISA CAVINESS
Comcast-Spectacor, here and there
ABOVE: At the Front Row Marketing Services national meetings July 17 in Scottsdale, Ariz.: Global Spectrum’s Melissa Wasson of University of Phoenix Stadium; Comcast-Spectacor’s Brian Rothenberg, Global Spectrum’s Peter Sullivan of University of Phoenix Stadium, Comcast-Spectacor’s Michel Sauers and Tom Sadler of the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority. BELOW: At Global Spectrum international marketing meetings in Loveland, Colo., on July 8; Front Row Marketing Services’ Laurie Kemmit, Global Spectrum’s Rick Hontz, Bob Herrfeldt of The Ranch Events Complex and Global Spectrum’s Bob Schwartz.
Photo by:GLOBAL SPECTRUM
Sports biz at Sun Valley conference
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (center) hugs Wasserman Media Group’s Casey Wasserman as Andrew McKenna looks on during a lunch break at the Allen & Co. annual conference July 10 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Corporate leaders in media, finance, politics and technology gathered for the 31st annual conference.
Photos:GETTY IMAGES (3)
ABOVE: ESPN’s John Skipper arrives at the Sun Valley Resort on July 9. BELOW: New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon was also on hand for the conference.
NFL All-Access at the Rose Bowl
At the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission’s NFL All-Access on July 12 at the Rose Bowl: Former player Bill Romanowski, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez, Green Bay Packers equipment manager Gordon “Red” Batty, NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, commission President Kathryn Schloessman, San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy, former Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask and Fox Sports’ Mike Pereira.
Photo by:GARY LEONARD
MLB VP Dan Derian, New York Yankees all-star Robinson Cano and Chevrolet’s Lisa Grutta outside Nasdaq after ringing the opening bell July 15.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
Voice of the Yankees Michael Kay, former MLB player and manager Willie Randolph, The Legacy Agency’s Michael Principe, and former MLB pitchers John Franco and Ron Darling at the “Breakfast of Champions” at the Gramercy Park Hotel on July 15.
Photo by:AP IMAGES FOR THE LEGACY AGENCY
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig; Rachel Robinson, wife of Jackie Robinson; “42” producer Thomas Tull; Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson and MLB educational consultant; and Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner.
Photo by:MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
MLB’s Tim Brosnan and Sharon Robinson pose with Breaking Barriers contest winner Luke Lunday before the 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby at Citi Field on July 15.
Photo by:MLB PHOTOS VIA GETTY IMAGES
NHL’s Cunningham honored
The NHL’s Dennis Cunningham was presented the Distinguished Leadership Award during the National Center for Sports Safety and Security Conference and Exhibition in Orlando July 16-18. With Cunningham are the center’s Lou Marciani; Cunningham’s wife, Brigitta; and 2011 recipient Mike Rodriguez of the U.S. Tennis Association. The center is based at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Photo by:CHRIS WILLIAMS PHOTOGRAPHY
Comcast’s Bruins connection
Comcast executives Mark Reilly and David Cohen visit with Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton and NESN President and CEO Sean McGrail at the NECTA Convention and Exhibition in Newport, R.I., on July 11.
Kastles in the White House
The Washington Kastles were recognized for their 2012 Mylan World TeamTennis championship by President Obama July 8. On hand were Venus Williams, Bobby Reynolds, Leander Paes, Anastasia Rodionova, coach Murphy Jensen and owner Mark Ein, plus tour co-founder Billie Jean King and CEO Ilana Kloss.
Photo by:PETE SOUZA / WHITE HOUSE
Full room for NHRA Sponsor Summit
Attendees at the NHRA Sponsor Summit in Denver on July 18 included NHRA President Tom Compton (seated in center), Ben Reiling and Al Rondon of The Coca-Cola Co. and Tom Fredrickson and Don Corsette of Lucas Oil.
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Chief opportunity officer, Start2Finish Marketing
I am traveling to Iceland and look forward to folding real page corners and highlighting sections of a real paper book.
■ “A Dual Inheritance,” by Joanna Hershon
About two guys who meet at Harvard and is being called the best book about male friendship written this young century.
■ “Who: The A Method for Hiring,” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
Still the most important act we do as leaders, finding the right people for our organizations.
■ “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy
I am a Yankees fan living in Boston, but he is so likable and successful that it would be great to get his take on the greatest rivalry in sports.
Senior vice president of client services, GMR Marketing
Thrillers are my go-to reading for relaxing. I love the way Dan Brown combines mystery with art history and iconic cities.
■ “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand
It was on my book club list and I skipped it. Everyone said I had to go back and read it.
■ “Cooked,” by Michael Pollan
I have read all of his books, and it has changed the way I eat. This is his new one, and I have been saving it for farmer’s market season.
■ “The Lords of Discipline,” by Pat Conroy
I always read an old favorite in the summer. More often than not, it’s a Pat Conroy book.
■ “The Wisdom of Hair,” by Kim Boykin
Spectacular Southern fiction written by our very own Kim Boykin. Perfect for my beach bag!
Chief revenue officer, Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium
Sports is one of the few industries that has millions of fans and very few customers (i.e., 1,300,000 “likes” on Facebook, yet only 20,000 customer ticket accounts). Turning fans into loyal fans, and loyal fans into customers, and customers into loyal customers, is a journey we’ve set ourselves on and need to learn more about!
■ “The Challenger Sale,” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
The selling process is an ever-evolving craft for our sales team and organization. Teach, tailor, take control — all with constructive tension. Chad Estis and the team at Legends would be proud we’re following their lead with this read!
■ “Blue Ocean Strategy,” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
An annual summer read. While sitting on the beach looking at the ocean, always a good time to take a moment to use this book to reflect on where our business is and where it needs to or could go. Ford, Southwest, Cirque du Soleil, Yellow Tail Wines, etc., serve as the backdrop stories of reinvention and defining new paths in industries steeped in tradition.
Assistant general counsel, Boston Red Sox;
General counsel, Fenway Sports Management
A former Wall Street M&A lawyer, Cain explores differences in the psychological makeup of introverts and extroverts and the different traits that allow both groups — despite common societal misconceptions about introverts — to be effective and successful leaders and managers in the business world. The liberal arts/psychology major in me was drawn to this book.
■ “The Interestings,” by Meg Wolitzer
This was the most enjoyable and thought-provoking novel I’ve read in a long time. She tells the story of a group of teenagers from various backgrounds that meet at a summer camp in 1974 and how their camp experiences together keep their lives intertwined through the present day. It highlighted that even the most seemingly inconsequential choices we make at such a young age can change the trajectory of our lives indefinitely, and the importance of keeping the right people close during the journey.
■ “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton Christensen
This book evolved from a speech Christensen gave to the 2010 Harvard Business School class about maintaining professional and personal happiness and fulfillment, and how individuals’ resources and focus can be allocated appropriately and strategically to best do so. I found this book insightful, particularly with respect to Christensen’s observations about identifying a satisfying career path at the outset, since job seekers asking how to start out in the sports industry often do so with a seemingly clear view on where they want to end up.
■ “Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction — and My Own” and “Knowing Your Value,” both by Mika Brzezinski
I’m reading both of these books because whatever the topic, from women’s issues around body image or equality in the workforce to health issues stemming from U.S. food industry practices, Mika doesn’t mince words. (Plus, she’s a Red Sox fan!)
ALBERT “SCOOTER” VERTINO
Vice president and executive producer of content, Turner Sports
A title with two colons in it? Easy call. Yes, the behind-the-scenes anecdotes of several iconic series doesn’t hurt, either. I really enjoy a peek behind the curtain when it comes to the entertainment side of TV. I think there are parallels between that side and sports broadcasting: storytelling, timing and leaving the audience wanting more.
■ “The Forgotten,” by David Baldacci
I should point out that anything he writes, I read. I think I’m drawn to him as a lot of his books take place in the D.C./Northern Virginia area, where I grew up.
■ The Charlie Hardie Trilogy (“Fun and Games,” “Hell and Gone,” “Point and Shoot”), by Duane Swierczynski
I am slightly embarrassed to say I have fallen behind reading Duane’s work recently, and I always want to stay up to date. I’m a bit biased, but I think Duane’s work is consistently great. He is a fantastic storyteller and his stories read like a whirlwind thriller coming to life. (I am “biased” because Duane lived across the hall from me during my freshman year at La Salle University. His talent and drive was readily evident 20 — was it that long? — years ago).
As senior vice president of operations at Sun Life Stadium, Todd Boyan is charged with adding revenue-generating events to the venue’s staples: the Miami Dolphins and University of Miami football. One such event comes next month, with the championship round of the Guinness International Champions Cup, an eight-team soccer tournament featuring some of the world’s more prominent clubs.
— Compiled by Bill King
Photo by:MIAMI DOLPHINS
There are a large number of people coming to the stadium because of the sport of soccer who have never been here before. … The great opportunity for us is to have people become more and more comfortable with coming here, and hopefully that will translate with respect to their attendance at Miami Dolphins games.”
International soccer in South Florida: In 2011, we had Barcelona play against Chivas and broke the state record: Over 70,000 people attended that match. That was really an impetus for folks to say, “There’s an opportunity here.” But we can’t take it for granted. We’ve got to go out and be smart with how we approach that.
Challenges in ticket sales: There are so many different nationalities here that one of the things we’re finding is, they don’t all consume content from the same place. Ecuadoreans are getting their media in a different place from the Argentinians, so one size does not fit all. You’ve got to get into the community. We’re very focused on grass roots.
Impact of the Marlins’ move: We had primary tenants who took up the stadium most of the year. We had pro football, college football and Major League Baseball. There weren’t many openings once you had those three. Take away the Marlins, and that opened up 81 baseball dates, so the opportunities were large and wide.
Soccer events having a broader effect: Colombia played twice here, against Mexico and Guatemala. Colombian fans are familiar with coming here now and are far more likely to come to events, so now we’re also focusing on events that are not soccer. The Colombian Independence Festival, going into its 25th year in Miami, moved to Sun Life Stadium in July. Also in July, we added the Venezuelan Independence Festival. We’ve signed on four festivals and have more in the pipeline. … Our hope is that we’ll attract people who wouldn’t otherwise come to the stadium and they’ll learn more about the Dolphins and want to come back.