SBJ/Sept. 23-29, 2013/People and Pop CulturePrint All
After a 13-year career with The Weather Channel, Monisha Longacre is trying her hand in sports as chief product officer for high school sports media company PlayOn! Sports. As the mother of fifth- and ninth-grade athletes, Longacre can personally relate with the product PlayOn! Sports offers. “My husband is a partner with Ernst & Young, so he travels a lot and has to miss games,” she said. “I always said, ‘What he wouldn’t pay to travel and still feel like he is not missing out.’” Longacre spoke with staff writer Stephanie Brown.
■ New title: Chief product officer, PlayOn! Sports.
■ Previous title: Vice president of portfolio management and strategy, The Weather Channel.
■ First job: PR coordinator and assistant to a magician in Boston when I was in grad school to raise drug and alcohol abuse awareness in schools.
■ College education: Undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Virginia, 1992. Master’s in corporate public relations from Boston University, 1993.
■ Resides: Atlanta.
■ Grew up: Born in England, grew up in Northern Virginia — Fairfax County.
■ Executive most admired: Jeff Bezos at Amazon.
■ Brand most admired: Apple.
■ Favorite vacation spot: Destin, Fla.
■ Last book read: “Netflixed,” by Gina Keating.
■ Last movie seen: “42.”
■ Favorite movie: “The Blind Side.”
■ Favorite musician/band: The Script.
■ What’s the biggest challenge in your new position?
There is so much opportunity here and so many great ideas and angles that we can take this business in. The challenge is going to be first coming up with what are the right things to prioritize. It’s so easy to get distracted and try to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
■ What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
At The Weather Channel I was on the digital product side for 10 years and literally worked with customers, marketing, the business side, and three years ago I decided to take a big plunge and go to the IT side. It was really frightening because I wasn’t an IT person and had no background in it, but I felt if I was ever going to be a strong business product person I needed to understand it. If everything is driven by technology, I needed to have that experience.
■ What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
The Weather Channel asked a small group of us to start up our own desktop app within six months, and we built this software application and grew it into a profitable business.
■ What is your biggest professional disappointment?
For grad school I applied to Boston University, Cornell, Syracuse and the University of Pennsylvania. I got into all of them except the University of Pennsylvania, which is where I really wanted to go. So it was my first real dose of rejection and I had a really hard time with it, because you never get an answer of why. But it taught me you have to leave those things behind and build on the opportunities that are in front of you.
■ What is the one element you would like to see changed about the sports industry?
That kids get to enjoy the sport for the sport itself. I’ve been a huge advocate for my kids to play multiple sports and to just have fun, build teamwork and not worry about “Where is this going to take me?” It is sad to see recruiting activities start at ninth and 10th grade, where they are already looking into those collegiate and professional opportunities, because that is not the core of what high school sports are for 99 percent of the kids.
The Arizona Diamondbacks named Josh Holley manager of ticket operations.
The Portland Trail Blazers named Jim Taylor head of the newly created basketball communications department, and Michael Lewellen head of the newly created corporate communications and public engagement department.
Babson College named Kayla Pomponi athletics business and operations manager.
Southern Methodist University named Kurt Pottkotter senior associate athletic director for development. Pottkotter led SMU’s National Major Giving team.
Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education named Vince Gennaro curriculum assessment and evaluations chair, Joe Favorito industry relations director, and Bess Brodsky sports career specialist for its master of science program in sports management.
Georgia Tech named Shoshanna Engel associate athletic director for compliance. Engel had been assistant provost for student-athlete compliance at Tulane University.
James Madison University’s Duke Club named Dave Biancamano associate athletic director for fundraising and external development and Aaron Epstein assistant director of development. Biancamano was director of development for the athletic department at Rice University, and Epstein was coordinator of the athletic fund and VIP programs at Oakland University.
New Mexico State University named David McCollum to the newly created position of deputy athletic director. McCollum was owner and chief executive officer of FIG Publications.
Olivet College named David Sichterman athletic director. Sichterman was director of athletics and wellness and men’s basketball coach at Marygrove College.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Athletic Director Andy Geiger retired.
Bucknell University hired Chad Mason as associate director of athletics for operations and events. Mason was associate athletic director at Southern New Hampshire University.
International Speedway Corp. named Chip Wile president of Darlington Raceway. Wile was director of business development for the Motor Racing Network.
The Pittsburgh Steelers named Ryan Huzjak director of corporate partnerships and sales. Huzjak was director of partnership marketing for the Chicago Bears.
The First Tee of Greater Houston named Doug Earle executive director.
The St. Louis Blues promoted Doug Armstrong to president of hockey operations, general manager and alternate governor, and Bruce Affleck to president of business operations and alternate governor.
The Collegiate Licensing Co. named Marcus Dittmer apparel management manager. Dittmer was sports information director at Georgia Tech.
Team One promoted Hallie English to account executive for experiential marketing and Kerry Roach to assistant account executive for experiential marketing.
Wasserman Media Group named Philip Grieco director of consulting. Grieco was with the NBA’s team marketing and business operations department.
Flocasts hired David Weiss as senior vice president of multimedia sales and Phil Wendler as vice president of multimedia sales. Weiss was vice president of USA Today High School Sports Division, and Wendler was senior director of sales and partnerships for USA Today Sports Media Group.
USA Today Sports Media Group named Chris Korman senior editor. Korman was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun.
Fox Sports promoted Robert Gottlieb to executive vice president of marketing.
Turner Sports promoted Tara August to vice president of talent services, Steve Fiorello to vice president and coordinating director, Rodney Triplett to editorial content director, and Andrea Waterhouse to vice president of design for its creative services sports unit.
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Pyne enters new NFF hall of fame
The National Football Foundation formally inducted George Pyne (right), president of sports and entertainment at IMG Worldwide, into its newly formed NFF Leadership Hall of Fame on Sept. 10 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Among the more than 800 people on hand were ESPN’s George Bodenheimer, the NFF’s Steve Hatchell and Archie Manning, and ESPN’s John Skipper.
Photos by:GENE BOYERS
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with Pyne.
CBS Sports’ Sean McManus and Turner Broadcasting’s David Levy.
Executive power at NASCAR Green Summit
NASCAR’s Brian France with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and former Vice President Al Gore, both of whom spoke at the NASCAR Green Summit Delivered By UPS on Sept. 11 in Chicago. The summit featured discussions focused on the strategy of NASCAR’s Green platform.
Photo by:BRAIN KERSEY / NASCAR VIA GETTY IMAGES
Legends of tennis
More than 450 people were at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City on Sept. 6 for The Legends Ball presented by BNP Paribas, hosted by the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, where 19 Hall of Fame tennis legends gathered on stage: Front row (from left): Russ Adams, Vic Seixas, Monica Seles, Bud Collins, Michael Chang, Tracy Austin, Martina Navratilova, Rod Laver, Chris Evert, Peachy Kellmeyer. Back from left: Stan Smith, Jan Kodes, Dick Savitt, Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell, Pam Shriver, Owen Davidson, Donald Dell, Butch Buchholz.
Photo by:INTERNATIONAL TENNIS HALL OF FAME
NHL hall of famer Wayne Gretzky attends the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Alvarez boxing match at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sept. 14 in Las Vegas.
Photo by:BRYAN STEFFY / GETTY IMAGES FOR SHOWTIME
At the U.S. Open
CAA’s Greg Luckman and Time Warner Cable’s Jeffrey Hirsch enjoy the U.S. Open from the TWC suite.
Photo by:LOUIE LOU
Disney, ESPN team with Special Olympics
The Walt Disney Co. and ESPN on Sept. 6 announced a global initiative with Special Olympics Unified Sports at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., on the eve of ESPN’s 34th anniversary. On hand were ESPN’s Ed Durso; Special Olympics Unified Sports athletes Sean Bogart, Troy Sundwall and Kaylee Walter; Special Olympics International board member Michelle Kwan; the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard; Special Olympics Unified Sports athlete Mohamed Abdi; ESPN’s Kevin Martinez; and skateboarder Mitchie Brusco.
Photo by:JOE FARAONI / ESPN IMAGES
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; Michael Kowalski, Tiffany & Co. chairman and CEO; and Al Kelly, NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee president and CEO, at Tiffany & Co. in New York City. Tiffany produces the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the winner of the Super Bowl, to be played at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2.
Photo by:ANDREW WALKER / GETTY IMAGES
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Online retail leader discusses becoming a household brand, the focus on mobile and what he’s learned from being a minority team owner.
O ver the next couple of decades, brick and mortar retail will be flat. Growth is going to come from e-commerce.
Now, e-commerce is 12 to 15 percent of all retail. I see that going to 33 percent within a decade. Within licensed sports, it could be as much as 50 percent.
Photo by:BRIAN MICHAEL LAUER / BML PHOTO
This is an inventory and warehouse business. Today, we own $600 million worth of inventory at retail in 1.5 million square feet of space. That makes it an incredibly complex inventory business, which means it’s a really hard business for [brick and mortar] stores to do well — the inventory is too complex.
We carry more than a million SKUs of product today. That’s more than my old company [GSI Commerce] did across a lot many more product categories.
Annually, we spend more than $50 million in marketing, in addition to what we pay the leagues. We’ll adjust that to where we are spending nine figures in marketing pretty quickly. Within a couple of years, Fanatics will be a household brand among sports fans.
We’re a billion-dollar retailer of licensed sports merchandise, which makes us the largest, so gaining share is nice, but more important for us now is growing the whole industry.
We think sports licensed can be a $3 billion to $5 billion U.S. business over the next decade and a [overall] global business of $5 billion to $10 billion.
As far as physical merchandise categories, licensed sports will have the most penetration from e-commerce. There are tens of millions of Americans buying licensed sports merchandise. I want us to have a direct relationship with all of them. I want to personalize their experience and then I will know how to best satisfy their needs.
There’s so much emotion that goes into sports. Mobile [commerce] is a perfect way to tap into that, because you can capture someone in the heat of the moment. I don’t think we are far away from doing something on our sites to capture traffic and sales every time there’s a memorable play. It doesn’t work on a desktop, but it works from a mobile perspective.
Sports overindexes for mobile consumption of content, so that should pull along the opportunities for mobile commerce and licensed sports. We’re focused enough on mobile that we should have close to 50 full-time people working on that by year’s end. We have to innovate there.
Consumers only have four or five apps they really use, so an individual [e-commerce] app per league won’t work. So we need to invest in an app that serves fans’ overall needs and market that aggressively, so that every fan is using it.
I can see a time soon when a fan in a championship arena can get championship merchandise delivered the next day with a few clicks.
Starting around age 7 or 8, I was selling things: baseball cards or vegetable seeds or stationery door-to-door. I had people shoveling snow from driveways when I was young and I would sell their services.
I only had one boss in my life. I worked at The Gap when I was 14, because I lied about my age. The [retail ski shop he had opened] was doing so well, I told them how old I was and they sent me home that day.
The only two places fans should buy merchandise are at the venue and online. I do have a lot of respect for Dick’s Sporting Goods — they have great stores offering a great experience. Among brick-and-mortar stores, companies like Dick’s will gain share, as that total brick-and-mortar sporting goods market shrinks.
Luxury is a very big opportunity for us. We also have a very big initiative in sports memorabilia which we think will change an industry that needs to be changed. There are a lot of authenticity issues we need to fix, and then that business can thrive again.
Amazon is the Wal-Mart of the Web. Sports licensed is a category where brands of manufacturers, teams and leagues really matter. Amazon doesn’t create an environment that satisfies the need of a good brand in any way, shape or form. If I’m buying commodity products I look at Wal-Mart and Amazon as great places to shop.
The Sixers [minority] ownership has given me new and different ways to look at the sports industry. It’s a glamorous business from the outside looking in, but from the inside, it is a lot smaller business than most people think. That means getting the best talent to run it is more important in sports than almost any other businesses.
I spend 20 to 25 percent of my time every week interviewing job candidates, which surprises most people. You look for relevant experience, a track record, cultural fit. I have never asked one of them for references. You get great information for your own back-door references; you get nothing from front-door references.
Agency personnel usually migrate to the client side. Andrew Varga earlier this year did the opposite, leaving Papa John’s after more than three years as CMO to become president of Zimmerman Advertising, the pizza chain’s agency. Many of the sports efforts for Florida-based Zimmerman are coming under the aegis of its Z Sports & Entertainment division, headed by Scott Becher.
— Compiled by Terry Lefton
People will spend a lot of money on a sports platform for the sake of reaching eyeballs, and at the end of the day, there’s no strategic link. No one needs to do sports marketing for the sake of it. It has to tie back to the brand.
Attraction to the agency side: What we call “brand-tailing” has been in this agency’s DNA since its inception. That’s a way of doing business that says it is not about the output of the work you do, it’s about the outcome for the client. ... There are two scorecards you should have: One is a financial scorecard and an income statement as a proxy; the other is a continuous brand tracker, so you know how the consumer is thinking about your brand. You have to live both those numbers every day.
Frequent sports marketing mistakes?: You can spend lots of money on sports or anything else in marketing, but you’d better be able to fully activate whatever you invest in: short term for sales and long term to position a brand correctly in the minds of consumers.
Motivation for consumers other than price?: Every consumer wants value, so you find out what that means in different segments and attract your consumer through differentiation. Value is what they are willing to pay relative to what you have shown against your competitive set. Value isn’t being cheaper; it’s delivering on a promise to your consumers.
A big miss in marketing: Brands too often miss the ability to monetize consumers. There are so many more ways to do that today because of digital marketing. We believe traditional marketing drives digital marketing, so the combination of that allows us to monetize consumers better.
A brand you admire?: Apple takes a 360-degree approach that produces a consistent message at every consumer touch point. Great brands are built on consistency. The consumer never wonders who Apple is. They never stray from their core brand message.
Challenges of social media: The consumer is driving content; it allows consumers to easily talk about your brand, so now we’re trying to monetize and measure. That’s the challenge all of us are going though.