SBJ/Oct. 21-27, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Former NHL player, agent, GM lends expertise to wife’s sponsorship sales tech company

In a career that has taken him from NHL player to agent and general manager, Brian Lawton’s latest endeavor is away from the ice — in the sales and technology space.

Sportsdigita

Brian Lawton
Key executives: Angelina Lawton, founder and CEO; Brian Lawton, legal adviser and board member
Employees: 21
When founded: January 2011
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Clients include: NASCAR, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Sounders FC, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Twins, San Jose Sharks
Key product: Digideck
Product price: Starting at $25,000

Sportsdigita, a venture Lawton started with his wife, Angelina, launched in 2011. Since then, behind a sponsorship sales platform called Digideck, Sportsdigita has won clients in every major pro league and quadrupled its sales over the last year into the low seven figures.

“It’s another chapter,” said the 48-year-old Lawton, the former Minnesota North Stars center who later sold his player agency to Octagon in 1998, served as Octagon’s managing director of hockey, and went on to become general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008 to 2010. “I handle the contracts and legal work and sit in when I can as a member of our board, but all the creativity and the bulk of the work comes from Angelina.”

The Digideck product, which sells for $25,000 and up, is an interactive alternative to a traditional presentation like PowerPoint. It allows for the inclusion of motion graphics and video and creates 360-degree panoramas of in-venue sponsor inventory.

Sportsdigita sells Digideck to teams and leagues, who then use it in their respective sales pitches to prospective sponsors. The platform enables those targeted companies to see what their brands would look like as game-day signage.

Sportsdigita’s Digideck allows for motion graphics, video in sales presentations.
Among the 25 teams that have purchased Digideck are the Cincinnati Reds, Dallas Mavericks, Colorado Avalanche, San Diego Chargers and Seattle Sounders FC. NASCAR and Michael Waltrip Racing also are clients.

“Digideck helped us move to a digital process and upgraded our overall look,” said George Killebrew, Mavericks executive vice president of sponsorships. “It also increased the speed that our salespeople could generate and deliver a proposal to a prospect.”

Angelina Lawton came up with the concept for Digideck while working two years as senior vice president of corporate communications with the Lightning at a time when Brian also was with the team.

“One of my jobs was to craft the sponsorship pitches, and I always thought there had to be a better way if you had the resources to make the pitches more interactive and exciting,” Angelina Lawton said. “When Brian’s time in Tampa Bay was done, I thought I could bring the idea to life.”

Companies such as Iomedia, which has its Virtual Venue product for the New York Yankees and Knicks and other teams, produce platforms with 360-degree panoramas of stadiums and arenas to help fans choose seat locations. The sponsorship sales platform produced by Sportsdigita is more rare.

Sportsdigita opened in January 2011 with three employees and now has 21. Former Minnesota Twins executive Brock Maiser is the senior vice president of sales. Digideck is sold as a three-year package, which includes round-the-clock service and support by the Sportsdigita staff. The company also has developed eBrochure, a ticketing platform that lets teams provide season-ticket holders with an interactive portal to personalize their buying experience. It has been purchased by the Colorado Rockies, Dallas Stars and Columbus Crew.

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