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Dan Rooney, the Steelers and the NFL grew up together.
That’s how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell began the preface he wrote for Rooney’s autobiography.
Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney
Dan Rooney was born in 1932, the year before his father, Art Rooney, bought a slot in the fledgling National Football League for $2,500. He started working Steelers training camps as a teen, picking up sweat-soaked uniforms after practice, then joined the front office staff after college. By the time he was 32 he was running day-to-day operations of the team. At 43, he became its president.
While he passed daily oversight responsibilities over to his son, Art II, in 2003 — just as his father had passed that role over to him 39 years earlier — Dan Rooney has remained an integral fixture of both the Steelers, and the league, other than from 2009 to 2012, when he served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
For all that he has done to protect and advance the game, and with it the legacy of his family, during his lifelong association with the NFL —
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and senior writer Bill King discuss Dan Rooney's selection as our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, as well as what he has meant to the Steelers, the NFL and the city of Pittsburgh.
He will be honored during the seventh annual Sports Business Awards May 21 at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
Dan Rooney’s impact on the Steelers franchise came almost as soon as he began making decisions. It was Rooney who hired Chuck Noll, an offensive line coach recommended by Paul Brown, setting in place a philosophy committed to consistency and to building through the draft. Since the NFL/AFL merger, no NFL franchise has won more games (437, including playoffs), division championships (20), conference championships (8) or Super Bowls (6).
At the league level, Rooney has provided a strong voice, a steady hand and an unwavering conscience, blending a sense for football and for business in a way that few others could. From his willingness to move the Steelers to the AFC during the merger, to his tempered approach during watershed labor negotiations that incorporated free agency, to his patient, tireless navigation of expansion and then divisional realignment, Rooney has led when the league needed him most.
Rooney mentored players who became coaches, coaches who became executives and an intern who became commissioner of the NFL. It was Rooney who taught that intern, Roger Goodell, the inner workings of the game, as well as the business; Rooney who co-chaired the committee that eventually chose him to succeed Paul Tagliabue.
For all those accomplishments and contributions, his greatest challenge may have been the one he met as the Rooney family faced its first transition of ownership, when the equal division of the Steelers among the five brothers ran afoul of NFL rules. By taking on new minority partners and refinancing the team, Rooney and son Art were able to buy the shares held by the rest of the family.
Born within a year of each other, Dan Rooney and the Steelers would not part.
MLB named David Hochman business public relations specialist. Hochman was manager of media relations and marketing for the NASL’s New York Cosmos.
The San Francisco Giants named Jeffrey Leonard community ambassador. Leonard played 14 years in MLB.
The Seattle Mariners named Alisia Anderson director of ballpark sales and marketing.
The Pac-12 Conference named Jamie Zaninovich deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, effective July 1. Zaninovich was West Coast Conference commissioner.
Memphis International Raceway named Shayna Keller public relations and marketing director. Keller was media relations manager for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
The Atlanta Motor Speedway chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities named Scott Fillmore executive director.
Daytona International Speedway named Matthew Vinson digital marketing manager. Vinson was digital coordinator for High Five Marketing.
The College Football Playoff named Shawn Moore director of community relations. Moore was an assistant coach at the University of Virginia.
The NFL promoted Troy Vincent to executive vice president of football operations and Dave Gardi to senior vice president of football operations.
The West Virginia Golf Association promoted Brad Ullman to executive director. Ullman was director of operations and junior golf.
The PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms Championship promoted Renee D’Agostino to tournament services manager. The tournament also named John Mercer director of sales, Jonah Beck director of operations and Diana Gustafson tournament events coordinator.
The Strategic Agency promoted Jimmy Nicholson to account executive and Nina Pham to marketing coordinator, and named Dave Beck vice president of business development. Beck was vice president of corporate partnerships for MLS’s Chicago Fire.
Joe Mulford founded QM Strategies, a San Diego-based marketing company. Mulford was director of partnership development for the San Diego Padres.
Visa named Lara Potter director of U.S. sports partnerships. Potter was vice president and managing director of communications and brand development for the Washington Nationals.
Fox Sports promoted Pete Vlastelica to executive vice president of digital.
USA Water Polo promoted Stephanie London Krogius to chief advancement officer and Layla Behzadian to membership and events manager. The organization also named Annalece Montgomery marketing coordinator and Jake Mater video producer.
Major League Soccer named Will Kuntz player relations director. Kuntz was pro scouting manager for the New York Yankees.
Sporting Goods and Apparel
Skins, a compression sportswear company, promoted Adam Dudley to in-house sales manager and named Dwayne Yasukochi financial accountant.
Timex Group USA named Stan Brajer vice president of sports sales. Brajer was chief executive officer of Pegasus Sports Performance.
Sports Commissions and Tourism Boards
Professional Tennis Registry promoted Steve Keller to director of education.
Awards and Boards
The NFL Players Association board of representatives elected Lorenzo Alexander, Ryan Clark, Zak DeOssie, Jay Feely, Mark Herzlich, Adam Vinatieri and Scott Wells to the executive committee.
The Tennis Industry Association named Jason Bernstein to its board of directors. Bernstein is the senior director of programming and acquisitions at ESPN.
PHIT America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating inactivity and obesity, named Gary Player a celebrity ambassador.
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Lynx will sport Mayo Clinic name
The Minnesota Lynx announced a sponsorship with Mayo Clinic that includes the team’s jerseys. At the Target Center March 17 were the Lynx’s Roger Griffith, Cheryl Reeve, Maya Moore and Monica Wright, WNBA President Laurel Richie and Mayo Clinic’s Dr. John Wald.
Photo by:DAVID SHERMAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Snider honors Flyers coach at Xfinity Live
Philadelphia Flyers Chairman Ed Snider (center) attended the unveiling of a statue of Flyers hall of fame coach Fred Shero outside Xfinity Live in Philadelphia with Shero’s son, Ray (left), and grandson, Chris, on March 15.
Photo by:LEN REDKOLES / PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
U.S. Open Partner Summit
The U.S. Tennis Association’s U.S. Open Partner Summit on Feb. 25 included Rick Singer of IBM; Lew Sherr of the USTA, ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez; the USTA’s Gordon Smith, Ralph Lauren’s Talbot Logan and Michele Carr of American Express.
Photo by:JEN POTTHEISER
Don Shula (left) and Miami Heat President Pat Riley (right) presented Heat star LeBron James with the Don Shula Sports Legend Award at the Reid and Fiorentino Call of the Game Dinner and Celebrity Golf Classic on March 17 in Miami.
Photo by:OMAR VEGA
Shamrock shakes it for a milestone
Shaking it up for their firm’s fourth anniversary was the crew at Shamrock Sports Group: Andrew Losee, Chad Kelley, Eben Strout, Rob Coppola, president and founder Brian Corcoran, Tim Renyi, Lindsay Dunlap, Andy Labesky and Ben Rapaport.
Photo by:LINDSAY DUNLAP
Prepping Phoenix for Super Bowl
The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee on March 18 outlined activities that will take over 12 blocks of downtown Phoenix and serve as the hub for Super Bowl XLIX. From left: David Rousseau and Jay Parry of the committee and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Councilwoman Kate Gallego, Vice Mayor Jim Waring and Councilman Michael Nowakowski.
Photo:COURTESY OF ARIZONA SUPER BOWL HOST COMMITTEE
Big East Basketball Roundtable
Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman hosted experts at the conference’s Basketball Roundtable on March 14 at Madison Square Garden. From left: Art Hyland of the NCAA, the Brooklyn Nets’ Billy King, Georgetown’s Jack DeGioia, Ackerman, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Fox Sports 1 analyst Stu Jackson, and Big East senior adviser Tom Jernstedt.
Photo by:JEN POTTHEISER / NBA ENTERTAINMENT
Boston owners show up to hear Silver
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was the keynote speaker March 12 at the Chief Executives’ Club of Boston luncheon, in association with the Boston College Carroll School of Management. From left: Boston Bruins principal Charlie Jacobs, Boston Celtics managing partner Wyc Grousbeck, Silver and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Photo by:BRIAN BABINEAU
New digs for CSE
Mark Wright of AT&T (left) and Andrew Saltzman of PlayOn! Sports (right) joined CSE founder and owner Lonnie Cooper as CSE opened its new headquarters in Atlanta on March 25.
Photo by:WARREN BOND
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PHOTOS BY TONY FLOREZ PHOTOGRAPHY
Las Vegas attorney Francisco Aguilar was elected chairman of the Nevada Athletic Commission on Halloween of last year. Two months later, he accepted the resignation of Keith Kizer, who had served as executive director of the group for seven years. As a result, Aguilar, whose day job is as general counsel of Agassi Graf Holdings, has been more engaged in the everyday workings of the nation’s premier combat sports commission than he could have expected.
We have an opportunity to play a significant role in the development of the sport, and I’m thankful to have the opportunity.”
Photo by:SEVEN MAGAZINE
On the costs involved: If you look at Nevada, off our 6 percent ticket tax, we produce about $5.5 million for the state. However, through our appropriation from the state legislature and the governor, we fund the office with less than $500,000; only $500,000 comes back to the commission. The cost to do drug testing is substantial. I think we have an obligation as a state to figure out how we implement a [testing] program that can maintain itself into the future.
Adhering to rules vs. securing events: A promoter can always shop a fight; I get it. But Nevada is going to hold true to its rules. We’re not going to bend for somebody that wants something that we don’t think is in the best interest of the fighter from a health and safety standpoint. I understand the economic development discussion. This city thrives off major events. We’re a part of that formula. However, we’re not going to jeopardize anyone’s safety for that benefit.
On recent criticism of Nevada boxing judges: It’s our responsibility to ensure that we have the appropriate human capital in those seats doing the best job that they can, and we can’t expect the best out of them if we’re not going to provide them the training and resources to learn more than they know. … We know what our obligations are and we want to do what’s right and we’re going to do what’s right.
On becoming chairman: I never anticipated that I would engage at the level I’ve engaged as a chairman, but I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the sport, from what happens on a daily basis in the office to what the fighters’ concerns are to what our human capital faces — from the inspectors to the referees to the judges to the doctors.
— Bill King
A consumer used to be, for lack of a better word, a victim. Stuff came at them they had to take. It was all designed by magic brands behind the curtain giving you the image of the product and you just took it. Now consumers can flick away whatever they don’t want to see.
They look at a lot of things at the same time. They also understand marketing incredibly well. They all talk in the jargon and are very sophisticated and they love marketing. They just want it played the right way, which is transparent, honest and authentic.
Photo by:TONY FLOREZ PHOTOGRAPHY
If you think about what makes the human animal go, it is competition and to be incentivized. That’s why communism was such a disaster. You need to be rewarded and recognized for accomplishment. Sports crystallizes that, what makes humans human. It’s dramatic. It’s exciting. It’s entertaining. It’s all these things and it happens right there and it’s live and it’s visceral.
Sports marketing is very important and a great way to sell things as long as you do it right, which is with quality and creativity and not being a shill.
[The Guinness “wheelchair basketball” advertisement appealed to consumers] because I think not just men, even though it’s geared towards men, but people could see themselves in that situation. It’s not glory. There is no crowd watching. You would like to think you’d do that for a friend. You don’t know how he got that way, but they made this little gesture for him, and that’s what life is about.
It has [sold beer]. It’s no good if it doesn’t sell.
I believe, and BBDO believes, that creativity is an economic multiplier when used the right way. I would challenge you to name more than one or two Super Bowl ads from this year. It just goes right through. That’s a waste of a bit of money.
Creativity is not risky. When done right, it’s actually not risky because it’s going to stick.
We have analytics and metrics that prove beyond a doubt people love athletes. Tiger [Woods’] problem was not what he did; a lot of athletes did many things worse than Tiger did. His problem is he’s not funny.
Today’s audience, they want athletes who are fun and make fun of themselves and who are just cool. That’s not his personality.
The point is don’t ask [athletes] to do too much. Just make it easy, and then also they should be, I believe, willing to have a little fun with themselves and the things they’re known for.
[The AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” campaign] started two years ago. AT&T sponsors the Final Four and wanted to leverage that sponsorship, so it started online to use your phones to do your brackets. I think the best work has, ‘The more you know, the more it seems you lose.’ I do, and then people who don’t know just fill it out and win. It’s annoying.
The whole idea is ask people who don’t really know to get your brackets together, and they’ll help you win, and who would know less than a 6-year-old kid? So it started out where he was interviewing 6-year-old kids, and that was so successful it turned into a national two-year campaign.
Everybody has been predicting the death of TV, but all the metrics say more viewership than ever. I think print and radio are hurting. I think digital and social have become the new print and radio, so I think a combination of television and technology is what the world is today.
We win a lot of effectiveness awards … and what we find is the same pieces that win the creative also win the effectiveness, because when you do it right, it takes both to do something that really becomes part of the cultural zeitgeist and something that people talk about.
I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and ever since I started it’s been like, ‘Don’t go into this business; it’s dying.’ But, again, as I say, all the metrics say we’re in a golden age of television right now. People watch this stuff, and the upfronts still exist, but it’s always good to have these other things going on too.
The Guinness spot hardly ran; the social is what made it famous. Put it this way: Video is more important than ever, but you can put video in 14 different channels now.
It used to be you’d go through this rigmarole to get a script approved. Now you’re making things every day inexpensively.
Lots of stuff, and you’re getting it out there and you see what sticks and then when it sticks, that’s when you throw money behind it as opposed to putting money in the beginning and hoping it takes. It’s actually a more efficient and reasonable way to do it.