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Volume 24 No. 156

People and Pop Culture

Three industry veterans today kicked off their new sponsorship development program called the 5 Star Sponsorship Academy at The Harvard Club in N.Y. The two-day workshop drew 50 attendees, each who paid $3,200 to attend the event organized by former MSG President SCOTT O'NEIL, Sutton & Associates Principal BILL SUTTON and former MLS Red Bulls President of Business Operations CHRIS HECK. Among the panelists participating in the event geared toward helping execs maximize sponsorship deals are NFL Senior VP/Sponsorship & Media Sales JOHN BRODY; IMG Senior VP & Global Managing Dir of Consulting DAVID ABRUTYN, NHL Senior VP/Corporate Sales & Marketing KEITH WACHTEL and JP Morgan Chase Head of Sports & Entertainment Marketing STEVE PAMON. The NBA has 10 execs attending the program while MLB has eight execs there. Other execs from NASCAR, the USTA, MLS, Clear Channel, CAA, and the WTA also are participating. “The response has been positive and now we have to deliver,” O’Neil said. “We are targeting the next big game hunter with very specific training for people in a certain place and time in their careers."

As co-host of ESPN Radio's "SVP & Russillo" since May '09, RYEN RUSSILLO has covered his share of big stories. But as a Massachusetts native who lived and worked in Boston for seven years, last month's Marathon bombings hit closer to home. Russillo, who was on air when the news broke, said, "It was a little more emotional for me than I probably ever thought it would be." Russillo took some time to touch on how coverage discussions developed as he filled in on "Mike & Mike" the day after the bombings, the effect social media has made on sports radio and what goes on at ESPN's on-campus gym.

Deciphering how to cover the Boston bombings...
It went on all day, all night and into the morning, people trying to figure out, “Alright, what’s the appropriate way to handle this.” And because it’s a sporting event I think it allows for us to go in that direction a little bit more, even though it’s a sporting event that -- let’s face it -- most casual sports fans aren't that locked in to. But it’s something where when I think of myself as a listener, I've gotten annoyed in the past when we've done non-sports stories and I’m driving around wanting to listen to sports. But this story was so overwhelming, it had to be done the way we did it.

Social media's effect on sports radio...
I think it’s made it worse. Because hosts are reading their mentions on their shows, and what ends up happening is you talk to a few voices as opposed to thousands of voices, which is your audience, and it’d be like writing a column and then having people give you feedback after every paragraph. So it can influence the way you do your job, and I don’t think that’s a good thing and actually think it has more of a negative impact on the industry than a positive one. 

Most of my time at work is spent thinking about...
Trying to find ways to develop topics into interesting discussions, because it’s easy to figure out what needs to be talked about, but the most challenging thing is trying to figure out how to talk about it in a way that just ignites any kind of discussions, and it actually is a little more complicated than you would think. ... When you’re doing a national show, I think you’re seeing more and more people talking less about games and players, and just breakdowns because they want to get more of a reaction to more dramatic topics. So that’s why a lot of this stuff that has nothing to do with games seems to have a lot more staying power. 

Best advice I've ever received...
There’s a fine line between persistent and annoying, and it’s up to you to figure out which one you are. From a boss back in the day, ... a guy back in Boston that didn't want to hire me.

Behind the Bristol curtain...
The gym at ESPN is great. The funny thing about it is, if you’re in there with a guy that played professionally, none of them lift heavy. They’re all in there doing like maintenance stuff, leg weights. Like, MARK SCHLERETH is probably one of the strongest people I've ever met, and he’s just in there doing his thing getting loose, and then I’ll go in and try to lift a ton of weights and I look like an idiot.

Best bite near ESPN HQs...
Grant’s for a business lunch. It’s a high-end comfort food sort of thing, and is a big favorite of ESPN staffers.

My guilty pleasure...
There was a stretch there where I was locked into a few of the "Housewives" series, and that was more relationship-based, and I've since been able to eliminate that part of my life -- the shows.

The Chiefs named Bears Pro Scouting Dir CHRIS BALLARD Player Personnel Dir (Chiefs)....Sports Video Group named Turner Sports VP/Operations & Technology TOM SAHARA Chair (SVG)....The PGA of America named TPC San Antonio Senior GM & Dir of Golf JIMMY TERRY PGA Village GM, effective June 1 (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 5/8)....Harvard Univ. named TIM WILLIAMSON AD/Communications, removing his interim title (Harvard)....Lewis & Clark College AD CLARK YEAGER, who held the title since '08, has "left the position effective immediately" (, 5/6)....The Maryland Department of Agriculture named JACK SYMINGTON GRISWOLD JR. and KARIN MARIE DEFRANCIS to the Maryland Horse Industry Board, and reappointed BOD members RON MACNAB, ELI SOLOMON and DOROTHY TROUTMAN (, 5/7).

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Dolphins Owner STEPHEN ROSS yesterday pledged to donate the bulk of his $4B fortune to charity upon his death, "joining a list of prominent billionaires in the so-called 'giving pledge.'" Ross was one of nine billionaires whose pledges were announced. His letter in the announcement lists among his philanthropic interests the Univ. of Michigan Ross School of Business that bears his name, and a “foundation he is forming to pursue sustainable models of urban living” (MIAMI HERALD, 5/8).

THE BLUEPRINT: Brazilian soccer player NEYMAR reportedly has been “selected as one of the latest sports stars" to join JAY-Z’ Roc Nation Sports agency. Jay-Z also is reportedly “aiming to bring the Brazilian talents” of MF LUCAS MOURA and F LEANDRO DAMIAO to Roc Nation Sports (, 5/7). Meanwhile, SETH JONES, the top-rated NHL Draft prospect, has been linked to Roc Nation Sports and he said, "Jay-Z in the world of sports will be big. He’s trying to become an agent right now. I’m obviously extremely excited, I mean it's Jay-Z. Maybe I get the chance to meet him one day. It could open up a lot of doors for me and my family” (“E:60,” ESPN, 5/7).

BOOK REPORT:’s Bruce Jenkins wrote he was “anxious to read” JIMMY CONNORS’ new book “The Outsider” until he "learned how disgracefully" Connors treats Tennis HOFer CHRIS EVERT. Jenkins: “Some things need to remain hushed, forever, and Connors -- still on the rampage, apparently -- blew open a door that should have remained closed" (, 5/7).

AWARDS & HONORS: The Missouri House on Monday passed a bill that would name a portion of the new Mississippi River bridge after late Baseball HOFer STAN MUSIAL (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/7)....Duquesne Univ. officials yesterday announced a $1M endowed scholarship named in honor of late Baseball HOFer ROBERTO CLEMENTE, to be “awarded to Hispanic students entering the university as freshmen" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE, 5/8)....The Sports Society and Delta Psi Kappa last night honored former FSU Women’s AD BARBARA PALMER with the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Award (MIAMI HERALD, 5/8)....Saints coach SEAN PAYTON “received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree Saturday” from his alma mater, Eastern Illinois Univ. (, 5/8).

NAMES: Actor MICHAEL J. FOX on Friday was interviewed for an episode of Bravo's "Inside the Actors Studio” with host JAMES LIPTON at the NHL Powered by Reebok Store in N.Y., where the two “talked hockey” next to the Stanley Cup (, 5/7)….Nationals manager DAVEY JOHNSON on Monday spoke at the GOP’s weekly Whip meeting (, 5/7)….Bruins D ZDENO CHARA has been “a little miffed that he can’t always find a place to park his cars on the water side” of his home at the Union Wharf condo complex in Boston. Chara “aired his auto grievances in a letter to fellow tenants” (BOSTON HERALD, 5/8).

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