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Volume 20 No. 42
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Forty Under 40

On his flight back from a Chase Sapphire marketing event in Lake Tahoe, Calif., Dan Jones reminisced about the early days of sports and event marketing at Chicago-based Intersport. The agency was essentially a production house until 2003 when Jones started pushing founder and CEO Charlie Besser to move more into sports marketing.

The turning point came later that year when Jones helped secure Cadillac as a client for a series of golf clinics across the country. Now, almost a decade later, the Cadillac golf series still is an annual event, and Intersport’s sports and event marketing division is flourishing with Chase Sapphire, TD Ameritrade, Taco Bell, General Motors and Geico among its top clients.

“Back then it was just me and another guy, and it’s grown from there,” Jones said. “In fact, when I started with Intersport in 2000, this group didn’t even exist. Now we’re working with these big brands to help them figure out how to market more effectively in sports. A lot of time and effort has gone into it, but the growth has been rewarding.”

Chase Sapphire, one of the big boys in the ultra-competitive credit card category, has become one of Intersport’s largest clients. Jones was in Tahoe for a Chase Sapphire event that rewarded its most loyal credit card customers with a skiing trip with former Olympian Picabo Street. They offer similar reward experiences in golf, too.

“What I’m proud of are the insights we use to create great programs like Chase Sapphire rewards,” Jones said. “Consumers told us that they already had enough stuff. They didn’t want more stuff. They wanted experiences. Now Chase Sapphire is giving its cardholders the opportunity to stay at unbelievable mountain resorts, ski with Picabo Street and enjoy great food and wine. The credit card category is really tough and there’s a lot of money spent trying to outdo each other, but these experiences are all part of positioning the Chase Sapphire brand.”

Age: 37
Title: Senior vice president, sponsorship and event marketing
COMPANY: Intersport
Education: B.S., sport management, Bowling Green State University, 1997
Family: Wife, Lisa; daughter Emma
Career: Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1997); Ohio State University Department of Athletics (1997-2000); Columbus Blue Jackets (2000); joined Intersport in 2000
FIRST JOB: Sports stringer/Wapakoneta Daily News (Wapakoneta, Ohio)
Last vacation: Cactus League spring training
what's on your ipod? Enough Pearl Jam to drive across the country
Guilty pleasure: “The Voice”
Best stress release: Cooking
Pet peeve: Arrogance and poor assumptions
Fantasy job: Head football coach, The Ohio State University
WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT: Effectively managing yet promoting our growth
Business advice: Be curious. Have a desire to intimately and holistically understand things — processes, organizations, relationships, dynamics, people, partnerships, etc. There are few better characteristics in a person than being curious.