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Volume 21 No. 1
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Forty Under 40

Photo by: IMG
If there were any doubts in his family that Michael Brown would be a success in sports marketing, they were eliminated shortly after he was out of college when Brown helped his father’s health care company decide where to buy a sign at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. In retrospect, the answer was simple: Put it in left field, since Mark McGwire is right-handed.

In September 1998, when McGwire’s record 62nd homer flew past the BJC Health System sign in left and was replayed millions of times thereafter, it seemed like genius.

But like so many who want to work in sports, finding a way in was not easy. By his senior year at Vanderbilt, Brown had collected around 75 rejection letters from teams, “but I knew I loved sports and marketing, so I was determined to find a path,” he said.

Combining those penchants with a passion for golf, Brown went from an internship with the Bell South Senior Classic to his first real job in sports marketing in 1996, with ISES (a predecessor to today’s Team Epic), followed by stints with agencies DMB&B, Clarion and ARC Marketing. Brown went to Octagon in 2002 just in time to work on Nextel’s title sponsorship of the top NASCAR circuit.

An itch to work on the brand side took Brown to Subway as senior brand manager, sports and entertainment, and to Glaceau/Vitaminwater, where he orchestrated some memorable guerrilla marketing, like Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher wearing a Vitaminwater cap during Super Bowl XLI Media Day. To protect league sponsor Gatorade, the NFL fined Urlacher $100,000 (which was reimbursed by Glaceau), a fraction of the media value generated by the rogue cap.

IMG came courting in late 2007 and Brown’s presence has helped reposition IMG Consulting from a practice once known largely for its sales prowess to one offering real counsel. Account wins followed, and IMG was named Corporate Consulting Agency of the Year at the 2009 and 2010 Sports Business Awards.

“For business development, you look for a guy who’s a great networker and is as good working a golf course or restaurant as he is at using LinkedIn,” said IMG consulting chief David Abrutyn. “We got that with Michael and you see the results.’’

Age: 38
Title: Vice president, director of global business development
Education: B.S., human and organizational development/marketing and business management, Vanderbilt University, 1996
Family: Wife, Christine; daughters Molly (7) and Alexis and Samantha (3)
Career: International Sports & Entertainment Strategies (1996-2000); ARC Marketing (2000-02); Octagon (2002-06); Subway (2006); Glaceau (2006-07); joined IMG in 2007
FIRST JOB: Construction laborer. I had to join a union.
Last vacation: Napa Valley for our anniversary, last June
what's on your ipod? OAR and Phish for me, and Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus for my girls
Guilty pleasure: Wine — any good pinot or cabernet
Best stress release: Golf
Pet peeve: People who think they know everything
Fantasy job: Jon Diament, Turner Sports executive vice president, ad sales and marketing
WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT: Either clients calling from overseas or just me wondering where our next new piece of business is coming from.
Business advice: Be smart, have fun and you’ll be creating new business.