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Volume 20 No. 41


Members of the Aramark Sports & Entertainment team, including President Marc Bruno and Michael Thompson, senior vice president of strategic client relationships, stopped by our offices in Charlotte last week to meet with our editorial team and discuss some of the trends they are seeing in the business. If you know both men, then you know that they are passionate about food — two of the top foodies in the business. New technology has been a game-changer for the concession business, including real-time ordering like through Aramark’s test with MLB At Bat. While Bruno said the adoption rate of these new ordering/service technologies has been low, the concept does keep him up at night. “Two years ago, I was concerned that 25,000 people would all order at the same time and we wouldn’t be able to serve them,” he said. “But that hasn’t happened. People don’t want to just sit during a game. They want to walk around. Maybe in a decade you could see a significant amount of food being ordered from a device and delivered to fans. We could see 1,000 food runners instead of 1,000 concession workers.” Among the latest trends, Bruno said at the concession level, Aramark is seeing fans gravitate toward comfort food. “Do it simple, with great ingredients, and make it authentic,” he said. A trend at the premium level is progressive service in the suites. Instead of having guests arrive with all their food and beverage laid out for the evening, one sees a more sequenced experience with appetizers, entrées and desserts rolled out over an evening — allowing fans to graze, he said.

Team presidents in the news: Kudos to Miami Marlins President David Samson, who on April 27 ran 52.4-miles — all in one day. He has raised $600,000 for charity in the run (see story). … I caught up briefly with Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill after reading about his meeting with former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev. Bidwill piloted Gorbachev to New York aboard his Citation jet after the former Russian leader gave a speech at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa. “It was an honor to meet him,” Bidwill said, “and I thanked him on behalf of my generation of Americans who appreciate everything he did for world peace.” Bidwill chuckled a bit when talking about communicating with Gorbachev. “We exchanged some words,” he said. “Some of his words were in Russian, and then he said, ‘yes, yes’ with his translator there. At the airport, as I presented him with his Cardinals shirt, we joked around with it. I found his manner to be very warm and gregarious. There was a lot of non-verbal communication, with hand gestures. I found him very warm and genuine. It really was a true honor.”

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at

While we appreciate your coverage of the 10th anniversary of the YES Network (SportsBusiness Journal, April 30-May 6), it was puzzling to us why your reporter never bothered to call any of the principals, including the Yankees who actually created the YES Network. In sum, much of what was reported was fiction, recounted by people who were not involved. Your publication strives to provide accurate portrayals of sports business, unfortunately in this case you swung and missed.

Randy Levine
Bronx, New York

Levine is president of the New York Yankees.

As we near graduation, I want to provide some advice to the Class of 2012 as its members prepare to enter the job market and, more importantly, life after college. In this column are suggestions that I have shared with my students over the past 30 years or so, augmented with quotes from people whose wisdom and approach to life I greatly admire.

I would like to start out by clarifying advice that is passed along in good faith by professors to students interested in entering the sports world:

The jobs most available are in sales, and that is where you should enter the job market. You can always move to another area after you have sold for a while.

To put that advice in perspective, while most jobs are in sales, you should try to secure a sales position only if you are interested in sales and where advancement in the organization will relate to having been successful in generating revenue. Sales managers want to hire people interested in selling, not those who want to be in community relations and basketball operations.

Now that I have that off my chest (as well as having earned the love of most of the sales managers I know), let me provide some insight from some people who have greatly influenced me throughout my career.

“Take your work very seriously. Go for broke and give it your all.”

Bill Veeck

This is one of Veeck’s 12 Commandments of Marketing. He echoes numerous others who believe you must be present every day in your work and give it everything you can. I saw an anonymous quote that said you should approach everything as if there was no chance of failure — with confidence and all out commitment. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is part of learning and refining and helps you achieve whatever you are destined to accomplish.

“There are 86,400 seconds in a day — however you choose to spend them. They are gone at midnight, and you never get them back.”

Pat Williams

Williams is referring to the adage “Spend your time wisely.” On your résumé, when you list your education or what job you have held, there is a dash. For example, I worked at the NBA from 1999-2006. The dash should reflect what you accomplished during that time: internships, volunteer activities, leadership positions and so forth. Or, did you spend your time becoming proficient at playing “Madden” and beer pong? Williams always advocates the importance of reading, and I couldn’t agree more. The more you read, the more you learn about other things — as well as yourself.

“Some men see things as they are and say ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”
Robert F. Kennedy, 1968

This quote has served as one of the guiding principles in my life and how I have established my career. The quote to me has two meanings: Question the status quo to see if there are alternatives and better ways of doing things, and use your imagination and think outside of your past and current experiences to see what the possibilities might be.
Remember all of the wise men and scientists who told Columbus the world was flat? He simply thought differently and had the courage and conviction to follow his beliefs. Don’t be afraid to think differently, but be able to make a case for your position. Think in aspirational terms.

“To thine ownself be true.”
Spoken by Polonius in “Hamlet,” by William Shakespeare

I define this as knowing who you are and what you want, and being honest with yourself in all things. This also means knowing what you are good at and what you are not good at, and knowing what you like and what you don’t like. While it sounds simple enough, in that quest for the first job, we often forget this and are willing to say and do anything to secure employment. This usually leads to unhappiness and not lasting 12 months in that particular endeavor.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Spoken by Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee

My favorite character speaking in my favorite book and movie. When we are young and fresh out of school, we have opinions, and much of the time those opinions are based upon perceptions created by someone else — in many cases, the media. What Finch is saying is to give people a chance; try to understand them and what they are trying to articulate. Listen and think; don’t be waiting to talk. This is also essential information for the aspiring salesperson. You impress someone by really listening and understanding their position and responding intelligently, not emotionally.

“You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice.”

Seth Godin, author of “Purple Cow”

This is all about differentiation. What makes you who you are? Why should I hire you over someone else? Those are commonly used interview questions, especially for revenue-producing positions.

How do you stand out? And if hired, how can you make my business stand out? Scott O’Neil, president of MSG Sports, has made this his mantra, and purple cows serve as a visible icon in his organization as he believes a staff of purple cows strengthens an organization because they are all remarkable in one way or another.

Congratulations on your graduation, and good luck in your career search. Be a voracious reader and lifelong learner. Remember who you are and listen and respect the thoughts of others while dreaming big.

Bill Sutton ( is the founding director of the sport and entertainment business management MBA at the University of South Florida, and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_Impact.

While the Summer Olympic Games may be the world’s biggest media event, this year’s Olympics is, with its myriad venues around the U.K. capital, also a local story and the ultimate place for Londoners to be.

If only they believed they could get in the door.

From the perspective of those who want to buy tickets, this Olympics is shaping up as a contest in obfuscation. For all the massive effort behind staging the Games, the organizing committee won’t win any medals for transparency in the ticketing sales arena, even though that is precisely what the British public deserves and can have.

In late 2010, London 2012 suggested that out of 8.8 million Olympic tickets, 2.5 million would cost £20 or less (28 percent). The London Olympic Organizing Committee has refused to provide information to prove whether cheaper tickets were spread equally across all events, or concentrated in events such as soccer, where supply exceeds demand. The group has instead decided to keep the data private until the conclusion of the process.

LOCOG has been criticized for potentially damaging public trust by being unnecessarily secretive about ticket sales. In my view, such criticism is, unfortunately, on point. The data itemizing precisely how tickets have been allocated is available, but officials have chosen not to be transparent. The issue is not that the organizing committee members can’t provide a detailed analysis of approximately 7 million tickets that have already been sold for the 2012 Games. It’s that they’ve chosen not to, and it’s difficult to understand why.

The organizing committee says that 75 percent of all tickets will be sold to the British public, promising fairness and affordability in allocation and pricing. If they have the ticket allocation data and it supports what they claim, why not release it? Why not cut off public criticism (and there has been a good deal of it) before the outcry grows justifiably louder?

LOCOG’s critics, including the London Assembly, maintain that there is too much secrecy surrounding the allocation and pricing of tickets for the Games — which they claim is shutting out locals from purchasing tickets at affordable prices. Britons are footing the bill for the $14.6 billion London Games. At the very least, they deserve to know if they have a shot at getting tickets to the Games, especially for the men’s 100-meter final and other popular events. The data is available, even if the tickets are not.

London Assembly members want an accounting of how many tickets have been sold so far, and at what price, to determine if a disproportionate number of tickets have been sold at higher prices. The Assembly first asked for the information at the start of 2011. Other Olympic committees, including Sydney’s in 2000, were able to provide that kind of data in a timely fashion. Surely, given the advances in technology over the past 12 years, LOCOG has the capability to provide the analysis now.

With last week’s release of 1.4 million soccer tickets, Britons are finally getting an opportunity to purchase tickets for the Games. If LOCOG wants to regain trust from the people who are paying for the 2012 Olympics, the organizing committee needs to make the ticketing sales process completely transparent from here on.

Based on our experience, and that of Olympics past, an aversion to transparency signals bigger issues. Where there’s smoke, there is too often fire. I sincerely hope that’s not the case here and that this situation is just a matter of a poor expectation-setting. If that is indeed the case, my recommendation to the committee is to eliminate any cloud of suspicion and make the data available now. Transparency is the great disinfectant.

Tony Knopp is CEO and co-founder of SpotlightTMS ( and was formerly with StubHub and AEG.