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Volume 20 No. 42
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NFL vet Connelly to lead IMG’s collegiate licensing business

Terry Lefton
IMG has tapped former NFL consumer products chief Jim Connelly to head its collegiate licensing efforts as a senior vice president with IMG College, whose Collegiate Licensing Co. has licensing rights for around 200 schools.

“When you see a talent like Jim sitting on the market and available, you kind of want to get him on your team,” said IMG College President Ben Sutton, adding that he had been meeting with Connelly for several months discussing both traditional licensing opportunities and the future of the overall IMG College business.

“Fortunately, our visions for growth were very similar,” Connelly said, “There’s so much upside. Consider how big college football is in many parts of the country and you can begin to rival the NFL at the right retailers in the right parts of the country. Saturday night has become college football night in America, so the opportunity will just keep getting bigger.”

Connelly also will launch and develop a stadium and arena enhancement initiative.

Connelly worked at the NFL from 1982 to 2007. He started at the league in corporate sales and then headed licensing before eventually becoming managing director of NFL Europe. He was named to lead the global licensing efforts at WWE in July 2009 but left early this year after one of the pro wrestling circuit’s ongoing reorgs and purges. Connelly will start his new IMG College position later this month and work out of the company’s New York offices.

Cory Moss, a 17-year CLC veteran who manages the day-to-day operations of CLC out of Atlanta, will now report to Connelly.

IMG College’s Mark Dyer will take CLC off his plate to focus on leading the unit’s business ventures division.
At the same time, IMG College is removing responsibilities for CLC from Senior Vice President Mark Dyer, who will now focus exclusively on leading the unit’s business ventures division, which includes IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions and IMG College Seating. Sutton said he expects to have as many as 10 separate new businesses under Dyer.

As for the new and somewhat vague stadium and arena enhancement initiative? Explained Sutton, “The pro football stadium environment is a few years ahead of colleges in areas like concessions, club seating and suites, and since our college clients are competing for the same dollars, we felt Jim’s NFL background could really help us as we start thinking about ways to upgrade the fan experience in and around college facilities.”

> HOT NEWS: It’s the hottest news in the NBA: The league finally has an official hot sauce. Chicago-based The Hot Sauce Boss has been licensed by the NBA to produce a hot sauce for all 30 teams.

Hot sauce is a category that has exploded in recent years, as have salsa and barbecue sauces. Market researcher IBISWorld says domestic hot sauce sales have been growing at better than 9 percent per year over the past decade in the U.S., with sales predicted to hit $1.3 billion by 2017. Collegiate-licensed hot sauces have been around for a while. CLC licenses 37 schools, including Alabama, Southern Illinois and Texas to Hot Sauce Harry’s, North Port, Fla., which also sells a PBR-licensed hot sauce.

“Whenever you see a retail environment as crowded as the hot sauce market has become, companies will look for a point of difference and in this case we’re it — we’re a way for them to get retail shelf space,” said NBA licensing head Sal LaRocca.

Malik Jamal, the “boss” in The Hot Sauce Boss, explained that his niche is making healthy hot sauce by removing sodium and vinegar. In Chicago, Jamal initially sold unlicensed sauce outside City Hall at a kiosk before moving to outside the United Center and capitalizing on the Bulls’ P.A. announcer giving renditions of “Gimme that hot sauce” whenever Kyle Korver hit a three-pointer.

Eventually, Jamal was approached about making hot sauce for both the Bulls and the White Sox and he received an NBA license. He will produce a label for each NBA team and have his various mixes (watermelon, strawberry, coconut/pineapple, guava/mango, among them) in various NBA arenas this season. Retail pricing for a 5-ounce bottle will range from $3.99 to $5 at arenas. Outside of arenas, distribution is starting with restaurants and health food stores because of the sauce’s healthy positioning. Jamal says he hopes to be in retailers as large as Wal-Mart and Walgreens soon.

“Ethnic cuisine has grown and people are more willing to experiment with spicy foods,” he said, while adding he knows someone who uses hot sauce on pancakes. “Hot sauce is the new salt and pepper.”

Jamal hopes to offer a line of MLB hot sauce next.

Sports marketer Steve Disson is tied to TV skating events but has expanded his offerings.
> COMINGS & GOINGS: For years, Steve Disson’s name has been synonymous with televised skating events. He’s created more than 200 made-for-TV skating shows, many airing on NBC. More recently though, the former ProServ executive has expanded into things like a made-for-TV beach volleyball tournament for Hilton in Hawaii, as well as beach soccer and taking Pandora Jewelry, which was title sponsor of the NBC skating series, into an umbrella sponsorship for Mannheim Steamroller’s holiday tour. Additionally, Disson helped negotiate an endorsement deal with Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and her mom for Pandora. “We’re a brand that celebrates women, and these marketing programs are connecting us with the right consumers at the right time, especially during the holidays,” said Pandora CMO Angel Ilagan.

Accordingly, the principal is changing the name of what has been Disson Skating for more than a decade to Disson Sports and Entertainment in order to drive the point home that his firm negotiates rights and creates events of any kind for corporate clients. “We’ll never leave the skating world,” said Disson, whose BOD includes ProServ co-founder Frank Craighill, “but we’re moving in so many additional directions now, this made sense.” … Fresh off an assignment as event project leader for the America’s Cup World Series, Newport, R.I., veteran sports marketer Bob Basche has hung out a shingle in Stamford, Conn., as Connect Sports & Entertainment. Initial clients include a merchandising assignment leveraging Sunoco’s rights as the official fuel of NASCAR, as well as work with business-to-business event specialist Global Exchange Events on sports initiatives and with the state of Rhode Island to attract events. … Veteran beer marketer Jeffrey Schmidt has joined GMR Marketing’s Chicago office, heading the MillerCoors business. Schmidt worked as a marketer for Anheuser-Busch for more than 15 years, along with recent stints at Pabst Brewing and Yahoo. Adam Dettman left GMR earlier this year to join MillerCoors as director of sports and entertainment marketing. … Cindy Solomon recently joined Haymaker to run its hospitality and events practice. She has 15 years of experience in event management, hospitality and client service at the league, team and agency levels, and previously worked for the American Heart Association, Sports Systems and Genesco Sports Enterprises.

Terry Lefton can be reached at