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Volume 20 No. 42
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Forty Under 40

Drew Russell has shown more than a share of versatility in his young career. The vice president of properties for Chicago-based Intersport already has played key roles across a spectrum of events that include NASCAR, prep football and, most recently, outdoor hockey at Soldier Field.

He considers that flexibility just part of his job, though.

“The principles are all the same, whether it is a college venue or a NASCAR race,” Russell said.

Managing Intersport’s properties division is a long way from the Philadelphia native’s job as a program screener at ESPN in the mid-1990s after earning his journalism degree from the University of North Carolina. His job was to watch a variety of sports programs and edit for content and timing.

“I have watched more ‘World’s Strongest Man’ contests than you can imagine,” Russell said. “I don’t think the screener position even exists any more.”

The grunt work and night-shift hours paid off, as Russell parlayed his experience into a job at The GEM Group working on the Sears account, which included the brand’s sponsorship of the BCS Championship Trophy. He moved on to Wunderman in Chicago, where he managed accounts for clients activating through NASCAR, before joining Intersport in 2008.

Russell’s first project at Intersport was running the Under Armor-sponsored high school all-American football game, which has developed into one of Intersport’s leading properties. Along the way, Russell has helped the company expand its event business, with a college baseball home run derby that debuted in 2010 and this year’s inaugural Hockey City Classic doubleheader at Soldier Field, featuring top collegiate programs Minnesota, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio). The Sunday afternoon event drew more than 50,000 people.

“Drew is highly competent in the management of major events as well as in managing important client relationships,” said Intersport founder Charlie Besser. “He matches those skills with a tremendous work ethic and humility, and it is really infectious. He is a terrific leader.”

Fresh off the heels of the successful hockey event, look for Russell to continue to add to Intersport’s properties portfolio.
“We benefited this year because unfortunately there was no [NHL] Winter Classic,” Russell said. “[The college hockey event] was an event I feel we needed, and now it is my responsibility to grow the division and look for revenue opportunities on both the sponsorship and ticket-sales side.”

— John Lombardo

Age: 38
TITLE: Vice president, sports properties
COMPANY: Intersport
EDUCATION: B.A., University of North Carolina; MSA, Northwestern University
FAMILY: Wife, Chrissie; daughter, Ellie
CAREER: ESPN (1996-97), National Pro Fastpitch (1997-2000); The GEM Group (2001-02); Wunderman (2002-08); Intersport (2008-present)

FIRST JOB: Stock boy at Rite Aid
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE RECEIVED: Be willing to face your fears.
WORST BUSINESS ADVICE RECEIVED: If you want a job done right, do it yourself.

IPOD PLAYLIST: Tupac, Dr. Dre, Notorious B.I.G., Pearl Jam
FAVORITE IPAD APPS: SlingPlayer, Inside Carolina
STRESS RELEASE: College football Saturdays
PET PEEVE: Emailing versus picking up the telephone
FANTASY JOB: Athletic director, North Carolina
FAVORITE MOVIE LINE: “I must break you.” (“Rocky IV”)