Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 1
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Forty Under 40

Photo by: IMG
Call him a Forty Under 40 oxymoron: As someone who has been with only one company his entire career, IMG Consulting Vice President Justin Zambuto is that rare winner with considerable seniority despite his age. With nearly 17 years at IMG, Zambuto has put in more years inside sports’ largest agency than many of those who are charged with running the company.

Zambuto always assumed he would work in his family’s trucking business, but he got bit by the marketing bug during his junior year at the University of Miami, while interning at a boutique Miami marketing agency. Zambuto gained enough knowledge and developed enough gumption that he presented a plan to Miami’s athletic department on how to increase attendance at Hurricanes basketball games by tapping into fraternities and sororities and providing them with transportation to the arena.

The athletic department gave Zambuto a budget, and that project was “at the top of my résumé,” Zambuto said. That résumé went to 22 offices of IMG; 21 sent it back. But the Boca Raton, Fla., office kept his materials, and soon after graduation, Zambuto was promoting and managing ATP, WTA and senior tennis tournaments across the country, rising to director of events and operations at IMG Racquet Sports.

In 2002, Zambuto was looking for a new challenge, and IMG was staffing up to service new client Verizon. The switch from events to consulting clicked. “I liked building and running things, but I wanted to be the person developing strategy,” Zambuto said. He soon moved on to other large clients, including RBS, DHL and more recently, NRG.

“Justin is the ‘velvet hammer’ of sponsorship negotiations,” said NRG/Reliant Energy Chief Marketing Officer Karen Jones, who has worked with Zambuto for more than 10 years. “He comes off as almost shy and innocent, but he knows how to go for the kill. He knows the value of every property and he knows how to get the best for his clients.”

— Terry Lefton

Age: 38
TITLE: Vice president
COMPANY: IMG Consulting
EDUCATION: B.S., double major: organizational communication and English literature, University of Miami
FAMILY: Wife, Euie
CAREER: IMG Racquet Sports, director of events and operations (1996-2002); IMG Consulting, account director/account manager (2002-08); vice president (2008-present)

FIRST JOB: Working in my dad’s freight forwarding business on Long Island
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE RECEIVED: Hire good people around you and give them room to grow.

WORST ADVICE RECEIVED: Do it, and we’ll figure out how to pay for it later.
IPOD PLAYLIST: Grateful Dead and Green Day
REACTION TO FORTY UNDER 40 SELECTION: I didn’t think I’d have a chance until I turned 39.
STRESS RELEASE: A good bottle of pinot noir
GUILTY PLEASURE: Reading or watching TV shows about ancient Greece and Rome
FANTASY JOB: Head football coach for an SEC team
FAVORITE MOVIE LINE: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” (“Jaws”)