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Volume 21 No. 2

People and Pop Culture

East Carolina University named J. Batt senior associate athletic director and executive director of the Pirate Club. Batt was the associate athletic director and executive director of the Terrapin Club at the University of Maryland.

The University of Minnesota Duluth named Josh Berlo athletic director. Berlo was the senior athletic director for guest relations and event marketing at the University of Notre Dame.

The University of New Orleans named Charles Small assistant athletic director of student-athlete enrichment. Small was an academic counselor with the University of Pittsburgh athletic department.

Utah State University named Waqa Damuni assistant athletic director for football operations. Damuni was the associate director of academic support at the University of Arkansas.

Clemson University named Graham Neff associate athletic director for business operations and chief financial officer and Steve Duzan associate athletic director for athletic academic services. Neff was associate athletic director for Middle Tennessee State University, and Duzan was assistant athletic director and director of student-athlete academic services for Florida State University.

Greg Economou stepped down from the position of Madison Square Garden executive vice president of revenue performance.

The Canadian Football League promoted Michael Copeland to president and chief operating officer.

The Columbus Blue Jackets promoted Sean Tobin to season-ticket account executive and hired Doug Vinci as corporate development sales coordinator.


Matter Inc. hired Erin Weinberg as deputy managing director for the firm’s New York office and Liz Coughlin as deputy managing director for its Los Angeles office.

Repucom International senior vice president Tom Boehm is no longer with the company.

Home Team Marketing promoted Sarah Corr to associate account supervisor and hired Kirby Becker as account executive.

NBC Universal named Adam Freifeld vice president of internal communications. Freifeld was vice president of communications for NBC Sports Group.

Sony named Joni Maybury strategic partnership manager for PlayStation. Maybury was account supervisor of sponsorship and product and event marketing for GMR Marketing.

Sony Computer Entertainment America named Andrew Wamugi account manager for strategic business development in the Video Services Group. Wamugi was associate marketing manager for digital media for ESPN.


The National Athletic Trainers’ Association named David Saddler executive director.

Awards and Boards
Special Olympics Wisconsin appointed Paul Baniel chairman of the board of directors. Baniel is vice president of finance and administration for the Green Bay Packers.

SiriusXM appointed Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei chairman and named Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav and Liberty Media board member Evan Malone as members on its board of directors.

The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame named Bob Vecchione, National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics executive director, to its board of directors.

The Oregon Sports Authority elected Linda Williams board president and Jim Bridges and Robb Walther to its board of directors.

The Gator Bowl Association named Andy Pradella chairman and Vince McCormack chair-elect.

International Speedway Corp. named Sonia Green and Larry Woodard to its board of directors.  Green was most recently vice president of marketing and sales at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and Woodard is president and CEO of Graham Stanley advertising.

People news
To have your personnel announcements included in the People section, please send information and photos to Brandon McClung at 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202, or email them to Electronic photos must be a jpg or tiff file for Macintosh, 2.25 inches wide at 300 dpi. Color only, please. News items may also be sent via fax to (704) 973-1401. If you have questions, call (704) 973-1425.

Southern hospitality at the Final Four

LG Electronics played host to more than 100 customers and guests at the Final Four in Atlanta, including a pregame event at Ventanas overlooking the city on April 8, complete with helicopter tours of downtown. From left: Rachel Olson, Jessica Kroll and Michelle Acosta-Donovan of LG, Tom Haidinger and Josh Ellovich of Advantage International, and Mike Pepperman of LG.

Basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale (center) partnered with Allstate around its NCAA basketball activation as spokesman and “Team Mayhem” member. At the Final Four he joined Allstate executives (from left) Pam Hollander, Dan Keats, Lauren Lamping, Ashley Kelly and Caitlin Morse.

At a Final Four party in Atlanta co-hosted by Learfield Sports and IMG College (from left): Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock, Shamrock Capital Advisors partner Will Wynperle and Learfield EVP Roger Gardner.

Red Sox welcome veteran, season

Afghanistan veteran Jim Urso met with Red Sox executives and family, including owner John Henry and wife Linda Pizzuti Henry, Chairman Tom Werner and Stacey Lucchino, wife of CEO Larry Lucchino, at the club’s home opener at Fenway Park on April 8. Urso will take part in the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital’s Run/Walk to Home Base, a 9K run set to take place May 4. From left: John Henry, Stacey Lucchino, Jim Urso, Linda Pizzuti Henry and Tom Werner.

Burke in residence at UMass

Hockey executive Brian Burke (center) served as the Mark H. McCormack Executive-In-Residence at the Isenberg School of Management, UMass Amherst, April 9-10. With him are (left) Steve McKelvey, associate professor and graduate program director, and Lisa Masteralexis, department head of the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management.

At the Masters with Izod and Maxim

With Maxim models at the Launch Party for the Izod Social Hub at the Maxim Clubhouse on April 10 in Augusta, Ga. (from left): Team Izod and PGA Tour golfer Scott Piercy; Mike Kelly, EVP of marketing for PVH; Sharon Borawski, fashion sales director for Maxim; and Team Izod and PGA Tour golfer Spencer Levin.

16W clients turn out to salute Rosner

The CJ Foundation for SIDS honored 16W Marketing co-founder and foundation board member Steve Rosner on April 2 at its Excellence in Giving evening at the Stony Hill Inn in Hackensack, N.J. With Rosner (center) and 16W partner Frank Vuono (third from right) are 16W clients (from left) Howie Long, Boomer Esiason, Bob Papa, Beasley Reece and Phil Simms.

All-star lineup for ‘42’ lunch

Legendary Entertainment Chairman and CEO Thomas Tull, producer of the new Jackie Robinson biopic “42,” hosted members of the Baseball Hall of Fame at a luncheon Tuesday at Spago in Beverly Hills. From left: Orlando Cepeda, Dave Winfield, Joe Morgan, Tull, Hank Aaron, Tony Gwynn, Pat Gillick and Rich “Goose” Gossage.

Please submit photos for review of industry conferences, parties, product launches and openings showcasing the people and personalities at the event. Include the event date, location, names/titles of those featured along with credit information. The photo specifications are as follows: 300dpi, tiff, jpeg or eps color images. Submit digital photos for review at: or send color prints to: Faces & Places, c/o Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202.

Bill Lester spent 25 years as executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission before retiring last summer. As head of the commission, Lester was in charge of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, a stadium criticized over the years for its design, but a versatile building that played host to Super Bowls, Final Fours and World Series. It’s a feat that will not be replicated in an age with so many sport-specific venues, Lester says.

All photos courtesy of Bill Lester
How did you get started in the business?
Originally I was a teacher and a coach in high school. I ended up in Minnesota after graduating from a small college in Montana called Carroll College, a small Catholic school in Helena. I went into the seminary after I graduated. I was sent to St. John’s College in Hilton, Minn. I was a little slow … it took me two years to realize how serious they were about celibacy. Once it sunk in, I thought, “This is crazy, I can’t stick around.” I started teaching and coaching at a Catholic boys’ high school in St. Paul called Hill, now Hill-Murray. I did that for two years and then left education and worked at about four different jobs with [the
Metropolitan Council] planning and coordinating agency. Then left in 1987 to take over the commission.

What are some of your fondest memories of the Metrodome over those 25 years?
The outstanding memories that everybody has, the ’87 and ’91 World Series wins by the Twins and the ancillary events that occur with that. The welcome home after the Twins won the 1987 American League playoffs with Detroit. It was improbable. The Twins had only won 87 games, but they just happened to be blessed with being in the weakest division and then they got hot at the right time and you could still do it with two pitchers who happened to be aces. When we would win a championship in high school … you got the fire engine, you had a rally. With the Twins, it was 64,000 people in the Metrodome with no event, just welcoming home the team. That still is the most incredible event for me. It was a very worrisome night because people had been drinking all afternoon and we were trying to put together the security and a system that made sure we safeguarded the building and yet still celebrated a terrific event in the history of this community.

Tell us a few stories from behind the scenes that haven’t been told.
There was a pickpocket gang, three or four guys working the crowd at an NCAA game at the Metrodome. One guy would distract you, the other guy would pick your pocket. The first three victims came in and said it was “two guys wearing red sweaters.” That wasn’t a big help. It was Maryland against Ohio State or somebody like that. Everybody in the place was wearing a red sweater. I remember the cops saying, “You’re going to have to be a little more specific.”

With the Metrodome’s Steve Maki and Dennis Alfton
We had some great pickup games where we would have front office people from the Twins and Vikes on the court when we hosted NCAA events. Those were a lot of fun. We played from 6 to 8 in the morning and called it “the testing of the floor.” We played one morning and Bill Hancock, the head of the NCAA at the time, had noticed that CBS had put their tower so that it blocked hundreds of seats, that you couldn’t tell until it was actually up there. This was about 6:30 in the morning and he said, “That’s going to be a big problem,” so we stopped the work crew right then rather than have them put the tower all the way up and then have to take it back down so we wouldn’t kill the seats. We were able to work it out, but if we hadn’t been playing basketball that morning ...
Lester during the Twins’ 1987 World Series appearance.

Where were you when the roof collapsed in December 2010?
I was actually on vacation, skiing in Colorado with a bunch of guys in Vail. I was on the phone with [Metrodome director of facilities and engineering] Steve Maki all the time because we had a game scheduled for that Sunday. [Starting with Friday’s initial roof damage] it was an incredible conflation of bad weather, high winds and incredibly freezing temperatures. We had conference calls with the NFL and the Vikings. Had a young guy from Bird-Air, manufacturer of the roof fabric, who said we won’t be able to play Sunday but we could play it Monday night; still looked like we were going to be fine. [Sunday morning], the phone rang at 4 a.m. Colorado time and Steve said, “We’ve lost the roof.” I got down off the mountain, took an early flight back to Minnesota and was back by noon local time to start assessing the damage.

Lester leads a tour of the Metrodome’s roof, occasionally a newsmaker itself, in 2009.
Any truth to the story that the Vikings pumped artificial noise into the dome?
No. There were a few urban myths … and a little element of truth in there, too. With the Vikes, there was a sound person — to be charitable about it, he was a bit eccentric — and he could create even more sound or direct it at the bench of the opposing team. I can’t remember if it was the Rams or the Eagles, they couldn’t hear themselves think because of the size of those speakers and where they were positioned. That did precipitate some [new NFL] rules about where they could be, how close to the bench. They didn’t pump anything extra in. Red McCombs, when he was the owner, he liked to say it was the loudest stadium in the NFL. I think it was the combination of trying to throw off the other team. …

With family at the World Series in 1987
We also had [electrical] fans and blowers to keep the fabric roof in place. The fans would keep it inflated. There were huge cold air intakes to change air out at field level. In baseball, [opposing managers] Bobby Valentine and Billy Martin thought the Twins were somehow manipulating a ball. So if a Twins player hit a short infield popup it would be a home run to center field, and then they would reverse the [air flow] and Dave Kingman [for example] couldn’t hit it past the infield. The University of Minnesota did do an analysis, if you could actually manipulate, with any degree of scientific certainty … and you couldn’t. I always wanted to make sure we didn’t screw with the integrity of the game.

Looking back at the Metrodome as a multipurpose facility, how did you feel it influenced buildings today such as Cowboys Stadium?
I think it was a harbinger of what you could do because it wasn’t going to be successful, especially in Minnesota, to put that much public money into a facility if you weren’t getting some kind of a return out of it. We were able to use it for [public] roller blading in the concourses. Not that you could or should use modern buildings quite like that, like an enlarged community center, but it did set the stage where you could tell that story. If you asked a focus group today, they’d say yes … even if they had never been to a college baseball game there they would know we play hundreds of baseball games there in February and March. So the idea of making it versatile was definitely a legacy of the Metrodome. In the early days, when everybody was talking about how it was ugly and gray and there was too much concrete, I would get somewhat defensive. I did feel like they were telling me I had homely children. I overcame that because of the legacy, such as the multipurpose element and what it said about other facilities in other parts of the country, how you can make sure they become a relevant part of life in the community.

Clowning around at a Final Four pickup game
What have you been doing these days?
I had a consulting contract with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority that lasted six months. Then I’ve been doing some informal advice as they get ready for the new facility. Minneapolis and Minnesota would like to stay in the hunt for future NCAA events.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit, have grandkids on the East Coast and two in St. Paul. I’ll go to the Final Four. I still think that’s the primo event even though we had 25 years of great events.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the volume and varying nature of social media content. That’s where Mass Relevance comes in. The Austin, Texas-based firm has spent several years working with sports networks, teams, leagues and brands to analyze that raging stream of content and turn it into a meaningful part of each entity’s marketing and programming platforms. Mass Relevance also was the first company officially licensed by Twitter to resyndicate tweets for external use. A veteran marketing and e-commerce executive, CMO Matt Corey leads the firm’s marketing efforts following prior stops at Golfsmith, The Bombay Co. and The Home Depot.

— Compiled by Eric Fisher


The key is how organizations harness the passion of the fans, but do so in a controlled way.

On brands in social media:
One of the biggest trends we see is the growth of people directly participating with brands through social experience, not just social networks. Brands are building interactive social experiences, on their websites and through mobile, and fans and customers are participating through direct comments, voting, sharing photos and much more.

Monetizing social media: The key for brands is to ensure these experiences are “brand appropriate,” which means filtering out the drunk guy who tweets or anything else that should be naturally excluded from an engaging and fun social experience.

What about photo sharing?: Allowing fans to see themselves, literally, as part of a social experience for a sports team, event, or even a retail brand, is a fast-growing trend. Retailers in particular are beginning to experiment with how to leverage customer photos to drive commerce, so we should see a lot of best practices come to life.

Major events: Social media plays a huge role with major events and has the potential to become even more pivotal to the audience experience. A socially powered second-screen experience is just one example of how fans can watch TV and participate socially. Where there is a large audience, there is an opportunity to leverage that audience to amplify the experience to a whole new level through a curated social experience.

The next sports event to explode for social media?: The World Cup. This event is ripe for a huge social spike.