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Volume 20 No. 42
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5 Star Sponsorship Academy, back for second year, shifts focus to young sales executives

Industry veterans Scott O’Neil, Bill Sutton and Chris Heck are bringing back a sports executive development program they debuted last year, but this time, it’s with a different mission.

The program, called the 5 Star Sponsorship Academy, held its inaugural event at the Harvard Club in New York last May with a focus on developing sales skills of experienced sponsorship executives. The invitation-only event drew 55 seasoned executives who paid $3,200 for the two-day program.

This year, the event is being marketed to junior-level executives with one to three years of sales experience who are looking to enter sponsorship sales. Organizers hope to draw 100 executives who will be charged $1,600 to attend the two-day event, set for June 24-25. The program will be based out of the Harvard Club but also likely will include trips to Prudential Center and Citi Field.

Organizers will select the 100 people to attend the event from any larger pool of candidates who express interest in participating.

“It’s different this year in that we are looking at people who want to enter the sponsorship business,” Sutton said. “We want to find the top 100 people and train them and then give them a model to take back with them.”

This year’s event comes at a different time for the trio of organizers, as well. Sutton is president of industry consultancy Bill Sutton & Associates; O’Neil is chief executive officer of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils; and Heck is chief revenue officer of the Sixers. Last year, for the debut event, O’Neil and Heck had yet to be named to their current posts, having recently left other executive positions in the industry.

Though the agenda for this year’s event has not yet been finalized, Sutton said the plan is to bring in industry experts and have a variety of panels designed to develop talent within the industry. Speakers last year included Steve Pamon, head of sports and entertainment marketing for JPMorgan Chase, and Gail Grimmett, senior vice president at Delta Air Lines.

“Teams are looking for talent and there are more corporate sponsorship jobs than ever,” Sutton said. “Teams aren’t doing a good job preparing talent in those roles.”

A former NBA executive, Sutton now leads the sports management MBA program at the University of South Florida. His consultancy counts NBA and MLB teams as clients.

Unlike last year, there also will be more of a jobs-fair component to this year’s event. Teams with job openings can submit their job descriptions to be shared with participants.

“We want to get people hired out of this,” Sutton said. “There will be career counseling and one-on-one interviews.”