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Volume 22 No. 23

People and Pop Culture

Photos: Joann Vitelli (Super Bowl LIVE); (Padres); Getty Images (2)

Photo: Getty Images


Star Making

Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne Schofield (pictured) of the U.S. and Canada’s Rebecca Johnston and Renata Fast were the biggest headliners during the skills competitions at NHL All-Star weekend, and they were rewarded with multiyear deals from Adidas, another reminder that inclusion is smart business.


Photo: Getty Images


Bowl Bust

The NFL’s decision to play the Pro Bowl in Orlando for three years backfired again, as the game drew little attention, took place in cold and rainy weather conditions and seemed to feature disinterested players. The league should move the game back to Hawaii, where it was held all but twice from 1980 through 2016, starting next year.


Photo: Getty Images


N.O. Go

Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis requested a trade, shining a spotlight on Gayle Benson’s dual-ownership of both the Pelicans and New Orleans’ far more popular NFL team, the Saints, and raising questions about the long-term viability of two major pro sports teams in the city.

Enter Sandman

From the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 announcement on Jan. 22, MLB legend Mariano Rivera with his longtime agent Fernando Cuza of Independent Sports & Entertainment. Rivera is the first player in history to unanimously be voted into the Hall of Fame.
Photo: ISE


Welcome to Atlanta

At a news conference to open Super Bowl week in Atlanta on Jan. 28 at the Georgia World Congress Center: Peter O’Reilly, NFL VP of events; Dan Corso, chairman of the the Atlanta Super Bowl LIII Host Committee and president of the Atlanta Sports Council; Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Falcons owner Arthur Blank; and Brett Daniels, host committee COO.
Photo: Atlanta Business Chronicle


Be a Bobblehead

The San Jose Sharks and official marketing partner Franklin Group hosted “Be A Bobblehead Night” on Jan. 15 at the SAP Center. The winner of the contest won a custom-made bobblehead doll produced by Franklin Group. From left: Chris Bobal, chief development officer, Franklin Group; contest winner Christine Tsin; and Sharks alum Mike Ricci.
Photo: Franklin Group


Sports Business of Latinos in Baseball

National Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson; ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez; La Vida Baseball co-founder Jay Sharman; and Jose de Jesus Ortiz, former president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, talked about the marketing and brand value of Latinos in baseball and all sports on Jan. 24 at the New York Athletic Club, the first event of the year for the group New York Venture Community Sports.
Photo: NYVC Sports


Granting Wishes

UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein presented a check on Jan. 10 for $240,000 to Make-A-Wish Chief Executive Officer Caroline Ciocca and the parents and children from Southern Nevada who have recently had their wishes granted.
Photo: Zuffa LLC


New Jersey, New Partner

The Chicago Fire unveiled its new 2019 jerseys and new jersey partner, Chicago-based Motorola, at a fan event Jan. 22 at The Wrigley Building. From left: Fire midfielder Dax McCarty; Kelly Wilkie, Motorola head of partnerships, North America; Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and forward Nemanja Nikolic.
Photo: Chicago Fire Soccer Club


UW Club's Road Trip

The University of Wisconsin Sports Business Club recently visited NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, as well as sports industry leaders in Columbus and Cincinnati, as part of a winter trip.
Photo: UW Madison Sports Business Club


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.


The Chicago Cubs hired ADAM BEARD as director of high performance. Beard was director of high performance for the Cleveland Browns.

The Milwaukee Brewers promoted DAVID STEARNS to president of baseball operations and general manager and RICK SCHLESINGER to president of business operations.

The Tampa Bay Rays promoted RAFAELA AMADOR to vice president of public affairs; DAVE HALLER to vice president of communications; BARRY NEWELL to senior director of business operations and analytics; EMILY MILLER to director of marketing and creative services; and NICO CASTILLO to director of soccer operations.


The Atlanta Hawks hired ROB LAYCOCK as vice president of marketing. Laycock was senior director of client development for Live Nation Entertainment.

The Cleveland Cavaliers hired JENTRY MULLINS as director of business development and MELANIE SEISER as senior director of group sales and membership development. Mullins was manager of business development for the Phoenix Suns, and Seiser was director of season ticket sales for Minnesota FC.


Florida Atlantic University hired MICHAEL MARFIONE as assistant athletic director of marketing. Marfione was assistant athletic director of marketing and fan experience at the Air Force Academy.

The University of Hartford hired KELLY SCAFARIELLO as senior associate athletic director for leadership and senior woman administrator.

James Madison University hired TAYLOR BLAKELY as director of fan and game day engagement and MAGGIE TYLER as director of video services. Blakely was director of marketing and sales at the University of Richmond, and Tyler was digital media content manager at Georgia Southern University. 

The University of New Mexico hired DAVID WILLIAMS as deputy athletic director for external affairs. Williams was deputy athletic director at the University of South Dakota.

Texas State University hired JOSH KELLER as assistant athletic director for annual giving, JOHN SORSBY as director of development and KARINA MEDELLIN as digital media coordinator for the Bobcat Club.

Troy University hired EBONY JACKSON as assistant athletic director for ticket operations. Jackson was athletic ticket manager at the University of Central Arkansas.


AEG promoted IGNACIO GUERRA to vice president of operations and parking and BILL GARNER to senior director of parking for Staples Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. Live; promoted WENDY FUNES to senior director of booking and CHRISTINA MIKHAIL to senior manager of booking and VIP services for Staples Center and Microsoft Theater; promoted ARMEN DEMBEKJIAN to vice president of event production for Staples Center; and hired HALLIE YAVITCH as vice president of booking for Staples Center and Microsoft Theater.

Pro Football Hall of Fame Executive Director and Historian JOE HORRIGAN will retire, effective June 1.


The XFL hired JEFFREY POLLACK as president and chief operating officer. Pollack was chief marketing and strategy officer and special adviser for the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Canadian Football League Players’ Association named IAN SANDERSON director of membership administration.

The Carolina Panthers named KRISTI COLEMAN chief financial officer.


The Columbus Blue Jackets promoted KAYLA CONSTANTINO to premium experience specialist; and hired JEFF KAUZLARICH as director of premium relationships, SUSAN OILAR as premium experience manager and SCOTT BALL as partnership activation specialist.

The Los Angeles Kings hired MONICA MULCAHY as senior manager of partnership sales.

Horse Racing

The New York Racing Association Chief Executive Officer and President CHRIS KAY resigned.


Relevent Sports hired AARON RYAN as chief operating officer. Ryan was senior vice president of the NBA 2K League for the National Basketball Association. 

The Aspire Group promoted BRANDEN LUCAS to development consultant at Purdue University and MICHAEL PETERSEN to senior service and retention consultant and AARON SCHUSTER to senior sales consultant at Georgia Tech; and hired CHARLIE ARVISO as director of ticket sales and service at the University of Kansas, JODY SELLERS as manager of ticket sales and service at Louisiana Tech University, MOLLY CHRISTEL as manager of ticket sales and service at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, ALEX PIERCE as sales and service consultant at Coastal Carolina University, CHELSEA SHELANDER as service and retention consultant at the University of Connecticut, SANDY WHITE as sales consultant at the University of Toledo and AUSTIN SCHEIDT as new sales consultant at Purdue University.

Endeavor Global Marketing hired MICHELE THORNTON GHEE as executive vice president of business development. Thornton Ghee was senior vice president of national ad sales for BET Her.


ESPN hired BRIAN LOCKHART as executive producer for ESPN+ original content. Lockhart was vice president of NFL Media’s original content group.

Fox Sports named BRAD ZAGER executive producer, executive vice president and head of production and operations.

NBC Sports Chicago promoted KEVIN CROSS to senior vice president and general manager.


NASCAR promoted JAY FABIAN to managing director for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.


The Montreal Impact named KEVIN GILMORE president and chief executive officer.

The North Carolina Football Club named BRENNAN BARBER vice president of ticket sales, analytics, and partnership marketing; and hired FRED MATTHES as senior vice president of tickets and premium sales.

Sporting Goods and Apparel

Under Armour hired TCHERNAVIA ROCKER as chief people and culture officer. Rocker was vice president and chief human resources officer for Harley-Davidson.

Awards and Boards

USA Gymnastics named JUSTIN TOMAN, PepsiCo North America Beverages head of sports marketing and partnerships, to its board of directors.

The Winnipeg Football Club named DAYNA SPIRING, president and chief executive officer of Economic Development Winnipeg, chair of board of directors.


The Green Sports Alliance named ROGER MCCLENDON executive director. McClendon was chief sustainability officer for Yum! Brands.

Game Changer MVP hired RICH MEYERS as senior director, business development and solutions. Meyers was director of event presentation for the Edmonton Oilers.

Ironman promoted JENNIFER MOCERINO to chief merchandise officer.

Nolan Partners hired kelly nguyen as a project coordinator.

Stats hired SIMON COTHLIFF as head of broadcast and media sales.

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.
Guests may find their heads swimming after viewing the more than 10,000 bobbleheads on display.
Photo: Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum

What do you get when you combine a childhood friendship with a mascot named Rocco, a failed Kickstarter campaign and the unrealistic expectations of a guy known as Ronnie Woo Woo? The Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, which opened last weekend in downtown Milwaukee.


Phil Sklar and Brad Novak became friends while attending middle school in Rockford, Ill., and both attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Sklar earned his masters in accounting at Notre Dame and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.


The seed for the museum was unknowingly planted in 2003, when Novak interned at the Frontier League Rockford (Ill.) RiverHawks. His boss gave him a bobblehead of the team’s mascot, Rocco the RiverHawk, the first of a collection of 10,000 that is now on display in an old foundry at the edge of Milwaukee’s historic Walker’s Point neighborhood and the trendy Third Ward.


Over the next decade, Sklar said, the pair amassed a bobblehead collection that “ballooned to almost 3,000 and was growing out of control.”


It’s no surprise given the role bobbleheads play in sports. SBJ’s annual analysis of MLB game-day giveaways, for example, shows that 2018 was the seventh year in a row that MLB teams were more likely to use a bobblehead to lure fans to the ballpark than any other promotional item.


Sklar and Novak began researching the concept of having a museum with a branded-retail component. A $250,000 Kickstarter effort in 2014 generated just $50,000, but gave the duo the insights they needed into launching the endeavor.


That year, they released the first HOF-branded item, a bobblehead of Chicago Cubs superfan Ronnie Woo Woo. They had 5,000 made but only sold about 1,500. “We learned that selling 5,000 in Excel is a lot easier than selling 5,000 bobbleheads to customers,” Sklar said.


Today, no one is off-limits for the head bobblers. During Loyola’s unexpected March Madness success last March, for example, the pair capitalized on the sudden stardom of the Ramblers’ 99-year-old fan, Sister Jean. Presales began 48 hours after contacting the school, and more than 17,500 of her bobbleheads have been sold.


“My favorites are the ones with great stories behind them, like our friend Special Olympian Michael Poll, Rick Monday saving the flag, a one-of-a-kind mold from the earliest sports bobbleheads in the 1960s and our life-sized Founding Member Bobblehead,” Sklar said.


He said that their online business last year generated “seven-figure revenue for the second time” and that the museum has already raised approximately $50,000 through membership sales ($20 for basic to $1,000 for lifetime membership). The first induction at the HOF will take place in the second half of the year and they are projecting an overall attendance of 30,000 to 40,000 guests in 2019.


Want to see for yourself? Admission is five bucks.