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PODCAST – MVP Interactive & SponsorUnited

CEO James Giglio sat down with SponsorUnited’s President & Founder Bob Lynch to talk about their emerging platform in sports and the adjustments they’ve made during COVID-19. Tune in to hear Bob’s outlook for a path forward and explore new features in technology being used by brands, agencies, and teams to stay engaged with fans.

James Giglio (00:11):

Alright. Welcome back to the MVP podcast. Today we have a very special guest, Mr. Bob Lynch, who is the president and founder of Sponsor United, someone that I’ve had the pleasure of being able to work with over the last few months. For those of you in sports sponsorship that are unaware of Sponsor United it is a platform that provides access to in-depth information on sponsorships to help properties and brands most efficiently connect with the right context. Bob, thanks for joining us today.

Bob Lynch (00:45):

Thanks for being on my show today.

James Giglio (00:46):

Yeah, of course. It’s the Bob Lynch podcast, so how are you? Thank you so much.

Bob Lynch (00:52):

Thanks. I’m doing well. Appreciate you having me on and looking forward to to talking with you, and appreciate the partnership and getting to know you more.

James Giglio (01:02):

Yeah, absolutely. What we like to do. I think you’re a unique circumstance here in that you’re not only a entrepreneur, but also providing a service that we utilize. And our general audience and listeners are probably very familiar with your platform. So the type of guests that we generally have on our ranges from executives within an organization and or any type of startup or entrepreneurial story. So it’s pretty unique that we get to do that here, inclusively with the two of us. And so what I always find fascinating is everyone has a story. Everyone has a start. And some people maybe from an entrepreneurial standpoint felt that they always knew that’s what the direction that they wanted to go into in their career. Some people navigated throughout their career and kind of have that “aha” moment. So I would love to hear a little bit more about your background and essentially what led you to starting Sponsor United?

Bob Lynch (02:06):

Well, when I was in sixth or seventh grade, I used to sell magazine posters of like Michael Jordan for 25 cents out of my locker. And then I realized that I could get cans of soda and sell them during lunchtime at the cafeteria and undercut my cafeteria, which then changed to bottles. And I was literally carrying those little I think their playmate coolers to school with me, literally lugging it around and opening shop and then selling lollipops in the courtyard during recess as well until my principal finally shut it down wondering like, what was I doing? And I was cutting into their profits, I guess. So I think from an early age, I did think about entrepreneurial as entrepreneurialism and I probably should have maybe further pursued that, but that kind of stopped me in my tracks for a while.


 but I did think about it for a long time before I, I sort of took the leap. and I think that’s probably the, the most challenging thing for me was you know, when you work for different companies, you get comfortable, you get really familiar with kind of with what you’re doing and to kind of take that leap of faith, especially as you get sort of further into your career it becomes a little bit scary to do that, especially if you have a wife and kids and mortgages and, you know, things like that. And, and maybe a little bit of a knock to the ego because you’ve gotta kind of start all over again right from the very bottom. but but I, I do love the challenge and I, I just like the idea of being able to sort of reinvent yourself or maybe kind of challenge yourself.


I feel like in some cases your career can plateau in terms of your learning and how you’re continuing to grow, and I like the idea of sort of challenging myself and you know, seeing if there were new things that I could learn and develop into. So it’s been a fun and and scary process all at the same time. I call it jogging along a cliff. It’s amazing until you slip off. But that’s sort of where that started from. And I think I started to kind of see some trends and some things in the industry that I thought you know, could be addressed. Some problems, some things that I think a lot of us sort of go through that I had noticed early on and kind of just made note of, and after a while just felt like this is something that the industry can improve and I can help to do that. And that’s sort of where things started from. 

James Giglio (04:34):

I can totally relate to what you were saying about the journey, right? And navigating life. I always say that I feel like I’ve lived two lives, right? There’s one before MVP and the one  currently in mvp, and they’re totally different lives. And so I can certainly relate but at least in terms of my journey. And it sounds like your situation is very similar in that you were in an environment and or an industry that allowed you to navigate into this essential idea. And so, as way of background, I understand that you had worked for a couple of sports properties, whether it’s the Miami Dolphins or the Brooklyn Nets, I believe. So why don’t you talk to us a little bit about your roles there and what were some of the challenges or what opportunity you saw that led you to sponsor United? And again, if I did a disservice to the description of Sponsor United, please elaborate on that.

Bob Lynch (05:28):

No, you did an excellent job. So right before I got onto the team side, I would say as you’ve had sort of the pre MVP and the post or the current mvp. I’ve had, I would say probably three careers, media, sponsorship, team side, and then sort of technology data. And prior to coming to the NFL, Miami Dolphins in 2010, I had worked at iHeart Media, which was Clear Channel at the time. And in 2008, they were acquired by Bain Capital. I think it was like a 28 billion acquisition after that took place. They had brought in Bain Consulting to look at all of these 850 radio stations and how do we create efficiencies of scale and understand where they can consolidate maybe their programming and save money, but also distribute out higher quality content.


And fortunately for me, I was invited. They had a vertical on the automotive category to look at how they could serve that market more effectively. And so for about a year, I was fortunate to be a part of a group, including Bain Consulting, to look at best practices, analyze  pricing, and different things like that. And it was kind of like getting a mini MBA, to be honest with you, learning from them in that experience. And a year and a half later, when I found myself at the Miami Dolphins, I had remembered looking at those 850 radio stations and thinking about the 32 NFL teams and how they sort of went to market individually, pricing was not consistent across the board.


The assets that are bought and sold are obviously dictated by the team and what they control, whether it’s their venue or their media rights or whatever it might be. And we found ourselves in these discussions oftentimes with brands, especially outside of Miami, that we were looking to sell on the vision of using Miami as a launching point to obviously sort of gain access into the Americas. And it wa’s a very unique and compelling market in and of itself, but the general feedback that we would get from some of these brands that we were trying to get to commit and invest in the Miami Dolphins and that market was it’s challenging for us to do a one market buy. If you’re a larger brand, you typically will launch that in several markets.


And even if they were able to sort of launch in that market, in other markets, there’s really a challenge in terms of the consistency of what they’re seeing, team to team or league from league. It was sort of all over the place. And that’s what got me started to think about how there were parallels in the challenges that traditional media companies have gone through with consolidation and what’s taking place within the traditional sports sponsorship space from the brand’s perspective, but also from the sell side, the teams in that if you’re in a market, let’s say it’s not a New Yorker in LA but a mid to small market that can only serve, let’s say a 75 mile radius, it becomes really challenging to get a brand to invest individually in that market. That’s national, international, unless you have an international footprint now you do in things like Jersey patches, and other things like that. If they’re not based in that market or if that market is not such a key market for them to sort of put their eggs in that basket.


And so that’s where I started to look at sort of the challenges on both sides of the equation, and also just generally a lack of data and information and connectivity that exist. There’s amazing resources at the NFL league level, the NBA league level, having been at the Nets from Timbo and the data that’s out there. But it’s usually focused on just that particular league, and that’s a very small set of information for people to make decisions on how should we approach this category,  how should we approach this piece of inventory that we need to monetize. And so I started to look at how could you sort of look at data at scale best practices from other teams and leagues, and use that information to be smarter and more efficient with your time and really for the entire industry, how could we improve and sort of lift the game of the entire industry at the same time.

James Giglio (09:56):

Wonderful. And, for those listeners that aren’t necessarily in our world, per se, how would you best describe the platform in the value that the exchange of information is there? How would you say to someone outside of the industry that in relative terms, that they could understand in knowing like the real resource that it is in the sponsorship world?

Bob Lynch (10:23):

Well, I’ll tell you, when I was first starting out, that was like the hardest thing to do to try to describe what we did, especially when we didn’t have a company.

James Giglio (10:29):

Oh yeah. I mean, investor pitches. Don’t you love those? You know, you’ve got three minutes, five minutes to go for it, <laugh>.

Bob Lynch (10:35):

Yeah. When you’re telling your close network, here’s what you’re gonna do. And you’re trying to describe something that’s not even fully completed yet, and they’re like, Okay that sounds that’s interesting. Cool. Good luck, <laugh>. That was hard. We are almost like the Google for sponsorships. It’s really taking all data contacts, the types of deals that are taking place, the activations, what brands participate, what do teams sell, social media, creative competitive analysis, industry insights every piece of relevant information and sponsorship, sort of the last fashion of like, offline data, like not really accessible information in the space. I think it, it makes it both challenging and really an interesting space to be in, but we sort of lift the veil and capture all of that information and consolidate it in one platform so that people can easily get what they need.


It’s not like a dumping ground of information, though. The information is extremely comprehensive and large. We actually take that information and organize it in ways that people can use it however they need it. So it’s really kind of democratized the industry a bit, because if I work in business development and I need to find the key contact at a particular company I can find that within the system. We have 110,000 company profiles in our system. You can see who’s buying media, the marketing director, who’s handling sponsorships, all of that. If I need to discover or look for brands that are starting to enter the space or starting to enter my market, or that I should be talking to, you can easily sort of find that piece of information as well. If I’m about to walk into potentially put together a partnership or maybe renew a deal I can see what my brand partners buy elsewhere.


What does their asset mix look like? So what’s traditionally been done through the discovery process of sitting down with a partner and saying, “Hey, tell me about your strategy. Tell me what you do.” Or doing a lot of desktop research, which is really manually intensive to kind of Google search, what does this brand do in the space, which is really only the tip of the iceberg. Most of these partnerships are fairly comprehensive and integrate it across so many different assets that I think the normal the average person that’s not in sponsorship, doesn’t recognize the complexity of some of these partnerships. So we try to lift that veil and actually share that information in an easy way. So it kind of puts everybody on a level playing field in a lot of ways. So it’s used for both business development activation, marketers utilize it from a brand perspective. If you’re in social media, you might wanna see how other teams sell, what does their clutter look like? So we’ve found that obviously even with organizations, agencies, companies such as yours that do very unique things in the space, it sort of serves different constituents in different ways.

James Giglio (13:35):

And it’s probably actually been a year to the date that we’re on the platform and we’ll go ahead and talk about a little bit later on how we discovered the platform. But you had something, you said something pretty interesting in terms of how things were done prior. Take us back to the stone age, of corporate sponsorship. Here you are inside a team, a sports team. You’re tasked with really acquiring, procuring, and understanding a particular or a potential sponsor. So are you saying, the legwork that you had to put in was essentially just what was available on the internet or any type of brand guideline or brand message that you would have to curate yourself and then essentially pitch to that perspective sponsor, or tell us a little, the hard way of doing things, and which exactly proves the value of what your platform does today?

Bob Lynch (14:31):

We’ve oftentimes called our platform like Moneyball for sponsorship, because I often think of though it’s such a sort of baseball term, butit really relates to that scouts in Moneyball sort of had their own systems of getting information and their own experience wherever they came from. And they sort of use that to help influence and make decisions. And the traditional process for an individual has usually been prospecting everything from, I’m gonna watch the game tonight and see, what dasher board signs are available, what commercials air. And I grew up in that space in the radio advertising where I’d have to monitor different radio stations just to find out who the advertisers were and kind of eating up a lot of time just to kind of do that manual work.


And even within then, you only know, they bought this sign and they work with this team, so maybe there’s a good opportunity there. And then a lot of the manual work in to be an effective business development person, you don’t wanna waste a marketer’s time, so you wanna be prepared walking into that meeting by doing research on that individual. What other partnerships do they have? So a lot of itis a mixture of maybe, desktop research calling your connections in other markets, maybe if you have some of those to say, “Hey, you know, what are they doing with you guys?” And different leagues and major league baseball has really effective groups that kind of share different ideas and best practices. But it’s a lot of manual work to sort of pull that information together.


And then usually they’ll maybe unload that to an admin who’s probably less than year in the business is. Has to do a lot of that work for maybe the business development person or the executive leadership, and they’ll pull all that together. So there, I always felt like the bandwidth of a business development is very limited. And a lot of that time was spent on stuff that actually didn’t have anything to do with sales or partnerships. It had to do with research. And so the thought process behind it is if we can centralize a lot of this research and centralize what an admin at 32 teams does 32 times in a row, and maybe even over the course of the same 32 brands we could centralize that and we can reuse that data. So if we track it, the cost of time to research that is very high at an individual level, but we can centralize that, gather all the information probably with a well trained group of people and technology, we use a huge amount of technology to capture this information


in a more effective way. So you think about the cost, if you’re spending 5-10% of your time doing this work that cost to you is probably not worth it. And so we kind of pull all that data in one place so that they’re as prepared as they possibly could be. Oftentimes they’ll know more about what that brand does and maybe even the brand, depending on how big the brand is. I mean, there’s some brands we track that have had seven, 800 partnerships this year. Where it’s all right there in that one place. So it’s just really providing information immediately to someone in the easiest way possible so that they can use that to create actionable steps as well. And obviously finding the right people that they need to talk to so they’re not trying to figure out and navigate who’s even the people that are involved in these partnerships.

James Giglio (18:00):

Yeah, absolutely. And for the colleagues that are essentially, long in the tooth, as they say in terms of being seasoned veterans in corporate sponsorship, how many times have you heard, where the hell were you five years ago or 10 years ago?

Bob Lynch (18:15):

I’ve heard a few people say they’re very angry at me because they wish they came up with the idea. But, I guess it’s like anything else. You don’t know what you need until you have it as well. And I think you know a lot of people  have done it in their own way, and some of them do an amazing job at aggregating information, but,, when you have technology and you have scale of people,  we have over 2,500 people we call scouts that are involved in data aggregation. And then we’ve built our own technology to scrape every single social media post across over 5,000 different teams, events, organize that,  so you can kind of see that information easily. So it’s just impossible for the individual to ever do that if  you can do it right. But it’s a nice thing to hear when I hear it, actually.

James Giglio (19:07):

I mean, talk about absolute market validation and I think you know your success is by no mistake in terms of how valuable the platform is. And so,  it’s really funny though. I’m not speaking for you, butI’d imagine 95% of your user base are on the sports property side of things. Is that accurate or…

Bob Lynch (19:30):

No, it’s actually a lot less, it’s probably about two thirds. It was a hundred percent sports when we first started. When we launched the platform, what we wanted to do is actually start in the hardest and most complex space, which was major professional sports in terms of the number of partnerships, the number of assets that could be involved in these deals. And so we sort of super focused on that space, knowing that as we scale into other environments, whether it’s even down to traditional media or let’s say minor league sports, the partnerships tend to get less complex cuz the dollars just are less. And so we knew that if we could figure it out in the most complex of spaces as we scale down, where there’s more properties and more events and more things that take place, it’s gonna be hard that you have to scale, but it’s easier because the data actually becomes easier and easier to collect and gather that information.


So we started in sports, but we’ve rapidly sort of expanded into the music space. It is probably our biggest non-sports driver. Everything from the Grammys, Emmys to, you know, ages of the world, those sort of organizations that are really serving the more of the traditional advertising space has become a big area for ours as well. Because even in the traditional marketing space, these partnerships are becoming more creative, more integrated, more intellectual property rights and content that are being built around traditionally commoditized assets. And so while it did start in the sports space, it’s expanded well beyond that.

James Giglio (21:07):

Well, that’s great to hear. And I think my estimates were a little off based on our sort of timeline on when we connected, because I remember when it was simply, I was thumbing through a sports business journal article, and I read about the platform and I said, “Oh, that sounds really interesting.” And you know, obviously being in that trade publication, you are speaking to executives and on the sports property side as well as the brand side. And I said, Okay, well, this is a sponsorship tool for teams to kind of exchange information, learn about sponsorship and what have you. Let me check it out because for a company like ours, we’re a technology company that does a wide range of experiential experiences. The core of our business has been enhancing the game day experience in sports properties, but navigating and finding the right contacts, both from the brand side that may be willing to underwrite a program of ours versus who on the property side could actually, broker a relationship to a particular brand was very difficult.


And so we had talk about the stone ages. I mean, from a sales perspective, we’ve done everything possible from doing the due diligence, trying to purchase lead lists or going through trade publications, highlighting names and contacts. And so as a early stage company with a vision and an idea that those are the things that you have to do. So whether it was intentional or not of coming across that article, I figured, let me check out this platform to see what it does. And I think, you were gracious enough to give us a a trial period. And when I logged in, it was, the pulp fiction brief briefcase scene, where it just glows and like, “what am I looking at?”


Because it was the exact set of information for an agency slash tech company like ours to find the resource of who we’re speaking to, who we’re selling to, and how valuable our product is to the marketplace. And so it was finally the platform that really made the most sense for us. And I remember when we connected and I said, “Bob, you know, here’s what we do. Here’s who we do it for. Can you see why this is valuable?” And it was funny. You’re like, I never thought of it that way, but this is. And I hope that this opened up, agency partnerships for you or some other tangential companies outside of the sports and entertainment world from a right holder perspective, but from an integration or vendor relationship. Opening up your user base to kind of share that information because it’s been tremendously valuable for us.

Bob Lynch (24:06):

Yeah. As we’ve expanded our partnerships. And I remember that discussion with you and you’re spot on. I remember thinking, as we’ve gotten more, as we’ve acquired more data, and as we’ve built more reports based on early feedback, we’ve realized, “Oh, now it serves this area. Now it can serve this area.” And it’s all kind of integrated together. And so that was a bit of a springboard for us. We now work with about 30 of the largest sports marketing agencies. We work with vendors, facilitators, consultants that are in the space. And as you know, everybody sort of has a different way in which they might be serving the industry or need data within the industry. And so we’ve oftentimes used the early feedback from those organizations to say, “Oh, could you do this?


Could you do that?” We obviously have to make sure that it’s kind of strategic to our overall strategy and goals, because we get a million ideas on things we could do, but in many cases, it allows us to sort of create new products, new reports, new services that may serve you, but it can serve 50 other entities out there in different ways. And even to this day, as we look at our brand partners, we’re discovering ways in which we never thought that the platform could serve people. So as an example, we work with some of the biggest CPG companies in sponsorship and in the world. And I can remember a conversation where they wanted to use the platform to see what Kroger did and what Publix does from a sponsorship perspective.


And, they’re in the buy side. So it was kind of interesting to see that. But the reason was because they wanted to see how does their asset mix, how do we compliment their asset mix with our asset mix so that we can sell through more into their stores? Where do we have an opportunity to do more business from that perspective? And we’ve had some B2B technology companies that are traditional sponsors that have wanted to leverage our platform to find out if I’m gonna work with this team. What other brand partners do they have that I could potentially sell through? Because they can facilitate introductions once we have a relationship with them. So we’re starting to find all these other use cases from just a business partnership perspective that really wasn’t part of the original intention of the platform, but has ultimately become pretty critical for a lot of our partners.

James Giglio (26:38):

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, Bob’s success is always a straight line, you know that, right? So it’s just completely laid out there for you. You never know it was so easy.

Bob Lynch (26:49):

I just had to follow the instructions and Right. It worked perfectly.

James Giglio (26:53):

Yeah. That’s great. And I’m thrilled to hear that. I continue to wish you success in sort of the supplemental partners, if you will. And one of the things that you just referenced right now was asset mix. And I think that was what really stood out for me in terms of going onto the platform and understanding that you’re gonna have a whole subset of individuals that are focused in, you mentioned Dasha boards or billboard rights or traditional out of home or print media and all of that. But when it comes to a company like ours where concourse activation is really the name of our game I was so impressed to see actual photos of different engagements throughout the country in over hundreds of sports stadiums. So you had mentioned these data scouts. How in the world were you able to compile all of these photos and videos of these concourse activations across the country? What was your strategy there?

Bob Lynch (27:56):

Well, before I share that, the motivation behind that, was when I was when I was with the Dolphins, we would have away game trips and we would kind of divvy those up, who would go to which away games. And my former boss, now chief Revenue officer of the Charger is Jim Rushton, would have us led by doing it himself. But then we started to do it as well. He would go to an away game stadium and he would walk around the concourse everywhere, and try to actually capture as much imagery and unique sort of activations that were taking place. And in our sales meetings that next week, he would actually run through best practices in a PowerPoint presentation. And it was great because I had some of these venues I’d never been to before.


So you really got a feel for, “Oh, here’s how another team does it.” Because, these are things that you don’t see on TV that’s live there, club level entitlements and the activations, the signage, all of that. And so we would look at that, and we would do that every week. And I said to myself at the time, it’d be great if we could just like get this for every venue instantly. How amazing would that be? How insightful, how much smarter would we be by being able to actually fully understand these partnerships? So that sort of was always in the back of my mind. As we looked at how do we start a company, you know, how do we begin to own a segment? I remember reading Peter Teals book Zero to one many years ago when it came out.


And it talks about sort of how monopolies are formed and how do you really differentiate yourself in markets that are large addressable markets to be in. And one of the sort of lessons within that book is generally speaking, taking on hard problems is just as easy or just as hard as taking on easy problems that people think about. In fact, it’s probably easier because most people don’t think about how to solve that problem. So it might actually be easier than you think. And so when I started to think about our industry and the challenge of people just don’t have information, like real good information on how these things exist, and what everybody does. I started to think, “why is that? How would you ever be able to get all of this stuff unless the teams like gave it to you?


And how would you ever convince them to do that?” And so as I started to think about that, I thought in theory if you could go to every event, you could get this information in theory, but that would be a ton of people and that would be extremely costly. But as I thought about that problem, I thought about the fact that our industry has seen an explosion in sports management programs, and master’s degree programs for sports over the last 10 years. I think about 12, 13 years ago, there was like four or five real programs out there that sort of served that space. And today, this year I happened to look at the Sports Business Journal and I think there were like over 500 schools listed that had programs in this space probably do in part to things like Moneyball and obviously technology.


And I think the industry’s opening up to bringing people in from the outside as well. So they’re not making that many more teams yet. There’s so many programs that are sort of serving this space. At the same time, most people who enter in from an internship perspective into sports and entertainment, oftentimes, at least in sports, tend to be directed into the ticket sales hospitality side of things just because they need volume and they need people in that space. And so I looked at sponsorship was sort of where,  people thought like the wizards. I don’t know what they do. And there’s only a few of them and they usually the successful ones, are pretty well compensated. And I thought about the fact that a lot of people don’t know how sponsorship works and what assets are like, it’s not something that’s taught in school and it’s very hard to really comprehend the diversity of what can be bought and sold within these agreements.


And so my thinking was if we could sort of pull back the curtain and start to introduce the concept of sponsorship and all of the detail and the building blocks that you would need and want to know for you to be able to sort of enter into that space, we could essentially bring value to people by having them go to these events and really learn by getting into the granularity of studying like minute details of what beer is poured in this stadium, what food products, what kind of signs, and what sort of entitlements. And so we went through a whole program where we developed a training program, almost like a condensed masters in sponsorship inventory, and was able to form partnerships with universities across the country that became feeder systems for us and recruit sort of from across the country to provide a really experiential opportunity for people, but also layered in with training and testing and watching videos and studying almost like a Khan Academy would sort of go into these different subjects and do it for free so that people could learn about that get sent to games.


And this is actually where when we tell teams about this, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I wish I could have done this when I was in school. Can I do it now? Can you send me to games?” But it allowed us to sort of provide value on one end, but through that process also collect a lot of offline information. And that’s kind of how we started it. I mean, we started with like spreadsheets and then that evolved to building mobile technology. And because we have such a volume of people that are involved, they’ve been really redirected to primarily all offline and really hard to get pieces of information while at the same time learning about the industry. And so we kind of collect that information at scale through that process and sort of piece that all together again.

James Giglio (34:08):

Yeah, it’s really funny to hear that in terms of the strategy because that’s you know, back in the early days and we talk about lead list and trying to capture as much information during any activation install, it was a mandate of hours that we would do the same thing, walk the concourse, not only see what was going on, but just figure out what brands were there. Because you do have a lot of these regional brands within municipalities or cities that you may not know that they had a relationship with a particular team. So we deployed a very similar strategy in terms of trying to find opportunity ourselves. And so, being able to kind of log in and have that right in front of your eyes on the computer screen. It was really an awakening for us in particular. 

Bob Lynch (34:58):

And it’s funny that we sort of stole that from, if you’re familiar with caps and the story of the caption or recapture, which you fill out whenever you have to log in. And that problem, that service was originally built to solve, bots creating email addresses which was a really hard thing for technology companies to to stop from happening. But as that evolved they basically used the lettering that you see now gets pulled in from newspaper clippings from the New York Times and the 1850s and Google Maps. Cause I think Google cap ship, if I’m not mistaken now. So you’re basically crowdsourcing information on behalf of Google so that all this offline data is now mapped and stored in the system while at the same time providing security. So I love the elegant solution of solving one problem while directly solving another problem kind of in the space of how do we educate the industry while also essentially mapping every piece of information at the same time.

James Giglio (35:59):

Absolutely. You had mentioned Jim Rushton as a former colleague or boss. I actually have a pretty funny anecdote with Jim. So early days, with maybe a year or two as he settled in with the Chargers, He and I connected during a road trip, a sales business trip. We went to the facility, I think they were delivering furniture in Costa Mesa. When the Chargers had just come up, and  they were brand new and you could tell that, steam was coming out of his ears trying to move a franchise into a new city, capture new fans, and listening to all the challenges. And so obviously we both realized that we weren’t going to be able to accomplish that in the 30 minutes that we had for that day.


So he had offered us to come back out during the NFL season to experience a game at StubHub and to kind of survey the area and come up with some ideas and suggestions from an activation standpoint. And then also a level of data capture, trying to use technology as a great attraction to exchange information between fans and user information. And so it happened to be by coincidence, I’m here base in Philadelphia and I’m a die-hard Eagles fan. That’s no surprise or secret there, but it happened. It may have been strategic on the game that I picked to go to attend a Chargers game was against the Eagles. And so I go out on the weekend and fly out there and so meet with Jim and he puts me in touch with. At that time the team was working with a handful of consultants both on the marketing side, and obviously everyone trying to build a new franchise essentially. And so he’s sort of essentially led me to work with one of their consultants to kind of really understand what the game day experience was like and what’s some of the challenges. So what’s an average length of a football game? Four hours, three hours? 

Bob Lynch (38:06):

Three and a half hours.

James Giglio (38:06):

So we got there probably two hours before a game. This consultant, we surveyed the entire stadium. Bird dog me the entire time, did not leave my side. We were taking notes. I mean, it was a working session, right? The game starts, did not leave my side and was talking about what was happening in this section. And I’m just taking notes now as a sports fan. I was dying on the inside, frankly. Just because, it was a great game. It was a great, and I could not show. I’m obviously a professional here. We love all of our clients and I show no bias. But it was so funny because I endured about six hours of watching this game, being a part of this stadium and just, taking fandom away from our work. So that is my one and only Jim Rush story.

Bob Lynch (39:00):

Games can work for a team, can sterilize that experience pretty quickly. I think I can count on one hand the number of like moments and plays that I was able to really enjoy in five years or five seasons with the Dolphins. Or not enjoy. Because I remember being there when Tim Tebow had his comeback in like the last four minutes and beat us. So it’s probably the one that is in my brain the most. But, it’s definitely different than a lot of people perceive it to be on a game day and Oh, for sure you could skip on other sports, haven’t been in the NBA, in the NHL, and certainly baseball to the extreme, there’s just so many more opportunities to network. And so with football, it does force you to like, “how do I maximize every minute of this game day?” Because you only have essentially six hours multiplied times eight. You have 48 hours over the course of a four month period to really get as much as you can out of that and it’s probably not gonna be watching games.

James Giglio (40:06):

That’s for sure. So as we’re kind of winding down here in our time, Bob, this has been great and thank you again so much for being on the show here. Given the state of the environment now, we’re still in the midst of this epidemic and sports are finally just coming back to the airwaves fan. Tell us a little bit of the shift in communication, the needs and sort of the goals, and the challenges quite honestly, between sponsorship and sports teams. Knowing that there are no consumers physically at these venues. I’d imagine TV presence is a major driving force right now, but, give us a little bit of insight as to you know, what you’re hearing on the ground and/or what are some of the unique challenges and resolutions, frankly in this environment?

Bob Lynch (41:03):

I think the environment has definitely forced people to be more communicative and obviously being home is another reason for that. But we’ve never seen such a high volume of communication and meetings taking place. Both that we’ve heard from teams and brands as well as sort of people. I think when this all happened, they were sort of at a loss like, “what’s happening? What do we do? How do we react to this? Should we wait? Should we just sit back? Should we be proactive?” And that forced many people to start to really talk to others about this and ask them, what are they doing now? You know, nobody really knows. I think everybody’s sort of saying, “Here’s what we’re doing to address it. And they’re sort of learning at the same time, which I think is definitely helpful in the industry because you wouldn’t normally have that level of communication as well as, I think when you look at from a brand to a team. One of the things that we’ve seen is as being consistent is not necessarily about negotiation or almost like a mutual respect for the challenges that are taking place and the things that can’t be controlled on either side.


And just an understanding of how do we come out of this together and how do we help each other? Which really does kind of force a more altruistic way of thinking about partnership in these times. And you don’t realize how important your partners are on both sides until you go through these things. And I think it’s a great testament to what these relationships are or are not, and how people react to that. With all that being said, people are now looking at how do we take data and information to just be smarter of how we navigate this? So we’ve seen a I think a couple things happen on the partnership side, there’s been an absolute thirst for understanding who can we talk to and engage for partnerships and what categories do we need to be looking at that maybe others aren’t thinking about as well.


There’s the usual suspects that everybody sort of starts to go to. And early on it was actually, like cleaning supplies and we’ve actually seen some partnerships even as of this week that are gonna be launching for some NFL teams that have come because of that. But it’s going deeper than that. And normally on the sales and partnership side, most people spend the majority of their time in sort of what we would call the top 10, top 40 categories of business that they’ll get their league reports and see, this is who we should be working with. That’s flipped. Where now the majority of people’s time are sort of on those tertiary categories and brands that might be able to capitalize on entering this space during this sort of uncertain time because they have an opportunity to gain a share of voice, potentially gain signage. In the NFL in the lower stadium seats, that are gonna be tarped and things like that based on what’s available.


So we’ve seen a bit of that as well with these new entrance into the space. From the brand’s perspective, we’ve seen everything from, we need to understand our share of voice and how that might shift with additional signage that’s being introduced. Will that devalue what we currently have? Additional signage only has so much of an incremental value to us and our current partnerships. So what else is being done to offset that? Because if you own a tremendous amount of signage in a lot of professional ballparks having two extra signs, five extra sign, whatever it might be, is not the value that, you know, it would be if it was a brand that had no signage. There’s not gonna be the lift there. And so how do you work with your partners or how do you demand from your partner’s new and different assets and really new and different creative ways to engage the consumers and relying both on the teams, but also on your internal marketing departments to develop some of these things like you’ve seen with Buffalo Wild Wings bringing some of the concessionaires around to their restaurants, I think this week.


So thinking of different ways it’s gonna create buzz and interest during this time period has been pretty critical.

James Giglio (45:28):

Absolutely. And we can echo that to a degree in terms of the the chronology of this transformation of what the world is right now. I remember early on back in March and April, we were just, getting on the phones with our clients and our prospects and anyone within our network just to talk, as you had mentioned, the power of communicating what was going on. And everyone had an opinion and a forecast of what was going to happen and really not knowing. And so it was important for us to kind of get out there, get in front of our client base to say, “you know what, we do have a stack of IP that traditionally has been tactical or on concourse but let’s convert that to a digital asset.” And how we can resonate your brand to the fans, knowing that they’re at home and what have you.


So you know, I definitely have seen the sort of community nature in this, and I think despite what the general public may think about sports and entertainment the longer you’re in it, you realize how much of a incestuous small circle it really is. And so, our message was to really try to connect with our community as well as provide value in any way as possible, whether that was selling a product or just talking about the future. you know, we certainly tried to do that. So very enlightening here, Bob. So listen we are out of time, unfortunately. We probably could have gone on much longer, but why don’t you please tell us, tell our listeners where to find you, your contacts, and any party messages that you’d like to share with us?

Bob Lynch (47:09):

Yeah, the easiest way to find us sponsor united.com, one word S-P-O-N-S-O-R-U-N-I-T-E-D.com or on LinkedIn, we’re pretty active. We like to take a lot of the data that we’re capturing, and publish different pieces of information pretty consistently every week. So follow us on LinkedIn as well. That’s probably the easiest way to get us.

James Giglio (47:33):

All right, Sounds good. This is James Giglio with the MVP podcast. Thanks for listening. And until next time.

MVP Interactive Podcast


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