The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer
Bernard Stewart, “ESPN - An Insider’s Story”

Bernard Stewart, “ESPN - An Insider’s Story”

February 25, 2021

Enjoy our deep dive into the world of ESPN the "worldwide leader in Sports" through Bernard Stewart's eyes and stories. 

Bernard has had an illustrious career at ESPN for 30 years, from the early days of the truly first Sports Network in the world to overseeing its expansions globally and many other roles. Learn how ESPN started, expanded, the challenges and growth stories told by a true insider.

 

Key Highlights

  1. Coming out of College and Air Force teaching Film and starting independent projects in TV & Movie Production
  2. Start working at a Capital City company, WTNH TV New Haven – first break and being taught the world of “Broadcast Politics”. Created Program called “First Edition”
  3. ESPN – the start of the first Sports Network (1979) - father and son founding team (Bill and Scott Rasmussen) -  RCA’s first Satellite helps to distribute the channel across the US, start-up funding from Getty Oil (US$ 10 million) 
  4. ESPN = Entertainment Sports Programming Network, original programming from Tractor pulling to Softball (only 6 hours a day), major sports still at the big traditional broadcasters 
  5. ESPN Sports Center – iconic show, first time stories beyond the action and beyond the 3 min News highlights on traditional TV
  6. John Malone (Liberty Media), true leader in Cable growth and expansion and support of ESPN (the content piece)  – meeting with ESPN and Malone group, game changer in revenue share model
  7. Getting into the big League sports, MLB and NFL – didn’t come cheap – ability to pay purely because of large and growing cable fees (affiliate fees)
  8. A reflection on market reported numbers - ESPN in 2020,  US$ 11 billion Revenue, US$ 8.6 billion in Affiliate fees versus US$ 2.3b in advertising (only) – game changer 
  9. His producer Role – creating “stories” and working around broadcast embargos, etc -  1984 Olympics in LA and Sarajevo 
  10. 1983 America’s Cup – first time the US teams loses the Cup in 132 years – Bernard had a crew at event from the start to capture the drama while its unfolding, big success 
  11. Short sting at WBZ TV Boston before Round 2 at ESPN as Director Program Planning – it’s a monster to plan (war room to map out two year worth of programming), together with Program Acquisition team 
  12. Shaping the sports world through smart programming and connecting different parts of the industry 
  13. First overseas action – Australian group showed up, trailer in Parking Lot, recording content and shipping tapes to Australia  - syndication by tapes at that time 
  14. TV Conferences and Conventions – big part of the push for ESPN going global - new Sandbox to play in – develop international division (syndicating US content globally)
  15. Sportel history - Monte Carlo, Monaco early days – reminiscing on how it all started and ESPN’s – “the worldwide leader in Sports” role to shape the industry  
  16. Moving to Hong Kong as VP & GM of ESPN Asia Pacific – the opportunities and challenges to take the brand globally – understand, listen and being sensitive to local differences, get a seat on the table first - Disney buying ESPN in mid 90s and leaving it mostly alone 
  17. ESPN/Star Sports (ESS) world – ESPN & Murdoch JV in Asia – his view as a Board Member – how it started (my view) and his inside stories   
  18. The challenges of how to make it work and Marcus recent discussion with a Senior executive in the new ESPN/Disney lead Fox Sports Asia – Bernard’s career in a nutshell, creating opportunities - History of Cricket program example 
  19. Look at the current world of Sports Media Rights and Cable industry vs OTT dynamics – reverse world – shrinking Cable subscriptions
    1. Disney+,  ESPN+,  Netflix and big growth of OTT      
  20. ESPN+ USD 5.99 in the US -  cannibalization of business model? Is the House on fire or not discussion?
  21. Value for money philosophy ingrained in Disney and how that shapes their decision making – price vs value – and change with the times
  22. Disney & ESPN doubling down by purchasing FOX Sports channels globally (over US$ 70 billion transaction) -  his view, it’s about repositioning by Murdoch 
  23. SPACs – 60-70 launched over the past 12 months, new directions and new opportunities for the big players 
  24. Wrapping up with Bernard’s current roles and projects, back at writing scripts and film making, working with family offices raising funds for slate of films (AJE3 Studios – www.aje3studios.com)
  25. E-Zero – Ecological Zero idea

 

About

Bernard Stewart was a member of the original creative team that started SportsCenter and ESPN. During his extended career with ESPN, Bernard's senior executive roles included the development and management of long-term strategies for ESPN’s International family of networks. He was the company's most senior executive for all of Asia including India; Oceania (Australia, NZ); the Pacific (Japan), and the Caribbean.

After a lengthy career with the Walt Disney Company/ESPN, Bernard founded an entertainment, lifestyle, and production company. AJE3 Studios has a very active list of projects that include Family Office advisory, Film and Television, digital platform development, website design, and Branding Marketing.

Bernard's content development and acquisition experiences include directed high profile rights negotiations for premier world events including The FIFA World Cup, The Olympics, and The UEFA Champions League. He was a program executive involved in the development of the ESPY's; launched international versions of SportsCenter and an Emmy nominated producer, and have created or developed over 30 original series and multi-platform program concepts for network, digital, and syndication distribution.

Bernard is recognized as a featured international industry speaker with appearances that include Renmin University, The Peoples Republic of China; International Trade Specialist for the United States at The Bahamas Copyright Stakeholder Summit; the Jamaica Sports Business Summit on Global Brand building, and a featured speaker and Advisor to the Jamacia International Fim Festival.

Author of the business management and life coaching book, “Fifty50 - A Guide to a Successful Work-Life Balance”.

 

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John Gleasure, “Sports Media Distribution - from Betting to OTT”

John Gleasure, “Sports Media Distribution - from Betting to OTT”

February 11, 2021

John Gleasure has been on the forefront of sports media distribution from his early days in BskyB to the dotcom boom days of Sportal to launching 3G applications for Hutchison Whampoa. And then starting Inform with a group of fellow sports executives 15 years ago which turned into PERFORM and now DAZN (the leading Sports OTT platform globally). Incredible journey and learning along the way. 

 

Key Highlights

  1. Playing some decent football can get you a good job, ask John.  His early days at EMI Music 
  2. BskyB, learning the ropes in the cable industry, Marketing Manager for Sky Sports, Sky Digital, his true University in business and sports 
  3. Dotcom days, Sportal – interviewed by Andrew Croker, incredible team of people, launching various websites (portals) for sports properties, wild ride – dotcom crash
  4. Leading to role at Hutchison Whampoa, Head of Sports – 3G rollout, video clips, etc – learning, it takes a lot longer than you expect for technology and consumers to pick it up (as example, the company didn’t use the Premier League rights for 1.5 years because they were not ready to deploy it)
  5. Inform Group – ventured into Entrepreneurship together with Simon Denyer, Stefano D’Anna and Mike Ingram   
  6. First business model didn’t work and then stumbled into the Live streaming for Betting websites space, started to work with Premium TV (Oli Slipper)
  7. Business started to take off and grow, merger with Premium TV to create Perform Group – mutually beneficial for both sides, bringing in Access Industries (Ukraine born, UK/US Billionaire, Sir Len Blavatnik)
  8. Lots of opportunities to grow internationally for a mostly UK based business at the time 
  9. Took role as MD APAC and moved to Asia – acquisition of content, driving new digital revenues which were not there before for rights holders, building partnerships 
  10. Key to Performs success was ingesting huge volume of content at the right cost and driving new revenue streams from it – betting revenue, PPV, other subscription services (first look at OTT)
  11. IPO in 2011, raised GBP 168 million in process, looking for growth – buying Goal.com, Opta, Livesport services, etc 
  12. Going from B2B to B2C business model and the challenges along the way 
  13. De-listing in 2013 (GBP 700 mil valuation), market didn’t appreciate all the new business areas the management was exploring, including OTT – safer to be private 
  14. The start of the DAZN idea, in 2014 – OTT is much more than streaming on the web – radical change of business model 
  15. Two distinct businesses, Perform B2B and DAZN B2C – clear focus on growing DAZN and Perform needed its own home to continue its growth 
  16. Divested out of Perform, Goal.com, etc – kept equity stakes – New partnership now known as "Perform Stats"
  17. How the DAZN launch markets were picked, DACH (German-speaking region) and Japan – similarities in PayTV markets and opportunities to buy strong content for a reasonable price
  18. Launching across multiple platforms from native Apps (Android & IOS), web, smart TV, consoles, Pay TV boxes, etc – find DAZN everywhere, anytime 
  19. OTT and beyond – 60-75% watch DAZN on TV in Germany – certain events over 1 million streams – watching through traditional TV still the largest viewership (surprising for me) 
  20. OTT goes way beyond traditional linear TV coverage in terms of fan engagement and user interactivity
  21. But the “old” arbitrage model is still there and pure subscription model is tough to make work, advertising still plays an important role and other revenue streams  
  22. DAZN’s global boxing offerings – US$ 1.99 per month (test price) – purchased big rights globally 
  23. Multi-sport focused, different offerings across the world. Scale is a big differentiator, better rates, etc
  24. F1 in Spain, Bundesliga and Champions League in Germany – lots of new rights coming on stream and new management firepower 
  25. Partnership model vs straight forward rights sales model – current tough times might help in a positive way if we all learn from it

 

About

John Gleasure is DAZN Group Executive Vice Chairman. In this role, he works on the company’s long-term strategy and focuses on key priorities including key global business partnerships, new ventures and diversity and inclusion. John is a member of the DAZN Group executive committee management team and is a founder of DAZN and Perform Group. With more than 25 years of experience within international media, rights, marketing and distribution, John previously held leadership roles at Sky Sports, EMI Records, Hutchison Whampoa and Sony Pictures.

 

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Lucien Boyer, “Championing French Sports Globally”

Lucien Boyer, “Championing French Sports Globally”

January 28, 2021

Lucien Boyer, a rock star with a French accent in the world of Sports marketing, with an amazing career and stories to back it up.  Enjoy our journey through Lucien’s career across France, Australia and the UK, from the America’s Cup to FIFA World Cup and Coca-Cola to Louis Vuitton.  Lucien has leveraged the power of major global competitions and major commercial partners throughout his career. Enjoy the stories and the learning.  Plenty of it.

 

Key Highlights

  1. As a student getting involved in raising money for the French Challenger’s Boat for the America’s Cup, which takes him to Australia
  2. Eyes opened to the power of sports and combining his passion of sports with interest in marketing
  3. From Saatchi & Saatchi to Larousse Lamborghini Formula One  - driving revenue from 20 mil to 120 mil French France (pre EURO)
  4. Learning activation, telling stories for sponsors, branded content and content marketing
  5. Lifestyle Marketing Group (LMG), his first startup incubated by Saatchi & Saatchi – brand consulting in the lifestyle space
  6. Two Olympic Games coming to Europe, 1992, both Winter & Summer Olympics in the same year, Albertville (France) & Barcelona (Spain) – won pitch to promote the European Union
  7. Big Global Events have been his big breakthrough, next up 1998, FIFA World Cup in France
  8. Sold LMG to Havas to have access to a bigger global network. Rocky start to the new partnership, ISL part of the story
  9. Took over the whole sports business in Havas and started a global expansion drive after a new owner of the group came in
  10. At the peak 600 people, operating across 30 countries – over six years, including acquisitions – clear process and strategy in opening new offices, Coca-Cola a key client globally
  11. Acquisition of Ignition – ran Torch Relay for Coke and FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour
  12. 2002 FIFA World Cup, first EA FIFA Esports competition  
  13. Havas Sports & Entertainment (HSE), activation and execution of sponsorships (representing the client side) & creating new ideas and strategies for rights holders (Louis Vuitton Trophy Case)
  14. Olympic Bids for France, involved in many tough losses – realization that France will never win unless France has a bigger influence in global sports – moved to London  
  15. Winning agency of record for Barclays as title sponsor of the Premier League
  16. Moving up into the Vivendi Group as Chief Marketing Officer for the whole group (almost 50,000 employees)
  17. Creating new synergies across the group – used “Anglo -Saxon” Paddington Bear IP acquisition as proof of concept, new concepts in Music, Movie, Gaming, Licensing, etc across the group
  18. Vivendi integral partner in helping Paris win the bid for the 2024 Olympics & the key differences winning it this time around in his view
  19. Global Sports Week – the idea behind it. Shake, Shape & Share the future of Sport -  Next one coming up Feb 1-5th, 2021 – check out www.globalsportsweek.com
    • Connecting six other future Olympic cities to Paris virtually
    • Top speakers from Gerard Pique, Romain Grosjean, Justine Henin, Sebastian Coe, etc
  20. Inspiring Sport Capital – PE fund to support sports industry and new digital transformation – six major investments worth over EURO 75 million
  21. From Online Bridge to club management system to Yachting to Golf equipment – diverse portfolio – focus on growth capital, no restrictions on time and form of exit
  22. Fnatic Chairman – latest role to learn first hand the world of Gaming/Esports
  23. Helping the team grow and deal with challenges ahead – digital relationship started during Covid

 

About

Lucien Boyer is the Chairman and Co-Founder of the Global Sports Week. He is also Founding and Managing Partner of Inspiring Sport Capital, and he has now joined Fnatic as Chairman. Lucien is also serving as board non-executive Director of Groupe Le Five.
He was previously Chief Marketing Officer at Vivendi, the leading integrated media, content and communications group. Lucien has been an industry pioneer in sponsorship activation, branded content, experiential marketing, fan engagement and social entertainment.

Beyond his management role, Lucien is recognized as one of today’s leading experts in sports and entertainment marketing. He was awarded his first Gold at Cannes Lions in 2006, before serving as a member of the jury of the Branded Content & Entertainment category in 2014. He initiated the creation of the Global Sports Forum, of which he was the General Commissioner, a global debate platform around the sports industry’s future challenges. He also is the Co-Chair of the Digital Transformation & Innovation Forum at the French Chamber of Great Britain.

Lucien is a frequent speaker at many international conferences such as the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, Advertising Week Europe and New-York, CMO Summit, Sporsora’s annual congress and the Ivy Sports Symposium. He has also been featured in many influential media including Bloomberg TV, The Guardian and Le Figaro as well as industry journals such as SportsPro, SportBusiness and SportCal.

A graduate from ESSEC Business School, Lucien Boyer is 56 years old. He is married, has three sons and after 6 years in London, he now lives in Paris. Lucien Boyer is passionate about sailing, skiing, the Olympics and music. 

 

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Craig Thompson, “Champions League And Beyond”

Craig Thompson, “Champions League And Beyond”

January 22, 2021

Craig Thompson has been on the forefront of Sports Marketing across the globe for over 30 years. We are taking a close look into his remarkable career with a deep dive into his role as a Founding Member of TEAM Marketing and the creation of the UEFA Champions League in the early 90s.  Amazing stories and lots of great learning as always from a true veteran of the industry.

 

 

Key Highlights

  1. From professional Beach Volleyball in California to Lausanne, Switzerland with FIVB and not a happy start/ending
  2. Next stop FEI (Equestrian) leading him to ISL, working with Peter Sprogis on IAAF events
  3. Credits and accolades to Horst Dassler for being one of the true founding father of our industry, unfortunately passed away too young
  4. From ISL to a founding member of TEAM Marketing with Juergen Lenz and Klaus Hempel
  5. The “TEAM” started from ground Zero again, the big opportunity, tendering for the Champions League project (had to raise Swiss France 200 million as part of the deal)
  6. TEAM wins the tender and has 8 months to pull off the first Season  (1992) – create broadcast schedule, sponsorship programs, operations, club manuals, etc
    • First time “mid-week Football matches”    
    • 8 Teams (two groups of 4 teams)
    • Every match at 8.30pm CET (appointment TV)
    • Country by Country Broadcast deals
    • Broadcast Sponsorship inventory from Broadcasters
    • Commercial Advertising Inventory (free spots) sponsors didn’t know what to do with it
    • Broadcasters had to show a post-match highlights of all the matches (drove exposure for all teams and competition)
  7. Success formula of TEAM was true TEAM WORK
  8. How to deal with the big teams and the egos in the room
  9. Challenges and success stories in the early days, highly successful product now with over US$ 5 billion in annual revenue
  10. The Dutch World War II story
  11. Tough decision to leave TEAM for personal reasons
  12. Champions Hockey League (Ice Hockey) – the next project – raised EURO 60 million – 2008/09 recession killed it, revived and still running now
  13. Next stop America’s Cup in San Francisco – changing the rules and appeal of the sport for younger audiences – racing Catamarans in SF Bay
  14. Cameras on boats, sailors with mics, and other inventions including America’s Cup Healthy Ocean campaign (Larry Ellison wasn’t a big fan)
  15. Mindspring Capital – focus on tech companies getting into sports (looked at over 600 companies the last two years)
  16. Mindspring Capital is a Team of investors and experts across the world, focused on early stage companies (B2B focus), paid advisor role and investor at the same time
  17. Ticket size, US$ 250k for 10-25% of company, plus advisory fee back
  18. Leadership lessons – rallying a small group of professionals, full transparency, listening to the best ideas in the room and getting rid of bad apples fast
  19. Love for sports and love for the job and picking your mentors and leaders carefully

 

 

About

For more than 30 years, Craig Thompson has been intimately involved in the creation and management of some of the most recognized sporting events across the globe:

CEO | 34th America’s Cup
Together with Russell Coutts, CEO of Oracle Racing and four-time winner, Craig created and launched the concept for AC34, which included the use of catamarans, racing next to shore, shorter TV-friendly format and the creation of the AC34 World Series.

CEO/Owner | Ovation Sports AG
Craig developed the concept and directed the inaugural season for the Champions Hockey League in association with the IIHF in Europe. Also specialized in development and management of sports properties and events for the Juventus Football Club, Spanish Basketball League, and UFL United Arab Emirates National Soccer League.

Managing Director | T.E.A.M. Marketing AG
In his role with the exclusive worldwide marketing agency of UEFA for the Champions League, Craig was a management board member for 11 years and key member of the 6-person team responsible for initial creation and subsequent development of the Champions League project. The Champions League generates billions in annual sponsorship and TV revenues and is Europe’s most important club competition in Europe’s most important sport — soccer.

If anyone is interested to reach out to Craig, please contact at: craig@mindspring.capital

 

 

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Andrew Craig, “40 Years Of Olympics & Racing”

Andrew Craig, “40 Years Of Olympics & Racing”

January 15, 2021

Andrew Craig, is a true industry veteran, from being an early executive member of ISL Marketing to rising to Deputy CEO, to leading CART as their CEO to a successful IPO, before spending the last 20 years as Consultant with his own business (The Craig Company) across successful Olympics Bids, International Sports Federations and motorsports.

 

Key Highlights

  1. His early days, getting started at Nestle as a Sales Executive in the 70s before moving into the Advertising world and starting his first agency in PR & Marketing
  2. Early involvement in motorsports and with Adidas
  3. Which turns out to be a fork in his career and lead to joining ISL as Marketing Director just shortly after it was founded by Host Dassler (son of Adi Dassler, founder of Adidas), with Juergen Lenz and Klaus Hempel leading the charge (early 80s)
  4. ISL’s Glory Days in the 80s – representing FIFA & UEFA, creation of SRI, first research firm in the industry, etc
  5. The Olympic TOP Program and the true story and players behind it – from Samaranch to Horst Dassler
  6. Key to it was bringing all the individual National Olympic Committee rights together under one umbrella
  7. Greatest moment, his first Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988
  8. What went wrong at ISL, bankruptcy in early 2000 (he had left in 1994) – death of Horst Dassler and Lenz & Hempel leaving – leadership issues
  9. Joining CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) Series as CEO, open wheel racing series in the USA
  10. Big challenge from the start with Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Indy 500) owner Tony George
  11. Two Racing Series competed for a period of time,  CART and Indy Racing League (IRL)
  12. Taking CART public on New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 1998, reason and process, benefits to team owners, valuation went up to US$ 750 million
  13. Some discussions with Bernie Ecclestone to buy F1 -  CART dissolved in 2003 and was purchased by Indy Racing League. Recently Series bought by Roger Penske
  14. “The Craig Company” – starting his own Consulting business in 2001
  15. Olympic Consulting – working with Olympic Bidding Cities – Vancouver, London, Sochi, Paris, etc
  16. The role and responsibilities of being a Consultant to Olympic bidding cities
  17. Understanding the fundamentals of the voting system – the art of winning bids (emotional connections)
  18. His role with Ifs (International Federations) linked to their Olympic participation (Olympic Wrestling story)
  19. Legacy Sports vs New Sports in the Olympics – his views on the balancing act and Esports potential   
  20. The big 2020 events which moved to 2021 – his and my views on Tokyo and others
  21. World Lacrosse’s Olympic ambitions  and his work with startups as investor & advisor
  22. To reach Andrew +12488192100 (phone) & thecraigcompanyllc@gmail.com

 

About

After an early career with Nestlé and in advertising, Andrew Craig moved to sport when he joined senior management at ISL Marketing in 1983. Responsibilities included work on the FIFA World Cup prior to focusing on the successful development of the International Olympic Committee’s global marketing program.

In 1994 Craig was appointed CEO of Championship Auto Racing Teams in the USA. Craig executed a successful IPO for the company on the NYSE in 1998. He consulted on the negotiations for the F1 Grand Prix in Baku. He served as Vice Chair of the FIA Touring Car Commission from 2008 to 2015 and as a Member of the FIA Endurance Racing Commission from inception through until 2018. Currently Craig is Permanent Representative in North America for the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Craig has extensive involvements in the Olympic World. He worked on four winning Olympic bids - as an advisor on Vancouver 2010 and as Senior International Relations Advisor on London 2012, Sochi 2014 and Paris 2024. He was an advisor to the International Golf Federation on its campaign to become an Olympic Sport and as Senior Advisor to United World Wrestling on its campaign for reinstatement in the Olympic Games. He served as Senior Advisor to the European Olympic Committees on the development of the European Games and served on the European Games Coordination Commissions for the 2015 and 2019 editors. Craig is Senior Advisor to World Lacrosse on its long term campaign for Olympic inclusion.

Craig serves on:
The Advisory Board of "Wait Time"​ (http://www.thewaittimes.com); a tech start up that optimizes service times at sports venue concessions and other time critical locations.
As a Director of “HookIt”from 2007 to 2017 and continues as an Adviser to the company. “Hook It” connects athletes with brands and measures athlete engagement through social media in real time. (www.hookit.com)
As a Director and Founder of Sport at the Service of Humanity (www.sportforhumanity.com)from 2014 to 2020.

 

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Pete Vlastelica, “Internet Entrepreneur Turned Esports League Builder”

Pete Vlastelica, “Internet Entrepreneur Turned Esports League Builder”

January 7, 2021

Pete Vlastelica is a true product of the Internet and Silicon Valley boom era, studying in Stanford in the late 90s and later getting an MBA at Berkeley.  From his entrepreneurial exploits building, growing, raising funding and eventually selling Yardbarker to FOX Sports to his most recent role as President & CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports (including Commissioner of the Overwatch League), building the Overwatch and Call of Duty Franchise Leagues.  Incredible stories and insights into his illustrious career and close up look into the world’s first franchise Esports Leagues.  

 

Key Highlights

  1. Coming out of Stanford into Disney Internet Group in late 1999, going to London
  2. Back to New York working in a design and software agency
  3. Back to California for an MBA at Berkeley, focus on Entrepreneurship – while studying focused on starting his own company
  4. First idea failed, fractional ownership of Music rights (too complicated)
  5. Started Yardbarker with four buddies from Berkeley – first investors was one of the instructors, friends & family, bootstrapping, US$ 100k lasted 18 months
  6. Yardbarker become the largest network of sports blogs, with over 1,000 independent sites, bloggers and pro athletes (pre-Twitter days)  
  7. Growing the platform to over 22 million uniques and attracting millions in advertising dollars
  8. Funding rounds, from US$ 100k, to US$ 1 million to US$ 6 million (Series A) from proper VC investors (valuations in the twenty million range)
  9. Competition from other Ad Networks and 2008/09 Financial Crisis came along, new lessons, going into survival mode
  10. Fox Sports buys the business in 2010, a successful transaction for everyone involved
  11. Fox Sports Digital & Fox Sports days – building the digital platforms within the Network (FS1) – “sucked into the belly of the corporate beast”
  12. Joining Activision Blizzard, a true Gaming Giant (US$ 67 billion valuation), to build their new Esports Leagues modelling the sports franchise model
  13. Overwatch League – first League in 2018 with 12 teams – after 12 months of planning, building rev share model, governing structures, etc  
  14. Building a global City based franchise League – first of its kind  - attracting top owners (NFL, NBA, Premier League team owners)
  15. Educational process with investors – franchise fees starting US$ 20 million now up to US$ 30-50 million (3rd party sources)
  16. League monetizes League sponsors, media rights, licensing, merchandise, etc and shares with the teams in addition to prize pool (like in traditional sports) – first season reaching US$ 200 million in revenue (3rd party source)
  17. Building an entire League infrastructure from scratch, including minor league structures around the world, ultimately building a career path for players
  18. Call of Duty League – similar model but not as easy as copy/paste, designing a League to fit the Game, different styles and modes
  19. How 2020 effected the Leagues and season – huge learning curve on online vs offline competitions
  20. Dynamics between Teams and top star players – opportunities for sponsors and partners
  21. Korea learning – cultural export from K-Pop to Esports
  22. Interactivity between Gamers and fans, way beyond traditional sports model – Esports is taking fan engagement model to another level – sports needs to learn from it
  23. Comparing Esports Leagues vs Major Esports Competition with tens of millions in prize money
  24. Dota 2 – The International – tens of millions in prize pool, mostly generated from in-game purchase and special access passes by the fans
  25. The difference to traditional sports – short game of content (shorten supply vs demand), Esports is the opposite, 24/7 interaction with fans

 

About

Pete Vlastelica is President and CEO of Major League Gaming (MLG), a division of Activision Blizzard devoted to creating the best esports experiences for fans across games, platforms and geographies. Prior to MLG, Vlastelica was the Executive Vice President of Digital at FOX Sports, where he focused on content and product development, social media, technology, and creation of multi-platform content properties, including the Emmy-award winning “Garbage Time with Katie Nolan”.

He directed the growth of FOXSports.com and the mobile app FOX Sports Go, where he oversaw the streaming of thousands of live sporting events, including Super Bowl XLVIII, which set a new internet record for streaming viewers for a sporting event. Recognized for his influence in the sports media industry, Vlastelica is a member of Sports Business Journal’s prestigious “Forty Under 40” Class of 2014. Vlastelica earned an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from Stanford.

 

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Seth Berger, “A Coach at Heart - from AND1 to Sixers Innovation Lab”

Seth Berger, “A Coach at Heart - from AND1 to Sixers Innovation Lab”

December 30, 2020
Seth Berger has seen it all, took the risks as an Entrepreneur, build an iconic brand in the process (AND1), sold the business, with success and failures along the way. He shares his amazing stories here with us with a smile and laughter. The Sixers Innovation Lab gives him now the playground to follow his passion, being a Coach at heart. Listen and learn. Tons of incredible Entrepreneurial lessons in here.
 
 
Key Highlights
  1. How it all started - coming out of Wharton Grad School - AND1 Database Marketing business early days...
  2. Great Entrepreneurial start up stories not to be missed
  3. The real AND1 started in a Pizza place
  4. As an Entrepreneur you are winning and losing every day.
  5. Ego is the brother of insecurity. And Seth has no time for either
  6. Focus on 16 year old Basketball consumers - AND1 T-Shirts were born
  7. Some luck - MJ retired for the first time and his brand stopped selling and retailers were looking for something new 
  8. From T-Shirts to Shorts to Basketball Shoes - almost bankrupted the company in the process
  9. Incredible Stephon Marbury story - Marbury 1 - break an ankle with SM
  10. Business took off from there hitting USD 280 mil in revenue and become 2nd biggest Basketball shoe brand in the USA
  11. Creativity a key to the success - great slogans "call me Mayor because I spend all my time downtown" 😂
  12. Commitment and focus and no space for ego
  13. Birth of Mixedtape Tour and ESPN's Streetball
  14. Selling the company - the stories and emotions behind it
  15. The story behind "Tai Chi" - Vince Carter, 2000 NBA Slam dunk contest
  16. Hoops TV - ahead of its time and despite all efforts it failed
  17. Sixers Innovation Lab (SIL) - reconnecting with Scott O'Neil & HBSE
  18. SIL's USP - access to HBSE network and affiliated services and cash
  19. Invested in 14 companies, sold one so far
  20. From sports gambling, Esports to health drinks - broad range with a focus on B2C - examples
  21. What are the three most important factors to chose investments: Market, Team, Idea 💡
  22. Ask the right questions. Technology today allows you to find the right answers
  23. Focus currently on US companies but open to others
  24. Gaming & Esports - it's real and might become bigger than real sports
  25. SIL's three investment in this space (U.gg,..)
  26. Betting on young talent
  27. Basketball "Coach" at heart

 

About

Managing Director, Sixers Innovation Lab

Seth Berger earned his MBA in 1993 from the Wharton School and his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from University of Pennsylvania in 1989. Seth has been the CEO of four businesses in the consumer space, and his fifth “venture” has been to build an elite high school basketball program as Head Coach. In these ventures, Seth has started with a hyper focus on the understanding of the target consumer, with the philosophy that every consumer business must meet and communicate a specific consumer need to survive. After that, he has worked to create branding and marketing strategies to drive messaging that sticks in a world of constant consumer messaging.

 

AND 1 — 1993-2000, 2002-2005

As Founder and CEO of AND 1, he ran an upstart basketball sneaker, apparel and entertainment company. After starting out selling screen printed tee shirts in 1993, the Company moved into the broader apparel and footwear market. AND 1 reached its height it 2001, when it attained the No. 2 spot in the US basketball footwear market. At its peak, AND 1 had revenues of $285 million, including its licensees. In addition, AND 1’s entertainment division created the Mix Tape tour and Streetball, an ESPN series that was the No. 1 rated show among male teens, eclipsing SportsCenter. AND 1 also donated more than 5 percent of its annual profits to youth-based charities. In 1999, the partners sold a stake in the business to TA Associates, a venture firm out of Boston. In 2005, the company was sold to American Sporting Goods, a private shoe company based in Irvine, Calif.

 

HoopsTV.com — 1999-2001

Seth served as CEO of HoopsTV.com from 1999-2001. He helped raise $15 million in financing for the business, hired its staff, and launched a site dedicated to basketball fans all around the world. Despite negotiating a partnership deal with ESPN.com, the business was unable to generate enough revenues to continue, largely because broadband capabilities were not strong enough to sustain its business model. Seth shut the business down in 2001.

 

Lightning Gaming — 2005-2006

In the fall of 2005, Seth took on a part-time CEO role for another start up, Lightning Poker. This business was the brainchild of Brian Haveson, former CEO of Nutrisystem. Brian was traveling the country as a professional poker player, and he approached Seth with his idea and patent. Seth helped raise $1 million in financing, hired a staff, created an automated poker table, and negotiated an international distribution deal with Shufflemaster, a public company. After 12 months, he turned the Company back over to Brian, as part of their original agreement for his term of service. Lightning Gaming now holds many slot machine licenses, in addition to its original product, and is a non-traded public company. More information can be found at www.lightningpoker.net.

 

Gravy Train — 2011-2012

Seth self-funded a small venture in the mobile gaming space. GravyTrain created a Facebook game, “imthnkgof” (I am thinking of), and launched it in December of 2011. Although the idea was executed well, the market for these games started to crash, led by Zynga, and Seth shut down the business before wasting too much money.

 

The Westtown School, Westtown, PA, 2007-Present

Seth is currently the Head Boys Basketball Coach at The Westtown School, in Westtown, PA. He has had this role for 12 years, and was an assistant for two years before that. His teams have a 72 percent winning percentage, and they won their league title seven of the last eight seasons. The team won the state championships in 2016 and 2017, and have four runner-up finishes. The Westtown program is a high level athletic and academic program that has helped many kids move on to play Division 1, 2 and 3 basketball in recent years. When Seth took over the program, the team had a 3-15 record in his last year as an assistant, and it had only won one basketball league title in 1986.

He and his wife, Christelle — also a Wharton School graduate — have three boys. They also have guardianship of five brothers from overseas who attended the Westtown School and now live with the family. Prior to Wharton, Seth was Legislative Director for US Representative Harold Ford, Sr. from 1989-1991. He was, at 21-years old, the youngest Legislative Director on Capitol Hill. As an undergraduate at Penn, Seth was a four-year letter winner, captain and MVP of the Sprint Football team. He played one year of junior varsity basketball. Seth also received the Bowl senior award for service to the community. He is still waiting for his first 10-day contract in the NBA.

 

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Drew Sheinman, “Private Equity With a Heart”

Drew Sheinman, “Private Equity With a Heart”

December 19, 2020

Drew Sheinman’s career is a 40 year smorgasbord in the world of sports, sports marketing, entertainment and now Private Equity from MLB, MSG, Coca-Cola, Breeders Cup, Endeavor to now Brand Velocity Partners.  Incredible journey from the humble days of a management trainee in the MLB in 1979 to now running his own Private Equity partnership. As always, enjoy listening and learning.

 

Key Highlights

  1. Starting his career as one of the first Management trainees in the MLB
  2. Baltimore Orioles stories, working with new ownership, winning the World Series in 1983
  3. Next stop New York Mets, as a Yankees fan, creating new marketing and revenue streams.  “Let’s go Mets” rally song for 1986 World Series Champion – according to Rolling Stone Magazine, the greatest anthem in baseball. https://youtu.be/2N4VIXM1RJk
  4. Two World Series Rings from Orioles and Mets days. Started his first own company, integrating sports and entertainment. Investor pulled the plug.  
  5. Madison Square Garden – marketing and business development for the teams across many different genres, sports, entertainment, etc
  6. Created the first MLB Fan Fest around the All-Star weekend.  MSG owned the concept.  Still running 20 years later.
  7. Coca-Cola Director Sports Marketing – they wanted someone from the outside looking in
  8. Coca- Cola Olympic City – at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, Theme Park concept, etc almost a 1,000 presentations to get it approved – great success story
  9. From FMCG to Real Estate -  Running Malls for Simon Brand Ventures (250 Malls across the US). Turning them into entertainment complexes. 2 Billion visitors annually. Simon live media network.
  10. Tiki Barber (NFL NY Giants player) partnership -  Tiki Ventures (replicating Magic Johnson success story, bringing athletes into business opportunities)
  11. Breeders Cup – Chief Marketing/Revenue officer – 30-day crash course around the industry –
  12. Endeavor (WME-IMG) – Brand Ventures – first agency for retired American Football players (22,000), talent management from athletes, Hollywood stars to supermodels (Agent 2.0) – working with Kobe Bryant
  13. Brand Velocity Partners – Private Equity – started 2 years ago – independent sponsors model (closed several acquisitions already) – focus on middle-market companies
  14. Barbeque Guys – brought in Manning Football family and other players as investors and brand ambassadors
  15. Core Values:  integrity, kindness, carrying -  creating balance – do well and do good
  16. Not a fund (independent sponsor model) – looking for deals which fits the model, Ebida threshold.  Then raise the funds to close the deal.
  17. Looking across health, wellness, Tech, food & nutrition, etc -  other deals Original Footwear (Military Footwear),
  18. Reflection on 2020 – was a great year despite the challenges – all funds raised virtual
  19. Vision Works-  Rebels Spirit – agave spirit from Mexico – new category called “Avila”

 

About

If you want to launch, scale or monetize your business, you want Drew in the room. He's a self-described "white space" guy. The guy that not only looks forward but looks around to come up with fresh ideas to grow your business.

Drew has a results-charged track record of guiding premier companies and iconic celebrities to differentiate their brand and optimize revenues through the development and execution of ground-breaking concepts, strategic partnerships and new business ventures. His ideas have created a billion dollars of top-line value.

What makes Drew extremely valuable is his proven ability to shape his ideas for profit and take them to market to his vast and well-connected professional network. Drew particularly enjoys building new categories, the most challenging and exciting work of all. He is best known for envisioning and making markets in sports and entertainment for: Endeavor(WME-IMG), MLB, International Olympic Committee, Coca Cola, Madison Square Garden, Simon Property Group, Breeders Cup, NY Mets, and Baltimore Orioles.

Drew is a Partner of Brand Velocity Partners, a disruptive lower-middle market private equity firm that focuses on consumer and data companies with $5-30 million of EBITDA. BVP is differentiated because of its focus on marketing, something its competitor’s lack. Drew takes great pride in BVP’s core values -- integrity, thoughtfulness and kindness.

Drew is also a Director and Partner at Revel Spirits, a high quality importer of all agave spirits produced exclusively in the Morelos region of Mexico. All Revel spirits meet the high-quality standards of a trademarked new disruptive category now called “Avila.”

Drew “lives every second of every day” and loves spending time with his family, dog and doing his part, such as mentoring kids in sports to make the world a better place to live. 

 


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Chris Smith, “Gaming/Esports 101″

Chris Smith, “Gaming/Esports 101″

December 5, 2020

Chris Smith, a true Gaming/Esports expert turned Entrepreneur based in Australia. We are going BIG into Esports & Gaming, learning from Chris’s background and then a deep analysis into the difference between Esports and traditional sports, including detailed discussions on numbers and revenues for Gamers and Influencers.

 

Key Highlights

  1. Early days, pathway into the industry, turning his passion into a career, started as a player in a top four team in Australia (playing Battlefield, CSGO)  
  2. Commentating on games, promoting LAN Parties – connecting into the industry through various roles, learning the different parts of the industry
  3. Thermaltake Australia – Marketing & Esports Community Manager
  4. CCC (Chris Creative Collective) – first taste of entrepreneurship – online marketing, events, websites and other services
  5. EGAA (Esports Games Association Australia) – board member & PR/Communication
  6. BIG Esports – esports, gaming and influencer business – including his own Podcast – operate like a “VC growth company”
  7. Difference between Gaming and Esports (US$ 150 billion vs US$ 1 billion) - all about reaching GenZ  
  8. Australian Gaming/Esports landscape – about 10% of the US market, similar games and dynamics as the US (LOL, CSGO, FIFA, etc)
  9. Comparing Esports and Sports ecosystem
    • No clear career path for Esports players compared to traditional sports yet
    • League structures (Closed vs Open Leagues) – Overwatch World League - Franchise League (US$ 30 mil entry ticket)
    • Esports teams vs Pro Sports teams – 70% revenue from sponsorship, prize pool going mostly to players,  LCS/LOL player starting salary US$ 300k                                                             
      • Many Teams operate more like an “agency”, from content creation, events, licensing, etc
      • Owners and creators of content are the big winners – FaZe Clan great example  
    • Changing Meta (Most Effective Tactics Available), changing the rules of engagement in a game – pros and cons
    • Influencers & Gamers – Gaming is the interface – top Esports athletes are often influencers but also plenty of influencers who are not Pro-gamers
      • Monetization – gifting, donation, subscription, advertising, sponsorship dollars
      • All about accessibility – building a strong community big or small  & creating entertainment
      • Lots of examples of what influencers can generate
    • Revenue splits -  Apple/Google – 30% cut of every dollar – Epic/Fortnite is battling it
    • Platforms:  Twitch, Steam, Discord, YouTube Gaming, etc – places to find GenZ      
    • Examples of cross-fertilization and new forms of partnerships between Movies, Music, Sports IP and Gaming companies

 

About

With twelve years’ experience in gaming, esports & technology, Chris Smith is the founder & director of BIG Esports (www.bigesports.gg) – Servicing the industry through bringing new ideas and revenue lines through the door by partnering with traditional companies, sports and influencers.

Chris’ experience is wide-ranging, coming from his history in semi-professional play, community & national event coordination, game commentary, community management, business development, consultancy and PR & marketing across esports, gaming, influencers and enthusiast technology.

A major focus of present is sports celebrities becoming gamers, LinkedIn content and new revenue-generating business ideas for gaming. Past & present clients include: Fox Sports, Gemba, HOYTS Cinemas, JBHIFI, NVIDIA, ASUS, Intel, AMD.

 


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Claude Ruibal, “40 Years of Learning in Sports”

Claude Ruibal, “40 Years of Learning in Sports”

November 27, 2020

Claude Ruibal is another true Legend in our industry, with nearly 40 years across multiple major companies and roles over his career.  It’s a bit longer than the usual podcast as it was impossible to put four decades of incredible experiences in the usual 60 min.  Hang in there, it’s worth every minute, learn from his stories, from his early days at the LA 84 Olympics to his roles at ISL, Coca-Cola, Universal Sports Network, YouTube, Infront to now consulting with start-ups.

 

Key Highlights

  1. Early days,  out of law school, getting involved in the LA 84 Olympics with two years to go to the Games – negotiating deals as part the Olympic Families team
  2. Learning to work as a team and overcoming the Russian pullout, was the big learning
  3. Next stop, Democratic Presidential Campaign – Michael Dukakis
  4. United States Football League – new American Football League – managing player relations, contracts – one of the owners was Donald Trump (and listen to what happened)
  5. From the US to Europe/UK – Saatchi & Saatchi – big UK agency – working with major clients who were sponsors of major events, ie. the 1992 Albertville, Winter and 1992 Barcelona, Summer Olympics
  6. Off to Switzerland, ISL Marketing – SVP, selling media and sponsorship for the IAAF properties (International Association of Athletic Federation) now World Athletics
  7. Back to the US, leading Coca-Cola’s global Football program (over US$ 300 million investment) – Leading new campaigns, ideas and activations
  8. Dotcom boom time, getting into Ask.com (Ask Jeeves) – selling search solution to the IOC, helping raise capital for country-specific launches, having to manage things during the dotcom crash
  9. Universal Sports Network – after 20 years in corporate/agency roles, co-founding (with Tom Hipkins) a multi-platform cable channel for Olympics sports (outside of the Olympics) for the US market – original name WCSN (World Championship Sports Network)
  10. Taking an idea from start to a full fledge business, bringing in PE group InterMedia Partners – heavy capital intense business, which then attracted NBC Sports
  11. From the start-up world – next stop -  Google and YouTube – Global Head of Sports Content – cleaning up the illegal use of content on YouTube,  building trust with IP owners in the platform
    1. Rightsholders clearly not happy with YouTube but also using them to scare traditional broadcasters that Google/YouTube might get involved in rights bidding
    2. New business model, some upfront guarantees against advertising dollars for the bigger sports, but mostly a rev-share model of ad dollars
    3. 2012 – 2014 Olympics, first time streaming bigger live content on YouTube & live stream of Red Bull Stratos jump (2012) – biggest live concurrent stream at the time (9 mil)
    4. Pushing YouTube to go after more sports rights at the time, looking at subscription model besides the advertising model
    5. His views for the future in the rights space – subscription (B2C) and ad model is the key for many rightsholders
    6. YouTubes, rev share model – quick insights
  12. Wanda Sports Group (Infront & HBS) – continuing his learning, taking charge of Digital, Production and Sports Solutions
  13. New technologies from digital on-field branding, ie. different branding for different regions to driving innovations in Infront X Lab
  14. HBS, Chairman of the Board, more oversight role, strong leadership team with Francis Tellier leading the production
  15. Latest role, Ubiquity Sports - working with start-ups in interactive digital fitness, athlete tracking, contextual advertising solutions and AI-driven solutions

 

About

Claude Ruibal is a senior, results-driven leader who has extensive experience in both the sport and digital industries. His impressive career has included many strategic and entrepreneurial roles across the US and Europe, including most recently as Chairman of HBS and SVP Infront - Digital, Production & Sports Solutions. Prior to that Claude was the Global Head of Sports Content Partnerships at GoPro, and before that as Global Head of Sports Content at Google/YouTube. Previously, he acted as Chairman & CEO of Universal Sports Television Network and Director of Global Football Management at the Coca-Cola Company.

He contributes proven abilities such as starting and managing new ventures, developing and executing integrated consumer-marketing and sales programs as well as building front and back end consumer Internet streaming and content solutions. Claude Ruibal has a Juris Doctorate from the Georgetown University School of Law and a BA in Political Science from the University of California Santa Barbara.

 


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