The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer
Ricardo Fort, “Sport By Fort”

Ricardo Fort, “Sport By Fort”

May 19, 2021

Ricardo Fort spent his incredible career on the "brand side" of the business, deploying hundreds of millions of sponsorship and advertising dollars for the likes of Coca-Cola and VISA to name a few.

Great deep discussion about his views on sports as a platform from the perspective of a true "Advertising Man" who has worked with some of the biggest sports sponsors in the world. 


Key Highlights

    1. From studying Civil Engineering to realising that marketing was his calling at Unilever.
    2. FMCG space, great place to learn marketing, brands spending big dollars
    3. His dream (which was also mine) working for Coca Cola coming true. The Coke TV commercial that triggered it (featuring Zico). Third time lucky 🍀. 
    4. Starting at Sprite brand before moving to Coca Cola brand. Brazil the 3rd biggest market for the brand. 
    5. First involvements with FIFA World Cups, starting in 2002 Japan/Korea.
    6. Working across FIFA, UEFA and teams. 
    7. HQ roles, developing global frame work vs local team execution and leveraging the property 
    8. After the 2006 World Cup, back to Brazil before a stopover in India. These countries are a "mess", challenging new role. Fans are similar in their passion for their respective sports (⚽ & 🏏) 
    9. Short sting at Danone. Global Marketing Director based in Paris. Not the best match. 
    10. Next stop Visa in San Francisco. More similarities than difference in approach by Coke & Visa to sponsorship. 
    11. Beginning preparations for Brazil World Cup 2014 and Rio Olympics 2016
      My Sao Paulo and Brazil World Cup experiences 🇧🇷 🇩🇪 🏆
    12. Inside look on how Visa leverages and measures these mega events, very focused on the customer (mainly Banks at the time, now much broader). Develop specific promotions. 
    13. Being a big "Sponsor" - about the relationships with the Rights holders, not about the money 🤔? Ricardo explains. 
    14. Back at Coke - homecoming as VP Global Sports & Entertainment Partnerships
    15. Coke's massive global marketing and sponsorship budget, where and how to invest it. Being seen as the go to guy for the industry. Seeing 25 proposals per week. 
    16. Everything starts with a "Problem". How can a sponsorship help fix the problem. THE KEY MESSAGE (if you learn nothing else from our discussion). 
    17. Start with public filings by companies and look at what problems they have. Look for the challenges and how you can help.
    18. Beyond sports - global entertainment, movies, music and gaming & Esports
    19. Gaming - huge visibility, distribution, eye balls. Connecting with Gamers via Publishers. 
    20. Reaching hardcore Gamers, thru Influencers & Esports
    21. Coke in Gaming since 2002 with EA's Fifa, 2007/08 early days in Asia. Sensitivity to certain type of Games. 
    22. Being authentic as a brand is key - fans can smell fake from far 
    23. His thoughts on the "Sugar drink" issue 
    24. Coke vs Pepsi discussion 
    25. Sport by Fort Consulting - his brand new agency - going Entrepreneurial route 
    26. Helping other companies/brands with his 25 years experience in sponsorship 
    27. Current Project examples:
      • Working with brands who are looking at global events 
      • Sport tech start-ups 
      • Marketing plan for a Footballer, build a brand 
      • Higher education project 
      • Investors and Football club owners
    28. His final thoughts on Crypto & NFTs and brands


About Ricardo Fort

After 25 years working for some of the best companies in the world and almost a decade successfully leading the Global Sponsorship teams of Visa and The Coca-Cola CompanyRicardo launched Sport by Fort Consulting to help sponsors, leagues, investors and athletes successfully invest in sports.

An excellent track record dealing with major global and local sporting organizations and the savvy of having negotiated over a billion dollars in sponsorship contracts, position Ricardo as an expert with unique skills to help investors evaluate, decide and negotiate partnerships.

At Coca-Cola (Atlanta, GA – USA), Ricardo led the Company’s global portfolio of sports and entertainment sponsorships, partnerships and events, including the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, UEFA, the Special Olympics, athletes, McLaren F1 team, record labels, movie studios, the gaming industry and other worldwide sports and entertainment properties.

Prior to this role, Ricardo was the SVP of Global BrandProduct & Sponsorship Marketing at Visa (San Francisco, CA – USA), where he was responsible for all global consumer marketing initiatives including branding, advertising, digital, design and sponsorships.

Ricardo led the Visa team, one of the most active sponsors in the world, in the end-to-end initiatives related to the International Olympics Committee, FIFA, the International Paralympic Committee, UEFA, the NFL, dozens of Football, Baseball and Basketball teams in the USA and hundreds of Olympic athletes.

Before Visa, Ricardo was the Global Marketing Director for the dairy category at the Group Danone (Paris – France), and held several other Marketing roles at Coca-Cola in Brazil, USA and India, and multiple roles at Kellogg’s and Unilever.

Ricardo obtained a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo and has a Specialization in Business Administration from Fundação Getúlio Vargas, both in Brazil. He is married and the father of two teenage girls.


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Mark Pannes, “From Basketball To Football”

Mark Pannes, “From Basketball To Football”

May 5, 2021

Mark Pannes is a highly accomplished US sports executive with an incredible career across the US and Europe, from his early days at the New York Knicks, to leading a large European Football Club (AS Roma) on behalf of a US Owner and learning the inside workings of one of the largest Banks in the world (HSBC Private Bank).  Mark has accumulated a wealth of knowledge and his views are well heard (through his own Podcast/Clubhouse talks) and respected in the industry. With the European Super League “fiasco” just over when we spoke, we off course took a good stab at the topic as well.  As always, lots of learning and great insights throughout the discussion. Enjoy.  


Key Highlights

  1. How it all started, a High School dream to have a career in professional sports, leads to studying sports at UT in Austin and a summer internship with the New York Knicks
  2. First job on the operational side at Madison Square Garden (MSG), 19 different trade groups (Unions) working in the building, etc
  3. 10 years with the Knicks -  Patrick Ewing and Pat Reilly days – MSG a vertically integrated company, the venue owns the teams and broadcast network – sales force is media let - Knicks the bait to sell other content at the venue (bundling)
  4. Starting to sell Knicks as a stand alone property, non-media related – drove US$ 4 mil of new revenue (total team revenue over US$ 120 mil at the time)
  5. Brand driven vs sales driven approach,  digital and CRM starting to kick off
  6. Ground breaking deal with American Express, co-branded card for the first time
  7. First Entrepreneurial experience – Skilo Brand agency – range of clients and projects  
  8. First overseas sting, overseeing acquisition and then managing a Parisian Basketball Club (Tony Parker, French NBA player was part of the investor group)
  9. After cleaning up the club in phase 1, spending most of the time on ways to finance the “underfunded” Club and connected with HSBC
  10. Next stop HSBC Private Bank, London, banking athletes and IP owners, borrowing against assets
  11. IP owners and athletes, asset & wealth management, borrow against revenue.  COI (contractually obligated income) as security
  12. Insider look during the global Financial Crisis (2008-09) – HSBC’s approach
  13. Next Raptor Accelerator, Jim Pallotta, US billionaire Family office – invested in AS Roma – new role as CEO of the club
  14. The numbers in the AS Roma deal – total US$ 160 million investment (according to reports)
  15. Learnings from his AS Roma days, running a Listed company, every club is a “selling club” – ability to sell players is important
  16. New Stadium plans, great project, big plans, the process to get it started (unfortunately till today it hasn’t come to fruition) (Roman politics or what happened?)
  17. European Super League (ESL) discussion – 48 hours of madness – his view as an American Sports Executive with European Football experience
  18. Mismatch and disconnect between team owners, there was no “executive team” in place to represent the group (it appeared), no apparent media partners, rushed announcements, etc
  19. BCG , JP Morgan and many of the big Clubs got their fingers burned it appears in hindsight – surprisingly many rookie mistakes across the groups   
  20. The underlying challenges between the big clubs and the “others” haven’t gone away – the issue will come again at some point in the future – even the big clubs have little leverage with UEFA, so they need to come up with these threats to push their agenda
  21. Union Sports – private consulting companies, advising on media and other long-term revenue streams
  22. Vancouver Whitecaps FC , turn around, clean up – just when the pandemic hit six months into it
  23. Inner Market Media – consulting and content creation for sports IP owners – focus on transatlantic view – “OTT Sports Speakeasy” (weekly on Clubhouse, Thu, 5pm UK time) and OTT Sports Podcast together with partner Michael Broughton
  24. Last thoughts on the growth opportunities in sports in current climate – expansion period for sports – new money coming in with lots of changes along the way in the process


About Mark Pannes

Mark is the Managing Partner of Inner Market Media. A 30 year sports and media industry veteran he has managed sports, media, entertainment, and licensing businesses in North America, the UK, Europe, and Canada.

He has served as CMO of the New York Knicks (NBA)CEO for AS Roma (Serie A)CEO for the Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS), and founding director of the global sports practice at HSBC Private Bank, based in London.

He currently also serves as a teaching fellow and advisory board chair for the Center for Sports Communication & Media at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is based.

Mark is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and Fordham School of Law.


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To get in touch, please email us at


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Music promoted by Audio Library

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