The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer

Chris Pepe, “Road to LA28″

October 11, 2020

Chris is sharing stories of his illustrious career from being a founding executive member of Major League Soccer, to working at FIFA World Cups and Olympics at the client-side with Yahoo and VISA which has led him to his current role as the Chief Commercial Officer of the LA 2028 Olympics and the US Olympic & Paralympic Properties. With eight years out, it’s a long and interesting road ahead.

Key Highlights

  1. Accidental entry into sports, not the typical lawyer career path.  Doug Logan, a client and first Commissioner of Major League Soccer got him involved in the new League
  2. Working at the MLS – with industry Tycoons from Lamar Hunt, Phil Anschutz and Bob Kraft and Alan Rothenberg.  From Team names to Venues, tickets, etc starting from scratch
  3. Credit to founders for keeping the League alive to the big success it is now
  4. Yahoo Days,  dot com era.  Yahoo became Partner of FIFA on 9/11 (announcement on the fatal day) and Chris’s role, FIFA World Cup in Japan/Korea
  5. Premier Partnerships, joining Randy Bernstein who left Yahoo and started the agency
  6. A decade at VISA, transition from Agency to Client-side. Lots of “internal selling” vs external. Olympic and Rugby sponsor at the time. Not yet with FIFA
  7. First VISA involvement at FIFA World Cup in South Africa 2010.  Massive issues in the transition between Mastercard and VISA prior to it.
  8. Why is VISA in Sports – growth of VISA brand is directly lined to Olympics.  Pass through rights for Banks is key.  
  9. FIFA deal, target to reach a different consumer base than Olympics.  More Debit card focused than Credit Card.  First World Cup, huge success.
  10. Marcus & Chris 1984 LA Olympics stories
  11. LA 28 – The story behind the LOGO and MARKS
  12. Eight Years out – first focus is TEAM USA and develop a long term story for brands
  13. Elevator pitch – key is to empower brands, drive engagement, drive brands business – co-creation
  14. Talking Numbers,  US$ 2.5 billion target in sponsorship.  US$ 7 billion overall budget  
  15. Balancing act between IOC Global partners and local partners
  16. Tokyo learning and how to work with partners – extension without any additional fees
  17. Learning/Lessons from his career – don’t take yourself to seriously and don’t let the job get into your head (teamwork matters)

About

Chris Pepe is a seasoned sports business executive leading commercial negotiations, property and team management, market activation and business development. As the Chief Commercial Officer for U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Properties (USOPP), the joint venture between LA28 and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Pepe is responsible for marketing and selling rights for LA28 and Team USA from 2021 through 2028.

Prior to USOPP, Pepe was Head of Strategic Partnerships for Visa International’s North American Product Division. During nearly 10 years there, he held various leadership positions including Head of U.S. Sports & Entertainment Partnerships and Global Head of FIFA/Football Management in Visa’s Worldwide Sponsorships and Partnerships group. In these roles, Pepe managed many of Visa’s multi-million dollar sports investments and led many of the company’s global sports and lifestyle strategies.

In addition to his career at Visa, Pepe has developed business strategies for a variety of sports and entertainment properties, including the first-ever global sales network at Yahoo! and Premier Partnerships when in its startup phase. He began his career in sports as a founding executive member at Major League Soccer (MLS).

Pepe received his B.A. and J.D. from Villanova University and is a cited expert in trusted sport business outlets including Sports Business Daily, Sportcal and Inside the Games.

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