The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer

Murray Barnett, ”Media & Sponsorship Unpacked”

October 7, 2021

Great stories and learning from Murray Barnett’s illustrious career across NBA, ISL, World Rugby and F1 to turning entrepreneur with his own boutique consulting agency during the pandemic. Lots of wisdom and great sharing from his journey over the past 2 decades.


Key Highlights

  1. Starting at Orbit, Satellite TV space in Rome, Italy and some Italian House Music 
  2. From Rome to Budapest to the NBA Europe in Paris – plan, plan and plan again – amazing level of detail, great lessons from David Stern 
  3. Lessons from being at ISL Marketing for the final years of the agency handling FINA & FIBA accounts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true (ATP disaster) 
  4. Next stop ESPN, Russell Wolf offering a role as Employee #1 in ESPN’s Disney office in London
  5. His focus at ESPN International – selling rights portfolio to other broadcasters, supervising ESPN channels in Middle East & Africa , identifying new opportunities to build the brand    
  6. Big international expansion and ESPN UK (Premier League rights for one cycle) – what worked and didn’t work 
  7. Success stories, ESPN Middle East, growing to 3 channels on ART and growth of ESPN Latin America and learning from top Disney/ESPN executives 
  8. ESPN MVNO (ESPN The Phone) – culture of trying lots of new things and turning failure into learning to pivot into new areas
  9. World Rugby (IRB),  Chief Commercial Officer role, from TV to sponsorship to hospitality.  Rugby World Cup 2015 in England and other competitions (HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series deal)
  10. Rugby’s different philosophy as a sport and significance of rebranding the sport to World Rugby, Olympic inclusion for Rugby Sevens 
  11. Rugby World Cup scale and size – US$250 million per event & Maradona visiting Twickenham story 
  12. Private Equity in sports - bringing external “influencers” to push change in sports, the role of “outsiders” like CVC and similar groups investing and coming into sports with a different perspective 
  13. Formula One Management – Head of Global Sponsorship & Commercial Partnerships – track side and hospitality packages       
  14. Massive ten year deal with Aramco (largest company in the world, Saudi Oil giant) and how AWS (Amazon Web Services) came into the sport 
  15. Aramco deal unpacked and how the deal happened.  And the big difference between selling TV rights and sponsorship deals. 
  16. F1 Esports, fan festivals and other new innovations 
  17. Founding 26West Sport during the Pandemic , boutique sports consultancy specializing in TV rights, sponsorship and commercial development 
  18. “Learning” being an entrepreneur the past year 


About Murray Barnett

Murray Barnett is a Sports Marketing professional with over 20 years’ experience in Media, Marketing & Sponsorship worldwide. He has uniquely worked for sports leagues, governing bodies, TV/media companies and sports marketing agencies.

Starting out in Italy and Hungary with Orbit and Nethold respectively, Murray worked on two international TV start-ups in marketing, sales and programming capacities.

Upon leaving Hungary, he was employed by NBA Europe to manage marketing partnerships & programme development with NBA Broadcast partners. From there he was headhunted by ISL to manage TV accounts for FIBA basketball and Fina swimming.

Amongst ISL TV’s sales portfolio were also IAAF, FIFA and ATP Tennis which Murray sold across a number of European territories. From there, he was asked to join ESPN to launch their European TV Sales operations which included 3 channel brands and over 10,000 hours of content sales. Murray was also part of the launch team for ESPN UK which broadcast English Premier League, Rugby and US Sports for four seasons.

After 11 years at ESPN, Murray was recruited for the role of Chief Commercial Officer at World Rugby, the governing body for the sport. His many responsibilities include all TV sales, content development, sponsorship & commercial agreements, licensing and hospitality.

Following the change of ownership at F1, Murray was asked to join the management team as Director of Global Sponsorship & Commercial Partnerships tasked with developing and growing commercial opportunities for partners within F1.


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