Nov 01, 2022 • 38 min read
Sports is a force so powerful it can transcend beyond the playing field. That’s why tying marketing and sports together offers so much more than your average advertising campaign. Evan Brandoff is joined by Josh Spiegelman, SVP of Entertainment and Sports Partnerships at Burns Entertainment, to talk about the incredible impact of advertising through sports. He talks about advocating for gender equity and social justice, and the value of long-term brand-building. Evan also shares his experiences working both at a large and small media agency, emphasizing the advantages of being part of the latter.
We welcome Josh Spiegelman to the show. Josh is the SVP of Entertainment and Sports Partnerships at Burns Entertainment, building out their entertainment and sports representation practice. Josh has many years of experience in media and sports and has a wealth of knowledge to share with us. Let’s get into it.
Josh, how are you? Thank you so much for coming on.
I’m doing great, Evan. Thanks. I’m super excited. Thank you for having me. I’m honored and humbled.
I’ve been a big fan of yours for years, so it’s super exciting to have you as one of our first guests on the show. Let’s go back to high school, Josh. What was high school Josh like? What was he interested in?
I was a huge sports fan. I slept, ate, and breathed sports. I had an interesting team affinity that some people find bizarre, but there’s an explanation. I grew up in a town called Glastonbury, Connecticut, which is outside of Hartford. We are at the line of demarcation between New York and Boston Sports. Because of that, my affiliation is split. I’m Mets and Giants. Both of those affiliations are because my grandfather and my dad were both Mets and Giants fans. For whatever reason, it wasn’t Mets and Jets.
For basketball, I was a Celtic fan. The reason is that the Celtics used to playback in the Bird-McHale pair-share era eight games a year or so at the Hartford Civic Center. It was fifteen minutes away from our house. I would see a couple of Celtics games back when the Bird was playing, I fell in love. Plus, at the time, it was the only NBA team that I could access on our cable network.
From a hockey perspective, I was a Hartford Whalers fan. Still, from my understanding one of the highest-selling team paraphernalia in all sports because that logo is classic. We used to go to games for $10 tickets in high school. It was fantastic, and then they moved to Carolina. Now I’m a Ranger fan because I live in New York. I’ve had a lot of internal battles. From an NBA standpoint, what do I raise my son and my daughter? Do I raise them Celtics fans or the Knicks fans? We’re in Westchester out of New York.
If they’re going to see live basketball, it’s likely going to be the Knicks. The last piece, I’m an enormous college sports fan, particularly basketball, because growing up in Connecticut, UConn Huskies. Everyone lives and breathes UConn basketball, particularly in the ’90s. I’m a big UConn hoops fan and still am to this day.
When the Giants beat the Pats those two times in the Super Bowl, what was the makeup of the Super Bowl parties you were at? Was it more Giants fans or Pats fans?
The first Super Bowl in the 2006 season, 2007 calendar year, I was on a cruise ship with my family in the Caribbean. I got to celebrate with a bunch of Giants fans on the trip. One of them was on his honeymoon and had to get in a lot of trouble with his wife. In the second Super Bowl, we had a big party in the city. My wife and I were about to get married and mostly Giants fans.
A big sports fan growing up, how did you end up getting into the world of advertising?
The more complex the marketing message, the more frequency you’re looking for.
I went to school at Boston University and studied Business Administration Concentration in Marketing. I knew I didn’t want to get into Finance or Accounting. I excelled more at marketing classes. I was a bit better at English and History. Complex math was not my thing. I knew I wanted to get into some capacity into marketing, but I had no idea what I wanted to do at the time. If you told me that I would eventually get into sports, I would have been ecstatic. At the time, I’d be like, “Shut up. There’s no way I’m going to crack the sports industry. It’s not going to happen.” I randomly fell into media strategy and planning initially.
One of my good friends from college had a friend working at an agency called Media Vest, which is now called Spark Foundry. They’re working on the Crest toothpaste account. I interviewed her. I’ll never forget the day I interviewed. I took the Metro-North into the city. I was super pumped and wore my best suit, probably my only suit at the time. I thought I had a good interview.
Before I even got the job, I nailed this. Who knows if I did? I went for celebratory drinks by myself at ESPN Zone in Times Square. It’s a classic location. I was like, “I’m in a city. I got to hit up ESPN Zone.” I took the train back, got a call as I was driving back to my parents’ place in Connecticut that they wanted to offer me the job. That is the only time in my career that will ever happen.
They must’ve been very hard up for staff at the time. There’s no way I interviewed that well. They put me on the Coca-Cola account, which was an incredible piece of business to start. I’m looking at these, in the media world we call flowcharts. There was an insane amount of money. They had partnerships with NASCAR, American Idol. That was fun. I got to work on a Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke.
Your first account that you worked on was Coca-Cola. What does that look like? First, joining a media agency and you’re working on a big account, where does an entry-level employee start?
I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time. I knew Excel moderately well, a little PowerPoint, but all of a sudden, they put the Coca-Cola flowchart of activities in front of me as an assistant media planner. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. You have, at the time, one of the first American Idol deals that they had done, which was a transcendent deal. I would say still to this day is a transcendent partnership in the industry.
Partnerships with NASCAR, PGA, you name it, they had deals. It was learning how you approach a media strategy and learning the fundamentals, starting with how you connect with consumers, how do you reach consumers most effectively, learning moments of receptivity as we call them. I learned a lot of amazing foundational aspects of marketing in media.
I was blessed, frankly, to be able to work on such an amazing brand to start my career. The other thing, I’m aging myself, this was 2002. The flow chart was not surprisingly disproportionately television and broadcast at the time. You had some print and this thing called digital or internet. Advertising was probably about 2% of the budget as a test and learn.
What is it now for comparison?
I would imagine probably 40%, maybe higher for some brands. It’s pretty amazing. We were looking at this new passion point called Fantasy Sports. Evaluating, is this a thing, something we should test and learn and see sports? It was pretty great. I had the opportunity to work on Procter & Gamble, on Crest toothpaste, and Oral-B toothbrushes. Our big milestone was we launched in MySpace page at the time for Crest, which was huge kudos and incredibly innovative. It’s amazing when you look back, and you put these things in perspective.
Starting off your career, you got to work with Unilever, Coca-Cola, such incredible brands. Just so we can get a better understanding of how this works, Coca-Cola, for example, they have these partnerships with American Idol and NASCAR. On the media strategy team, how do you leverage those partnerships in order to develop a mass media strategy around them? Are you also helping them execute those partnerships? What does that look like?
At the time, I’m super junior, 23 or 24 years old. We’re making sure that stuff doesn’t get screwed up at that point. If I look back, if I was more senior on the team, they’re leveraging those partnerships holistically across different aspects of the business. If you think about the purchase funnel, anytime I talk to a client, I think about how do we map the different assets in a partnership back to their marketing objectives.
It’s awareness, consideration, and purchase intent. If I think about the American Idol partnership, I have clearly driven a tremendous amount of reach and awareness for the brand. Typically, with consumer-packaged goods, you want to be top of mind as many weeks of the year as possible. Usually, we call it one plus reach is what you want to maximize because for a simple product like a carbonated beverage, it only takes one exposure to remind you, “If I’m in the store, maybe I’ll buy Coke versus another brand.”
That applies to most packaged goods. The more complex the message, the more frequency that you’re looking for. When you’re looking for one plus reach, that’s clear. If you think about the incredible reach that American Idol has, that plays a huge role. In addition, they were able to embed the brand within the broadcast or the judges had Coca-Cola cups. They were performances sponsored by Coca-Cola. It added to the value of the broadcast and the consumer experience. Because of that, it drove brand affinity, obviously.
Josh, that’s interesting to hear about the 1X strategy for brands that have a simpler message more so for brand awareness, and then a different frequency strategy for more complex messages. When creating a media plan, are there certain channels that are better for the 1X strategy versus the frequency strategy?
I will qualify this by saying I’m a recovering media planner. Media planning is in my prior life. I still retain a lot of my fundamental knowledge. Perhaps some of this could be a little bit outdated, but generally speaking, broadcast in linear are still by far the best-reach drivers. There’s a lot of talk about the demise of television and cord-cutting. The reality is it drives the most amount of one-plus reach by far across any channel. Live sports, not surprisingly, is the most immune to ratings erosion.
When you think about live sports and the power of live sports to drive massive reach, it’s still unmatched. This is an amazing stat. Since the start of the NFL season, the top between 30 and 35 ranked programs on television from a rating standpoint are NFL games across any entertainment or primetime show. If you look at the year, usually about 60% of the nights, sports is the number one rated program.
It’s still a massive opportunity within sports. Digital clearly, you can still drive reach, but interestingly enough, a lot of marketers institute what they called frequency capping rules because you’ve probably been subject to this where you get served an ad 30 times on a site. You’re like, “I get it. I don’t need this ad anymore.” A lot of brands are cognizant of how many times their ads were being served up. They are ensuring that the digital properties are putting in a frequency cap.
Managers are incented to disrupt, bring new thinking to the table, and create a new campaign, instead of just riding to what they’ve already built.
It’s a perfect segue into sports and entertainment. Since 2013, if I remember correctly, you’ve been an account or managing director leading incredible teams in entertainment and sports partnerships, building out your own practice at Burns, which we’ll get into in a little bit. Starting back at Group M and Mindshare, what was the impetus of your shift from media planning broadly into sports and entertainment?
At the time, I was working on the Unilever account. I was a Media Strategy Director on brands like Axe, Degree, and working on Dove Men. I was involved in some of their larger partnerships that were media-driven. The worlds of media and sponsorship have converged over the past several years where you have a lot of rights holders like Turner, CBS, and ESPN that have acquired the sponsorship rights to big property.
At the time, Unilever had a big NCAA partnership. I was involved from a media standpoint. I enjoyed it so much. I got to the point in my career where I decided that I want to spend my time professionally working on subject matters that I’m truly passionate about, but I want to invest time in personally. I raised my hand to senior management, saying, “If there was ever an opportunity to make a pivot into sports entertainment partnerships within Group M and Mindshare, I’d be game for that.”
Right place, right time, there was a need for someone to come on board and lead strategy for how Unilever approached their sports and entertainment partnerships across their men’s brands. I was able to make a lateral pivot leading the NCAA business and Unilever’s NCAA sponsorship overnight, which was incredible because I already had great relationships with a number of the brands at the time.
Subsequent to that, I had the fortune of working with some incredible teammates and partners building out a practice at Mindshare in sports and entertainment partnerships and sponsorships across clients like Booking.com, Buffalo Wild Wings, Marshalls, InterContinental Hotel Group, and got to work with a ton of amazing clients and brands. It didn’t feel like work, if that makes any sense. I got to a certain point where I loved my job so much that my wife would be like, “I can’t talk about work anymore. I get it.”
You entered the sports world managing NCAA. It was a dream for you, which is awesome. You mentioned that fun fact about the NFL and broadly how TV ratings, sportspeople are watching. Is that what is so special about the connection between marketing and sports or is it more than that?
I’ve always believed that sports is an enormous fabric of our society. It is something that binds people together. It is a unifier. There are not many things in culture that can replicate what sports provide. I’ve always said that there’s literally nothing else where you may have millions of people at one time being elated and ecstatic because their team won, and millions of people at the same time, also being despondent and depressed because their team lost. There’s nothing else that exists like that.
I was always fascinated from an early age. I was a huge UConn Huskies fan, and I would spiral into 24-hour depressions after big losses. I was twelve years old, and I would think about the fact that I didn’t know any of these guys on the team personally. Why do I feel such an emotional connection to a group of human beings that I’ve never met? That is the power. There’s tribalism in sports from a fan perspective.
From a youth sports perspective, sports teaches so many incredible values to kids growing up from a teamwork perspective in terms of sportsmanship, how to be unselfish, and fight diversity. There are so many incredible aspects of sports and competition that bind people together and are part of their journeys throughout their lives. I’ve always been fascinated from a psychology perspective. Thinking about the psychology of sports, how brands can then be part of that experience and ultimately be additive to the experience.
What I’m hearing, and it makes so much sense as a reason to tie with sports, is, one, you could reach a lot of people. Two, you’re reaching them at happy or not-so-happy moments but emotional moments. When engaging with people at emotional moments, that’s how psychologically you’re getting ingrained in our minds.
By the way, there’s research that consumers are significantly more receptive to marketing messages when they are in a heightened state of emotion, whether that is a state where they’re elated or despondent. You have to be careful. If you’re despondent, you want to give them something to cheer for. There’s a lot of fascinating research there as well in terms of how you find a way to capitalize on that fan passion.
You’ve worked with incredible brands and properties. Are there any specific campaigns that come to mind that are most memorable or you’re most proud of?
It was a campaign I’m most proud of in my career and one of the most arduous. There were blood, sweat, and tears that went into it. They’re hard, and they’re hard for a reason because that’s what makes greatness. It was a campaign in 2020 with Dove Men Plus Care and the National Basketball Players Association. You may recall back on July 4th, 2020, it hit the trades that the NBA and the NBPA decided to put social justice messages on the backs of jerseys.
I saw it hit the trades on a Sunday night. I called my friend who represented the players association on that Monday. I said, “This may be an ambitious idea, but if I could find a brand that had like-minded values and represented the values that were on the backs of jerseys, could we find a coalition of players that a brand could partner with around that sentiment and obviously shared values around social justice and racial equity?â€
We ended up bringing Dove Men Plus Care on, which has an incredible heritage and history in looking at the caring, emotional side of men. They were fully invested very early, off to the races, and worked with some incredible partner agencies to cultivate a campaign called Commit to Care jointly with the National Basketball Players Association. Care was a double entendre because obviously you have Dove Men Plus Care, but it also was an acronym we created that stood for Care About Racial Equity.
The purpose was to change the way people saw and treated Black men. Thinking about athletes a lot of times, people think of athletes as entertainers. They’re caregivers, fathers, brothers, and people who are incredibly involved in their communities. We worked with Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, Jaylen Brown, a number of players to tell their stories about how do they give back to their communities and how are they helping the next generation?
It aired in the NBA Finals. Our team at the time created the content. I was at Mindshare. We partnered with Edelman Public Relations, JOY Collective, which is an incredible independent marketing agency focused on multiculturalism. The brand was amazing. That was the proudest I’ve ever been of a campaign because it also truly made a difference in society.
We studied the effects and people after hearing these stories, and it was eleven NBA players that we worked with. They fundamentally thought about Black men in a different way. We changed perception, which is very rewarding when you can use your job as a tool of good. That was something that I’ll always be proud of.
From the moment you had that idea and called your friend at the NBA PA to the time the campaign went live, how long did that take?
It’s probably two and a half months, which at the time was a full-on sprint. We’re talking about something that is so important that you need to get it right. During that time, you had the boycotts that happened. If you remember, in late August, early September 2021, there was a lot of different cultural conversation. We need to do this.
To Unilever’s credit, they scrutinized every single aspect of the campaign because they had to. They need to make sure if we partnered with an incredible organization, like the National Basketball Players Association, who, by the way, as invested as Dove Men Plus Care was, and incredible partners that we nailed it and had to stick the landing. It was a fun summer, for sure.
I assume there’s a budget that needs to go to the NBA PA in order to get that talent involved, creating the right creative and TV commercial and potentially budget that goes towards paying the players to do social posts and social influencing. From a high level, how has that bucket broke down? What percent is spent on which pieces?
In this case, you have to build everything from the ground up. They weren’t going in with saying, “We have X amount of money. How are we going to split this up?” First, clearly, you need to ensure that you can fund the relationship with the players association. That was the most important piece. What we looked at it as is these players are mega influencers. Utilizing their social influence and scale, we were able to drive a ton of reach. We thought about how do we then amplify their presence. Content production, there’s a cost, but at the time, you were still in the heart of COVID.
Everything was filmed remotely, which our team at Mindshare, the content plus team, were learning on the fly. What is the type of technology we need? These guys need ring lights. We were able to film all the players in direct-to-camera interviews, but it was almost all done remotely, which was amazing. We looked at how do we amplify media in the right places at the right time? Tentpole moments like the NBA Finals, but also media that was also targeting Black consumers, who we knew this message was so important to. The team was thoughtful about how do we bring this to life in the most relevant environments.
Lastly, PR was clearly something that was important for the players to speak about. They wanted to talk about what they were doing jointly with Dove Men Plus Care. We created these camps for kids where we gave them technology and resources and this whole mentorship program for them where a number of kids associated with each of the players, whether it’d be their foundations, were able to be inspired by this tech and talk camps. It was a pretty amazing program. It’s hard to appreciate it when you’re in the midst of something like that because every day is crazy. When you can reflect back on what you’ve accomplished, it’s pretty awesome.
Brands would be wise to think about the campaigns they are working on to continue to refine, build, and optimize.
How long of a shelf life does a campaign like that have?
It depends. Clearly, number one itâ€™s dependent on budget. Number two, it’s dependent on the brand priorities and objectives. I’m a huge believer in continuity for brands. Far too many brands try to move on to the next best thing too quickly, as opposed to sweating the value and the equity of programs they built. This is true for human beings, as well as companies and brands. Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness. If you apply that to anyone you know personally, I guarantee you that you’ll think about, “This person’s greatest strength is their greatest weakness.” How do you minimize the weaknesses?
That’s one of the few things I’ve figured out in life. Brand managers are incented to disrupt, bring new thinking to the table, create a new campaign, versus saying, “I’m going to keep riding out what we’ve already built.” They want to make a mark. Any human being wants to come into a new position, and you say like, “I want to make a mark on this business, and I’m going to affect change.”
The detriment of that is sometimes brands lack identity in the marketplace because they’re moving from one campaign to the next, blocking consistency. Dove Men Plus Care, to their credit, they’ve always stood for one thing. It had been very single-minded in the marketplace, dating back years from when they worked with Shaq and Dwyane Wade. If you look at brands and you say like, “What’s this campaign? Where did they come up with this?”
There are human beings behind those campaigns that have made those decisions. One of the great franchises in sports marketing is Home Depotâ€™s presenting sponsorship of College Game Day. They’ve been with them since the inception of that. They’ve built equity year over year. I always think about that as a case study. You think about what Allstate has done, very simple, but in terms of activating against college football field goal nets and the good hands that you see in the frequency that you build every year.
It’s one of those interesting things in our industry where everyone who’s Type A, driven and ambitious, we want to create new stuff. That’s human nature. A lot of brands would be wise to also think about the activities and the campaigns that they know we’re working on, that they can continue to refine, build and optimize.
You mentioned how there are certain companies like Home Depot. They have that continuity. They’ve been doing the halftime show ever since its inception. There are other companies that, to your point, their strength is their biggest weakness. They always want to move on to the next bigger and better thing so that someone can leave their mark. As an organization, have you seen commonalities and how certain brands incentivize their employees to potentially stay the course when something is working well versus coming up with something new?
The companies that are invested in long-term growth and brand building and are incentivizing their employees over a number of years, as opposed to looking at, â€œWhat have you done for me? Every single quarter or annually, what’s our market share?â€ Those are the companies clearly that are investing in their employees from a long-term perspective versus short-termism, I coined a couple of years ago where a lot of brands for a period of time were invested in lower-funnel marketing.
How do we drive purchase intent as quickly as possible but potentially sacrifice brand building and brand equity? One thing that every brand struggle with is what is the right balance of brand versus demand. How do we think about building the brand long-term versus how do we think about driving short-term demand? I don’t think there’s any right answer because it is complex. I haven’t heard of bonus structures that are based on brand building, but if companies looked at that, it would be pretty innovative versus the short-term share in volume from a sales perspective, which sometimes can incent the wrong decisions.
The last thing I want to touch on in sports that I know is something you’re very passionate about is gender equity in sports. What type of role can a brand play in promoting gender equity in sports?
Gender equity is near and dear to my heart. I have a daughter. Sheâ€™s playing soccer. It was funny when I was coaching my son, Aiden, in soccer, and my daughter, Sadie, started playing, and my wife called me. She was like, “No, you got to coach her too.” I was like, “You’re 100% right.” I got to live gender equity in terms of, “If I’m not living it for my children, I can’t preach about it.” When you think about gender equity in sports, I believe we’re starting to hit a tipping point culturally.
There was a lot of noise in 2020 around March Madness and the inequity from a gym resource perspective with the women’s basketball tournament relative to the menâ€™s. That started a necessary conversation. It was ignited by a TikTok video by Sedona Prince. To the NCAAâ€™s credit, they’ve gone through a full gender equity review. They’ve been very introspective and self-critical, and they are making a meaningful change.
2022 is going to be the anniversary of Title IX, which is going to be an important landmark for female athletes in gender equity. Going back to your question, what can brands do? To me, it’s about how they increase visibility for women’s athletes and invest in increasing visibility, because only 4% of impressions in the US in sports are for female sports.
The disparity is insane. If you think about the challenge and the problem, you have to start from the base, which is you need to invest in women’s sports to drive more impressions. More impressions will, in turn, drive more sponsors. You have more ratings and brands that will invest. More endorsement deals with female athletes obviously will then transpire.
Investing in women’s sports from a media perspective is where you have to start because that begins that flywheel. At the same time, I’m at Burns Entertainment now. Our heritage and background is we’re one of the best in the business of talent procurement and brokering partnerships with celebrities and athletes. I would argue that for female athletes, social media has been the great equalizer where you have a number of incredibly strong, brave, outspoken female athletes that have elevated their own brands in ways that frankly men haven’t. They’ve brought in their fans into their world.
There’s a lot of research and study that suggests that female sports fans relative to men’s sports fans want to connect with female athletes in a very personal way. Male sports fans are more motivated by what happens on the court, the field, the pitch, but female sports fans want to understand who these female athletes are. As people, they want to relate to them, perhaps as moms, what they’re doing in their community. From a mental health perspective, clearly, we’ve seen a number of high-profile athletes be vulnerable in a way that men aren’t typically.
That is also going to be interesting to see how brands continue to invest in female athletes as brand ambassadors and the shared values that they identify. Going back to your question, it comes down to prioritizing female sports in your marketing plans and putting your money where your mouth is. It’s investing in it, because without investment from brands, and it’s not going to change.
For any readers that aren’t familiar with Title IX, Josh, please, correct me if I’m wrong, but it essentially makes sure that Division 1 or maybe all schools in NCAA have an equal number of men’s and women’s sports programs.
That’s exactly right.
Unfortunately for me, the sport that I had the best chance of playing D1 was bowling. There’s a women’s bowling team but not men’s. Overall, I’m a huge fan of what Title IX is and what it stands for. In terms of increased investing in women’s sports and growing its visibility, I might be over-generalizing, but do you think that the path to growing women’s sports fan base is by acquiring more male or female fans?
I don’t have the answer.
What’s the viewership at large of sports? Do you know what the ratio is of men versus women?
It’s more female-skewing than most people would believe, particularly for the big water core events. If you think about big NFL games, playoffs, March Madness, the NBA Playoffs, NBA Finals, it’s usually somewhere around 60/40, give or take 5% points each way. For some events, it’s even closer to 50/50. Thereâ€™s social occasions. There’s a lot of co-viewing that happens within families and friends. I’ve spoken to a lot of brands that it’s a great opportunity to reach female fans in big sporting events, as well as male fans.
When you think about female sports, it still skews slightly now. Maybe slightly female for some, but it’s incumbent upon both genders to support female athletes like they support male athletes. They’re incredible competitors. There are incredible stories if you think about a team like the UConn women’s basketball team, which is one of the most storied teams in sports history.
I grew up in Connecticut. I think about going to UConn women’s games, all my friends and their parents, and it was no different than how men’s sports were supported. There were equally as many men supporting the women’s basketball teams because they had pride. They rooted for these young incredible women and competitors in the same way that they root for men. If you can replicate the magic that the UConn women’s team has created in the State of Connecticut and find a way to harness that passion everywhere, it’s a very daunting tall task, but you need both genders.
You can’t match the inspiration and motivation that you feel when you’re building something yourself.
Shifting gears, congratulations on your new-ish role at Burns. It’s an incredible company. You shared a little bit about what they do, but tell us a little bit more about what your new role entails.
Burns has been around for many years. We have 500 plus deals with celebrities across Hollywood, athletes, experts, culinary, you name it, on behalf of a ton of brands, and also work with influencers and do music licensing. The CEO of Burns called me up over the summer and said, “I know how inextricably linked talent partnerships are with sponsorship.” Would you be interested in coming on board and starting a sponsorship offering for our company?
Evan, as an entrepreneur, I’d take it a step back and think about it like, “Is this something that I want to dive into?” I kept coming back to the fact like, “How could I not give this a shot? This is an incredible opportunity with an agency that has a stable of great clients. It’s an opportunity to take everything I’ve learned over the years, working with blue-chip clients and properties, and then creating something from all that knowledge that I could put a mark on.â€
I’m hitting the pavement, the street, and talking to brands about how they can cultivate sponsorship and partnership strategies, helping them evaluate proposals, do valuations on proposals in terms of, is the offer that they’re getting or the financial ask commensurate with the assets that are in the proposal? It’s new, but certainly exciting.
How many employees are at Mindshare?
It’s over 1,000 in the US.
It’s 47 at Burns?
It’s less than that. The pros are that every day I get up, I can create something of my own. I can hit the pavement and put in the sweat equity. You can’t match the inspiration and the motivation that you feel when you’re building something yourself. Granted, it’s with an incredible company that has a storied history and a great business already. The inspiration that you feel and that burn, it’s hard to replicate when you’re working for a huge corporation, and you’re one of the thousands of employees globally.
Since it’s a small company, there’s a much a family atmosphere. It’s a close-knit atmosphere where everyone’s pulling for each other. People are passionate about what they do. People don’t go to Burns for a job. They go to Burns because they want a career. You’re working with a lot of senior-level people who have been in the business for a long time.
The cons, someone told me this before I started, it’s lonelier than when you’re working for a huge corporation, which not surprisingly. Particularly, when people are still mostly working remotely, it’s on you. I’m getting up every morning and reaching out to my contact list, friends, and former colleagues and hitting the pavement, getting meetings, and trying to understand how I can help.
I don’t have an enormous team to lean on like I used to. That’s a tradeoff clearly. Emotionally, there are more ups and downs. You celebrate the small wins. I’ve noticed a lot more already. I get a meeting with a prospect that I’ve been trying to talk to. That’s a big deal. Whereas before, “I got to meet the client, fine.” It doesn’t affect my day at all. I’m sure you can appreciate that.
On the flip side, for a brand or a company, what would you say are the biggest benefits of working with more of a boutique, smaller company?
You’re going to be a very big fish in a smaller pond. You’re still going to get senior-level guidance expertise from folks that have been in the industry for a long time. We have to treat every single client engagement like it’s our last one. That’s the way that we’re going to continue to excel because we don’t have the luxury of a big holding company at our backs.
You’re going to get white-glove service because this is our livelihood. It’s so important that we are doing right by clients. You’re going to get a passionate group of senior-level people. I worked at big agencies for a long time, and there’s a ton of fantastic people. The reality is that, as we all know, particularly the big holding companies, got to drive margin for Wall Street.
That typically means that you first start to talk to someone very senior, and then you get introduced to someone a lot more junior who’s going to work on your business. That’s how these holding companies make money. When I was 24, 25 and managing a flow chart of much more money than I should have at the time, those are the things I would think about.
Josh, this has been insightful, inspiring, and fun. I’m so excited for you. I know you’re going to crush it in your new role.
I appreciate it.
Before I let you go, though, we have our lightning round. I have four questions. It’s the first thing that comes to mind. First question, what is your favorite youth sports memory?
My favorite youth sports memory is winning my first youth tennis tournament. Tennis was my best sport growing up. I played varsity tennis in high school. When I was 11 or 12, I got my first big trophy. I won our club tournament. That’s my best sports youth memory.
You touched on this a little bit, but when you were growing up, what did you want to be when you got older?
It’s funny you ask because I looked at a time capsule, one of those things from high school where you write everything. At the time, I wanted to be a sports journalist. I was on my school paper writing for the sports section. That was my goal at the time. At least I am in somewhat the same stratosphere.
Third question, what is a brand whose marketing you admire most?
It’s Nike, by far the best brand in the world.
Finally, what is a go-to cause that you like to support?
Treat every single client engagement like it’s your last one. That’s how you will continue to excel.
I’m a big fan of Habitat for Humanity. Growing up, when I was a teenager, I went on a couple of trips with Habitat. As an adult, I support it because being able to build a physical edifice for someone in need is special.
That’s all I got for you, Josh. This was awesome. Thank you so much for coming on.
Thanks for having me. This has been fantastic and a lot of fun.
Thank you for reading. As a recap, we discussed what it’s like to work at both a large media agency and a small one, the power of tying marketing and sports together, gender equity in sports, and how brands can help to bridge that gap and how he brought some exciting campaigns to life, including the Dove Men’s Care NBA campaign. Thank you for tuning in. See you next time. Play on, everyone.
We harness the power of pop culture. Burns expertly pairs brands with athletes, celebrities, sports leagues/teams, entertainment properties, influencers and music licensing for maximum impact and measurable engagement. Burns Entertainment serves as an expert partner to the world’s top brands and marketing agencies. Burns uses its industry knowledge, relationships, and contract expertise to identify the most relevant talent for any campaign, put together the best deal and manage the entire process flawlessly.
I am an experienced marketer specializing in sports and entertainment partnerships with 20 years of industry experience. I focus on crafting, negotiating, and activating breakthrough partnerships with athletes, celebrities, sports leagues/teams,, entertainment properties for an array of Fortune 500 clients.
My marketing insights and articles have been featured in Sports Business Journal, CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, MediaPost, Digiday, and Media Life Magazine.