The Sports Sponsorship Workshop at the Wharton Undergraduate Sports Business Summit was comprised of three Penn grads with an integral presence in the sports industry. The panel was led by SVP of Sales at Turner Sports, Seth Ladetsky (C’96), along with Zach Hochster and Steve Lang (both C’11), who represented Scout Sports and Entertainment.
Ladetsky leads a team that represents a wide range of Turner’s most prominent subsidiaries, namely NBA Digital, March Madness Live, eSports, IMG Academy, and Bleacher Report. Ladetsky’s primary job is to create revenue for Turner by investing in sports programming. As he explained, sports consists of “multi-faceted levels” in terms of how fans can gain access to viewing the event: these levels include customary ticket purchases from venues, classic broadcasting from major networks, and the “new-world” method of streaming. Ladetsky’s task is to decipher recent adaptations in the sports ecosystem and discover the intersection between sports media and entertainment to bring a desirable product to audiences.
Often, the ability to fulfill his goal is hampered by a laundry-list of regulations from league offices, particularly the NCAA, which makes using rights of universities an arduous process. Nevertheless, Ladetsky constantly assesses viewer preferences to make timely business decisions. Recently, he played a role in Turner’s deal with UEFA for $60 million annually. As part of the deal, customers have to pay a small, upfront fee (less than $2), but Turner’s market evaluation showed that the meager price was futile to a passionate fan base desperate to watch their clubs in any capacity. As a product of the sport, UEFA games tend to hold more importance and less parity, creating competition in most matchups; henceforth, Turner considered the hefty annual sum a worthwhile investment. In turn, Ladetsky also depicted the difficulties associated with broadcasting games in the big four leagues. Turner is often restricted to showing “sexy” matchups. “Being able to broadcast Cubs-Yankees, Cavs-Warriors, that stuff is a gold mine,” Ladetsky noted. “But when we have to show Blue Jays-Reds, or Hornets-Kings, it’s a nightmare.”
From Scout, Hochster, Associate Director of Property Consultation and Analytics, and Lang, Associate Director, Strategy, & Development, focused more on corporate sponsorships. As the team explained, prominent signage, specifically at major stadiums and cultural phenomena like the Kentucky Derby and Super Bowl, drive interest. The duo has led projects to help promote companies like Burger King, Geico, FanDuel, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Mohegan Sun. Prominent signage can include a procedure called “in-arena activation,” where corporations take part in events associated with the stadium (i.e., the Geico “Base Trot” at Citi Field, home of the Mets). Scout prides itself on maintaining a diverse category experience, for the purpose of the company is to appeal to as many potential viewers, across varying demographics, as possible.
Hochster and Lang promoted a five-pronged approach to acquire sponsors- strategy (determining which property to acquire); audit and research (the mechanism by which strategy occurs); activation conception (formulating ideas for brand promotion); valuation and negotiation; and execution and measurement. With 32 NBA and NFL Team partnerships, including an active relationship with the NL Champion LA Dodgers, Scout is achieving its goal: to take advantage of the coalescing intersection between corporations and athletics.
All three speakers were open in their excitement of returning to their alma mater and speaking to students about their impassioned careers. The trio undeniably embodied the principles upon which the event was created. They, along with panelists in other sectors of the sports business discipline, made the inaugural summit a massive success.
USBC Journal Writer
Class of 2021