|Lou Imbriano - President and CEO, TrinityOne|
|Profile of the week|
Tuesday, 29 November 2011 00:13
Imbriano studied at Boston College, where he is now a Professor of Sports Marketing, before he began his career as Executive Sports Producer at WHDH in 1987. Between 1997 and 2006 he was Chief Marketing Officer of The New England Patriots. He held the position of Chief Operating Officer at MLS club, New England Revolution between 2001 and 2005.
Since 2006 Imbriano has been President and CEO of TrinityOne, a Marketing Strategy and Business Advisory Consultancy that helps businesses, particularly in the sports industry, to attain and retain customers.
Having started in radio, what sparked the shift towards marketing?
When the station became bigger, they bought in a station manager, who was in charge of everything and I ran programming for her. I spent a lot of time with her, and was always talking about what would work for the listeners. Inevitably, as in any radio and broadcast situation, a new general manager came in and decided she was out, so he came to me and said: “we’ve got to find a new marketing director.” I offered to look after it while he had his search and two years later, I was still running it.
We created this event called the ‘Sports Jam,’ where we got all the teams in Boston into the World Trade Centre. The radio station made about half a million bucks, had about 16,000 people and it was very successful first year event. The owners of the Patriots, the Krafts, were there and said: “Why are you doing this for a radio station? You should work for us.”
With the New England Patriots, you were involved in increasing revenue by 600%. What was the secret to this success?
The fun thing about the Patriots was that is was like a start-up. The Krafts had just brought the team a couple of years prior and wanted to really change the whole business model. They literally began with season ticket holders and making the atmosphere more fan-friendly. If anyone caused any trouble, we revoked their tickets and that led to people behaving better. With nobody wanting to lose their tickets, the atmosphere became a lot more fan- friendly, which was easier to market, and that really kicked-off the whole thing.
It wasn’t anything that was a ‘secret’ or that I came up with this great formula. What we did was, instead of selling signs in media and logo rights to people because we thought they needed that, we sold it to them to recognise revenue and help them do business. We spent a lot of time with our clients trying to find out what they wanted to accomplish. At the end of the contract, they stayed because we were there to help them do business.
What was the problem with the initial business model?
We looked at marketing like “if you won, that was your best marketing campaign.” That’s great, but what happens if you lose? And guess what, you lose more times than you win. The problem with that was that we would have a small staff. I don’t care how bright you are and how hard-working you are, six people simply doesn’t cut it. We needed a bigger staff, be less about wins and losses, and more about relationships and building relationships with our clients.
Was the marketing task at New England Revolutions more of a challenge than the one at the New England Patriots due to the varying popularity of both sports in the United States?
Definitely. The quality of play, of course, is not up to par with the rest of the world because it was a brand new league. That coupled with the fact that soccer is really not an American sport, made it more challenging.
What we did have going for us was that soccer was becoming very popular with younger kids so all these teams and leagues started growing. The soccer mums started coming out of nowhere too. That was our target audience rather than the hardcore fans. Going to a game became more of a family night out, where you would support your team, enjoy some food and some music. It was an entertainment alternative at a very economical price and that is how we marketed it.
I think they’re still struggling a bit in New England and some other cities. It was tougher for us because we had a 70,000-person stadium, so no matter how much you pretend it’s sold out, when people see all these empty seats, they know they can come on any day and get a ticket. That’s why some of the newer organisations have soccer-specific stadiums, which are smaller.