Luckily, our group had the opportunity to interview Neil Davis who has been in the sports industry for a very long time, 28 years to be exact. Neil also happens to be one of our group members father. We as a group were very fortunate to be able to pick his brain and ask him all different questions about the different aspects of marketing and sponsorships in sports.
Can you give us a background and a timeline of your start into the sports industry?
Neil: I went to college at C.W. Post, a small school in Long Island, New York. In college I majored in marketing. My first job out of college was at a printing company, but I always knew I wanted to work in the sports industry. In 1986, an Account Executive opportunity opened up at Madison Square Garden. I jumped at the opportunity. After a rigorous interview process I landed the job as account executive at MSG. For another 19 years I worked at the Garden and climbed the business hierarchy ultimately becoming the Executive Vice President of Advertising Sales. After my time at the Garden I found a new opportunity with the soon to be Brooklyn Nets in 2006 as the Chief Revenue Officer for Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment. After 4 marvelous years with the Nets I decided that I wanted to go in a different direction. In 2010 I moved my belongings to the South to work for Fox Sports Florida. There I was General Sales Manager for both Fox Sports networks of Florida. After three years great years working in Florida I decided on another change of scenery. Recently, I took a job with the Pac-12 college sports conference. My job with the pac 12 was Executive Vice President of Sales.
Can you go in-depth on what you did at each Job?
Neil: Of course I can. At the garden, when I was EVP of advertising sales I dealt with almost all of the New York/New Jersey sports teams. At the time, there was no MSG+ so MSG televised the Islanders, the Devils, Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, Big East Basketball and St. Johns. My job for all of those teams was to sell ad time for their pre-games, in-games, and post games. For the Knicks, Ranger, and Liberty I also sold signage, promotions and sign ins at the arena. For example, I sold the coca cola signs on the jumbo tron and the other advertisements around the arena. I also was involved in selling the promotions that the arena had. When there a half court shot sponsored by Modell's, I was involved in getting Modell's to be a sponsor for the event. For the Nets I sold the naming rights and the founding partners. I sold the advertising for the entrance to the arena, the box offices of the arena and also around the bar. The biggest part of my job was getting the naming rights for the new Arena. Ultimately my team and I were the one who worked out a deal with Barclays to create the Barclays Center. It was disappointing not being able to be there for the opening of the Arena that I helped create. Nonetheless, I worked with some great people and loved my time with the Nets. For Fox Sports Florida I focused my attention on selling TV and Digital advertisements. For almost all the Florida teams that associated with Fox Sports Florida I sold their ad time for pre and post games. For example, when it says the Heat post game was presented by Bud Light I sold that ad time to Bud Light. I also sold Internet advertisements for the Fox Sports Florida website. I also sold promotions for the pre and post games. All of my previous jobs helped me in one way or another in my current job of working for the Pac-12. Which is also why the Pac 12 was going to be the toughest job yet. The Pac-12 has six regional networks and one national network. For those seven networks I was going to sell their ad times for their pre games, in games, and also post games. Although I do the television deals for the Pac 12, each team is represented by Leerfield or IMG to handle their arena/stadium sponsorships. However for the Championship football, basketball and women’s basketball my team handles the sponsorships. Some of the major sponsors for the Pac 12 championship game were AT&T, Dr. Pepper, UPS and Gatorade. In the upcoming days we will find out who will be the major sponsors for the Pac 12 basketball championships for both women and men.
What are the biggest deals you have made?
Neil: The biggest deal I made was with the Nets. The deal was for the naming rights of the new Arena in Brooklyn. The deal was with Barclay’s which lead to the naming of the new arena Barclay’s Center. The deal was originally worth 400 million dollars over 20 years, but due to complications within negotiations it ultimately came out to be 200 million dollars over 20 years. At the time that was the biggest naming rights deal in the NBA. This deal was 5 million more dollars than the Dallas Mavericks naming rights deal, the highest at the time. Another major deal that I was a part of was the American Express sponsorships at the garden. The deal was worth roughly 70 million dollars over 7 years. It was a sponsorship deal that allowed AMEX members to have a chance to get tickets a week before they were sold to the public. AMEX also held promotions with the Knicks and Rangers that allowed users to have luncheons with players on the teams. At the time it was a pretty unique deal for the MSG as well as American Express.
Who was the best boss you ever had and
Neil: The best boss I ever had was David Klein. David Klein was my boss when I was at Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately, I only got to work with David for two years. He was such a great boss because he had exceptional leadership skills. He really knew how to motivate his team and he get the most out of everyone. He always listened to what people had to say and trusted them in what they were doing. I’ve had a couple of bosses where I have been micromanaged and it was tough to come to work knowing they were doubting what you were doing. I’ve also had bosses where they didn’t do much and were extremely lazy. They relied on everyone else do to their work for them. I never had either of those issues with David because he was always there to support you, but at the same time he never micromanaged you. So I’d like to give a little thanks to Dave for showing me the ins and outs of being a good boss.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to work in the business side of sports?
Neil: The first piece of advice I would give to someone aspiring to work in the business aspect of sports would be to network yourself as much as possible. Whether it be your classmate, teachers, or higher up officials it is very important to get yourself out there and create relationships with all different kinds of people. Secondly, another piece of advice is to do as many internships as possible. You learn a ton from your classes but so much of the industry isn’t based on the books you read in class, but the hands on experiences you get in the field. Lastly, read and stay current on as much sports information as possible. No I am not talking about the box scores of the game, but the articles in The Sports Business Daily and Sports Business Journal.