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Stephanie Holland's Weblog


Mar 17 2011

London Wrap-Up

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By: Gabe Marwell

I just wanted to give a big thanks to Dean Winkler, Stephanie Holland, Jimmy Lynn, and Georgetown University for taking us to London last week. It was a great experience which we’ll remember for a long time, and the list of things we got to do and the people we got to meet just show that our program is the best and most forward thinking in the country. Here’s a list of things I learned:

1. The people in London love football. Their attention to detail, the quality of their stadiums… American football is said to be king in the United States, but in England, where they have a beloved monarchy, European football is legitimate royalty. They’re also a bit spoiled, as five of the 20 English premier league teams are located in London—think of New York City having six NBA teams. We’re also really excited for Under Armour and their recent deal with Tottenham.

2. There are brilliant people involved in sports—I found myself most impressed by Andy Knee of IMG and David Portas of Portas Consulting. Each of these gentlemen have been tasked to change the direction of a sport—Knee is director of football at IMG—or a country—Portas was instrumental in the bidding process for the London Olympics in 2012. Andy Knee helped kick off the trip on the right foot, with energy and interesting challenges for us to contemplate, and Portas was gracious enough to meet with us briefly in the stands at Lord’s Cricket Ground and discuss his background and thoughts with us. I feel very confident that both of these men have this industry heading in the right direction.

3. The London Olympics in 2012 will be spectacular. Just taking a bus tour past the finished, half-finished, and barely started venues was evidence enough. Another awesome thing we learned was that the basketball stadium is temporary, and will likely be moved once the Olympics finish, possibly to Brazil for 2016. The theme of the London Olympics is legacy and sustainability, and the portable stadium fits in with this theme, as well as being fiscally responsible.

4. Will American professional sports leagues be successful in Europe? The NFL sells out their annual game within hours, and the NBA regular season game we went to was packed with an excited and fascinated fan base. We couldn’t get a consensus from our speakers. The best answer was that with advances in the speed of air travel, an NBA team could be successful, but more likely there would have to be more than one team to make road trips worth the travel. We’ll see in the next coming years what will happen, but we were very impressed with the folks at NBA International and if anyone can get this done, they can.

5. Everyone we met with implored upon us that we are much more qualified and able to do their jobs than they were, which is exciting and good news to hear. Our generation, with our ability to use digital media and social networking, is poised to be successful in the upcoming years—just stay patient, work hard, and your opportunity will come.

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Mar 17 2011


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By: Joseph Hendele

Our final day in London proved to be as rigorous and enthralling as the days leading up to it.  By this time, some fatigue has crept into the group as the long days and short evenings had begun to take their toll.  We all took in our last continental breakfast and headed out the door at 9am sharp for the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal Football Club. 

We met with Arsenal’s Chief Commercial Officer, Tom Fox, whose 20+ years of experience building leadership teams and creating marketing and branding campaigns for some of the world’s most recognized and respected global brands (Gatorade and Quaker Oats) made him a valuable intellectual asset to our group.  He spoke briefly about Arsenal’s model of a self-sustainable business that reinvests their revenues back into the club via their payroll, stadium improvements, and fan experience, and also the playing market for top international talent.  He was frank and forthright about Arsenal’s position to not compete in a market that recently saw Liverpool’s top striker, Fernando Torres, being transferred to West London’s Chelsea FC for a fee of £50 million.  That’s not the world they choose to operate in.  Instead, their manager’s ability to cultivate young talent and transform them into world-class players has allowed the club to be successful both on and off the pitch, with the club cementing record profits in 2010. 

After speaking with Mr. Fox, our group joined a few others for a tour of Arsenal’s home, Emirates Stadium.  The stadium was completed in 2006 in North London and was constructed near their old home of 93 years, Highbury (the property has since been renovated into condos).  With a total of 60,355 seats, the Emirates is the second largest football club stadium in England behind Manchester United’s Old Trafford, and the third largest stadium of any kind in London, after Wembley and Twickenham.  Our group had the privilege of sitting in the director’s box, visiting the home dressing room, the press room, and walk through the players’ tunnel onto the pitch.  For myself, an avid Arsenal supporter for the better part of the past seven years, the experience was unbelievable.  Mr. Fox had previously highlighted the fact that 99.9% of Arsenal fans around the world wont get a chance to walk through the Emirates’ doors, so I was immensely thrilled to see and experience it live.  My jubilation amplified on the last stop of the tour when the guide led us through the doors of the Armoury, the team’s megastore for all-things Arsenal.  Really, all-things (we found cufflinks, blankets, baby clothes, seeds to grow your own pitch, jewelry, etc.). 

After the group had finished up in the store, we divided into smaller sections and took the afternoon off for free time.  While some took the time to finish sightseeing in London, others went shopping, and a group of us traveled to Wimbledon to checkout their museum and Center Court facilities.  We all reconvened back at the hotel for our closing dinner at 6pm.  The meal gave us a chance to gather together as a group for the last time and recount stories and, it was then that some of us recognized how close people had gotten over the course of the trip.  It was with all of our knowledge learned and newfound friends that would could then think of returning to the States after a wildly successful externship in London.

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Mar 09 2011

Sights and Sounds of London & Expanding “Football”

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By: Arinze Emeagwali

On Saturday March 5, 2011 we had a jammed-packed day filled with one event after the next, and as such, we came back to our hotel room very late.  The program organizers must have taken pity on us, because they allowed us to have a free Sunday to go around sightseeing.  Since we had different tourist attractions we wanted to see, the SIM participants split up into several different groups.  Rachel, Josh and I decided to visit the London Eye, which is a Ferris wheel that gets up to135 meters high.  The height that the London Eye reaches makes it the world’s tallest observation wheel.  When the London Eye reaches its peak height, tourists can see the amazingly beautiful views of the city of London.  After getting on the London Eye, I quickly realized why it is one of London’s most popular tourist attractions.

After sightseeing that Sunday, everyone exchanged stories about how they spent their free time when they got back to the hotel room.  Max told me that he went to Buckingham Palace and discussed the detailed architecture of Buckingham Palace. Christelle decided to take a bus tour of the city.  Everyone seemed pretty excited about the sites they saw and the places they went. 

After a long day of sightseeing, we were famished and we could not wait to go to The 2011 SIM London Week Externship Kick-off Dinner.  Matt and Stephanie took us to a restaurant in Covenant Garden.  The dinner began with the SIM participants saying a few words about us to break the ice.

As the night went on everyone got more and more comfortable and we quickly warmed up to each other.  Jokes were told and laughter was rampant.  I was surprised about how good the food was, I heard horrible things about the food in London, and the dinner silenced my pre-conceived notions about London food being terrible.  Matt and Stephanie closed out the dinner by reviewing our up-coming schedule and answering questions we had as SIM participants. Overall, the first official day went great and only strengthened our excitement for the rest of the week.

On Monday we were all pumped and excited about starting off our Externship with the world’s leading representation firm, IMG.  We were very fortunate to have Andy Knee, VP of Football (soccer) Operations, speak with us.  He was a great speaker who was very engaging and kept his presentation interactive.  He started his presentation by giving us an overview about his previous experience in the sports industry where he had a very impressive resume having previously worked at ISL, and Phillips Electronics.

At his previous company, he excelled in obtaining corporate sponsorship for his company by landing a major client in FIFA.  Another experience he had was when he worked at IMG.  At IMG, Mr. Knee spoke with us on his current goals and the challenges he has on his current project, which is growing the game of soccer in Qatar and India.  During this discussion he opened the floor for the SIM students to give our feedback and opinions on current ways to tackle the obstacles he is facing.  I appreciated the fact that he wanted to know our insights and what we thought. Overall the SIM participants gave Mr. Knee valuable feedback and creative ideas on how to grow the game of soccer in Qatar and India.   

As we discussed the strengths and weakness of each nation, Mr. Knee emphasized that we should expand our minds, and not limit our sports solutions to how we would solve the same problem in the United States.  I was able to learn that the world of sports is much bigger than the US and we should start to think about sports business from a global perspective.  I also learned that we could use sports to build communities and bring people together.  

Overall Mr. Knee gave us a small glance on how hard it is to build a league from the ground up and the many challenges one has in doing so.  It made us open our eyes and realize our obstacles in US sports are “good problems” compared to some other leagues around the world.

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Mar 07 2011

SIM Experiences Champions League Football & The NBA Makes History

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By: Gabe Marwell

After a long night of travel, the group arrived at our hotel, the Copthorne Tara in Kensington, at around noon. For lunch, we walked to a local Italian place, which had great, authentic food and filled us up for a day full of activities. We took the Tube (having gone to undergrad in Boston, I had to force myself from calling it the T) to Arsenal, a nice neighborhood which looked pretty average, until you round the corner and see Emirates Stadium.

Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal now plays after spending nearly one hundred years at Arsenal Stadium (aka Highbury), was built in 2006, and is the home of Dean Winkler’s favorite club, the Arsenal Gunners. Fellow SIM members and die hard Arsenal fans Kyle Hendrick and Joseph Hendele were among the many excited to go to see Arsenal play Sunderland, which was the first time for many of us to witness Champions League soccer.

The stadium was beautiful, and the atmosphere was awesome. Hearing the fans chant in unison was something I had not experienced before, and the attention to the game by everyone was remarkable—you could see everyone’s heads turning as the ball switched fields, and impressive plays earned polite applause. There was no booing! One thing I found interesting was that when I sat down in my seat, I immediately looked for a big scoreboard, even before I looked at the game. There were two relatively small scoreboards in opposite corners of the stadium, but the focus was purely on the game, which I appreciated and found to be a pleasant contrast from the arenas back home, where you don’t need to watch the playing field at all to be immersed in the experience. The match ended in a 0-0 tie, and although scoreless, quite the experience for us.

We left Arsenal and made our way towards O2 arena, in Greenwich, England, over the London bridge from Emirates Stadium. The O2 arena is particularly extraordinary, and was geared up for the second ever international NBA regular season game, the first being the night before—but from here on out, I will tell everyone that we went to the first game, so don’t ruin it for me! So, in preparation for the FIRST ever regular season game not in the USA, the NBA went all out, with signage placed all over the path to the arena.

The venue itself included the arena and a number of restaurants, bars, museums, installations, and a stage, all placed under a massive dome. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and we were impressed the most by the Nissan “Innovation Station,” located by the stage about halfway across the dome from the entrance. The station had several interesting and entertaining displays, including models of their new cars and a few examples of augmented reality, a fascinating concept that our industry will be utilizing heavily in the near future. We grabbed dinner at Union Station grill and found the food to be pretty good, though the menu had several hilarious references to the United States.

Although most people in the US wouldn’t be exactly thrilled to see a regular season game between two marginal NBA teams near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the fans of London were lined up almost an hour before the game began, and the general feel in O2 arena made us overcome our exhaustion of the travel.

The game started at 8:00 pm local time, featuring the New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors, both of which highlighted several international players who elicited great cheers from the crowd. I’m a huge basketball fan, so being able to see Deron Williams, one of the best point guards in the league who was recently acquired by the Nets from the Utah Jazz, was a treat, and slam dunk contest participant Demar Derozan didn’t disappoint either. The crowd was wowed by the game and even enthralled by the promotions during timeouts and at halftime, with the same kind of focus on the game we noticed at Emirates Stadium. I’m not sure if the excitement was due to novelty or if it will last over a longer period of time, but I look forward to hearing from NBA International executives when we meet with them later in the week.

As for the game, I was shocked that it went into triple overtime—what a treat for London and for the O2 arena! All in all it was a great day and I’m really excited for the rest of the week. As they may or may not say in London, cheers!

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