Below is the latest q and a by Tanner Simkins, this one with sports marketing legend Tony Ponturo (who I have had the honor to personally work with on four projects in recent years).
We sat down with sports marketing legend, Tony Ponturo, to discuss his role as producing partner for Broadway productions like Bronx Bombers, Lombardi and Magic/Bird and how theater and his longtime career in sports marketing play together. He and producing partner Fran Kirmser also recently acquired the rights to the life story of Joe Louis for film and stage, and have numerous other projects in the pipeline, including bringing Lombardi to the screen in the next few years.
Full Court Press: After a heralded sports business career, how was the transition from marketing executive to Broadway producer?
Tony Ponturo: I graduated with an economics degree but quickly realized that wasn’t for me. I always wanted something that had both a creative and business dynamic. I gravitated to sports marketing because it quenched both the creative and business side. Just like how marketing is the business of sports, producing is very much the business of entertainment. After building credibility with my sports marketing career, the transition into Broadway was natural.
FCP: Any crossover between the two?
TP: It’s really no different than how we did it at [Anheuser-Busch], but this time it’s a show. The important question to answer is how to use the mark. For example with Bronx Bombers, using the Yankee logos, official uniforms, etc added necessary value to the production. Without this authenticity, consumers can easily see through it and lose interest.
FCP: Any development or trends you are closely watching?
TP: I am intrigued by the growth of fantasy sports. It has created a new dialogue away from following your local sports team. Now there is interest and passion at many levels for many reasons. There will be continued efforts to capture this revenue in new and creative ways.
FCP: Any tips or advice for the aspiring sports professional?
TP: Reputation and trust are big things in business that get overlooked. Always keep those in mind while getting experience. Don’t have a high bar; get in anywhere as along as there is a focused path. Impatience is the biggest barrier; don’t overlook a sense of direction & foundation. Good people rise to the top wherever they are.
FCP: What is your favorite book?
TP: I enjoy reading historical biographies like of the Kennedy family for example. I appreciate these real life stories and their practicality.
Sports and marketing executive Tony Ponturo’s name and reputation have been synonymous with quality, innovation and attention to brand detail for over 30 years. First in the advertising world, then in a landmark career at Anheuser-Busch, Tony Ponturo has been responsible for some of the most influential partnerships that have shaped the sports and entertainment landscape as we know it today.
Following a six year stint in the New York advertising business, Ponturo spent 26 years at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, MFCPouri, leading a team that built one of the most iconic sports and event marketing brands in the world. He joined AB in 1991, and until his departure in 2008, served as the President and CEO of Busch Media Group and the Vice President of Global Media, Sports and Entertainment Marketing of Anheuser-Busch Inc. Ponturo managed over $700mm in media, sports and entertainment properties per annum and oversaw broadcast exclusives for the Super Bowl and the FIFA World Cup, as well as multifaceted relationships with the United States and International Olympic Committees. He helped vastly expand Anheuser-Busch’s leadership stake in the sports business, carving official beer sponsorships with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and NASCAR in North America, as well as landmark international deals with Formula One Racing and the English Premier League in soccer. Anheuser-Busch also increased its position in the local and regional areas of sports sponsorship, securing scores of team and event partnerships during this time as well. Brand growth was also not limited to sports, as the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards all became key activation and sponsorship elements of the Anheuser- Busch family. As a member of the Anheuser-Busch Strategy Committee, Ponturo also served on the Board of Directors of both Anheuser-Busch, Inc. and Anheuser-Busch International, Inc, playing an integral role in developing the brand’s successful corporate media and sports structure.
His latest ventures have him balancing his passions in both sports and entertainment. He is a producer of Broadway hits and Tony Award winning shows such as the 2009 revival of “Hair” and the original musical “Memphis,” which opened in the fall of 2009. Along with the creative vision of entrepreneur and Producing Partner Fran Kirmser, together Tony and Fran negotiated the first time ever NFL and NBA marketing partnership deals for Broadway for productions Lombardi and Magic Bird. Both the NFL and the NBA trusted Kirmser Ponturo with their trademarks and provided, in addition to marketing support, an authentication to the creative process.