Jimmy’s Blog

Just another weblog


Jimmy Lynn

Jimmy Lynn, a veteran of more than 25 years in the Sports and Entertainment sectors, is one of the pioneers of the Digital Sports space and is regarded as one of the leading relationship brokers and connectors in the sports industry. He is a co-founder and Vice-President of Kiswe Mobile, a interactive mobile video start-up focused on bringing a rich viewing experience for live media content such as sports and entertainment events to mobile devices. Previously, Lynn was the managing partner of JLynn Associates, a global strategic advisory firm focused on sports-related digital media, marketing, and retail for a diverse set of clients including teams, athletes, leagues and associations, media outlets and other businesses. Prior to founding JLynn Associates in 2009, Lynn served as Vice-President, Strategic Development and Partnerships at AOL, where he and his team were responsible for the strategic development and account management of AOL Sports’ strategic partnerships and organizations including the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, MLB, WNBA, NHL, PGA Tour, ABC Sports, CBS Sports, HBO Sports, Sports Illustrated, Turner Sports, NFL Players Association, WWF, The Sporting News, STATS, SportsTicker, etc. During his 14-year career at AOL, he was instrumental in developing AOL Sports into one of the leading global sports destination internet sites. Lynn also served as a Vice-President, Diversity Partnerships and Strategic Relationships for AOL's Office of Diversity and Inclusion. In this role, he managed AOL's employee affinity networks and partnerships with community service organizations. Lynn also was a member of the Time Warner Sports Forum, which included executives from Sports Illustrated, HBO Sports, Turner Sports, AOL Sports, Time Warner Cable, Time 4 Media and Warner Brothers Licensing. The group focused on cross-company sports initiatives for Time Warner. Previously, Lynn was the Advertising Manager for Home Team Sports, the CBS-owned regional sports network serving the Mid-Atlantic Region (TV partner of the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals) and the Promotion Manager for WLTT-FM, the CBS-owned and operated station in Washington, D.C. Lynn has been actively involved in philanthropy and community service over the past 15 years. Lynn was one of the 2006 recipients of Time Warner’s most prestigious public-service prize, the “Andrew Heiskell Community Service” award. This award is given to employees who exhibit outstanding leadership and accomplishment in voluntary public service, human rights and/or equal opportunity efforts. Lynn also was recognized in 2008 by Greater DC Cares as one of Washington DC's top 10 rising leaders in philanthropy; as one of City Year's "Idealists of the Year"; and by Year Up as an "Urban Empowerment" award winner. In 2010, he received an award from Washington, DC Mayor Fenty for outstanding community service. Lynn is a board member of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy Lynn is a full-time faculty member of Georgetown University's Sports Industry Management graduate program, where he also serves as the "Special Advisor." Lynn received the "Dean's Outstanding Service" award in 2010 and the “Faculty Service” award in 2014. He is also a member of the Adjunct Faculty in Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. He has a B.A. in Public Communication and an M.B.A. in Marketing from American University.

Montreal – Ville-Marie

I haven’t taken a vacation-only trip yet this summer.  Most of my trips are a combination of business / vacation.  But, I want to travel somewhere for a few days of R & R before the fall semester starts at Georgetown (this year it will start in late Aug, not the usual start in Sept).  It’s fairly easy to fly to Europe from the east coast but I’ve decided to head to one of my favorite cities in the world, Montreal, for a few days right before the fall semester.

Why did I decide to visit Montreal?  So many reasons (in no particular order):

– it’s so easy to fly to Montreal from DC.  It’s only a 75-minute flight (unless we get the usual travel delays due to summer thunderstorms).

– the people.  I love my friends in Montreal.  The people are nice, cool, eclectic, fashionable, interesting, hip and fun.  There’s also a good mixture of ethnicities and backgrounds, somewhat like what one finds in Brazil.

– it’s like you’re in Europe – but it’s so close to home.  Most of the people in Montreal speak both French and English, but if you venture outside Montreal, it’s much more heavily leaning towards French.  But, walking through the streets of “Old Montreal,” one definitely feels like you’re in Europe.

– Old Montreal: what a fantastic place … so many great streets filled with excellent restaurants and bars, excellent art galleries, cool little souvenir shops, scenic hotel rooftop venues, etc.  Also, my favorite sandwich shop, Olive et Gourmando, is located in this funky part of Montreal.

– Restaurants.  Montreal has a wide array of terrific eating establishments.  Fortunately, a couple of my friends are foodies and always recommend the best places to go eat.  I do like the nice restaurants but I also love the bistro’s where you can chill, read and have a nice meal while sitting at an outside table on the sidewalk.

– Poutine: this is a silly one but this is a dish so near and dear to Canadians.  It’s like getting a slice of pizza in NYC, a cheesesteak in Philly, crab cakes in Baltimore, ramen in Tokyo, acai in Rio de Janeiro, etc.  It’s a popular Canadian dish that is made up of french fries, brown gravy and cheese curds.  And, often, it’s eaten late night.  It’s a favorite of the locals.

– Underground.  Montreal’s “Underground City” is fantastic.  There’s over 20 miles of the city connected underneath – so many tunnels, shops, restaurants, etc.  It’s an entire city built in the underground.  Why?  I assume because of the very cold winter weather.

– The nighttime scene.  Montreal has a very vibrant and active club and lounge scene.  There’s always something going on.  I don’t go to out the clubs as much as in the past – but I do like the more chill lounges.  Also, I love jazz music and Montreal offers a world-class jazz scene.

– Lastly, Montreal will always hold a special place in my heart — specifically June ’08.  I lost my father in ’08.  I spent a great deal of time preparing for the memorial service, delivering the eulogy, coordinating the interment at Arlington Cemetery, hosting the reception, etc.  My friends encouraged me to “get away” and get some “alone time” to grieve in peace and to recharge.  So I spent a few days in Montreal right after my father’s service.  I took a long walks in Old Montreal and along the waterways there.  I read books at the small cafe’s and bistro’s.  It really did help me with the healing process.  So, I will forever cherish this city in my heart.

I’m looking forward to visiting this wonderful city next month.  Cheers.

Soccer: the rise in popularity in the US

Soccer will continue to rise in popularity in the US.  Although the game of soccer is the most popular sport on a global basis, it’s ranked well behind football, baseball and basketball in the US but you can definitely see the rise in popularity.  There are many factors for this — here’s a few of my thoughts why the game is on the rise:

– for the past two decades, the game of soccer has been played in so many youth leagues throughout the country.  It’s inevitable that this will translate into more popularity for the game.

– due to the various serious issues of head injuries and concussions in football, more and more parents will not let their kids play football.  Instead, I believe that participation in both soccer and lacrosse will increase significantly.  Yes, there are injuries in these sports too but not as many as in football.

– the global soccer teams have smartly been targeting the USA – which is still the most powerful sports market in the world.  Many of the top clubs are smart in playing games in the US during their off-seasons.  ManU, Chelsea, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Tottenham, Liverpool, etc  have all done a good job of creating a bigger fan base in the US.

– the EPL deal on NBC Sports will also have an impact on the rise of soccer in the US. NBC will air every EPL game — across its broadcast, cable and digital networks.  I love this deal — for both the EPL and NBC.

– Brazil.  This country has the most popular national soccer team in the world.  And, with the World Cup being played in Brazil next year and then again in the Olympics in Brazil in ’16, this will surge the popularity of soccer as well as all things Brazilian (soccer, fashion, music, arts, etc).

– the MLS continues to grow in popularity.  Cynics complain it’s not on the par of the European leagues but the MLS has been very smart and diligent about controlling expenses.  The massive popularity in the NW — Seattle, Portland and Vancouver — is also helping increase attendance and TV ratings figures.

– the game is played in 2 hours.  Unlike football games – which can last up to 3.5 hours — and baseball games (especially AL games) which now can take 3 to 3.5 hours to play, the average soccer game is played in a tight, 2-hour timeframe.

– lastly, the US National team.  They’re on a hot streak now.  Yes, they’re not at the level of Brazil, Germany, Spain, etc.  But if they can win a few games in next year’s World Cup — maybe even advance to the quarterfinals — this will have a positive impact on the popularity of soccer in the US.

I could go on but those are just a few thoughts on why soccer will continue to rise in popularity in the US.

Washington, DC Sports Scene – IMHO

Washington, DC Sports team updates.  This is just my personal opinion – I’m certainly no expert but here’s thoughts on the various pro teams in DC.

– Nationals: although they were picked by many “experts” to win the NL, it’s been a bit of a struggle.  They’re playing a little bit over .500 ball and trailing the Braves by 6 games.  But, I still very much like the foundation they have built — excellent pitching staff (starters and relievers), very good defense and well-balanced offensive line-up.  The latter is the key point. The pitching and defense will continue to excel in the 2nd half of the season.  But, the hitting needs to pick up.  I’m an optimist – and I very much like balance in the Nats line-up.  Also, it’s a good balance of veteran hitters mixed with outstanding youngsters (gotta love having Harper and Rendon for the next decade).  It’s great to have baseball back in DC and it’s fun to attend games at the terrific Nats Park.

– Redskins: this team continues to be the most popular sports team in DC — and even more so now with RG III at QB.  It looks like Coach Shanahan and the GM, Bruce Allen, have done a good job of restructuring the team — particular with more players of good character.  But, talent prevails in the NFL.  The offense will be very good again this year … the special teams should be good too … it’s up to the defense to see if the team can defend the NFC East title and make the play-offs again.  The front 7 should again be very solid.  It’s the defensive backfield that could make or break this season.  If the youngsters they’ve drafted step up, it could make a big difference.   Can’t wait for the NFL season — there’s nothing better than the first weekend that features college football on Saturdays and NFL on Sundays.  HTTR.

– Wizards: love the Wiz drafting Otto Porter from Georgetown.  He’s a great fit with Wall and Beal.  This should be a terrific nucleus that will help the Wizards become a regular play-off team through the rest of this decade.  It’s been a long road … and Wiz fans are clamoring for a good team.  This is the year … I strongly believe we’ll see the Wizards in the playoffs now on a regular basis.  I Tweeted back in Dec that once J-Wall comes back, the Wiz will play .500 ball in the 2nd half of the season.  They did accomplish — and will build on it for this upcoming season.

– Capitals: a great finish to the season … a frustrating 7th game loss in the playoff series.  But, they’ve made a great hire in Adam Oates as head coach.  An extremely intelligent head coach.  It took a while for the players to understand his system but now they have a better grasp of it, we’ll see the improvements in Oates’ second season at the helm.  Yes, the Caps have not made major changes … and they will play in a tougher division … but they will continue to improve … and will make a deep run in the NHL playoffs next Spring.

– Kastles: what a joy to watch this 3-time defending World Team Tennis champion.  It’s a great form of entertainment … excellent tennis, music, cheerleaders, buzz.  Plus, the Kastles play at a great location … right off Maine Ave and the Washington Channel.  This is great summer entertainment.

– Mystics: I haven’t made it to a game yet this season but the team is playing much better under veteran head coach, Mike Thibault.  I still have plenty of friends that don’t like women’s professional sports, but as the terrific ESPN’s “Nine for IX” illustrates, it’s important for women’s and girl’s sports to continue to flourish.  I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact of women’s and girl’s sports.  I’ve been a long-time supporter of the WNBA and I hope it continues to grow and prosper.

– DC United: this has been a tough season for our local soccer team.  I like the choice of Ben Olsen as the head coach.  My hope is that they start to jell and play better in the 2nd half of the season.  They’re putting together a good foundation of young players, who will hopefully get better and better.  The MLS is a long season – so there’s plenty of time for them to improve.  DC is a great soccer market and enthusiastically supports DC United.  It is a fun experience attending games at RFK — let’s hope they get back soon to their winning ways.

Education – the greatest birthday gift of all

Although today is my birthday, I feel like I’ve been celebrating it for the past week.  Why?  It’s because of the three wonderful gifts from last Wed – Sat.  What are the gifts?  The gifts are all related to connecting with young, smart high school students who are determined and want to pursue education to make a difference.  I will detail the three.

1) I mentor an outstanding young man named Gabriel Jimenez, who is a rising junior at Georgetown Univ.  He’s from the Compton section of LA, a first-generation college student and a graduate of the Cristo Rey HS program in LA.  He graciously invited me to address a group of 44 students last Wed afternoon on the Georgetown campus.  The group was comprised of Cristo Rey – – and KIPP – – students.  A vast majority of the students are from low-income families, minority students and first ones in their family  to attend college.  I connected with them during my presentation, which was focused on Mentoring, Networking and Paying It Forward (I told them how my mentor, Ted Leonsis, was mentored by the legendary Father Durkin when he was a student at Georgetown — so in essence these students are the 5th generation of our Pay It Forward program — from Father Durkin to Ted L to me to Gabriel J and then to these HS students who are here at Georgetown for the summer program).  I spoke to them on Wednesday afternoon and then I took the entire group to the Nationals game on Friday night.  What a group of dynamic, ambitious, smart and wonderful youngsters.  I promised a number of the students that I would stay in contact and also try to help them with scholarship funds.  Meeting these remarkable youngsters is a true gift.

2. I then met a group of approximately 110 students who were part of the Georgetown Sports Industry Management High School Week.  I delivered a 90-minute presentation — focused on Emerging Technology trends, Mentoring, Networking, Philanthropy, Diversity and Globalization.  I was blown away by the numerous outstanding questions from these youngsters.  And, in just three days, I’ve received over 20 emails from these students — the emails are so well-written.  And, most importantly, they seem to “get it” when I stressed the importance of being mentored, mentoring others and giving back.  In fact, one remarkable young man told me he donated the money from his bar mitzvah to help rebuild a school in Haiti.  He wrote to me that my premise “to do business while giving back” is something we should all learn from.  As I told them, I’m simply passing on valuable life lessons from my mentor, Ted Leonsis.  Meeting these outstanding young men and women is also a gift.

3. On early Saturday morning, I drove my mentee, Da-Zhi Yu, to College Park for his orientation to the Univ of Maryland’s outstanding AAP program, which is a wonderful 6-week program to prepare first-generation college students for the rigor of college life.   I’ve been Da-Zhi and his younger sister for 4+ years.  I’ve promised their parents I will do my best to ensure they attend and graduate from college.  This includes paying for tuition, books and living expenses (not covered by scholarships and grants).  Since I’m single and don’t have children, I may have been robbed of sharing this wonderful experience of bringing a child to college orientation.  But, because I’m a mentor / guardian, I am now getting to share this life experience.   So, as I’ve noted often, mentoring is indeed a two-way experience – both the mentor and mentee benefit.  This day at College Park was indeed a true gift.

In summary, I honestly don’t really care about material gifts anymore for birthdays and holidays.  At this stage, to me, it’s more about giving back and making a difference.  In the past week, I’ve met over 150 high school students — a number of whom I’ll stay in contact with them and hopefully make a positive difference in their lives.  These emails they’ve sent me are so powerful and emotional.  Each one illustrates clearly to me why it’s so important to offer to mentor, advise and give back.   So, I want to thank everyone — from the Cristo Rey students to the KIPP students to the Georgetown undergrads who are serving as mentors to the SIM High School students to Da-Zhi and his fellow AAP students at the Univ of Maryland for giving me the greatest birthday gift of all … the eagerness and determination to learn, grow and to want to make a positive difference.  Cheers.


Youth Baseball in Washington, DC

It is a great honor to serve on the board of directors of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy (YBA).  If all goes well, the YBA will open later this year.  The youth baseball academy will be a very welcome addition in Ward 7 in Washington, DC.

The YBA will be a place for DC youth to gather right after school — for a combination of school work and then baseball practice.  This is sorely needed in Wards 7 and 8, areas where most of the young African-American kids don’t play baseball.

I’ve seen the wonderful work of the MLB’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), especially the great work they’ve done in NY’s Harlem neighborhood.  It will be a wonderful sight in Ward 7 to see new and well-built baseball fields for the young DC children to learn and practice the game of baseball.  But, just as important, the YBA will provide a structured environment for the kids to do their homework and to learn good study practices.

There was a terrific article in the Washington Post this week about the amazing work of a Washington, DC police officer in helping revive baseball in Ward 7 —

This police officer himself was a product of the great work of the Harlem RBI program.  It helped him grow into a man and now’s he “paying it forward.”  His selfless and tireless work is so impressive.  And, I’m glad that the YBA will be able to help Officer Mediana with his dreams.

One thing I would love to do is get some of the Little League teams in Fairfax County, Montgomery County, Loudoun County, etc. involved helping Officer Medina with his needs for equipment for the DC kids.  I’m sure nearly every Little League team in these counties has extra gloves, bats, cleats, batting gloves, caps, etc that they could donate to the kids in Ward 7 and 8.

It is enlightening to read about Officer Medina’s efforts.  And, combined with the opening of our Nats Youth Baseball Academy later this year, it will be terrific to see baseball being played regularly by the deserving youngsters in DC’s most impoverished neighborhoods.  And, it will be great to see some of these youngsters go on to college and to established working careers, much like Officer Medina.

Baseball and the 4th of July

As we celebrate the Fourth of July today, I nearly always associate baseball, the national pastime, to this special holiday.  I grew up in Japan but I remember when our family visited my Uncle John and his family in LA when I was 8 years old.  We took in a doubleheader between the Angels and A’s.  I don’t remember too much about the games but I remember the fireworks … and, also when they let the kids run around the bases.  As an 8 yr old, my dream was to become a professional baseball player … so that was a memorable and awe-inspiring experience.

For those of us who grew up in the greater Washington, DC area, we didn’t have Major League Baseball here for over three decades.  So, a generation of kids didn’t get to enjoy this special July 4th / baseball experience.

Fortunately, since the middle of last decade, we now have our Washington Nationals.  Although they’re only playing .500 ball right now, there’s no complaining from me.  I’m still elated to have MLB action right here in DC.  Nats Park is a beautiful ballpark and the team has built a great foundation of young talent.  The future is bright for the Nats.

I’m heading to Nats Park shortly with one of my best friends to take in the Nats / Brewers game, which has an early 11:05 am start.  Looking forward to good baseball action, great friendship, a Ben’s Chili Dog and a beverage (or two or three).

My best wishes to all for a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July.  Happy Independence Day, USA.

Here’s a blog / article from my friend, Katie Rost’s terrific mentoring site —

Mentorship in Action: Jimmy Lynn

by  on June 22, 2013 in FinanceM-lifeMML Mentors

Sports Marketing expert Jimmy Lynn has a lifelong passion and commitment to mentorship that he lives and breathes in every moment of his life.  His dedication to advancing young people to full potential is relentless.  He shares his recent experience as a speaker to a group of McKinley Tech High School grads.


A couple of months ago I was contacted by the wonderful teachers at McKinley Tech High School in Washington, DC.  They asked if I could deliver the keynote speech at the McKinley Tech Commencement Exercises.  I believe I was asked to speak since I’ve been involved in numerous non-profits in the Washington, DC area over the past 12+ years.  Some of these include the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Foundation, Year Up, POSSE Foundation, Asian-American LEAD, United for DC, Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, etc.  I also mentor dozens and dozens of youngsters, many of whom are from low-income families.  Lastly, I teach at Georgetown University and I’m very involved with mentoring students of color – as well as a number of students who are the first ones in their family to go to college.


I was excited to have this terrific opportunity to address the outstanding senior class at McKinley Tech, one of the most historic schools in Washington, DC which has over the past decade become a STEM-focused school.  I immediately knew what I would focus my speech on“Mentoring, Networking and Paying It Forward.”  I knew I would have a limited time of about 10 minutes but I carefully started to put the speech together.


However, about a month ago, one of the McKinley teachers called to tell me that there had been a major miscommunication.  The principal had extended an invitation to another person — a speaker with a much higher-profile than I.  Without hesitation, I told the teacher not to worry.  The other person would deliver a fantastic commencement speech and I could speak to the students on another date.  We compromised on this idea: I would come speak to the students in the week leading up to the graduation ceremony.

So a few weeks ago I went to McKinley Tech HS to address a group of students.  Although I would be speaking to a much smaller group than an entire senior class, I kept to the exact same messaging I wanted to articulate during the commencement speech.

First and foremost, I wanted these students to be very proud of being from Washington, DC.  It’s not easy growing up in Washington, DC — particularly in areas outside of the affluent Northwest part of town.  The percentage. of DC public high school students that graduate from a 4-year university is 9%.  The percentage from a low-income family that graduates from a 4-year university is 5%.  And, this is from what is regarded as the most powerful city in the world!

I told the students I has just returned from a week-long trip to Brazil with a group of graduate students from Georgetown University (my 2nd trip there in 4 months with GU students).  I informed thw McKinley kids that nearly 50% of school children in Brazil are illiterate.  So, although these DC youngsters might have it tough here, they have it a lot better than in Brazil and other emerging markets.

I knew that over 90 – 95% of the students are African-American.  So, I wanted them to really be aware of these great historical figures that are from Washington, DC or made a historical impact in Washington, DC.  I told them that only 50 years ago, the great Dr. Martin Luther King made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Then, a little more than 20 years later, Coach John Thompson, Jr, a Washingtonian, became the first African-American head coach of a college basketball team to win a NCAA Championship.  Then, fast forward another quarter-century and Barack Obama became the President of the United States of America.   All of this happened here in our Nation’s Capital.  I also told them the importance of education — how each one of these brilliant men were education and stressed education to help create a more level playing field.

I wanted the students to really grasp the importance of “Networking, Mentoring and Paying It Forward.”  I told them about two of my primary mentors, Ted Leonsis and Mario Morino.  Ted is from a Greek immigrant family in Brooklyn.  His parents never made more than $28,000 in a year.  He was also told by a high school guidance counselor that he was not college material.  However, Ted came to Georgetown University in the 70′s and was mentored by a Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Durkin.  The mentoring was so strong that the kid that was told he wasn’t college material ended up graduating from the top of his class at Georgetown.  Further, over the next 35 years, he has gone to become the Vice-Chair of AOL; majority owner of the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, Washington Mystics and Verizon Center; CEO of Groupon; board member at Georgetown University and American Express; Chairman, SnagFilms; philanthropist, film-maker and most importantly world-class husband, father and mentor!

Mario Morino hails from an Italian immigrant family from Pittsburgh.  He was also the first one in his family to attend college.  He went on to sell the company he founded for over a couple of hundred million dollars in the early 90′s.  Then, he created the Morino Institute – where he mentored so many of today’s business leaders in Washington, DC.  In ’99 he founded the Venture Philanthropy Partners, which has raised over $80 million and helped fund many of DC’s top non-profits, particularly those focused on helping children from low-income families pursue their college education.

These two mentors, through their actions, showed me time after time the importance of mentoring and “giving back” to the community.  As homage to these two wonderful people, I’ve become heavily involved in philanthropy, non-profits and mentoring.  I call it our “Pay It Forward” system.  As an example, Father Durkin mentored Ted Leonsis … who in turn mentored me … now I mentor dozens of youngsters from Washington, DC as well as from Georgetown University.

I told the McKinley students about some of my mentees:  Emily, who graduated from Bannker HS and now has degrees from Princeton University and Harvard University; Ayana, who graduated from my alma mater, American University; Rodney, who grew up in 14 foster homes and in homeless shelters – but he overcame these obstacles to graduate from Morehouse College, is now pursuing his MBA at Yale University and this summer is interning at Goldman Sachs.  I also told the students about the two Chinese-American teenagers from an immigrant family in China that I mentor.  The older brother just graduated from Wilson HS and will attend the University of Maryland this Fall.  The sister just graduated from Jefferson MS and will attend Banneker HS.  I’ve been mentoring these two youngsters for the past 4+ years and I’ve made a financial commitment with their family to pay for their college tuition.  This is an example of the importance of mentoring …. and it’s real-life example of the “Pay It Forward” system in action

I could have gone on and on but I only had about 15 minutes to present to the students.  I ended my speech to them by letting them know that education truly is the great equalizer.  And, that advances in Technology and more access to the internet is also going to play a critical role in offering more opportunities to pursue their collegiate diplomas.

In summary, I wanted these youngsters to hear these real-life stories about the importance of mentoring, networking, paying it forward, technology and education — so they too could be inspired and motivated.  And, in fact, I wrapped my speech by challenging them to stay in contact with me and to inspire me in the coming years so I could proudly boast about them in the future.  A wonderful McKinley teacher, Mr. Allen, walked me to my car and told me I made a strong connection with his students — he said he could tell by how their eyes were glued to me and they were focused on what I was trying to tell them.  These youngsters, some of whom might become future mentees, made my day …. made my week … and they  make me want to keep giving back and mentoring others.


Digital Sports Revolution: The move to AOL

Digital Sports Revolution:  The move to AOL.  Back in ’94, when I was the Advertising Manager for Home Team Sports, the regional sports TV network for the mid-Atlantic region, I noticed how nearly all of the 23 or so regional sports networks (RSN’s) marketed in fairly the same manner (as noted in the initial blog on this subject).  But, I was trying to figure out how to differentiate HTS from the other RSN’s as well as how to differentiate myself.  A couple of interesting items got me moving in this direction in ’94.

First, we worked with a terrific consultant, Jeff Grimshaw, who was hired to execute all of our on-air promos (primarily for tune-in for Orioles, Bullets and Capitals games).  He had gained great experience during his time running on-air promotions for Turner Sports and by that time he had his own company.  He and I talked regularly about the TV space but also about a few of the emerging trends.   Jeff set up a meeting for our HTS management team to go visit with Bell Atlantic TV in Arlington, VA.  Bell Atlantic was working on a fascinating product called “Star-Gazer.”  They were pushing “interactive TV.”  What did this mean?  It meant the TV viewer could become an active viewer, not just a passive viewer, re coach potato.  One could order TV shows, movies and pizza as well as potentially shop from the TV.  I know that sounds common now in this digital age but back then that was revolutionary thinking.

The other important item is that one of the key members of the Bell Atlantic team was a brilliant and smart person named Anne Levy, who I believe was serving as their On-Air promotions expert at that time.  I’ll get back to this connection in a moment.

The other important item for me was attending a cable marketing show in the summer of ’94 — I believe it took place in blazing, hot New Orleans.  There was a guy from a small company called America Online delivering a presentation about “interactive news.”  His name was John Coulston and he was the GM of the AOL News Channel.  He was talking about they could deliver more than static new stories.  How they could deliver photos — and how AOL members could engage by posting messages and respond to the news stories.  Well, much of what AOL was doing at the time was the pre-cursor to what is now called Social Media.

The other meeting that really got me thinking about to differentiate HTS from the other RSN’s was seeing a presentation from a company called Princeton Broadcasting System (PBS).   Their pitch was that an at-home viewer could watch a sporting event on TV and have their choice of 8 – 10 camera angles rather than the singular feed that is available.  Although the idea didn’t really take deep root, I believe some of the PBS technology was used to help create the very popular “First Down” yellow marker that is now so prevalent on TV.

So a combination of these three presentations — Bell Atlantic’s Stargazer, AOL News and PBS — really got me motivated and inspired.  Again, a lot of credit goes to Jeff Grimshaw for having and sharing the vision to think “outside the box.”

In ’94, AOL was the third-ranked online service, trailing the much better-funded Prodigy and CompuServ.   I believe Prodigy was funded by CBS, IBM and Sears while CompuServ was owned by H&R Block.  But, since AOL happened to be located in the greater Washington, DC area (HTS was in Bethesda, MD and AOL was then in Vienna, VA), we contacted AOL to discuss a possible marketing deal with HTS.

We had a good meting with AOL in the Aug / Sept ’94 timeframe, but they were not interested in a deal at the time for a couple of primary reasons — 1) at the time, they only did deals with national companies, not regional companies and 2) they did not have a Sports channel (AOL called its content sites “channels” back then).  But, they said they enjoyed the meeting and that I / we should stay in contact with them.

Although was a bit of a hiccup, we still wanted to forge ahead with developing ways to market and differentiate HTS from the other 22 RSN’s in the country.  I invited my friend, David Joubran, who was working for small consulting shop called NDC, to see if they might be able to develop an internet site for HTS.  I wanted us to the first RSN with its own website.  This did happen in ’95 (David went to launch his own very successful consulting business, Acumen Solutions).

It was in the late Jan / early Feb timeframe that I received an interesting phone call from Anne Levy, who I had connected with so well at Bell Atlantic.  She asked me if I was happy at HTS — she also asked if I might have an interest in working for a somewhat small technology service that was going to launch a Sports division.   It turns out that Anne was going to leave Bell Atlantic and join AOL as the Director of Business Development for AOL Sports.  She was paired up with Randy Dean, who was named the General Manager of AOL Sports.  Randy is a terrific guy (who I had great respect for despite his deep affinity for UNC basketball)!

I had an interview with Randy and Anne in Feb / Mar ’94.  I must say it was a nearly perfect meeting.  The three of totally hit it off immediately.  And, for whatever reason, I seemed to come up with the right answers to nearly everything they were asking about — as well as talking about this Sports space might look like in the coming years.  It was a great feeling and I was excited about potentially having the opportunity to go work for AOL.

But, I did really like the TV space and the I loved working with the HTS family (what a wonderful group of co-workers — it was a fantastic team).  But, I wanted to try something different.  The primary thought that really drove my decision-making was to “go for it.”  I thought I could go work for this company, AOL, and become deeply immersed in “Internet Sports Marketing.”  The thought was that I would go to AOL for three years or so — then I could go launch my own business as a multi-media sports marketer (with a background in Sports PR, Radio, TV and online / internet services).   I thought very few people could offer that type of marketing mix in ’98 – ’99.

But, who would have ever guessed that AOL would go on this meteoric rise throughout the latter half of the 90’s — culminating in our merger / acquisition of Time Warner, the largest media company in the world?  And, I loved my time at AOL so much that I ended up staying there for 14 years (’95 – ’09).   It was an incredible run and I’m so grateful for the many, many friendships and relationships developed — not just internally at AOL, but also externally with so many clients in the US and globally.   There are many people that I’m grateful for and indebted to for helping me “think outside the box” and encouraged me get out of my comfort zone (radio and TV) to take the leap into working in the digital space (I have mentioned some of them in this blog posting and will reference others later on).  My next blog will start to talk about my initial few months at AOL Sports.

(As noted in the previous blog, these thoughts are mine only — I’m sure I won’t get all names and dates correct — this is just a personal blog with thoughts and musing about the Digital Revolution in Sports.)

Digital Sports Revolution – Introduction

The Digital Sports Revolution.  Over the past several years, I’ve frequently lectured, participated in conference panels, blogged, etc about the history and evolution of the Sports sector in the internet / new media / digital media space (the terms change over the years so I’ll refer to it as Digital Media).  1995 was the first year that the Digital Sports space really started to formulate.  That’s also the same year I went to work for a fairly small online company in Tysons Corner, Virginia called America Online.

I have enjoyed blogging over the past few years but I have not blogged that much in the past year.  It is so much easier to quickly post comments on Facebook or bang out a quick Tweet.  Back in June ’11, I had a fun time writing a blog every day for the month of June (about what I like about living in Washington, DC).  So, now I thought I’d do something fun.  I’m going to blog regularly about the history of evolution of AOL Sports.  These written words will be completely my personal thoughts and memories.  This goes back over the past two decades so I’m sure I won’t have all of the facts correct.   But, I think it could be an interesting exercise — and I encourage interaction from friends and students in this space — as well as anyone that has interest in this topic.  Again, these are just my personal thoughts and does not have anything official to do with any company or organization.


First, I want to provide context and background information about myself and why I went to work for AOL in the Spring ’95.  I went to American University and got my BA in Communications in ’85 and then a MBA in Marketing in ’89.  While at AU, I also did a number of internships in radio — I did 5 to 6 internships at WPGC-FM, WRQX-FM (Q107) and WMAL-AM.  I also DJ’ed throughout my college years as well as through the 90’s.  I DJ’ed a wide variety of functions but my specialty was DJ’ing weddings (approximately 500 wedding receptions over a 18-year period).

After graduating with my MBA in ’89, the legendary GM of WMAL-AM 630, Andy Ockershausen, introduced me to his close friend, the PR legend, Charlie Brotman.  Charlie ran the best PR sports agency in the DC — clients included boxing champions — Sugar Ray Leonard and Riddick Bowe — as as the local PGA golf tournament, local men’s and women’s professional tennis tournaments, etc.  Although I had my MBA (and was in $50k in debt), I really wanted to follow my passion of working in the Sports industry.  After a number of informational interviews, it was clear to me that to work in Sports, if one did not have any experience. one had to pretty much start at the bottom (particularly since so many people wanted to work in this type of fun and entertaining industry).

So, I started interning for Brotman and Associates in ’89 (no pay) and then worked at WMAL radio a few nights a week as a producer, r.e. screen caller, for Ken Beatrice Sports Talk show (I think it paid $6.00 or $6.50 per hour).  And, then I DJ’ed on the weekends.  The internship turned into a job later in ’89.  It was a terrific experience – in particular learning about the importance of networking and relationship building.

In Sept ’90, I then had the opportunity to become the Promotion Manager for the CBS Radio owned and operation station, W-Lite FM, in Rockville, MD.  That also was a terrific experience — learning about the operations of running the marketing and promotions of a radio station in a major market.  I also met a number of friends who are life-long friends.  After 3+ years, I left to become the Marketing Manager at Home Team Sports (HTS), the regional sports network serving the Mid-Atlantic region.  We were the cable broadcast partner for the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Bullets (before they changed to Wizards), Washington Capitals and a wide variety of collegiate sports programming.   Switching from radio to TV was not easy but it made me go outside of my comfort zone, learn a new medium and made another a number of terrific long-term friendships.

Those years were excellent for my personal growth as I learned in detail about the operations of two mainstream traditional mediums …. radio and TV.  But, as a marketer, I started to get frustrated since each year because the marketing plan didn’t evolve that much.   As I was told my management (not just locally, but nationally), “this is the way the business is done.”   So, year after year, we implemented the same type of marketing plan.  For a regional sports TV network, it was to run on-air TV promos, print ads in local newspaper, :15 and :30 radio spots, outdoor billboard ads, etc.

As a marketer, I totally understood the strategic marketing plans we put into place year after year.  But, I was looking for something different — for my company as well as for myself.  How could I / we differentiate our company?  How could I differentiate myself?  The career path for a marketing or promotions person can be fairly limited so one does need to think outside the box.  That’s when AOL and the internet came into play.  I will blog about the beginnings of this venture in the next posting.

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