The following interview is with Ben Sturner, Founder and CEO of Leverage Agency. Leverage Agency is a full service sports, entertainment, and media marketing agency.
What inspired you to create and start Leverage Agency?
One of my first internships was working for NBC Sports in 1996 at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. It was a huge inspiration for me when Muhammad Ali lit the torch, and I knew I wanted to make an impact in the sports marketing industry. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and it was my dream to create and grow my own business. I started out Leverage in my apartment with one client and now we’re a thriving agency on Madison Avenue with top-tier, world renowned clients and now going on our 10th year of the company. I have such a deep passion for Leverage and our family of teammates and devote every ounce of my energy to servicing our clients and growing the business.
What are some of the services Leverage Agency provides?
Leverage is a full-service sports, entertainment and media marketing agency. Our accomplished staff brings deep expertise in creating 360° marketing partnerships through branded packaging, sponsorship sales, event creation and distribution, public relations, social media, experimental marketing and asset valuation/ROI analytics. We work with brands and corporations to align with leagues, teams, athletes, events and digital and television properties with the focus in sports and entertainment.
Take us through a typical day in the life of CEO Ben Sturner.
There really isn’t a standard typical day. In general, I’m an early riser and get up at around 5am as I like to get a jump on the day by catching up on overseas correspondence. We’re involved in several projects in China, Dubai, India and Europe. I’ll also try to play an hour of tennis in Central Park or do a CrossFit or take a run or swim before heading into the office. Then the real action starts. Client meetings, strategy sessions with my team, program development, lunch meetings, new business development, conference calls with our Miami Leverage Latino office, dinner meeting on our outdoor terrace, and home with my family. I average around 500 emails a day and I try to answer everyone and don’t go to bed till I have cleared my inbox. I am on the go quite a bit and don’t stop. I love what I do and can’t get enough of Leverage as we have such a large variety of different clients and projects that keeps me going and excited every day.
Leverage Agency has had a phenomenal start to the 2014 year. What has been the key to this success, this early in the year?
It’s been a great year for us so far, and it wouldn’t be possible without the top-notch executive team we have at Leverage – Jay Williams, Kevin McIntyre, Mandy O’Donnell, Brad Brown, Jackie Carlton and Chris Farrell. They’ve all contributed tremendously to our success and we’re poised for even greater growth in the second half of the year. We started out the year with a bang with our owned-and-operated “Rivalry on Ice” hockey game at MSG between Harvard and Yale, and followed up with an incredible Super Bowl party for Sabra, and a highly successful PR campaign for H&M’s Super Bowl ad featuring David Beckham. We’re continuing our momentum with impactful programs for Grand Central Terminal, Glory Kick Boxing, Vail Resorts, Ivy League, Necker Cup and many others.
You started MSBA (Manhattan Sports Business Academy) a couple of years back. For those who are unaware of what MSBA is, please describe the program and its purpose.
I founded the Manhattan Sports Business Academy (MSBA) three years ago as a way to develop the future sports business leaders by giving them an immersive summer leadership experience. MSBA is designed for college students and young professionals seeking career acceleration. Following a competitive selection process, MSBA delivers a unique and comprehensive learning experience to an intimate group of members through internship placement, a weekly speaker series, office field trips, mentorship, career workshops, weekend group outings and professional development curriculum. Our experienced team ensures program participants understand the sports industry at every level while building a network of established executives and bonding with like-minded peers from around the world. Some of the organizations which we work with at MSBA include: the NFL, NBA, MLS, HBO Sports, Madison Square Garden, IMG, Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center and many others here in NYC. We try to make it a very diverse and immersive learning experience for the students and a fun time as well.
What type of internship programs does Leverage offer?
At Leverage we have seasonal interns. They participate in meetings, help develop plans, conduct research, meet clients and support the teams across the board. We usually have 3-4 interns working with us based on their schedules and our account needs each quarter. I always try to put myself in the position of being an intern and give them the best experience possible. That’s where we all got our start. I try not to forget where I started and make a point to mentor deserving students who really demonstrate willingness to do anything and everything to make it in this competitive industry.
What advice would you give to prospective sports marketing professionals?
- Let your passion lead your career choice
- No is just the first two letters of “not yet.”