Monday, March 2, 2015

Pacific Sports 35th Anniversary...Continued From January

Picking up from January Pacific Latitudes Newsletter, 

The real opportunity (the proverbial fork in the road) came when I was hired by IMG (International Management Group) in Cleveland in the early 80’s. IMG was at that point a privately held firm led by Mark McCormack and Jay LaFave. Mark was essentially the founder of the sports marketing and agency business. His first client was Arnold Palmer and together they changed sports forever. Mark would travel the world, physically and literally, and Jay ran the place from Cleveland. They were huge in golf and tennis, but by the time I was hired, they were being called to do projects in sports of all types because frankly, no one knew who to call, these guys were rock stars in sports and way ahead of their time. There was no real developed sports industry to speak of and this was the wild west. Very few people considered sports a “business”, it was just fun and passion for most. If you look at the value of sports properties, athlete contracts, prize money, appearance fees, sponsorships, and televised sports from the 1980’s and compare it to now you would see the most incredible increase in valuation perhaps of any industry. It went from mom & pop to one of the most incredible growth industries in the world—and it is definitely not slowing down. 

IMG had landed (as I would find out later, a whole other story) the city of Nice, France, to develop a triathlon and also National City Corporation was interested in putting together a triathlon project in Cleveland. At the time, I was teaching at Chapman University, working on a doctorate, training for Ironman, and owned the first triathlon pro shop (more on that in March) in Irvine, California. I would work in Cleveland during the summer when we were out of school and regularly fly there during the year after my last class on Thursday. I loved it. At IMG I had the opportunity to be involved in not just triathlon, but many of the projects in the Athletics & Fitness division and stuck my hand in on golf, car racing, and endorsement deals. IMG had made its name in golf and tennis in the early years and the exponential growth of both production and rights fees in television. Representing professional athletes in all sports was new and there was very little knowledge on valuation. How much could you sell a sponsorship for to have an athlete wear a company’s sunglasses? How much was an appearance fee to have a top athlete show up at a corporate event? and one of my favorite projects of all time—how do we create a World Golf Ranking? (read Wikipedia, but trust me this is the very, very condensed and varnished version. The details are quite fun). And for a little seasoning, events like “The Skins Game”, “Stars on Ice” were developed and it affected how we looked even at triathlon and individual sports. IMG figured out early to own the events, the broadcast rights, and most important—the athlete contracts.
It created an incredible opportunity to both learn, to be creative, and achieve results. For someone like me from academics with an economics background, it was an incredible environment. I regularly see colleagues of mine from when I was there and we can tell stories and experiences that can always go on for hours. This was also at the time when Mark wrote two books that are classics. The first was “The Terrible Truth About Lawyers” and the other was “What They Still Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School”. Even now these books are relevant and I have given more than a few of these as gifts, especially to attorneys. They were openly discussed while they were being written and the lessons go way beyond sports. Highly recommended. 

In those early 80’s the two big challenges in our sport from a business side were (a) what three sports made up a triathlon?, and (b) how do you spell it? Virtually everyone that was not involved with the sport would spell it T-R-I-A-T-H-A-L-O-N, with the “A” in the word. But I saw much worse including “tryathalon”, “trithlon”, “triathon”, and my personal favorite “tricathalon”. At the time, there was only one city in the U.S. with a major urban triathlon, that being Chicago. We would be the second in Cleveland, and we had far better sponsors. We timed it perfectly with resurgence of Cleveland in the 1980’s as the U.S. location for many Fortune 500 firms and the building of both a new baseball stadium (Jacob’s Field, now Progressive) and first class arena (Gund Arena now Quicken Loans) that brought the Cavs from Richfield to downtown. It was a fun place to be and shocking to my family and friends, I fell in love with the city. I was also fortunate enough to work on the Nice Triathlon and develop the Tri-America Triathlon Series, later to become the Stroh’s/Jeep Tri-America Triathlon Series. 

To be continued in March,

Jack Caress
President & CEO Pacific Sports, LLC

Friday, January 30, 2015

Welcome to 2015 ... Our 35th Anniversary

Thirty-five years is a long time to do anything, but in the industry of “lifestyle sports” it pretty much spans the entire history. I get asked often how Pacific Sports became a business. To quote Hemingway, “Gradually, then suddenly.” Few of us who were participating in the sports of running, swimming, cycling, and eventually triathlons early thought of it as anything but fun and something we liked to do together.  Making money or a living at it was simply not even a thought. Pacific Sports started even earlier (as Pacific Sports Management) when I started helping out on events while I was in graduate school.  It is time to give some perspective and tidbits, stories, and fun on our history while also presenting a monthly look at our 2015 events, business and perspective.    

So, how did it all start?  I went to school at UC Irvine on a small golf and academic scholarship. I was lucky enough to play on some great teams including an NCAA Championship and got a great education. I started running when I was an undergraduate because I would become really tired during our golf tournaments.  Many of the college tournaments were 36 holes in one day and somewhere in the neighborhood of 9-10 miles of walking over 10-12 hours. I would become pretty exhausted both physically and mentally. One of the team docs suggested two things — doing pushups to develop some arm strength (golfers pretty much never lifted weights in those days) and running to get my legs in shape.  So I did.  I use to run barefoot at Crawford Field and at the beach (I lived on Balboa Island.  I used to tell myself it would never get better than this.  It didn’t.)  After a few weeks, I could really tell the difference and I like the feeling.   And it became part of my routine. UCI was great because all of the athletes interacted together.  I had friends and roommates in baseball, water polo, tennis, basketball, and tennis in my time there and we all shared the same locker room.

Fast forward to 1978.   I had become friends with Randy Howatt and Pete Siracusa who started the Rusty Pelican and Ancient Mariner Restaurants in Newport Beach. I hung out a lot at their restaurants—great food, some beautiful women worked there and of course, my friends ran the place.  The decision was made to start a triathlon that year. Mainly for fun but also as a competition against the other restaurants in Newport Beach including Cask & Cleaver, Five Crowns, Chart House, Reuben E. Lee, El Torito and more. And hence, the “Ancient Mariner & Rusty Pelican Human Race Triathlon” was started in the Back Bay of Newport. It started with a mass start bike, followed by a run and the finish was a swim at the Newport Dunes. It rained that morning but later cleared up into a beautiful day. There were bike crashes because the road was too thin for that many bikes but in the end it was damn fun just to do it.  Most people did relays but there was also an “IronMan” competition (yes, it was called that) for individual athletes.  

A few years later while I was working on a PhD, I ended up volunteering to work on the annual race because the restaurants had become a chain around the U.S. and I sort of was in the right (or wrong) place when the discussion came up on being the point person.  Little did I know this would be a fork in the road of my life and the beginning of Pacific Sports.  More to come in February …