Scott Massey wasn't looking for a career change, necessarily.
When Massey met with new Jaguars President Mark Lamping this spring to have an exploratory conversation about the Jaguars, he didn't want to wait until he got home to tell his wife about the discussion. Massey called her to say "there's something special happening with the Jaguars." Lamping had been, to say the least, persuasive.
Massey, then Vice President of Title Sponsor Relations/Business Development at the PGA TOUR, said Lamping talked that night about a new direction for the team on the field, off the field and – specifically of interest to Massey – in the area of corporate sponsorships. During the short drive home, he said a few things were sinking in.
One was that Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan, who purchased the team in January, was a businessman of such success that he could "do anything in the world." Another was that Lamping, previously the President of the St. Louis Cardinals and the New Meadowlands Stadium Company, "could probably do anything in sports." And yet, Massey realized, they had opted to focus their careers on the Jaguars and the Jacksonville market.
Massey said those realizations led to a third:
That the Jaguars were something with which he wanted to be involved.
"That was contagious," said Massey, who moved into the newly created position of Jaguars Senior Vice President Corporate Partnerships on May 29. "What excites me is sinking my teeth into something that's a wholly new challenge. They're obviously on to something."
What the Jaguars are on to, Massey said, is a new approach to corporate partnerships, an approach that he said became even more compelling days after he joined the organization.
This was early June. He and Lamping were in New York to meet with a potential partner.
"Mark framed the meeting in a way that made so much sense to me," Massey said. "He said, 'We know that if you were to get involved with an NFL team, Jacksonville probably wouldn't be No. 1 on your list.' It was very modest. He continued, 'We understand we might not even make your Top 10 list, but here's why you should look at Jacksonville through a different lens and why we think we're really on to something unique.'
Massey said Lamping emphasized the "uncluttered" nature of the Jacksonville market – i.e., a large area with just one major professional sports franchise with a fan base extremely loyal to sponsor products. That, Massey said, helps make Jacksonville not only a good market for companies looking to become involved with the NFL, but an ideal one.
"We have flexibility unlike you would find in any other NFL market," Massey said. "Most NFL markets are going to cost a lot more, require a long-term commitment and they can't be nearly as flexible. What we're saying is, 'Think of Jacksonville as a laboratory for trying new concepts that, when successful, can scale to other markets.' Other companies look at Jacksonville and when they test-market products, a lot of times they do so here because of the uncluttered situation. If you test in another market, you're competing with the NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL – whatever. We will work hard to connect your brand to our fans in contextual way where there's no mistaking the association."
"If the Jaguars move the needle on your product, it's measurable. There's no other team."
Massey recently sat down and discussed other aspects of his position and the Jaguars' new approach to corporate sponsorship:
We've talked about some of your selling points to national sponsors – i.e., the size of the Jacksonville market and its status as a one-team region. What are some other selling points?
"The teams coming to play here are big-market teams: New York, New England, Detroit, Chicago. When you think about our telecasts being distributed to those markets, those are a lot of eyeballs. We are working on some concepts that will not only resonate with the fans in the stadium, but hopefully the way we're going to do some of our staging will be picked up in the broadcast. We're looking for partners who are looking to develop strategic partnerships and who want to grow with us and are excited about this new era. What we keep saying is, 'We have a new owner, a new head coach, a new CEO, a new head of fan experiences, a new head of partnerships . . .' it's a whole new era here.''
You came to the Jaguars from the PGA TOUR. Are you talking to similar people, or is this a whole new market for you personally?
There certainly are sponsors who support both the PGA TOUR and the NFL, but out of the gate so far most of our discussions are with people who are not invested in the NFL. We're giving them a compelling business reason why they should. For those who are already emotionally invested in the NFL and who believe it's the right platform, we're helping them understand why we can do things more inexpensively with more flexibility and more efficiently here in Jacksonville.
People reading this might be surprised to learn you're in New York talking to potential partners. There might be a perception that you'd be looking locally for sponsors rather than nationally, but that's not the case . . .
If we do our job correctly in the coming years we will have a number of national brands supporting the Jaguars because they do view this area – North Florida/Southeast Georgia – as a highly desirable place to do business. What we're also making people aware of is that Jacksonville is a Top-10 place to live. A lot of people don't know that. It is an extremely young town. It is an affluent market. Beyond the companies based here and the medical community, you have some iconic and idyllic places: St. Augustine, the PGA TOUR and TPC Sawgrass, Amelia Island and on and on. And then there's a significant military presence here, including a high percentage of retired military who choose to live here because it's a great place to live. That's the message we're getting out to corporate America, if you will, that this is a great place to reach a desirable audience and to do it in a very efficient way.
So, part of your job, really, is to resell and reshape the image of Jacksonville nationally – or are most people you talk with aware of what Jacksonville has to offer?
Some yes and some no. If you've been here, if you've stayed at the (Ponte Vedra) Inn and Club, or if you've stayed at Amelia Island or if you've played TPC Sawgrass, you know how special it is. If you haven't been here, then you probably are like a lot of people who may not be 100 percent sure where Jacksonville is. You have people who have been here who think, 'That's a home-run place to live,' and then you have people who are thinking, 'Now, is that on the gulf or Atlantic?' A lot of people also don't realize the land mass – how many people. We pull fans from great distances.
Something you mentioned early on in our discussion is the feeling you got from Mark Lamping and Shad Khan about the new direction of this franchise. You left the PGA TOUR to join the Jaguars, so clearly something made an impact on you during the process.
Not everyone has the benefit of sitting with the guy who has come in as the president of the company, and not everyone has the benefit of hearing him talk about the lengths the new owner is prepared to go to – how he intends to go the extra, extra mile and how he wants to elevate Jacksonville in the eyes of the international community. I drove home the night I met with Mark, and I had a four-minute ride home from where we met. I called my wife on the way home because what started out as me meeting Mark and having a quiet casual conversation, I started thinking, 'You've got a new owner who could have done anything he wanted and he chose this and you have a president who has been to the summit of sports a couple of times.' The challenge is huge and the vertical slope is high, but it's exciting because we're going to knock down barriers and that slope is going to get less steep each passing day.
Did Mark say something in particular in that meeting? What was it that really swayed you?
You could just tell that he was at a place in his career where he had the benefit of handpicking what he wanted to do. Most people don't have that opportunity. Within sports, he could have the pick of the litter and he chose this. It's a desirable place to come and live, but he can travel and go anywhere he wants, so as I peeled that onion back further, he talked about Shad and the energy and the blank sheet of paper, then he talked about (Senior Vice President Fan Experience) Hussain (Naqi) addressing the fan experience and making it the best in the NFL. Everything was, 'We're going to make this the best, best, best.' I looked at it as an opportunity to join an 18-year-old company that in many ways felt like a brand new company. In many ways, I feel like I've trained for this opportunity my whole career. Now that I'm here, as I'm meeting with potential partners, I want them to be able to experience the same sort of enthusiasm I felt from Mark that day.
So, it was that much of a no-brainer at that point?
At the end of the day, I was still saying, 'This sounds great. I'm excited about the new energy, but how are we going to communicate this to a national company, and how do we convince them to spend their money in Jacksonville and not a bigger market?'' It was really Mark's approach of saying, 'We're a blank sheet of paper and we're an open book.' We're going to work harder and smarter and run faster to earn your business. We'll do it in a crawl, walk, run kind of way.
And that's a big selling point . . .
A lot of sponsors are leery about paying huge dollars for a long-term commitment. They're saying, 'What if it doesn't work? We're stuck with this thing.' We're taking away all of those barriers. We're saying, 'Try us. You'll like us. If you don't, move on and no harm, no foul. We're pretty sure you're going to love us and if we weren't, we wouldn't offer you the flexibility.' My job – and I really believe this – is that for our corporate partners from a ROI (Return on Investment) and a servicing perspective, they'll get significant value no matter whether the Jaguars are 16-0 or 0-16. For the things that we can control, it's going to be fantastic. Should we win and do something special, it will be phenomenal. We're going to put our heads down and work as hard as we can. What happens on the field happens on the field, but our goal will be that our partners will feel the value they're getting is outstanding regardless of our record.
Is it too early to know how this new approach is being received?
Time will tell, but in the early stages I haven't had one person tell me they don't really, really admire our approach. We will get people into the Jaguars family who really respect and admire the approach we're taking and give us a chance to prove our mettle, and we will.
And there's more to your philosophy of sponsorship than just sponsoring something for the sake of doing it. The best sponsorship situation is one that gives fans a feeling about the sponsor . . .
Anybody can slap on a logo or buy some media. We can do that, too. We want to do programs that are thoughtful. Since we have a blank sheet of paper, what will fans respond to? What would cause the fan to think, 'That's really cool and makes a ton of sense?' If someone says, 'I just want a concourse sign,' of course we can do that. But where we're really going to make a difference is when there's a connection with the fans and the interaction with the brand is authentic. For example, any company can sponsor our fan experience, but that doesn't do any good for the long haul. When it's going right, people are thinking, 'That's really cool, because that's what the company is all about.'
Three weeks in, it sounds like you're more excited than the night you met Mark.
We have a long road ahead. We've come out of a rough economy, a rough time for the franchise. We need to love the partners who have hung in there with us and acknowledge how important that was, and we need to attract new partners and make sure that moving forward all partners know this is Jaguars 2.0 and we're excited about it.