Former Turner Entertainment President Gets New Gig

Q&A: Mark Lazarus Seems Well-Suited to Role at Career Sports & Entertainment

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Media buyers and marketers who made the rounds of this year's broadcast upfronts in May might have been surprised to see a familiar face on the party circuit. Mark Lazarus, an 18-year veteran of Time Warner's Turner Entertainment Group who left his most recent role as president of the company in January, spent the week checking out his former competitors' presentations and, for the most part, liked what he saw -- even at the upfronts that were less than popular with media buyers.
Mark Lazarus
Mark Lazarus Credit: TBS, Inc.

"NBC's was so different. I kinda found it interesting in that they showed a great breadth of their corporation by having you mingle through everything," he said. Of the criticism leveled at the event, he said, "The media community we're part of is not good at being herded like cattle."

Mr. Lazarus will be herding media cattle in a different direction in his new role as president-media and marketing at Career Sports & Entertainment. The role suits Mr. Lazarus, who during his career at Time Warner served as president of Turner Sports, where he negotiated the cable rights to the NBA, Nascar, Major League Baseball, Wimbledon and the British Open, in addition to securing sponsorships and naming rights for Atlanta's Turner Field and Philips Arena.

He will be charged with creating similar opportunities for sports marketers at Career, which produces and sells sponsorships for a number of ESPN and ESPN2 sports programs, including the Quiznos Madfin Shark Series, the Oh Boy Oberto Redfish Cup and the Under Armour College Bass National Championship. The company also has partnered marketers such as Aflac and AT&T with Nascar, and created a custom sports-marketing platform for Kellogg's retail partners last year.

In announcing Mr. Lazarus' appointment, Lonnie Cooper, Career's founder and CEO, said in a statement, "His track record of success in developing businesses will complement this strong foundation and allow for growth in content creation, marketing and consulting against every media platform."

Thirty days after stepping into his new role at Career's offices in Atlanta, where he was previously based for Turner, Mr. Lazarus spoke with Madison & Vine about working with his former competitors at ESPN, his visions for building sports marketing at Career and how he plans to help out a few old Turner colleagues on his new payroll.

M&V: You recently paid a visit to the upfront of your former competitor at Turner Sports, ESPN. What did you make of its dog and pony show this year?

Mr. Lazarus: I think they had a good show, though it was a little long for my tastes, and I've been part of making some that are way too long. But they had a lot of substance in it, and they're smart to build more programming around expanding "SportsCenter."

M&V: How was working with ESPN been so far in your new role at Career?

Mr. Lazarus: We have a content relationship with them around outdoor programming right now, and we're working on continuing to grow that. ... It's been a good business for us. ...

I think I have a pretty good and broad understanding of what many of the networks -- what their programming goals are and the audiences they serve. So I'll take that and marry it with concepts and ideas to pitch to them with knowledge that'll get them thinking about their brand and their schedules and their audiences.

M&V: How would you describe your role and duties at your new gig?

Mr. Lazarus: It's less about ad selling than being a marketing partner or solution-based consultant, helping corporations think through their marketing plans. We want to get educated and understand their business almost as well or as well as they do, whether it's in sports or entertainment, and help them build their base and ultimately their product. We're only successful if we're selling more product, whether that's through selling more content, a national or local activation plan, through promotional concepts, tying into existing Hollywood studios or TV production companies, cross-promotions and marketing through TV shows. The current team has a lot of expertise, and my experience and additional TV sales and marketing background will add to what we're doing and help us hopefully continue to build on our client base.

M&V: Measuring the success of branded integrations and sports sponsorships has become both easier and more complicated than ever as more platforms get added to the mix. What kinds of metrics have you put in place for your clients?

Mr. Lazarus: As you know, the term "return on investment" is what everyone's looking to understand. We will be able to help our clients understand their ROI with programs they put in place with us. We're currently devising a plan based on metrics including not just impressions of people who see the messaging we help them put together [but metrics based] on actual product sales, as well as on the types of recall and awareness that we're able to provide.

M&V: You worked with Career and Mr. Cooper, during your days at Turner Sports. Do you still have any ties to your previous company?

Mr. Lazarus: There are talent relationships, but nothing in production currently. [Broadcasters] Ernie Johnson Jr., Chip Caray and Mike Fratello are all people we represent.

M&V: Anything you'll be doing differently with your old talent?

Mr. Lazarus: I just now want them to be paid more.
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