Lobel pursues a unifying strategy for diverse SFX

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Sfx entertainment has grown so rapidly that just how to assess its overall marketing muscle-even for insiders-is still being determined.

The concert and sports marketing company hired Richard Lobel, 39, to do just that-and more.

In the new post of senior VP-marketing and media communications, based in New York, Mr. Lobel is responsible for developing a brand strategy for SFX's diverse offerings of sports, music and entertainment.

"We are really like a new network," Mr. Lobel said. "We reach 50 million people throughout all our different divisions."

A veteran of marketing posts at Calvin Klein Inc., DDB Worldwide, New York, (where he worked on Polo/Ralph Lauren) and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Mr. Lobel was surprised to learn that SFX Entertainment now spends about $100 million a year advertising its concerts; theater and live entertainment; and sports marketing.

SFX also produces TV programming for the broadcast networks, such as "The Breeders' Cup," in which it also sells the ad time; and handles athlete representation.

Fast growth at SFX has left Mr. Lobel with the task of analyzing whether the company should pool its budget at one media agency. Now, much media spending is done locally, in radio and newspapers to promote live events. Some TV is used for its theater division and for motor-sports events.

"We have to understand what we are getting for our dollar," said Mr. Lobel. "Theaters and family entertainment may be using the same newspapers but not negotiating the same way."

A CREATIVE CONSOLIDATION

Creatively, SFX's divisions use a number of ad boutiques, as well as its own in-house ad departments. Mr. Lobel said this area may need some consolidation.

Right now, for its corporate business-to-business work, SFX uses Grey Entertainment, New York, a division of Grey Advertising. Grey also is working for SFX in helping form a brand strategy.

Mr. Lobel said that assignment is to clarify to the business world SFX's four areas of business-music concerts; legitimate theater; live family-oriented shows such as "Rugrats" and "Blue's Clues"; and sports.

"If I said to you Nickelodeon, you would have an image," said Mr. Lobel. "But if I say SFX, it's not so clear. Every division has a different image. I'm not saying we have to squash [each unit's] individuality, but we have to have a visual language that is the same."

Recent deals have included marketing partnerships with American Express Co., Coca-Cola Co. and Levi Strauss & Co., all tied into SFX's live venues. Levi's, for instance, gets signage at SFX events for sponsorship of a second stage featuring up-and-coming bands.

SFX's buildup in live events has put it on a collision course with House of Blues Entertainment, which recently bought Universal Concerts, the second-largest concert promoter in the U.S.

On the sports side, Mr. Lobel considers Octagon, an Interpublic Group of Cos. sports marketing shop, as a competitor.

And there are others, including Walt Disney Co., for live events.

The job is a big one, concedes Mr. Lobel. But it's an opportunity that can make a career, he feels.

"You dream about getting a challenge like this," he said. "It comes along, and you want to make your mark."

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