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How Gallagher Is Growing Its Sports Portfolio in a Big Way

A company founded in 1927 has made a splash in the sports business world, inking two impactful deals with Premiership Rugby and the Chicago Cubs this year. 



Gallagher - Sports - Business

Sports fans in the United States and Europe may not immediately be familiar with the name of Gallagher. That will most likely change in the near future, though, after the 91-year-old insurance brokerage and risk management services firm has been adding some big sports sponsorships to its repertoire since the team started working with IndyCar racers back in 2016.

Casual observers may be asking why a company would wait almost a century after its inception in 1927 to get into this side of the business.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Chief Marketing Officer Chris Mead explained that this decision had a lot to do with the company’s rapid growth, both domestically and globally with Gallagher now working in 33 countries around the world. Prior to a few years ago, the company did not have a national marketing infrastructure to justify such partnerships.

READ MORE: WNBA Teams Find Success Through Creative Partnerships

“The most important thing about a sponsorship or partnership is that you’re able to amplify it and get new customers from it,” Mead stated. “For a while, we didn’t have that infrastructure in place yet. We’ve gotten it into place now, and the timing was really good for us.”

In the past year, Gallagher has inked two very notable deals. The first includes Gallagher becoming the new title sponsor of Premiership Rugby with various other branding opportunities attached to the deal. Gallagher is also now the official insurance broker of the league. This sponsorship was an easy sell for Gallagher’s leadership team based on the sport’s global appeal and the culture of respect the rugby community prides itself on. Rugby’s quickly growing popularity in the United States didn’t hurt the appeal either.

“We look for opportunities that are reflective of our culture and who we are as a company in terms of hard work and doing the right thing. If you take a look at rugby and the global footprint, along with the fact that it is one of the fastest-growing sports domestically from a U.S. perspective, it makes sense. It’s also just the way the sport is played very competitively with a true appreciation of honor and community.”

READ MORE: What Goes Into Executing Sponsorships at the Olympic Games

The folks at Gallagher take an active role in participating in their local community too. This is why the Chicago-based company also felt compelled to initiate a partnership with a world-class organization in its own backyard: the Chicago Cubs.

In early 2018, the two parties signed a multi-year partnership that made Gallagher the official insurance broker, benefits and risk management service partner of the Cubs. Gallagher also receives exclusive marketing and sponsorship rights to the Ricketts family real estate properties, namely Wrigley Field.

“Tom Ricketts (chairman of the Chicago Cubs), the way that they run their business, the way that their players play the game and the way that they give back to the community made that partnership very appealing,” according to Mead. “It’s a one-for-one of who Gallagher is and how we operate. We’ve gotten very close to the ownership and spent time with people in the front office, who also spend a lot of time in our community. We really feel like it’s a community play for us as well.”

READ MORE: Why Delta Private Jets Signed With MSG as a Suite Partner

In looking at Mead and Gallagher’s leadership, it is very clear that their partnership strategy extends beyond simply increasing brand exposure and garnering new customers. They want to work with brands that care about making the world a little bit better through sport.

“It’s not just about baseball and rugby, but it’s also the commitment of both the clubs and Premiership Rugby to the community outside the sport itself. They are making it a better place to live and improving the community in the United Kingdom and wherever rugby is played.”

With these partnerships, as well as Gallagher’s ventures into auto racing already going swimmingly, the brand is very open to continuing to expand its sports portfolio should the right opportunities arise.

“It’s a real simple formula for us,” Mead said. “If we see an opportunity that maps to our culture and what we stand for as a business, if it’s tied to a community that’s important to us, we’re open to it. There also has to be a direct business opportunity. The one common thing that all these sponsorships have is that they need our services and expertise in proper insurance placement and risk management. We’re looking at opportunities as they come up, and if it makes sense for Gallagher, we’ll do them.”

Joe is currently a freelance marketing professional, writer, and podcaster. His work can also be found on the SB Nation network. Joe earned his bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Louisville in 2014 and a master's degree in sport administration from Seattle University in 2017. He can be reached via email at


Texas Legends Personal Approach to Partnerships Paying Off

The Legends have found that simple things like networking events are an easy way to add value to its partners and keep them retained.

Adam White



Texas Legends - Texas - G League

Photo via @TexasLegends

The name of the team may not jump off the page, but the Texas Legends’ partnership strategy sure will catch your attention.

The team, based in Frisco, is the G League affiliate of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. Playing in one of the most crowded metropolitan sports markets in the country, the Legends know that while their broad reach might not be as large as the Cowboys and the Mavericks or the Stars and Rangers, their local reach is exceedingly impactful.

And for the last few years, they have been leaning into that.

Britney Wynn, VP of media relations for the team, credits the G League and the flexibility provided to its member teams.

“The biggest difference on the partnership side between the NBA and the G League is the flexibility we have when it comes to being more creative. We don’t really have set partnerships or levels because everything we do is as custom as possible for the partner we are working with.”

This type of flexibility has led to the team having a different jersey for every home game and even one of their partners building a practice court for them.

“I can honestly tell you that this works better than anything else we do. These networking events get you clients. If you to host a networking event, they will come.” – Britney Wynn on what she tells other G League teams when it comes to successful partner strategies.

One of her favorite activations this year is the evolution of the team’s partnership with Legacy Plumbing. The local Frisco plumbing company was looking to change it up after four years of running a similar promotion. With the goal of the new activation having more of an impact on the community, Wynn and Legacy came up with what they called the “Mission of the Month.”

READ MORE: Why Delta Private Jets Signed With MSG as a Suites Partner

“Mission of the Month” is an extension of Legacy’s own internal program, except in this situation, the Legends have used their platform to expand the collection of items that will go to different charities to the three networking events they have every month for their premium clients.

Not only have the aforementioned networking events become an opportunity for partners like Legacy to activate, but they have also become a fundamental part of what the Legends can offer that is different from other teams in the area and an example of the culture that owner Donnie Nelson has built around the team.

“Donnie brought the team to Frisco to honor the true legends in the community (hence the name). Whether it was on the philanthropic side or on the business development side, he wanted to use the team solely for giving back purposes.”

Instead of just being a place where partners can activate, Wynn and the team at the Legends have turned the team into a conduit not only for positive social change, but positive business change — all at a price that is the most reasonable in the area and in an experience that is family friendly.

“The whole mindset behind the game is to make it somewhere where people can come and do business in a way you can’t find anywhere else. A lot of our smaller partnerships come in because we’re affordable and we’re family friendly. They will bring their kids and their clients will bring their kids; because of the kid zones on either end of the court, they will be able to talk business while the kids are playing.”

This mindset has spilled over to the networking events, such as a three-times-a-month program the Legends have set up for premium clients that will see them host a breakfast and a lunch at the arena and a happy hour at a partner’s restaurant or location.

They have even built out an executive event series that brings together high ranking executives from their partners in unique ways once a quarter. Their last event was held at a partner’s Mercedes-Benz dealership and was aptly called “Cigars and Cars.”

As for retention rate because of the approach, Wynn said: “I don’t know the exact percentage, but it is pretty high.”

While these initiatives may be hard work for the Legends staff, the events are cost-effective additions to packages that end up being a win-win for everyone involved.

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PlayStation Renewal Brings Stability to Fiesta Bowl

After a stretch in which the Fiesta Bowl saw four different title sponsors in four games, PlayStation’s multi-year commitment brings stability to one of the premier bowl games of the season.

Adam White



PlayStation - Video games - Esports

First, it was Tostitos, then it was Vizio, then it was Battlefrog, and then it was PlayStation.

From 2014 to 2016, the Fiesta Bowl had four different title sponsors for four different games after having Tostitos as the title sponsor of the game from 1996-2014.

During that same time period, the only other New Year’s Six bowls to have their title sponsors changed were the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, with neither of them seeing the introduction of more than one new presenting partner.

Now, thanks to a new multi-year deal between ESPN and PlayStation, the brand will return after being the title sponsor for both the 2016 and 2017 editions of the game.

Although the Fiesta Bowl — the organization that puts on the game — isn’t the one negotiating the deal, having a partner like PlayStation back for at least the next few years is crucial according to Mike Nealy, the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl.

“We used to have a long-term relationship with a good brand and we were thrilled to have PlayStation. I think there was a sample time there for a couple of years, but the renewal signals that PlayStation is happy and we are happy. What they like to do as far as our local activation and being involved with the community makes this a big win for us and a big win for the community.”

READ MORE: Traditional Professional Athletes Could Soon See More Opportunities With Gaming Companies

No stranger to video games and esports, the Fiesta Bowl hosted the Overwatch Collegiate National Championship at the beginning of this year. While there might not be an esports component as part of the partnership this year, Nealy wasn’t one to shy away about the future prospects of some sort of tie-in there.

“We aren’t going to do it this year, but it is definitely in the thought process going forward.”

Although there might not be a formalized esports program, PlayStation will be active when it comes to activations, especially around ones that focus on community outreach.

“Throughout the week, they will be in lockstep with us when it comes to activations in the community. The charitable side of our organization is very important to us, so to have a partner that values that is what makes this partnership fit even more.”

Like other bowl games, since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, the dynamic around New Year’s Six games have changed.

Because of that, Nealy points to an emphasis on getting smarter at what the Fiesta Bowl is doing when it comes to marketing and selling tickets for the game because the game “no longer sells itself.”

Impacted by other macro conditions as well, getting smarter for the Bowl revolves around leveraging more data and insights to make sure that they are able to connect to the consumer base in a way that is relevant to them.

“The pressures are there. Changes at the bowl level certainly have been impacted by the Playoff, but we are fortunate to be one of the pinnacle games. The demand is not the same as it was and so we have to work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter.”

Regardless of whose name is on the bowl or the factors impacting demand, you can always count on the Fiesta Bowl to be a good time.

“We like to have fun and PlayStation is a fun product, we’re a fiesta after all.”

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Minor League Baseball Showcasing Deeper Partnership Connections With Hot Dogs

A focus on aligning values with strategic partners has led to a unique collaboration between Minor League Baseball and Applegate Farms.



Minor League Baseball - Hot dogs - Applegate

Few things go together like baseball and hot dogs, and a focus on aligning values with strategic partners has led to a long-term partnership between Minor League Baseball and Applegate Farms.

The league announced today that the meat company would serve as the “Official Natural and Organic Meat of MiLB.” Along with prominent signage in many of MiLB’s 160 stadiums, Applegate Farms will also have official partnerships with 25 Minor League Baseball teams with “activations running very deep,” said David Wright, chief marketing and commercial officer at Minor League Baseball.

The focus on finding the right strategic partnerships led to the alignment with Applegate Farms as the league continues to think about growth and its approach to the marketplace.

“What an unbelievable brand,” Wright said. “Their passion for their the product really resonates with next-gen consumers and how we think about fans. Once we had the opportunity to connect with their leadership, the direct alignment was really powerful.”

Applegate Farms’ products include “The Cleaner Wiener”, a 100 percent grass-fed beef hot dog. All the company’s products — including bacon, sausages, deli meats, cheese, and frozen products — are made with no chemical nitrates, phosphates, preservatives, artificial ingredients, antibiotics or hormones. As more consumers are becoming more conscious of what goes in their bodies, Wright said the idea of a more natural hot dog will appeal to more fans. Applegate Farms is a standalone subsidiary of Hormel Foods.

READ MORE: Why Scoring a Career in Minor League Baseball Is Anything but Minor

The partnership includes an extensive integrated media plan, with Applegate Farms receiving dominant positioning throughout the MiLB network. Applegate Farms’ messaging will also be found in ballparks across the country through ISM Connect and the ISM Fan Engagement Network.

“Partnering with Minor League Baseball was a no-brainer for Applegate,” said Nicole Glenn, VP of marketing at Applegate Farms. “Not only do both brands have similar values, but you can’t argue with the iconic pairing of hot dogs and baseball. We are very excited for the opportunity to serve our products across the country.”

The league already has a deep portfolio of partners, but Applegate Farms is just the beginning of a slew of potential announcements looking toward 2019, said Wright.

Among other food brands partnered with MiLB are BUSH’S Beans and Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips. Both brands are authentically integrated into ballparks and have offered great relationships for Minor League Baseball.

The increase in partners comes as more brands are recognizing the potential of MiLB as a major national marketing platform. The league welcomed nearly 41 million people through its turnstiles last year, second only to Major League Baseball in North American professional sport leagues.

READ MORE: Minor League Baseball’s Merchandise Enjoys Major League Sales

With 81 percent of the U.S. population living within an MiLB market, the local impact is significant. Put all of this together, MiLB is quickly becoming a national marketing platform competing with other major sport properties. 

“Each of the 160 teams does an incredible job locally and the relevance in their markets is off the charts,” said Wright. “We’re making great strides in positioning ourselves as a national marketing platform. While the 160 clubs have become industry leaders in local markets, the ability to go to market under one voice has proven to complementary and very powerful. And what’s most exciting, I think we’re just getting started.”

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