OVG’S Global Partnerships' Dan Griffis, Evan Levine and Ryan Brach.

Last week, OVG’s Narrative Partners rebranded as Global Partnerships and added sports and entertainment vets Evan Levine and Ryan Brach to its executive team. Venues Today spoke with the two new key players plus Global Partnerships’ President Dan Griffis to get the inside thinking for the name switch and insight about where the OVG division goes from here.

Why did you change Narrative Partners to Global Partnerships?

Griffis: The idea around Oak View Group was going to be a top-level management company with multiple frames underneath it that we planned to run as separate companies. But as it played out, equity in OVG has continued to build, and we decided that Narrative Partners as an entity was not doing us any favors in terms of adding significant value. It became a complex tale to tell when it came to Narrative Partners and how we were connected to OVG. Simplicity is what’s important, and we needed a simpler story. Tim Leiweke (co-founder, OVG) and I sat down and talked about it, and we decided that the rebranding was a solid idea.

When were you approached to join the firm, and what was your thought processses when you decided to sign on?

Levine: March 2017. I’ve had a varied career in the sports and entertainment space on the corporate side of things as it relates to the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Soccer (MLS) from a league perspective, as well as start-ups from the ground up. I worked at Roc Nation as they built their sports division and built out the commercial engine of their entire operation. Global Partnerships was a great opportunity, not only to work with Dan and Ryan, but to grow a brand. It is something you just can’t pass up.

Brach: May. I’ve been on the arena and team side my entire career and have relationships with a lot of my arena colleagues around the country. To have the chance to learn from Dan and Ryan and Tim and Irving (Azoff, the other OVG co-founder) is an incredible opportunity. The ability to leverage that with all of the other North American arenas to bring scale to the partners and to localize its effectiveness is a huge differentiator from a lot of the other large-scale types of opportunities present. Being able to bring my expertise on the arena and team side, whether that’s selling jersey rights to soccer teams or NBA pass deals or stadium naming rights, is right up my alley and really got me excited about joining OVG.

Where will you be working?

Levine: I’ll be based in New York City.

Griffis: We have multiple clients based on the East Coast and we expect to grow that office to five to 10 people. We are thrilled to have Evan aboard; he provides an East Coast network and conduit that will allow OVG to thrive on both coasts.

Brach: I’m in Los Angeles.

How will the structure work between you?

Griffis: Ryan and Evan will be the leads on all our accounts. Evan will be in charge of East Coast projects; Ryan, given his arena relationships, will take the lead on Arena Alliance partnerships. As new projects come online, it will be based on geography. All the account executives we’ve brought on in the last year or so will report directly to Ryan and Evan.

What are your main goals in your new positions?

Levine: To deliver for our clients, whether it’s our properties or third-party clients.
We want to build the best-in-class organization that is the envy of every other firm out there, whether it’s entertainment or sports.

Brach: Leveraging our relationships around the globe and being able to leverage our partnerships to help grow revenue. On the flip side, we want to give our partners the opportunity to do things they currently are unable to do.

By branding yourselves as ‘global partnerships’ do you have more than North America in mind?

Griffis: ‘Global’ comes from the idea that a lot of our clients have global properties.
We have no real plans to open an office abroad. But we’re not just focusing on companies that are based in the U.S. and Canada.

Brach: Most of the arenas and teams we represent have a global footprint; we’re confident we can handle it all from New York and Los Angeles.

Can you talk about the Walmart deal?

Griffis: Talks started taking place in loose conversations last fall. Given that I spent a lot of time in retail in sports and entertainment marketing for Target, I knew retail was a category widely available as it related to the Arena Alliance. The idea of us bringing the Arena Alliance program together and establishing national platforms in non-traditional categories intrigued me. Arenas like Madison Square Garden (NYC), Pepsi Center (Denver) and United Center (Chicago) do a phenomenal job as it relates to the soda category, the beer category, the insurance category and local automotive category, and we weren’t positioning ourselves to add a tremendous amount of value as it related to those.

Why retail?

Griffis: Retail is one place I thought we could add value, particularly the big-box chains. We came up with a program and  a conversation started with Haworth, Walmart’s media agency. Haworth represented Target for a very long time, and I knew them well. We talked about how we could showcase Walmart as a vibrant part of local communities. The Arena Alliance fit very well with these goals, with 65 million people across North America, who spend money.

Can you explain the program?

Griffis: We came up with the Walmart Community Playmakers Program, which is an opportunity for each of the teams to have a moment where someone gets recognized on the court or ice for their efforts within the local community to help the community become a better place to live. We rolled it out at the end of last season, and now it will roll out in full-force with the start of the new NBA and National Hockey League season. Every team has a website page where members of the community can nominate people to be awarded. Winners will get a plaque, a gift card and be treated like a VIP.

What are the financial arrangements, which one report pegged as $40 million over three years?

Griffis: While I can’t disclose the exact amount of the deal, I can say that it’s a nice investment, and the deal is multiyear with options beyond that as well.