As president and CEO of one of the nation’s largest sports-marketing companies, Greg Brown regularly gets to do things that many people would include on their bucket lists. Attending national championship games and spending time with high-profile individuals in collegiate sports is all in a day’s work for Brown, who took the helm of Plano-based Learfield in 2009.
Rebranded from Learfield Sports in 2016, the company arranges multimedia deals, sponsorships, and promotions for businesses with colleges, sports conferences, and arenas. That can include everything from stadium sponsorships, concessions, and radio and TV broadcasting rights to program advertising and signage.
Brown joined Learfield right out of college at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., selling sponsorships for the Iowa State Cyclone Radio Network. The company still has offices in Missouri, where all of its radio broadcast work is handled.
Many of the clients, or “properties,” as Learfield calls them, are long-term partners who have worked with Brown for a number of years. They include Iowa State University, whose director of athletics, Jamie Pollard, says Brown’s leadership should not be defined solely by Learfield’s financial success, but “by his commitment to ensuring the company has never wavered from its core values, despite its tremendous growth. That is the No. 1 reason I have maintained my relationship with Learfield for nearly 25 years.”
Under Brown’s leadership, Learfield launched a strategic plan in 2011 focusing on five areas: multimedia rights, acquisitions, national sales efforts, digital expansion, and employee development. Everything the company has done since then, Brown says, has been in support of the plan—including more than a dozen strategic acquisitions. Recent buys include SME, a New York-based agency specializing in building brands, and GoVision, an Argyle, Texas-based company that provides modular LED video technology to many of the country’s major sports, concerts, and racing events.
Owned since 2013 by Providence Equity Partners—a Rhode Island-based private equity firm—Learfield has grown over the last three years from 375 employees to 1,250, and from 50 multimedia rights agreements to 120. The company serves 1,200 individual schools; the eight in Texas include UT Arlington, Southern Methodist University, and Texas A&M. Among its local, regional, and national corporate partners are Allstate, Nissan, and Delta Air Lines.
Although Learfield does not disclose revenue figures, industry sources pegged the company’s 2014 sales at $300 million, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Brown, who travels three days a week for work, says he spends time with his wife and teenage daughter and son at every opportunity. “I’m constantly trying to find ways to create some margin in our lives, so you can be more grounded and thoughtful,” he says. “You can’t do everything, so you have to trust your people to do their jobs and allow them to also create margins.”