By: Saquandra Heath, Joy Essaghof, and Jessica Daniels
For starters, we would like to thank Nicole for making this very special day with AEG possible. Nicole did a fantastic job arranging an eventful, informational, and entertaining day for our group.
LA Kings Practice Facility
We started the day departing the hotel at 7:15am. Today was AEG day, and the we were all dressed our best to meet with the many executives of such a large and impressive organization. We arrived at the Toyota Sports Center, which is the home of the LA Kings Practice Facility at around 8:30am. While we waited for our meeting to begin, we were able to look at the three different ice rinks where a men’s hockey league was playing, Olympic figure skating athletes were practicing, and people were buzzing around the facility with their daily agendas.
We met with Kelly Cheeseman, the COO of AEG Sports, in the middle of this facility. Kelly was the first of many AEG employees we would be meeting, so we had a plethora of questions for such an esteemed executive. He began with giving a background of AEG Sports, and the many components, not only the LA Kings are involved with, but all 17 of the sports franchises that AEG owns. He explained the current status of his teams, leagues, foundations, franchises, brands, youth leagues, players, culture, academies, coaching, and much more. We asked him questions regarding the impact of the LA Rams returning to LA, the development of the LAFC joining the MLS, the possibility of LA hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics, the effect of poor player decisions on the different franchises and organization, the competition and partnerships between the different LA sport franchises and venues, and many more questions. We inquired about the future of sports, and Kelly focused on the mobile experience, digital ticketing, media deals, and how much is too much. There is a huge transition to paperless ticketing, going digital, ticket broker consolidation, teams taking back control of the ticket to control their own brand better, media dollar growth, and local streaming rights.
Kelly’s advice to us was to work hard, be a team player, be patient, look long-term, have an impact, a positive spirit, and focus on having good people around you because you do not have to be the smartest person in the room, but you should work the hardest.
GRAMMY Museum at LA Live
After we left the Toyota Sports Center, we went to the GRAMMY Museum in LA Live at 11:00am. We had a self-guided tour for about a half hour to experience the four different layers of the 8-year-old museum. The museum was established in 2008, and two weeks ago a second Grammy museum was opened in Cleveland, Mississippi on March 5, 2016. Some of us were able to try our musical aspirations as DJs, singers, drummers, and guitarists in the different interactive exhibits. AEG owns the GRAMMY Museum and opened it in December 2008 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the GRAMMY awards.
For lunch we had the pleasure of dinning at Rosa Mexicano. We were treated like royalty as soon as we walked into the restaurant. Our host led us to the private dinning area, which was decorated beautifully, instantly transporting us to Mexico. Soon after taking our seats, we were greeted by AEG executives, Whitney Johnson, Andrew Arrospide, Will Fogerty, and several others. They dispersed themselves amongst our group, splitting up and sitting at different tables to engage in conversation and indulge in delicious cuisine. The lunch with AEG was off to a great start, as all of us were truly mesmerized and grateful to be dinning with sport & entertainment industry professionals – this was truly an unforgettable luncheon. While all of our conversations varied depending on whom we were sitting next to and the topic that we were divulging into, we all were able to take away the notion that AEG was truly invested in us. For it is most certainly a special and amazing experience to have professionals from one of the leading sport and entertainment presenters of the world sit down and enjoy a meal with us. The tables were booming with intellectual, intriguing, and engaging conversation. Topics ranging from most memorable sporting event, career paths, sport cases, internships, resume tips, and more were discussed.
Once everyone was finished with their main course, dessert was served, and Kevin McDowell took the floor. Mr. McDowell’s charismatic charm and powerful presence commanded the attention of us all as he began with a formal introduction of himself. Immediately after his introduction, he opened the floor to us to inquire about what we wanted to know about AEG, so that he could properly cater his presentation to our wants, desires, and interests. That of which he did a phenomenal job! Mr. McDowell gave an engaging presentation that successfully captured our attention and fully educated us about the fascinating world of sport and entertainment at AEG. He touched upon the history and early start of AEG, and the strategic strategy that Mr. Anschutz implemented to build a powerhouse in sport and entertainment. Mr. McDowell illustrated the success that AEG has had since its start, and highlighted the multiple aspects of which have set AEG apart from its competitors, including but not limited to its impeccable global support services and the AEG way of uniquely “giving the world reason to cheer”.
Towards the end of the lunch presentation, we had the pleasure of hearing from a fellow SU alum, Andrew Arrospide who took what he learned from our SPM program and applied it to the real-world, in order to land and master his career in sales at AEG. Andrew’s story and his strong work ethic is an inspiration to us all, as we take great pride in the accomplishments of our alumni and continue to strive for greatness so that we may carve out our own path, reaching our ultimate potential.
Following lunch, Nicole led us over to the Staples center for a very exciting tour. We entered through the Star Plaza VIP Entry Way, and were greeted by two masters of their craft -Jen Sandstrom VP of Event Services and Michael Becker, Event Manager of the Staples Center. Jen has worked in the staples center since the dawn of its ages (15 years), while Michael worked his way through the ranks within a short time span to acquire his current role. At the staples center we were given insight and acquired a wealth of knowledge about game turn over,seating capacity, as well as the suite life. We were fortunate enough to get an inside look at the LA Kings, Lakers, and Clipper’s locker rooms. Our last stop of the tour encompassed being able to immerse ourselves in the realm of hockey, sitting on the player’s bench as though we were about to make our game debut.
After our amazing tour of the Staples center we were taken to one of the Club Lounges where we met Eric Bresler, Michelle Kajwara and Russell Silvers. Eric Bresler has been with AEG for about eight years now and started out as an intern for an abc affiliate radio station. He soon learned that he wanted to be in the sports field and worked for eight years at the Miami Heat. Eric is now the Vice President of Event Booking and Development at AEG facilities and is involved with programming for all of the venues. He explained to us how these venues are in a competitive market which means his main job is to sell the venues better than any other company. He gave us the key to being a great sales person, “you really have to believe in what you are selling” and he went on to say that success is not going to be immediate but once you get there you are there.
Our next speaker was Michelle Kajwara. She did a lot of traveling when she was younger, from backpacking through South America to spending many months in South East Asia. Through her travels she learned tolerance and how important it is to step out of your comfort zone. She is now the Vice President of Premium Seating and has been working in the sales department of AEG for thirteen years. Michelle explained to us that a huge part about selling premium seats is the ability to leverage your platform, she says that you really have to use everything you have to your advantage. She also had a few key pieces of advice, the most important is to be passionate about what you do and to love what you do. The second, is to work hard because you never know who is watching. And the last is to be open to learning anything and everything, have a great attitude, and just be present.
Our last speaker was Russell Slivers. He is the Senior Vice President of Sponsorships and his department brings in the highest revenue for AEG, with bringing in at least half a billion dollars a year. He talked about the global partnerships and how it is split into two categories, hardware and software. Hardware is made up of the eighty-seven to ninety venues while the software is the content they push through all the venues. He also taught us about AEG’s less is more approach where they believe in having a small number of founding partners. They have twelve while most other venues have about twenty to fifty founding partners. He also went into detail about how sponsorship is now tied to analytics. The key take away he told us besides how to get and maintain sponsorships, is to never feel too big on a small task, the little things people ask you to do can lead to major opportunities in the future.
Finally, to end off our amazing and eventful day, we had the pleasure of immersing ourselves in the LA lifestyle by dinning at the legendary IN-N-OUT Burger!