February 2, 2021

By  –  Reporter, Silicon Valley Business Journal

Spurred in part by Covid-19’s temporary elimination of spectators from the spectator sports business, the San Jose Sharks have outsourced much of their business development work to a Walnut Creek-based sports agency called Pivot.

The idea is that Sharks sponsorships can no longer be about simply providing exposures to a sponsor’s advertising but that the parties involved have to gain more value from the relationship in a way that builds each other’s brand. That’s not a new idea, but it’s a concept the Sharks and Pivot say they intend to take to a new level.

If the sponsor is a technology company, for example, Pivot may develop a program that explains how the Sharks benefit from using that product. Meanwhile, the sponsor volunteers to participate in the team’s community programs like building a playground or renovating a house, said Doug Bentz, the Sharks’ marketing and digital vice president.

“We’re investing in this relationship because that’s really the needle that can move for the Sharks,” he said. “We have a fixed number of seats. We have a fixed number of suites. But partnerships really are an area that we could scale and really hope to.”

Pivot was founded in 2013 by former Golden State Warriors executive Ben Shapiro, and it has worked for the Sharks twice before, once in selling naming rights to Solar America for the Sharks’ public ice facilities in San Jose and Fremont, and again in naming the club level at the SAP Center for Alaska Airlines.

Ben Shapiro is the founder and CEO of the Pivot Agency. The Pivot Agency was hired to represent the San Jose Sharks.

Pivot also did the original naming rights deal for the San Jose Earthquakes’ stadium and for the basketball arena at San Jose State University. It handles travel arrangements for the Warriors.

“We’re helping the Sharks devise an overall corporate partnership strategy, helping them ideate and amplify current partnerships and thirdly — and probably most importantly — serving as a leader to the business development efforts for new corporate partners,” Shapiro said.

Brian Towers, the Sharks’ sales and service vice president, said the team has about 70 sponsors compared to an NHL average of 110-120. They represent about a quarter of the team’s revenue, he said.

Pivot’s new strategy should be ready by mid-March.

“They potentially have relationships that we don’t have,” Towers said, “but I think their insight into what’s working around the league and around the country gives us an opportunity to come out with a stronger message to approach new partners, which is something we’re really looking to do. We’re trying to think differently about our business.”

The Sharks-Pivot deal likely will result in some job changes in the Sharks office, and Shapiro said that post-Covid, some Pivot employees may work from the SAP Center.


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