Interview with the Masterminds from Variety and Sports Illustrated behind the Sports & Entertainment Summit 2016

 -Dea and Damian - strategic partnerships blog

The Sports & Entertainment Summit 2016 was one of the stand-out events of the year and a great example of the power of partnership in business. In an exclusive interview with Dea Lawrence, CMO, Variety and Damian Slattery, VP, Client Solutions, Time.Inc., the masterminds behind the event tell us how they leverage each other’s expertise to deliver a conference that brought together the worlds of sports and entertainment.

“One of the most pleasing comments I received from one of our sponsors, City National Bank was that of all the events they had attended in 2016 the networking at the Variety/Sports Illustrated Sports and Entertainment Summit was by far the best.”Dea Lawrence, CMO, Variety

What many people don’t know is that this incredible event featuring speakers like Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade actually started thanks to a chance encounter at the Transformational CMO Assembly.

Images for Dea and Damian blog 1“For Millennium Alliance’s Transformational CMO Assembly in Miami in February 2016, I had been asked to give a workshop presentation. The topic I chose was “partnership.” At Time Inc., and at the brands I had worked on there in marketing leadership roles (TIME, FORTUNE, MONEY and Sports Illustrated), we had found great success through breaking boundaries and working across the aisle with other media brands, other media companies, and a host of third-party organizations. That was the thrust of my presentation with a few real-world examples – that by bringing together quality partners 1 plus 1 can equal 3.

At Sports Illustrated, in a lead-up to Super Bowl 50, we had executed a terrific and successful partnership with WIRED, part of Condé Nast, one of Time Inc.’s chief competitors. Dea [Lawrence, Variety] was in the room for this presentation, She not only had a few great questions for me but she asked to speak to me after the presentation as she had an idea.

Her idea: Sports Illustrated should partner with Variety on a planned Sports & Entertainment live event they were planning for later in 2016.

Together, she thought we could make it bigger and better. Well, she pretty much had me at ‘Variety and Sports Illustrated should partner…'” – Damian Slattery, VP, Client Solutions, Time Inc.

Download the full, exclusive interview with Dea and Damian here >>


Many strategic business partnerships like that between Variety and Sports Illustrated fail for a variety of reasons. Often, the main culprit is poor communication or poor organization which results in an ability to collaborate.

Images for Dea and Damian blog 2“One of the reasons why our collaboration succeeded was that we each focused on our strengths. Variety produces over 35 events a year and has tremendous success in creating summits for executives and producers in the entertainment industry. Variety is also quite profitable.

We have an events team and a Director of Programming who books all of the talent and creates the panel discussions. Our events business runs like a machine. We focused on the production of the event and programming. Sports Illustrated’s editorial team worked with Variety’s editorial team to leverage their expertise and relationships to secure keynote, sports talent and executives.

Both teams were very collaborative and engaged. Sports Illustrated’s team built the sales deck and Variety’s team created all of the marketing materials. I would advise brands to clearly state expectations in as much detail as possible. As Variety sells sponsorship and tickets to our summits we took the lead on that and Sports Illustrated was enormously helpful in procuring talent, speakers, panelists, and topics to explore.

Staying organized and understanding what is expected from each partner is the key to a successful partnership. We each knew what we had to do and no one stepped on the other’s toes. Weekly meetings/calls are also critical to ensure communication and move the process along. We also had clear points of communication between the two brands in terms of who was responsible for what. We respected one another and knew that we had to be flexible to accommodate the opinions of both organizations. It could have been challenging if one of us had a “my way or the highway” attitude but that didn’t happen…thankfully. We like working together.” – Dea Lawrence, CMO, Variety

Download the full, exclusive interview with Dea and Damian here >>


One of the possible roadblocks to effective collaboration can be the differing brands and stories of each partner. Marrying two brands can be fraught with difficulty.

“The happy marriage of the two came from Sports Illustrated’s access to and insight around the world of sports matched up with Variety’s same extraordinary access and insight into the world of film, TV, and entertainment.

Whether it was us sharing the responsibility to secure top talent or dividing and conquering during the event – by moderating panels or conducting Q&As, the blend of editorial and brand expertise created a fusion of insight and learning that was truly palpable.” – Damian Slattery, VP, Client Solutions, Time Inc.

Download the full, exclusive interview with Dea and Damian here >>


Another potential factor that can influence the collaboration in a partnership can be the teams working together. Getting both teams to work together, often miles apart, can cause tense situations.

Images for Dea and Damian blog 3As leaders, it falls upon you to encourage healthy working relationships. This is often aided by the simplest of organization skills, like setting out clear objectives, metrics, and responsibilities from the outset.

“Editors and conference creators are smart, skilled people. In this kind of arranged marriage by the two CMOs, we had to allow plenty of room for intelligent behind-the-scenes debate, discussion, and, sometimes, a clear-eyed argument for each side.

Over time, through that process, trust and comfort were built. Dea and I had that bond immediately in Miami but we had to transfer it and translate it to our wider teams.

That’s not always easy.

But as veterans at our respective brands, I think Dea and I leaned on the trust we had with each of our teams to get through any rough spots to a smooth, clear path to success.” Damian Slattery, VP, Client Solutions, Time Inc.

Download the full, exclusive interview with Dea and Damian here >>


Partnership 101Download the eBook now to find out:

  • The steps to choosing the perfect partner
  • What makes a successful partnership
  • Tips for ensuring effective collaboration between both parties
  • How to marry the stories of two brands together
  • Unique insight into the successful launch of the Sports and Entertainment Summit 2016 from the CMOs behind it

Happy reading!



Dea and Damian will be delivering a keynote presentation at Transformational CMO Assembly April 2017 based on the success of this partnership. In only two weeks, they will be offering further insight to those in attendance.

The Transformational CMO Assembly will bring together North America’s most prominent Chief Marketing Officers, from all major consumer-driven industries. C-Level executives around the world are anticipating a highly complex marketing environment over the next few years; making the role of the CMO more important than ever before.

The digital revolution has forever changed the balance of power between individual consumers and brands. CMOs know that there is an explosion of information that is creating the digital enterprise. In addition, marketing leaders having an understanding that social media is the key channel for engaging with customers. Knowing how to measure these results will help organizations stay ahead of the competition.

A series of executive education roundtables, keynote presentations, collaborative think tanks, educational workshops, and networking sessions will offer industry-specific topics and trends to ensure your company sustains its competitive advantage.

Transformational CMO, April 2-4 600x100


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