By: Peter Studer, @Pete_Studer
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Nicholas Spike, Vice President of Business Development at Thuzio. Thuzio is the world’s most comprehensive software and service solution for talent procurement. Nicholas was kind enough to offer up his insight into the unique part of the sports business world he is in, why sales are so important for success and his unique love for food.
Athlete appearances have been around for a long time, but the idea of ‘Influencer Marketing’ is a relatively new concept and one that Thuzio has really taken to the next level. Can you elaborate on the work that you do and why it’s seen such significant growth in recent years?
“Absolutely. It’s actually been very exciting and I appreciate you taking the time. The reason Thuzio, as a company, has been able to have such success is because we’ve given knowledge and background to tying together all the companies utilizing athletes in marketing. It’s really not a novel concept. We see it all the time on TV and sporting events. What we’ve actually tried to do with our Thuzio 360 product is to create an online database that functions as a commercial page for athletes and, now, non-athletes (Thuzio has opened it up to actors, actresses, and other influencers). The point of using 360 on our database is you don’t just purchase a guy, or pay someone to endorse your cause, without having any background knowledge about the person.”
“So if you’re Coca-Cola and you’re looking to engage a talent, you would like to know if that particular talent preferred Pepsi or has previously endorsed Pepsi. With Thuzio 360 it becomes immediately clear where that stands in relation to your product and if they’re the best fit to endorse it. We’ve created what we call a tag on each commercial profile that gets the talent, the agency, the brand, and anybody affiliated with them a background a nice foundation that then you can go out and execute the campaign with the talent. That is why I think our product is a little revolutionary as far as disrupting the status quo.”
Thuzio is a relatively young company, but it’s already established a massive network of influencers and talent. What did it take to get to where you are today and what does the future hold for Thuzio?
“The real impact with how we were able to establish ourselves was because we had such a wonderful brand ambassador and co-founder in Tiki Barber (the ex-Giants running back). Tiki, along with Mark Gerson (co-founder and Chairman of GLG), created Thuzio in 2012. It was really the first online market place for booking talent, but what we really built on was the transformative nature of the data we compiled. We now have almost 30,000 talent options on site that includes everyone you’d think of in the sporting world and has extended to those other industries I’ve just talked about."
"We want to cover anyone on earth that you could think of engaging with and now it’s just a matter of man hours to compile those commercial profiles. We’re going to talk about it next, but the other side of the company, the part I actually work on is called Thuzio Executive Club. What we’ve done is revolutionize the way people define entertainment. We’ve seen that for the past 100 years, your Grandfather and his Grandfather, have engaged clients in the typical way which is to take them to dinner and a golf outing. Through the Executive Club you’re giving your clients, your network, your prospects, one of the most unforgettable nights of their lives.”
What made you decide to join this team and help form the Thuzio Executive Club?
“I was working with a sports team on the sales side and I was actually approached by a former colleague who I worked with for the New Jersey Devils. It really stemmed from analyzing the business. We talked to a lot of our bigger repeat clients or anyone on the sales side (looking to entertain clients) and they told us that anyone can offer Knicks tickets, a steak dinner, or a round of golf, but not everyone can give them the opportunity to sit next to Lawrence Taylor and share a meal. We thought, why don’t we systematize the use of talent for corporate interests thus creating what we called the Thuzio Executive Club, where you basically pay a fee to join the Club and gain access to the talent?”
“When they started it in January of 2014, I was recognized as a great sales guy. I listened to the pitch, and immediately recognized it as revolutionary and wanted to join. Fast forward to today and we’re in five markets (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles) throwing two events a month in every market. We’ve really achieved our objective which is to provide each market, through the Executive Club, with the talent to support their network, their client base, and their prospects with lasting impressions. That is such a differentiator, because as everyone knows the basis of selling really stems from relationships, so as long as you have a great relationship with your client, you’ll always get their business and always get their referrals.”
(Based on your LinkedIn Profile,) you’ve really climbed the ladder through the sports business world. Did you have this current position in mind when you started, or did you make the most of opportunities that were presented to you?
“I don’t think this position existed when I started, so I definitely didn’t have it in mind. Coming out of college, I knew I always wanted to work in business, and the best way to get into business is through sales. Everyone needs it and no matter what your position is, especially in sports, you have to be able to sell. My path has been interesting since I started in minor league baseball, moved to the New York Jets, then the New Jersey Devils, the Barclays Center, and now to here and I can contribute that to the relationships I’ve built and the ability to make the most of opportunities that were presented to me."
"As long as you can sell than you’re going to have a long career path and people are going to value your services and that’s what I’ve proven throughout my career. I’ve sold some of the most difficult products in the world like a personal seat license to the New York Jets, a premium seat to the New Jersey Devils, and a suite for the Barclays Center. All high-end, expensive items that people don’t need to buy. I think that’s the differentiator between a good sales guy and a great one. Are you only going to be able to sell what people need or can you sell what people want? Great sales guys can do both.”
“As far as my position within Thuzio, I’m confident that I can continue to grow with the company. I see this as an amazing position with a company that has an amazing trajectory upwards and there are so many different ways we can expand it in the future.”
How do you continue to develop personally and professionally outside of day to day job?
“I read a lot. I also find that maintaining your LinkedIn profile is key. If you look at mine it’s as fresh as it can get. That’s really one of the most important tools a young professional has in the world today. That’s where people go to learn about you and the work that you do and you really have to put the time into making sure it’s up to the level it needs to be. Not only can you find potential contacts and connections, but there’s a lot of industry education going on through interesting articles and insights. I really like to keep a pulse on the world I’ve chosen to work in, whether that’s through online articles, newspapers, relevant books, or other forms of media. It’s a huge help to be able to knowledgably discuss your industry.”
“As far as my personal interests, I’m a Foodie, so I like to get out and eat at some very interesting restaurants, something that New York has no shortage of. Everyone in the office knows this about me because I go out to lunch with people and for business meetings. I recently married, which is a wonderful new challenge, and I travel a lot. I actually grew up in Florence, Italy until I was twelve years old and I have friends all over the world so that has always been a passion of mine.”
Many of our readers are students looking to get into the sports business world, but a number of them are young professionals working in other industries looking to make the jump. What kind of advice do you have for someone looking to make an impact?
“I get emails, questions, and calls all the time from students and young professionals facing this same challenge. Make sure to make the most of all of your experiences and be able to communicate your experiences clearly. Whether it be from previous jobs, internships, or your college career, it will really go a long way into showing that you are ready for the business world. As far as working in sports, the absolute best way to get your foot in the door is through sales."
"Everyone should be able to sell, or at least have gained some experience in trying to sell at some point in their career. Even if that’s not the path you envision for yourself, it’s a skillset that has impacts on any type of career. Whether it be marketing, business development, or whatever, you’re ultimately selling yourself and your skillset. Some of the best lessons you can learn in some of the toughest work environments is inside sales for a professional sports team.”
“Finally, I always tell people that networking is incredibly important. The people that you meet, whether at a cocktail party, or work event, or friends of your parents, or anybody else, even if you have no idea how they might possibly be able to help you, make sure that you value that connection. People are very willing to help if you ask, so make sure you keep in touch and take care of those relationships. It’s really important to keep your network up to date and be honest about what you’re looking for. You never know where the next opportunity may come from.”
Do you have any parting thoughts on things we may not have talked about?
“It’s definitely a challenge and a struggle to succeed in sales. But the validation and joy that come with influencing someone to listen to you honestly and trust you are things that never end. This is true both professionally and personally. I’m very passionate about sales and it’s something that has definitely shaped the person I am today. It’s a battle, but at the end it’s absolutely worthwhile.”
We would like to thank Nicholas for his time and insights and we wish him well in his journey with Thuzio!