Profile: Robert Birge '99
Birge '99 seeks 'icons' in CMO role at IMG
By Adrienne Murrill
chief marketing officer at IMG, Robert Birge '99 has
stepped into a new role for himself and for the storied 47-year-old
sports, entertainment and media firm.
2007 Birge assumed responsibility for global brand management,
advertising and strategic marketing initiatives for all the
company's business units. "We're one of the largest independent
producers of sports and entertainment programming, and we're
the largest global distributor of media programming," Birge
says. "Entertainment media is a major growth focus for us,
particularly with the new appointment of Chris Albrecht, former
head of HBO, as head of IMG's media business unit."
says he was chosen for the role because of his experience
in marketing strategy and creative development across industries
and subjects. Prior to IMG, the Kellogg graduate worked with
big-name brands as managing director of the New York office
of global advertising firm TBWA\Chiat\Day, where he oversaw
daily operations, including client service, recruitment and
new business development. He also worked in marketing consulting
as part of The Boston Consulting Group's consumer marketing
and e-commerce practice and at Marketing Corporation of America.
all of these roles, Birge says the essentials of marketing
— segmentation, understanding consumers and their relationship
with sports and entertainment properties and brands, and measuring
the impact of marketing efforts — remained central.
at IMG is so broad and covers such a diverse set of properties
that all of the different things I did really helped ground
me in the fundamentals, including my Kellogg experience,"
he says. "Every bit of the marketing curriculum I experienced
was extremely beneficial, from things that were cutting edge
to the basics of marketing."
The biggest differences in this position for Birge
are working for a legend like Ted Forstmann (IMG chairman
and CEO). The job also is significantly broader than his previous
roles. For example, IMG's second-biggest business is events:
"We own, manage or represent over 350 events around the world."
One-fifth of its global business is talent representation,
which includes more than 1,000 athletes, models and celebrities.
navigate these vast areas, Birge's team has developed the
trademarked IMG ICON Engineering, a process and set of proprietary
tools for crafting and harnessing "culture-defining" icons.
define the culture we live in," says Birge. "People are devoted
to events, brands, people, places, television programs, films,
fictional characters, art and ideas."
IMG does is tap that consumer devotion to cultural icons,
both in crafting events, media programs and talent brands
and in helping leading marketers harness these iconic properties,
a world where as many as 33 million households are employing
technology to skip commercials and where media fragmentation
makes it increasingly difficult to reach your target audience,
selling your brand through an iconic property that a consumer
is seeking out can be a very powerful marketing approach,"
At a time
when marketers are navigating the use of traditional and non-traditional
media, Birge says these alternatives help consumers understand
and relate to brands.
have a myriad of choices of what they can consume," he says.
"The more choices you put in front of people — while
at the same time squeezing their time — they need shortcuts
to help them navigate those choices. Brands play a great role
traditional marketing platforms continue to see "erosion,"
companies like IMG are getting creative in their strategies.
Emerging platforms across broadband and mobile have been a
key playing field for IMG's sports and entertainment brands.
dealing with changing media consumption and changing media
platforms, but in spite of all this, the marketing fundamentals
still stand. The power of a brand is even more important than
it was before."