Broadway’s “Lombardi” puts sports business in the spotlight
The editors of GabelliConnect were fortunate enough to grab a few minutes with Joe Favorito, a Fordham alumnus and sports businessman who was an associate producer of the Broadway show Lombardi. Here, Mr. Favorito gives us some insight into the popular production.
GABELLI CONNECT: It’s clear from the title that the play is about Vince Lombardi. How did you become involved?
JOE FAVORITO: I was working with one of the producers, Tony Ponturo, on the launch of his company, which he had started after returning to New York from running Anheuser-Busch’s sports and entertainment marketing for almost 30 years. Tony said he and his creative partner, Fran Kirmser, were working on an idea to truly bring sports and theater together. They showed me David Maraniss’ book “When Pride Still Mattered.” They asked if I knew anything about Vince Lombardi, and I told them (1) I was from Brooklyn, (2) I went to Fordham, and (3) when I worked in the athletics department at Fordham, I helped to rewrite the history of Fordham football. So yes, I knew a few things. I started by helping them with the launch plan, and it grew from there into an associate producer’s role. Not something I had ever dreamed of doing, and hopefully it will continue as we launch Magic/Bird, which will open next March on Broadway.
G: Why do you think Vince Lombardi is such an interesting person?
JF: The play has less to do with sports and more to do with a man who overcame great difficulties to be a success later in life. That is why he is so inspirational to people. He had many faults, but he found a way to overcome them that still speaks to many people today.
G: What can we learn from Lombardi about being a great leader?
JF: The biggest thing is to find ways to use the talents you have to be successful. Also, the lesson of not sacrificing everything to achieve one’s goals is very relevant today. Lombardi gave away a great deal with his family and his health to be successful, and that ultimately cost him his life.
G: How did you get into the business of sports when you graduated from Fordham?
JF: I was very lucky when I was in school to have been involved with athletics, as basketball manager. I also wrote for the paper and worked at WFUV. It was kind of a “golden age” for Fordham, as sports radio was not what it is today. We were lucky to get out and cover things and meet people who one may not be able to today. I had an internship with Mike Cohen my senior year. Mike was the former head of PR for NBC Sports and started his own business. He showed me the way and gave me lots of good advice that I still use today. He passed away way too young of a heart attack, but he opened many doors for me, every one of which — from working for a hockey team on Staten Island that never came to exist, to helping launch what are today regional sports TV networks — led to a next one. I was very, very lucky to have had some great opportunities.
G: Tell us about a challenge you have overcome in your career.
JF: Working for big-name brands at bad times. I worked for two NBA teams, the Knicks and 76ers, for a total of nine years and never saw a playoff win. I was in women’s tennis when it was at its lowest and helped the sport climb back up. I was at a mixed-martial-arts start-up that launched as a public company in the worst economic climate.
All of these held great opportunity to tell stories and to expose and grow a brand to a new audience. It gave us an opportunity to be creative and make a difference at a time when the product was not the best, and I think we succeeded a good amount of the time.
G: What is your proudest achievement?
JF: The fact that there have been people whom I have been able to help get started in the business who are very successful today. There is too much selfishness in our business world, and I love trying to find the balance in making good business decisions and helping others at the same time. (How very Jesuit of you, Joe!)
G: For students who are interested in entering the industry, what advice do you have?
(1) Dont hide behind e-mails. Communication today lacks “personal touch.” Try to make contact with people you want to learn from with a call or a note or a meeting.
(2) If you speak a second language and have the ability to write, you will be ahead of 90 percent of your competition.
(3) Think about the skills you possess and figure out how you can adapt them to the position you are trying to get.
(4) Ask good questions and know the “little things” about the person to whom you are speaking.
(5) Try to have fun in the workplace with whatever it is you are passionate about. That’s not to say that hard work is all fun, but there is no reason why you can’t find a balance.
(6) Always learn from those around you.