Hangin’ With Leverage Agency Founder & CEO Ben Sturner

Hangin’ With Leverage Agency Founder & CEO Ben Sturner

BEN STURNER is the founder and CEO of Leverage Agency. Leverage has brokered deals around the globe involving the likes of Bundesliga side Schalke and Argentine football int’l DIEGO MARADONA, among others. This week, Sturner, along with along with former NFL Head of Events FRANK SUPOVITZ, former National Lacrosse League Commissioner GEORGE DANIEL and former HBO Sports exec DAVID ITSKOWITCH, showcased the Urban Fitness League with its World Cup on Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y. The UFL, which will launch in ’18, is a competition among elite calisthenics athletes that will incorporate sport, music and style. Sturner spoke to SBD Global about the origins of Leverage Agency, the company’s int’l agreements and the UFL.

On the roots of Leverage Agency …
Ben Sturner: I started Leverage in 2005 focusing on leagues, teams, events, stadiums, athletes, TV shows, property representation and we’ve also created events such as the Cricket All-Stars and Rivalry on Ice, which is the hockey event with Harvard and Yale at Madison Square Garden. We’ve sold many sponsorships, including American Pharoah when he won the Triple Crown with Monster Energy and Wheels Up. … We have numerous clients in consulting, sponsorship sales, PR and marketing.

On how he started Leverage Agency …
Sturner: It began out of my apartment with a phone and some hustle and elbow grease. We’ve worked our way up. We have an office now in London. We’ve just brought on OMAR KHAN, who used to be the head of global sponsorships for Lycamobile. We have a Leverage Latino office in Miami. So what we’ve been doing with Leverage is really working on properties. We did the naming rights to the Nivea AVP Tour a while back and we’ve done numerous global sponsorships. We’re working with FC Schalke now, in a three-year deal. We are doing a lot on the global sphere. Sports is the crux of our business and we’ve grown it significantly in 12 years. It’s been fun.

On the deal with Schalke …
Sturner: While Schalke is a popular club in Europe, and has the fifth-largest membership in the world, they are not well known in the U.S. We developed a proprietary strategic roadmap to identify target audiences, key markets and impactful programming for Schalke to activate in the U.S. This includes a strong presence at the NSCAA [National Soccer Coaches Association of America] conference, as well as events and partnerships in markets such as St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

On Leverage Latino …
Sturner: Leverage Latino is representing Superliga in Argentina right now as entitlement sponsor. We are in talks with several potential corporate partners about long-term deals. … Leverage Latino negotiated a four-year global sponsorship and licensing deal for Diego Maradona and Puma, which runs through 2018. The deal includes image rights, personal appearances and other promotional elements.

On helping others in the sports business realm …
Sturner: I started the Manhattan Sports Business Academy. I had this idea six years ago to create a program for students from around the world to come to New York City and do internships. We place them in events every night. We have speakers, mentors. … The world’s a small place and sports brings people together. So that’s been the cornerstone for a lot of the things I’ve gotten myself involved with.

On the idea for the UFL …
Sturner: I started watching videos and seeing everything and I’m like, “This needs to be on TV, it needs to be a real sport and I’m surprised it hasn’t formalized in a way.” So I said, “Let’s do something here.” … I saw the communities that these guys come into because this sport is accessible all around the world and I feel we’re helping solve the obesity problem, we’re making fitness cool.

The UFL World Cup took place in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Tuesday.
On how UFL stands out from other fitness sports …
Sturner: This is a league that will launch in 2018 with the best calisthenics athletes in the world. … It’s the dynamic convergence of creative calisthenics with extreme body weight exercises and igniting the world’s strongest athletes. This is so much different from Crossfit in a number of different ways. The league’s very unique because of its integration with sport and music and style.

On the league’s community impact …
Sturner: We have a community outreach program. It’s called “Each One, Teach One.” … The athletes go into the communities in Brooklyn, in New York City, and do talks and they also do clinics. Each athlete is responsible for teaching somebody else. It’s almost like part of their mission. … We want to make fitness cool. To do that, we have to have heroes. Each hero has to have that “Each One, Teach One” mentality to pay it forward.

On the future of the UFL …
Sturner: I’m an entrepreneur. I like to create things on a vision. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This is something I’m passionate about. It’s got a lot of legs. … We want to bring the sport to new countries around the world. … We’re celebrating health and wellness with an exciting, electric new sport.

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