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Ramiir Dixon-Conover Signs With IPZ…Paul Racks Up Awards…Alex & Omaha Set For Round of 16…Cento Amici Golf Outing

“Big Cliff” Omoruyi Signs with IPZ…Frank The Tank’s Hot Start…Alex Scores Massive Equalizer…Andrei Makes UFC History”

Quinn’s Big Week and Deal with Metabilia…Alexey’s 60th Win…Frank Schwindel Behind-the-Scenes…Team U.S.A. Picks Brad

Junior Joins; Quinn and Brad Get National Team Experience

Junior Saintel Signs with IPZ

Junior Saintel, a 6’7” guard/forward from Mays Landing, NJ, has signed with IPZ.

Junior played college basketball at Stony Brook University from 2016 to 2018. He played in 64 games for the Seawolves, starting in 58 of them. Before transferring to Stony Brook in 2016, he attended JUCO at Chipola College.

More recently, Junior played for FC Barcelona II and won the Spain LEB Silver Championship. During his time in Barcelona, Junior averaged 8.5 ppg and shot 47% from the field. He is a dynamic playmaker that prides himself on being a vocal leader.

“We were introduced to Junior by Coach Matthew Malc, the head coach of the U.S.A. basketball team in the Maccabi games, and I was a fan of Junior’s in our first call,” said Robert Zito, IPZ Managing Partner. “His love of family, and desire to excel in everything he does, coupled with his accomplishments to date and Coach Malc’s endorsement, translates into a successful future for this young man. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help.”

 

Quinn Sullivan Called Up to the U-20 USYNT

Image from the Philadelphia Union

Quinn Sullivan was recently called up to the U-20 U.S. Youth National Team. He is one of the youngest players on the team at just 17-years-old.

Quinn and the other 22 players named to the roster traveled to Celaya, Mexico to compete in the Revelations Cup against Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. This tournament will serve as valuable preparation as the team prepares for upcoming qualifying matches for the 2023 U-20 World Cup in Indonesia and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France.

“Whenever a client gets the opportunity to represent their country, it is special,” said IPZ Managing Director, Jeff Curtin. “I know Quinn was honored to be a part of this U-20 roster and he is excited for the opportunities that lay ahead in qualifying for both the U-20 World Cup and the Olympic Games.”

To see the full U-20 USYNT roster click here.

 

Brad Smith Participates in Fall Classic and Super Sixes Tournaments

Image from USA Lacrosse

Brad Smith and the U.S. Men’s National Lacrosse team played in the USA Lacrosse Fall Classic last month in Sparks, MD. They competed against Team Canada and the University of Virginia Men’s Lacrosse team.

The U.S. won both matchups, 11-5 against Canada, and 8-7 against UVA.

For the full U.S. Men’s Fall Classic Roster click here.

The following weekend, Brad competed on the U.S. National Super Sixes Roster in Sparks, MD. Super Sixes is the new lacrosse format that will be introduced in the 2028 Olympic Games.

The U.S. played four games, two against Team Canada and two against Team Haudenosaunee, finishing with a 3-1 record.

Brad recorded five goals and seven assists throughout the entire weekend. Sixes will be included in The World Games in Birmingham, AL, summer 2022.

For the full U.S. Super Sixes Roster click here.

COVID-19 vs. 9/11

I sent an email to a client (and friend) this morning, congratulating him on his company’s decision to provide insurance coverage to furloughed workers during the crisis we face today.  I sent that email right after I had an email exchange with a basketball colleague in Italy. He has been in lockdown for several weeks in a much more difficult environment.

Both asked me about our current situation, compared with being at the NYSE on 9/11.

I understand the comparison, and I understand the market reaction.

But the events are so different.  The events of 9/11 were quickly realized to be the work of a very visible enemy – one we had the opportunity well before 9/11 to take down and didn’t, both because of our President’s unwillingness, and our inattention to details that could have uncovered the terrorists’ plot.  Our surveillance and caution around security issues has changed dramatically post 9/11.

This current killer is invisible.  But, like 9/11, it will forever change some of our habits and aspects of social interaction…and – my guess – where some of our biopharma companies invest in the future.  I can envision investors (and governments…and insurers) funding research and discovery that can identify where the “next” COVID-19 might come from, and vaccines that can prevent transmission.

Col. Jack Jacobs is a very dear friend.  Sitting here in quiet Tewksbury is a blessing compared to what he went through in Vietnam.  And none of us are trying to charge up the cliffs on the beaches in Normandy.

Yes, this is difficult…but there are many worse things we’ve been confronted with.

I’d rather be faced with having the virus than standing in a window on the 98th floor of the World Trade Center, knowing my choice was to burn or jump.

And financially, we will survive.  One of the first (and one of the smartest) guys I ever worked for on Wall Street was Paul Tudor Jones.  He was on an extended interview on CNBC this morning.  It was excellent.  He captured it perfectly.  Here’s a link: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/26/tudor-jones-says-this-is-the-greatest-fiscal-monetary-bazooka-ever.html

To everyone out there, be safe!

(and – for the record – to me at least, 9/11 was much worse.)

IPZ Managing Director Jeff Curtin Quoted in Fortune

Women’s World Cup: Who’s Up for a Big Payday?

By Kate Bowers

The U.S. women’s soccer team is crushing it on the field, winning its first three FIFA World Cup matches by a combined score of 18-0, but who—besides Alex Morgan—will collect after the tournament?

This year’s FIFA World Cup has generated more buzz, more content, and more dollars for female footballers than any women’s World Cup before. With an expected one billion viewers of the tournament globally, as defending champs, Team USA’s mixture of familiar faces and newcomers have racked up plenty of paid partnerships.

Most are smaller social media deals, for unpublicized amounts, but such linkups could pave the way for bigger, long-term partnerships. There’s Mallory Pugh sitting in a BMW; Megan Rapinoe plugging sports drink BodyArmor and serving as a VISA brand ambassador; and Lindsey Horan noshing on Chipotle. There’s a whole-team effort plugging Hulu’s live sports.

Plus, the team has a compelling off-field agenda, where winning could propel women’s athletics globally. In March, 28 players filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, citing lower pay and unequal working conditions. That move, too, has drawn corporate support. Sports bar Luna has promised to pay each woman on the roster $31,250 to compensate for the bonus difference paid to men versus women who made the World Cup team.

“The World Cup and the Olympics put the sport under a microscope,” said Jeff Curtin, managing director of sports marketing firm IPZ and head of its soccer practice. The firm does not have any clients playing in the World Cup. “From an individual perspective, this is the moment to capitalize.” While Curtin noted endorsement deals on the men’s side are “exponentially larger” (top-endorsed male footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, made $47 million in 2018), he emphasized “the women’s side is growing.”

Brands have a “great opportunity to leverage this women’s team and not just superstars like Alex Morgan,” said Jessica Giordano, senior vice president of client consulting and service for GMR, a marketing firm that connects brands with athletes. “There are a lot of powerful individual stories.”

Two things will help catapult players, Giordano said: Having a “magical moment in the World Cup” and having the business acumen afterward to capitalize in an authentic, personal way.

Dishing marketing deals

With the U.S. team advancing to the knock-out round of 16, which starts June 22, here’s who has the potential to cash in big:

First, the obvious.

Alex Morgan (Twitter 3.6M, Instagram 6.4M: The 29-year-old striker, lead plaintiff on the discrimination lawsuit, strides ahead of her teammates in having built a personal brand worth an estimated $3 million. In addition to endorsements from NikeCoca-Cola, Secret, Chapstick, and others, Morgan has a book series, and an Amazon series. But considering what other leading male athletes of similar appeal command (Roger Federer recently inked a $300 million, 10-year deal with Uniqlo), there’s lots more room for Morgan. Curtin sees her as a fit for Lululemon, Athleta or any other athleisure brand. Recently, VW named her brand ambassador for its Atlas SUV. As for magic tournament moments to propel her business? Check. She notched five goals (a World Cup record-tying performance) in the first U.S. match against Thailand. Another partner: Beats by Dr. Dre.

Carli Lloyd (Twitter 836K, Instagram 918K: The veteran forward and team co-captain is off to a strong start, scoring three goals in the tournament so far. Hat-trick heroics in the 2015 World Cup final made her iconic and netted her an estimated $366,000 including all bonuses and appearance fees. Partners: Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Yolked, and others.

Julie Ertz (Twitter 261K, Instagram 639K): A feisty and physical midfielder, Ertz is a “known entity for U.S. soccer on her second World Cup,” Curtin said. Like Morgan, Ertz has a branded presence that extends beyond big soccer moments. She launched the Ertz Family Foundation based on empowering kids through faith and sports, with her husband, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. The foundation is backed by big brands like Marriott and Dunkin Donuts. Partners: Johnson & Johnson, California Almonds, Secret, and others.

Megan Rapinoe (Twitter 442K, Instagram 598K): An outspoken activist for equality, Rapinoe is a World Cup veteran with a distinctive look: Short, side-swept icy blonde hair and her own unisex apparel brand, Re-Inc., launched with teammates Christen Press and Tobin Heath. She has the potential to draw in fashion brands that’ve never before sponsored soccer, or maybe any sport. “What do I want to be when I grow up?” she muses in an Instagram video after showing off a closet stuffed with colorful kicks. “A fashion designer.” Partners: VISA, Hulu, Body Armor, and others.

Branding limelight newcomers

Beyond these familiar faces, who will emerge as bankable stars? Here are top contenders:

Lindsey Horan (Twitter 73K Instagram 146K): Horan scored in the third minute against Sweden, the strongest competition the U.S. has faced yet. And she’s got a compelling personal story about forgoing college to move to France at age 18 and play for Paris St. Germain. “Lindsey Horan is already making waves in her first two appearances and the buzz surrounding her World Cup debut makes her a strong candidate for the breakout star of the World Cup,” said Ken Mainardis, senior vice president of content for Getty Images, which has six photographers covering the tournament. Partners: Adidas, Chipotle, Hulu, and others.

Mallory Pugh (Twitter 80K, Instragram 377K: While older teammates drop in on social media to post game shots or plug products, 21 year-old Pugh’s a digital native and has cultivated a robust presence on Instagram. Getting regular minutes both as a starter and sub, Pugh is “very marketable,” Curtin said, noting her youth and potential to appear in several more World Cups. Partners: BMW, Gatorade, Google, Listerine, and others.

Rose Lavelle (Twitter 39K, Instagram 99K): Incredibly quick with a killer lefty shot, Lavelle, 24, has racked up two goals in the World Cup so far. Like Pugh, she has an every-girl appeal, talking on social media about Harry Potter and her bulldog Wilma. Mainardis says that Getty is seeing a shift in more commercial brands seeking editorial shots to meet consumers’ interest in “imagery that is authentic.” Because the camera’s catching Lavelle’s every scowl and celebration, the budding star seems poised to deliver on both fronts: the goals and the authentic moments. Partners: New Balance, Chipolte, Hulu, Secret, and others.

Read the story on Fortune.

Lou Fusz Athletic To Offer Naming Rights For Complex

ST. LOUIS, March 14, 2019 – Lou Fusz Athletic (LFA) will offer the naming rights to its complex, one of the most visited athletic facilities in the Midwest, the organization announced today.

Approximately 1.2 million people visit LFA’s facilities annually and this number is continually growing. LFA is home to hundreds of teams and thousands of camp participants, between the ages of five and 18, across multiple sports, with family members of all ages in attendance to watch. LFA also hosts numerous soccer and lacrosse tournaments throughout the year which bring nearly 100,000 families from the greater St. Louis area to its facilities.

The Lou Fusz Athletic Training Center at Rams Park, the former home of the St. Louis Rams, is a 300,000 square foot facility and acts as the hub for all LFA teams, tournaments, and camps. With its state-of-the-art indoor fields, outdoor fields, and amenities, such as strength/speed/agility training rooms, a weight room, a rehab and physical therapy room, and an auditorium for presentations, the LFA Training Center receives visitors year-round.

“As a club, this facility reminds us every day of the professional nature of our approach,” said Dan Gargan, Managing Director of LFA, and a 10-year MLS veteran. “It has been home to world class athletes who showed up every day to better their craft. We connect our core values to that approach and work every day to enhance the lives of the athletes and families we serve.”

“This facility offers one of the most attractive family environments in the country,” said Robert Zito, Managing Partner of IPZ, who will manage the marketing process. “There is a tremendous opportunity here for a local or national brand to build equity, as the continued growth of Lou Fusz Athletic and its exciting vision for the future of the club and facility will only add to its attractiveness.”

About Lou Fusz Athletic 

Lou Fusz Athletic (“LFA”) is a 501(c)3 youth sports club and the charitable arm of the Lou Fusz Automotive Network. LFA’s objective is to align you with unique touch-points of the club’s family of players and fans through various branding opportunities and events.

About IPZ

IPZ represents clients in sports, media, and entertainment, providing management, contract negotiations, consulting, public relations and marketing communications support. The company, an alliance with Zito Partners, is built on the integrity of its professionals, maintains a family focus, and provides whole life solutions for its clients. For more information, visit www.ipzusa.com.

Meggie Dougherty Howard Heats Up the Grill with espnW

What athletes eat: Soccer star Meggie Dougherty Howard’s grilled balsamic chicken and veggie kabobs

By Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie

Midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard is in just her second year of professional play, representing the NWSL’s Washington Spirit. But the University of Florida All-American is no stranger to high-level soccer. Dougherty Howard has represented the U.S. in national competition on both Under-15 and Under-23 teams.

Chicken and veggies are Dougherty Howard’s go-to pregame meal, so she shared with espnW one of her recent favorite Pinterest finds — perfect to send off summer and embrace the remaining weeks of grilling weather.

Day and time: Saturday night in the summer

Place: Avalon, on the Jersey Shore

What I’m eating: Grilled balsamic chicken and veggie kabobs

Why I’m eating it: I love to grill, especially in the summer when the weather is nice outside, because it’s a great way to make a quick meal that’s full of flavor. I try to incorporate a lot of colors in my cooking, so I love that this recipe uses a variety of vegetables and is packed with nutrients. On lighter training day, I’ll pair the kabobs with a side salad. When I’ve had a heavier day and my body needs more calories, I’ll serve the chicken and veggies over brown rice.

Whose recipe: I do a lot of browsing on Pinterest for new food to cook, and that’s where I found this recipe.

The recipe:

Ingredients:
2 chicken breast, cubed
2 peppers, cubed (I used red and orange)
1 onion, cubed
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced

For the marinade:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dry basil

Combine the ingredients for the balsamic glaze and add half of the glaze to the cubed chicken in a bowl. Let it marinate while chopping the vegetables.

Chop the veggies, then assemble the kabobs, alternating between veggies and chicken.

Grill the kabobs on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes each side. Brush on the remaining balsamic glaze for the last 2 minutes of grilling. Serve with cooked rice or salad.

View the story on espnW.

The Set Pieces Sits Down with Jack Elliott

From London Amateur to MLS Professional: Interview with Philadelphia Union’s Jack Elliott

By Greg Lea

The path between European football and Major League Soccer has become a well-trodden one in recent years, with Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, David Villa, Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and Kaka among those who have crossed the Atlantic in the latter stages of their career.

It isn’t just high-profile stars in their 30s who have made the move stateside, though. Philadelphia Union centre-back Jack Elliott was born in London but has only ever played professional football in the US, having been scouted while representing an amateur team in his hometown. It’s safe to say the switch from Sunday League to MLS, via the West Virginia University team, has been a surreal one for the 22-year-old.

“It was a crazy experience playing against them,” Elliott tells The Set Pieces, referring to opponents such as David Villa, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, all of whom the centre-back locked horns with in his debut campaign of 2017.

“Luckily I started off easy playing my first start at home against David Villa! But it was amazing. He’s one of the toughest strikers I’ve played against. His movement and speed are still world class, making him a difficult opponent to play against.”

Trying to keep a World Cup winner quiet is a very different challenge to marking a hungover centre-forward on a mud-caked pitch in south London, but Elliott owes plenty to his experiences in the English capital’s amateur divisions.

“I played for Fulham academy for a year when I was 12, but I got released and then mainly just played Sunday league and school football. As I got older I moved into men’s football, where I was spotted by a coach [Dan Stratford] from West Virginia University – he was playing in the same game. He asked me if I wanted to go and play over there, and I had no second thoughts about it.”

It was an incredibly exciting proposition for a football-mad teenager who had long dreamt of a professional career, but the prospect of suddenly moving more than 3500 miles from home must have been daunting too. Thankfully for Elliott, he arrived in West Virginia to find a terrific setup both on and off the pitch.

“You train as a professional almost every day, working around a regular university life, and it’s surprisingly professional: the facilities are top-class, the pitches are good and you’re well looked after with gear and equipment,” the defender says of his experience in the US college system, which allows promising young athletes to combine sport and education. Does he think such an arrangement could work in Europe?

“I’m not sure it’s better in terms of producing top quality players, but it helps to catch the ones who may have slipped through the cracks of the top academies,” says Elliott, who received an academic scholarship to study Management Information Systems in the US.

“Going through the college system allows you to get a degree, which was one of the reasons I had no questions about it, but the quality of football, facilities and fans are something I might not have experienced had I stayed at home.”

The 6ft 5in stopper played 68 games for the West Virginia Mountaineers between 2013 and 2016, before being selected by Philadelphia Union in the fourth round of the 2017 SuperDraft, an annual event in which MLS clubs snap up players who have either graduated from college or been signed by the league.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” Elliott recalls. “Philadelphia was a place I’d been many times before and really enjoyed, plus it wasn’t too far from West Virginia.”

The young defender, described by Union sporting director Earnie Stewart as a “good passer who reads the game well”, was an unused substitute for early-season meetings with Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto and Orlando City, before making his MLS bow from the bench in a 2-1 loss to D.C. United. Elliott performed well despite the disappointing result, and he soon became a regular part of manager Jim Curtin’s starting XI.

“It all happened very quickly. The second game of the season I was in the 18 [matchday squad] for the first team, and then I played 45 minutes at D.C.,” he told the club’s YouTube channel.

“It allowed the coaches to see I could handle the pressure of the league. And then the next week I was starting. It all came very quickly and I’m very thankful for it.

“When I got subbed in, I had 15 minutes to think about it. It’s not a lot of time; I was just warming up. It was good that I didn’t have time to think about it. I just went out there and played the way I play.”

It can be particularly tough for young centre-backs to establish themselves in the first team, with many managers unwilling to risk inexperienced players in such a key position. Yet by the end of the 2017 season, Elliott had made 30 appearances in MLS and racked up more minutes than all but two of his Union team-mates.

The quality of his performances caught the eye even more than the quantity. The Londoner played with a maturity which belied his tender years, as the Union finished eighth in the Eastern Conference. Elliott’s displays were so consistently impressive that he was nominated for the MLS Rookie of the Year Award, which was ultimately won by Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel.

“I didn’t expect to play as much [as I did], no,” he admits. “But from my first few weeks there I could see it was a place where I could belong.

“It was a good feeling,” he adds when talk turns to his third-place finish in the newcomer vote. “I’d never have expected to be there at the start of the year, so it was nice to get that sort of recognition at the end of it.”

Compatriot Aaron Jones departed the Talen Energy Stadium in November, but Elliott isn’t the only Brit in the Union squad for the 2018 campaign, which has begun with a 2-0 victory over New England Revolution and a goalless draw with Columbus Crew. Former Arsenal and Hull forward Jay Simpson is also in his second year in MLS, having moved to Philadelphia from Leyton Orient a few weeks before Elliott signed on the dotted line.

“Football in the US is still growing so obviously it isn’t as big as it is in the UK,” Elliott says of the differences between the two countries. “As kids they don’t play it every day in school and they don’t see it as much on TV. I feel kids here don’t get to play enough unstructured football, which in some ways can help to develop a player in different ways than structured coaching does.”

It’s an interesting point and one which the powers that be at the US Soccer Federation would be wise to consider as the national team attempts to bounce back from its failure to qualify for this summer’s World Cup. Elliott cannot afford to dwell on such big-picture issues for too long, though, with his focus now firmly on his second season with the Union.

“Individually I’d like to build on what I did last year and improve as a player,” he says of his hopes for the campaign ahead. “And as a team our ambition is to get to the play-offs and make a run there.”

If Elliott can replicate last season’s performances this time around, Philadelphia Union will fancy their chances of achieving that goal.

View on The Set Pieces.

Paul Christensen Selected by Atlanta United FC

WARREN, NJ, January 23, 2018 – Paul Christensen was chosen by Atlanta United FC with the 70th overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft on Sunday, January 21.

“I am very excited to be drafted by Atlanta United FC,” said Christensen. “They are a very successful and professional organization. It’s an amazing place to start my career as a professional soccer player. I cannot wait to join the team for preseason.”

About IPZ: IPZ represents clients in sports, media, and entertainment, providing management, contract negotiations, consulting, public relations and marketing communications support. The company, an alliance with Zito Partners, is built on the integrity of its professionals, maintains a family focus, and provides whole life solutions for its clients. For more information, visit www.ipzusa.com.

About Zito Partners: Zito Partners builds, energizes and defends brands. A boutique firm representing a select group of clients from a range of industries, Zito Partners believes in a “ready, aim, fire” approach – understand the client…develop the appropriate strategy against the key target constituencies…and execute against the plan. And through its strategic alliance with Ketchum, Ketchum Zito Financial, Zito Partners is assisting additional clients with their financial communications needs. For more information, visit www.zitopartners.com.