Sox Executive Explores Leadership
Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
On Tuesday afternoon, The Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics hosted Sam Kennedy, president of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), for "Lunch with a Leader."
Kennedy spoke to Boston College undergraduate and graduate students about his experiences as a leader, and his journey from a liberal arts student to the head of a major sports corporation. Kennedy previously served as the senior vice president of sales and marketing for FSG and the organization's executive vice president. As the current president of FSG, Kennedy manages the sponsorships and sales of the Red Sox, oversees the financial stability of the franchise and the preservation of Fenway Park, and manages several third-party clients, including BC, MLB.com and LeBron James.
In 2002, Kennedy joined the Red Sox as Vice President and Corporate Partnerships. He was among the first executives that Larry Lucchino, Red Sox president and CEO, brought to Boston from the San Diego Padres. Kennedy worked with Lucchino and the San Diego Padres for six years. Since joining the Red Sox, Kennedy has been an instrumental part of the company's change and progress. He and his staff have increased sponsorship revenue by more than 250 percent, premium licensing by 160 percent, and season ticket base by 30 percent. Additionally, Kennedy and FSG have expanded their clientele, securing relationships with Deutsche Bank Championship, Rousch Fenway Racing, and the Premier League football club Liverpool FC.
"It's been an unbelievable few years," Kennedy said. "It's been a roller coaster ride … We went from a sports and entertainment company in the U.S., to a sports and entertainment company spread throughout the whole world."
This past year, Kennedy and his team have experienced great success. In April 2011, Fenway Sports Management became the sole marketer of the global rights of LeBron James, Liverpool FC has had an extremely successful season, and the NHL's outdoor Winter Classic was brought to Fenway Park for the third year in a row.
Just this past week, Liverpool won the Carling Cup; Matt Kenseth, a Rousch Fenway NASCAR racer, won the Daytona 500; and LeBron James announced a major partnership with Dunkin' Donuts. With such success, Kennedy remains focused on the future. He plans to continue building a strong business team, bring talent up through the organization and treat his employees and customers with respect.
"In the sports industry, we can't control the competition and the losses," Kennedy said. "But we can control how we treat our customers, employees and partnerships."
The Massachusetts native has followed this principle since he was an undergrad at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. Kennedy always knew he wanted to work in the sports industry. During his sophomore year, Kennedy searched for a sports-related summer internship. He sent letters to every Major League Baseball team and received responses from the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees. In the summer of '92, Kennedy joined the Yankees as a college intern.
"That internship was the best thing that ever happened to me," Kennedy said. "Without it, I would have never learned some many things or met so many great people."
The summers of his junior and senior year, Kennedy returned as an intern for the Yankees. After he graduated from Trinity in 1995, he worked hourly at the New York baseball stadium. From there, he worked at WABC Radio for sales business and later at WFAN Sports Radio. Kennedy built strong relationships with his coworkers and supervisors. In 1996, he followed a close mentor to California, where he worked for the San Diego Padres. After six years on the West Coast, Kennedy returned to Boston, where he joined the major renovation of the Red Sox brand.
Before opening questions to students, Kennedy stressed the significance of valuable relationships with coworkers and mentors. He discussed the importance of passion and pursuit.
"Over the last 10 years, my job has been incredibly rewarding," Kennedy said. "All of these things happened for a reason and they happened because of the people I met. The most important thing is to build strong relationships and love what you are doing … If you work in an area you are interested in and passionate about, you will be more successful."