Colorado marketing exec joins Ravens

Team seeks increase in earnings through Internet, stadium, stores

November 16, 1999|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Ravens, who earlier this year lost a top marketing executive to the Washington Redskins, have replaced him with a man who will have the additional charge of exploiting new business opportunities on or off the field -- or in cyberspace.

Dennis Mannion will become the team's vice president of new business development and marketing on Dec. 1, joining four other team executives with responsibility for operating units who report directly to the president.

Mannion, 40, is senior vice president of Ascent Sports, the corporate parent of Denver's new Pepsi Center arena and its two major-league tenants, the NHL Avalanche and NBA Nuggets. Previously, he served as the Philadelphia Phillies' vice president of marketing.

For fans, the hire could mean more Ravens purple on the Internet, in stores, and even at the stadium. The team hopes Mannion will be able to boost earnings and make home games at PSINet more fun to attend, despite the team's disappointing play.

"We need to expand our horizons and produce more revenue," team president David Modell said.

Modell said he will count on Mannion to make money for the team, possibly from new ventures in merchandise sales and on the Internet, and to bring his arena-management experience to PSINet.

"It's a constant theme throughout the entirety of the NFL -- the teams that maximize their opportunities to generate revenue are the teams that can invest in football players and win," Modell said.

"I'm shocked that the Nuggets and Avalanche would let him go," said Dean Bonham, head of the Bonham Group Inc., a sports marketing and consulting firm in Denver. "He is one of the most highly regarded marketing executives in sports."

Mannion, whose tenure with Ascent lasted less than two years, said he was interested in returning to the region -- he is a native of Pittsburgh and has family in Baltimore and Philadelphia -- and to an ownership structure more to his liking.

The publicly traded Ascent is in the midst of being sold to an investor who intends to take the organization private. The purchase has been mired in court battles, and the new owner's plans call for a reorganization that would have no chief executive on the premises. Instead, Mannion, overseeing the arena, and a general manager from each team would report directly to the owner, whose other, unrelated businesses would compete for his attention.

"I was really seeking hands-on-ownership. This affords me the opportunity to work with a passionate ownership," Mannion said of his new job with the family-owned Ravens.

Steve Sander, a Denver-based sports marketer with Sander/GBSM, said Ascent has not distinguished itself with strong marketing in recent years. But, he said, Mannion was hampered by the turmoil surrounding the company's sale.

"He's a smart guy and will do well," Sander said.

Mannion's new job includes responsibilities left by the highly regarded David Cope, the team's former vice president of sales and marketing, who left for the Redskins in June. Mannion will report to David Modell and his father, chief executive officer Art Modell.

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