Executives Spotlight stories appeared on this website starting in 2001. Some of the executive's professional experience may have changed since they were published.
Spotlight - August 17, 2010
Former Chief Executive Officer, USA Triathlon
According to ancient mythology, the phoenix is an immortal bird that when it dies it bursts into flames and is reborn from its own ashes. Skip Gilbert’s story is that of a phoenix.
The League couldn't have picked a worse time. The continually expectant 14 year old “up and coming league, the Arena Football League, opened an office in New York office in 2001. In what was more cramped than the usual New York cramped office space, three senior executives shared a room across the narrow hall from the Commissioner. One was Skip Gilbert. He was in charge of sponsorship sales. He was working on a deal, the only deal he had, with ADT. I was doubtful. He had come from selling swimmers and previously had sold ad space in magazines. Next to him was Ed Policy, a young guy, who like many young guys, just seemed keen to have a job in sports. I shook my head wondering if these young testosterones could really tackle New York. They seemed like a rag-tag bunch of eager beavers. Every team of executives seems confident. I was not. I could never have foreseen the leadership and impact each of these men would have on sports...so quickly.
Ed Policy went on to become the Acting Commissioner of the Arena Football League and unfortunately was there to turn the lights out on April 6th of 2009.
Skip Gilbert went on to become the CEO of USA Triathlon, and he was elected Chair of ACES (Association for Chief Executives of Sport). This is where CEOs share best practices amongst each other. Most notable to us, he was the first online CEO from a National Governing Body to be hired through TeamWork Online, our online recruiting system that we started with the Houston Texans in 1999.
It was a struggle to sell Arena Football in 2001. With 9/11 still raw, it was amazing anyone could sell anything in New York in 2002, and so by 2003, Skip went back to what he knew best and that was selling advertising space in magazines. His family, having gotten a taste of the life in Colorado Springs when he sold sponsorship for USA Swimming, urged him to look west again after a few years.
In the spring of 2004, I met with a number of CEO's of Olympic national governing bodies and convinced them that being a part of the TeamWork Online recruiting network could deliver better candidates than they could on their own. We pulled together about 20 national governing bodies by the end of the summer and launched the USNGB Job Board as part of the TeamWork Online network. The USA Triathlon Association’s CEO resigned leaving the Association trying to figure out “the who” and “the how” to run the association. We encouraged them to post their CEO position online. In August of 2004, Skip Gilbert applied for the job.
It took about 6 months to get through their extended process, and Skip won the position. Although I knew he could generate sponsorship revenue, again, I underestimated what he could bring to the organization and to the entire NGB community.
Here are Skip's accomplishments in the last 5 years:
- USAT's budget has grown from $1.2 million to $6 million
- Membership has grown from 50,000 to 130,000
- Sanctioned events has grown from 1,500 to 3,200
- Staff has grown from 22 to 50 (50 are fulltime. They actually also have 5 temps and 13 part-time positions)
- Sponsorships have grown from $150,000 to $1.2 million
- Participation in triathlons has grown from 692,000 to 1.2 million on-road or traditional triathlon.
- Not surprisingly, USAT’s magazine is one of the most popular by advertising standards, and online (their weekly e-zine) draws a 30% open rate.
How did he do it? Although the previous executive director was great to engage women in triathlons, the association seemed fixated with ironmen races. These are grueling, over-the-top competitions that only a small group of dedicated athletes would even dare attempt. The swimming was 2 miles, the biking over 100 miles and the run, a marathon! Skip encouraged race directors to include shorter triathlons into their events – sprint, super sprint and Olympic distances. That got the “couch potato” athlete, like me, to be able to see if he could swim a half mile, ride a bike a few miles and then run a mile or two. You might not be able to walk the next day, but it is all in great fun!
Triathlons have exploded in popularity and many cities host their own triathlons. In fact, my hometown of Cleveland had two going on the exact same weekend – both with over 600 participants; me, being one!
Along with building his NGB, Skip acquired even greater responsibility amongst all of his fellow CEOs of NGBs. They asked him to head their National Governing Body Council to be the political liaison to the United States Olympic Committee and the Olympic and Pan-American NGBs, and Skip was able to help the USOC get on better footing with the recent hiring of Scott Blackmun.
There are many stories of rebirth. Skip ’s is one of them. Arena Football, his former employer, folded in 2009 and now has come back to life in 2010. Once a client of the TeamWork Online network, they too have rejoined this past week. I'm going to be more prepared this time. Perhaps there will be another AFL employee or another soon-to-be online hire who will, like the phoenix Skip, become a leader in sports... reborn.
- Buffy Filippell
"Skip has taken USA Triathlon to new heights due to his determination and marketing abilities. Like the multi-sport of triathlon, Skip is a multi-faceted executive."
--Vince O'Brien | Managing Director, Kaleidoscope Sports and Entertainment
HOW I GOT HERE...
USA TRIATHLON; Colorado Springs, Colorado; 2005 - 2010
Chief Executive Officer
OUTSIDE MAGAZINE, Mariah Media; New York, New York; 2003 - 2005
Eastern Advertising Director
ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE (AFL); New York, New York; 2001 - 2003
Vice President Corporate Partnerships
USA SWIMMING (National Governing Body For Swimming; Colorado Springs, Colorado; 1998 - 2001
Managing Director - Business Development
US SOCCER; Chicago, Illinois; 1997 - 1998
Vice President Sales
THE SPORTING NEWS PUBLISHING COMPANY; New York, New York; 1990 - 1997
National Sales Manager