I am asked all the time how my career in sports marketing got started and what I did to get into the game. I’d like to say that there was a strategic path and great planning, but like many things, it was a lot of hard work and a bunch of luck. But in any event, there was no formalized program that got me from college grad to CEO of a sports marketing company. But it is a fun story…
When I first started at BC, I had my eyes set on law school. I thought that would be a great fit for my personality and skill set. But as the years progressed, I just didn’t have three more years of schooling in me. I was chomping at the bit and wanted to get a career started. I had taken a few radio and TV courses, and had both excelled at and enjoyed them. I decided that I was going to be the next Bob Lobel (for those of you who are not from the Boston area, Bob is a legendary sports anchor who was leading the way in the industry when I graduated). In fact, on my cap at graduation I had stick-on letters that read, “Bob Lobel – I can do your job better.” Let’s just say, I did not lack in confidence.
I figured that any TV station in Boston would jump at the chance to hire a young go-getter like myself and immediately put me on the six and eleven o’clock newscasts. I’d like to say I’m exaggerating, but I actually thought that was the case. Ahhh, delusional youth… So I took the summer off, and figured I would call them in September to let them know I was available. The day after Labor Day, I got right to it and called the NBC, ABC & CBS Boston affiliates. But for some strange reason, the programming executives didn’t take my calls. When I finally reached someone who was willing to talk to me, they chuckled and told me that I had to get started in a smaller market and get some experience. So I called the New Hampshire stations, and they told me to call the Maine stations, who told me to try radio. So I began calling Boston radio stations, and they told me to call NH stations, who told me to call Maine stations. I think you get the picture.
With reality sinking in, and no one in broadcasting wanting to give me the time of day, I realized that I had to change my approach. I was sitting in the den thinking about my failure when my grandfather came in, sat down next to me, and asked, “Louis, what’s wrong?” So I told him the story. He agreed that it was time to make adjustments. He said to me, “I know what you are made of, and you know what you are made of – but no one in radio or TV has a clue about you. You need to find a way for them to know you, and the only way to do that, is to get to know them.” Very wise words.
So the next day, I made a call to a radio station in Maine and struck up a conversation with the receptionist. She was a sweet, elderly lady and fortunately was very chatty and forthcoming with information. I asked her if she could tell me the name of the program director and a little bit about him. She was happy to oblige, and told me that the PD was a gentleman named Chuck Igo, and that he was a very nice man. He had served in the Navy, and she went on and on about how wonderful he was. I asked to be transferred to Chuck and was sent into his voice mail.
BEEP… “Hi Chuck, my name is Lou Imbriano. I recently graduated from BC, and I am in search of a job in radio and would be willing to do anything to prove myself (hmm, certainly a change in tune from the cocky punk in the beginning of this story) – anything. I’m a hard and dedicated worker and I know I will not let you down. I would just like to ask you to think about when you got out of the Navy and you needed someone to take a chance on you. I need someone to take a chance on me, and I hope that person is you.”
A few days later, my phone rang. Lo and behold, it was Chuck Igo. He proceeded to tell me that he didn’t have any jobs at the station, but he wanted to help me out. He told me to call Al Mayers at WHDH radio in Boston. He said that Al was looking for a part-time producer (which was more like a glorified gopher) and to call him and mention Chuck’s name. So, of course, I called Al and he said for me to come in for an interview, and that Chuck had great things to say about me. I got the job on the spot during the interview. Way to go Chuck!
A few months went by, and I bumped into Chuck at the station (he worked weekends at WHDH as an on-air talent). I went up to him immediately and thanked him for making the connection and putting in a good word for me. He told me “no problem,” in fact, Al was raving about what a hard-working and dependable worker I was – so it all worked out for the best. Then he said to me, “So what unit did you serve in?” I looked at him, bewildered by the question. Chuck pressed on, “In the Navy…” And it dawned on me as Chuck started saying, “On your voice mail, you said you were in the Navy.” I looked at him and said, “No Chuck, I said remember when you were in the Navy…” By no means did I mean to deceive Chuck, but I clearly could see why there was confusion. We ended up having a good chuckle over it and both agreed it was meant to be.
Every job I’ve had since is linked to this first job at WHDH radio. If I didn’t take the time to learn a little about Chuck and make my message more personable, there’s a good chance my career may have gone in a totally different direction. So with a little effort and some good luck, Chuck led me to Al Mayers and WHDH Radio where I met Eddie Andelman, and that was the beginning of my career and the link to my sports marketing and business endeavors.
I’ve thanked Chuck a few times over the years for his efforts on my behalf and for taking the time to make a difference, but nothing I’d ever do could repay him for the path he put me on with that call to Al. Chuck wrote a book entitled Taken Identity, in which radio guys save the world (how appropriate). I would like to share a link, with the hopes that folks will embrace Chuck’s kindness. Check it out, and even better, buy it: http://www.chuckigo.com. It’s 23 years later, but I still have a strong gratitude for Chuck’s kindness. Thank you, once again Chuck, you are good man.
Just an aside, I met Bob Lobel later in life, and I am happy to say no one ever unseated him at Ch 4. He is a great dude and a Boston sports legend who is very worthy of all the success he has achieved. And Bob, there is no way that I, or anyone else, could do your job better.