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Posted: September 01, 2014

Sports biz: Boulder’s not-so-secret agent man thrives on authenticity

Stewart Schley

Let’s get this out of the way now: Your name is not Johnny Alamo and my name is not Johnny Alamo and that is simply the unfairness we must accept.

On the flipside, there is a real Johnny Alamo, who once made a living as a professional freestyle-skier, worked side-by-side with legendary filmmaker Warren Miller, and now spends his time as a Boulder-based sports marketing specialist with a client list that exhibits a detectable lean
toward the young, spirited and supremely talented – Olympic-athlete kind-of-talented.

All of this, I believe, justifies a strong a priori distaste for Johnny Alamo, or at least the lathering up of a festering resentment toward him before meeting him.

(Note: Newswriting convention dictates that we refer to subjects by last name on second and subsequent reference, but c’mon: The guy’s name is Johnny Alamo and writers only live once.)

But then you do meet Johnny Alamo, and despite your best effort to detect a prima donna, Jerry-Maguire-pre-spiritual-crisis thing, you find this impossible, because under a red baseball cap in a wood-and-brick-and-exposed ductwork office on Boulder’s Pearl Street is this genuine, enthusiastic, earnest entrepreneur talking about alignment, balance and “authenticity” in life and business. And then you are basically fated to like him.

This isn’t just me. It’s more or less what happened to Vail’s Heidi Kloser, the 2014 U.S. Olympic team skier, after an acquaintance from Vail Resorts suggested she meet Johnny Alamo. Over tea, Kloser discovered a camaraderie with the fellow freestyle skier who seemed – sports agent clichés aside – sincere. “He was like me, wanting to inspire young people to go out and do things,” Kloser says. “And he really knew what he was talking about.”

It helps Alamo’s business case that he’s recruited many sponsors to help finance film projects for Boulder’s Warren Miller Entertainment during the last 13 years. His contacts in sports marketing run deep – one reason his company has been hired by organizers of next year’s FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek to identify corporate partners.

Alamo believes the business rationale for sports marketing is eliminating old-school models of static sponsorships and counting of consumer impressions. To Alamo, slapping a logo on billboards seems very 1990s when instant digital media interaction now creates unprecedented transparency. “People’s B.S. detectors are at an all-time high,” he says.

Alamo’s solution is the idea of “authentic alignment” – creating experiences that bring brands and audiences together in meaningful, respectful ways, inspiring interaction.

A similar philosophy guides Alamo’s work with athletes like Kloser. Sincerity and humility are qualities Alamo looks for in individuals he represents. He aims to help them build a persona beyond athletics. That’s been the case already with Kloser, who suffered a leg injury in a final practice run at Sochi, preventing her from competing. Despite the setback, Alamo enlisted Liberty Mutual Insurance and Nike as corporate backers for Kloser, aligning their brands with her resolve to overcome adversity. Kloser is determined to return for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Maybe so. But for Johnny Alamo, it was just a matter of being authentic.

Stewart Schley writes about sports, media and technology from Denver. Read this and Schley’s past columns on the Web at cobizmag.com and email him at stewart@stewartschley.com

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