Jeff Knapple serves as President and CEO of Envision, a naming rights consulting firm based in Los Angeles, California. To date, Knapple has negotiated more than $1 billion in overall sponsorship deals for his clients.
Although he had envisioned himself in the sports industry at a young age, Knapple, like many future sports executives, pictured himself on the field rather than off. In 1980, upon graduating from the University of Northern Colorado, Knapple joined the Denver Broncos as a quarterback. His career with the Broncos lasted only one season and before he knew it he was calling plays from the boardroom.
In 1986, Knapple began his business training at Chicago-based Frankel & Company, a large sports promotion firm where he served as Director for three years. It was here where Knapple found his niche in negotiating sponsorship packages. At Frankel, he arranged creative and valuable sports marketing packages for clients including McDonald’s, United Airlines, Oscar Mayer, and Target Stores.
After fine-tuning his negotiation skills at Frankel, Knapple moved on to Kemper Sports, a consulting and event management firm. Kemper provided Knapple a forum to polish his managerial skills. He served as President of Kemper Sports for three years and oversaw the company’s strategic involvement in the Kemper Open (PGA), World Match Play (PGA), Ko-Olina Senior Open (Senior PGA), Maui Invitational (College Basketball), and NutraSweet Professional Figure Skating Championships. Additionally, he advised such corporate clients as Kraft USA, Wesley Jessen, Brachs, and Denon on their sponsorship investments.
After reaching the zenith of the Kemper Sports compendium, Knapple left for greener pastures. He went to ProServ (now SFX Entertainment) as a Board Member and Managing Director where he spearheaded the company’s invasion into the consulting and venue naming rights industries. Under his leadership, these divisions were responsible for such monumental deals as the STAPLES Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kings, and Clippers; Philips Arena, home of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers; and for such corporate clients as Hershey, Helene Curtis, Coca-Cola, Foot Action and Schering Plough, which evolved to become the largest and most profitable entities for ProServ.
He spent five years at ProServ before the entrepreneur in him decided it was time to go on his own. Recognizing the overwhelming opportunities in the exploding field of venue naming rights, and foreseeing the convergence of the worlds of sports and entertainment, Knapple formed Envision in August of 1998 in a partnership with the Philip F. Anschutz Corporation.
Since the creation of Envision, Knapple has clearly proven himself a well-respected leader in the field of venue naming rights having negotiated the $88 million naming rights deal for Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center, $84 million SAVVIS Center in St. Louis and assisted in the HealthSouth Training Center in Los Angeles. Other North American clients represented by Envision include the California Speedway, Kansas Speedway, SkyDome, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Universal CityWalk and a new Winston Cup NASCAR team.
Having been a “player” on both sides of the field, Jeff Knapple offers a unique perspective to climbing the sports world corporate ladder. As a result, he can offer advice on the industry that most other executives cannot. "Anyone seeking their first job in the sports industry should understand most employers in the field do not care if they can quote statistical information regarding the business. Rather, we all look for intelligence and the ability to apply knowledge to the business of sport. How someone comports themselves, communicates with others, and overall intelligence is the key to opening the door,” he said.
He now has more than 15 years in the venue naming rights and consulting business and is at the forefront of the ever-evolving sports and entertainment industry.