Cultivating an Affinity for Brand Loyalty

Andrew Judelson ’89 has turned a love of the Dolphins into a successful career in sports marketing.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Beyond his family, Andrew Judelson ’89 is most passionate about two things in life: the New York Rangers and the Miami Dolphins.

As a diehard New Yorker who grew up in Connecticut, his love for the Rangers comes naturally. But the Dolphins?

Exploring the genesis of that relationship is key to understanding Judelson’s current role as a leader in the red-hot sports and entertainment industry.

It was the early 1970s, and Judelson was a young boy who hadn’t crystallized any particular sports loyalties. Then, his grandparents moved to South Florida and started sending him merchandise emblazoned with the Dolphins’ iconic orange and aqua blue logo. That, coupled with the team’s back-to-back Super Bowl victories, created a lifelong fan—and someone who, to this day, still gobbles up all sorts of Dolphins paraphernalia.

“You could give credit to my grandparents for introducing me to affinity marketing and setting me on a trajectory that never changed—professionally and personally,” Judelson says.

His job as executive vice president of national sales and marketing for IMG College—a division of WME/IMG, the world’s largest sports, media, and entertainment agency—is all about building that same kind of brand loyalty… just on a much larger scale and for clients whose products often have little or nothing to do with sports.

Using the principles of affinity marketing, Judelson helps Fortune 500 companies like Miller, Coors, GM, UPS, Kraft, Chobani, and Keurig Green Mountain sell goods and services by creating partnerships with collegiate athletic programs.

“As an example,” he explains, “people my age grew up making coffee one pot at a time. But let’s say Keurig wants to get in front of millennials to introduce its product and train the next generation of consumers to make coffee one cup at a time.

“So a freshman shows up to the University of Kansas and wants a Keurig machine in her dorm room. But instead of a generic machine, it’s branded with Kansas’ intellectual property and colors. And instead of generic coffee, let’s brand it Jayhawk Java.

“That’s the concept of affinity marketing—associating your brand with a property (in this case a university or sport) to which consumers have an affinity. This helps differentiate your product against a competitor’s and establishes consumer preference and loyalty. It’s a concept that is replicated across industries.”

Recognition from Rollins

In honor of a career that has spanned the highest levels of sports marketing—including stints at the National Hockey League, Sports Illustrated, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, and World Wrestling Entertainment—Rollins College recently honored Judelson with a 2015 Alumni Achievement Award.

The recognition is bestowed upon alumni who make a remarkable difference at Rollins, in the profession, and in their community.

“Andrew has been a consistent Alumni Career Network volunteer for us, and he promotes the value of graduating from a school like Rollins, where you have widespread connections at your fingertips,” says Cat McConnell Hackenberg ’07 ’09 MBA, senior director of alumni relations. “For our students, he’s able to bring to life the hard work and determination that it takes to excel in high-level jobs.”

“His enthusiasm and personality are infectious, which is so critical in the job he does,” adds longtime friend, business associate, and fellow Dolphins fan Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL. “His success in the years since leaving the NHL is a testament to his ability to succeed and excel regardless of the platform.

“Personally, you couldn’t find a better person. He balances a busy professional life with a family life that he prioritizes appropriately.”

Judelson participated in Alumni Weekend’s Backpacks to Briefcases event, a networking lunch featuring notable alumni table hosts who shared how their Rollins experiences shaped their career paths. (Photo by Scott Cook) Judelson participated in Alumni Weekend’s Backpacks to Briefcases event, a networking lunch featuring notable alumni table hosts who shared how their Rollins experiences shaped their career paths. (Photo by Scott Cook)

It’s Always Been About Sports

Judelson grew up a sports junkie, building his best friendships and business relationships on the athletic fields—whether through participation or as a fan. Away from the office, his favorite activities still revolve around sports—distance running, mountain biking, and alpine skiing, to name a few.

He even met his wife, Maija, at a Toronto Maple Leafs game. She was an executive for McDonald’s Canada and he was the NHL’s head of corporate sales, marketing, and new business development.

“I had a tough time selling hockey and getting a date in the U.S.,” Judelson quips, “so I had to go to Canada to do both.”

These days, life is “happy, healthy, and hectic” in Darien, Connecticut, with Maija and their three children: Wilder (8), Dylan (6), and Neve (4). “I predict that one of my children will end up at Rollins,” he says, “but I’m not sure which one.”

Reflecting on his time at the College, where he majored in political science and played tennis, Judelson credits what he originally thought of as a “senior blow-off class” —The Actor and the Stage—with providing valuable skills that translated well into the workforce. “I had zero interest in acting,” he says, “but that class taught me about body language, physical presence, and how to stand up and communicate in front of people.”

His advice for recent college graduates? “Make your passion your profession and treat yourself like a brand,” Judelson, a 1992 graduate of Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, advises young people. “It sounds kind of corny or like some self-help book, but it’s accurate. Know your strengths and exploit them. Know your weaknesses and develop them. You’ll only be as successful as your passion.”