Sports marketing

Sports Marketing Guru Jim Host Writes About ‘Changing the Game’ His Life & Career Story

By Zach Klemme
The Independent Daily / Kentucky Today

Jim Host recently moved. The Ashland native and his wife, Pat, are both in their 80s and have “drastically downsized” at a house in Lexington that better matches their ability to care for it, Host said.

During this process, while going through old files, Host came across an old newspaper article from the 1950s or 1960s detailing the passage of the University of Kentucky athletics budget by a board of directors to which Host was sitting. That budget was $ 6.5 million, Host said.

On June 19, the Kentucky board of directors approved a sports budget of $ 148.5 million for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which is a 17% decrease in departmental spending from the year last.

“You understand the difference,” Host said in a telephone interview last week. “I don’t think any of us have ever seen the explosion in varsity sports (coming).”

Jim Host

Host played a major role in this transformation, as he and co-author Eric A. Moyen detail in Host’s autobiography, “Changing the Game: My Career in Collegiate Sports Marketing,” released this spring.

The host decided to start a business. Rather, it has become a key player in building an industry.

Watch college sports on TV? Catch a game at Rupp Arena or KFC Yum! Center? Catch the seams on the sleeves of the T-shirts Wendy’s employees wear, indicating they produce the official NCAA burger?

Then you are familiar with the work of Host. He was a pioneer in building college sports radio networks and turned this into an expertise in selling corporate sponsorships and “bundle rights” on behalf of schools, conferences and ultimately the NCAA itself. . And Host helped build the arena where his alma mater, Kentucky, plays, and then three decades later he was a driving force in building the Palace in Louisville.

Although Host doesn’t say it in an interview, March Madness as we know it, at home and in the country, has her fingerprints all over the place.

“I never think of it that way,” Host said. “I loved every minute of every day of everything I did. I have no regrets for everything I have done.

“The book, if you read it carefully, should have been how to deal with adversity because I’ve had all kinds of things in my way, but I’ve always thought if you do it the right way and build the right kind of culture with your business, it would all work.

Change the game details the loss by Host’s company of radio rights to basketball and football in the UK, his failed bid for the post of lieutenant governor of Kentucky and his company’s attempted coup. by an out-of-town partner – whose name the Tri-State media industry mavens can recognize.

Through it all, Host has persevered to become a catalyst for an industry and to serve in the public sector, and he has retained a deep love for his home state and region.

Upon retirement, Host continued to defend eastern Kentucky and the Commonwealth in general. He worked with KentuckyWired, a project that aims to expand broadband across the Commonwealth.

“If you haven’t found out (before) how necessary it is, go through a pandemic like the one we have and have kids at home who have to go to McDonald’s to use their WiFi, instead of having it.” in their homes, ”Host said.

The host called the COVID-19 pandemic “like a science fiction movie.” The cancellation of the NCAA tournament – a vehicle for much of the host’s work – was one of the first indicators to make it clear to the company what it was all about.

“You go to bed and open your eyes the next morning and say, did that really happen? The host said. “We read about the 1918 and 1919 pandemic, which was somewhat similar, but definitely not like that. “

The host anticipates the pandemic and its economic repercussions will have permanent effects on the affairs of college sport. He’s voiced it to industry leaders, including Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart.

“I think it’s going to change the way games are presented,” Host said, “and the way people see games and feel about sport in general.”

The NCAA and its navigation through the changing landscape of “Name, Image and Likeness” (NIL) rights for individual athletes is also part of that change. The NCAA has long banned athletes from taking advantage of themselves, claiming it nullifies amateur status. The NCAA is expected to pass a new NIL policy that will change that in January, Sports Illustrated reported, and state and federal lawmakers are working on legislation to give college athletes the opportunity to sell themselves.

Host, who pioneered a marketing industry facing revolutionary changes, said there was a lot of work to be done in figuring out how to divide the revenue pie, if and when it happened.

As an example, Host cited the latest corporate sponsorship he sold for the NCAA tournament – a $ 1.1 billion deal with Coca-Cola – in a recent conversation with “someone”. ‘one in the NCAA’.

“I said, ‘What are you going to do if you have a Zion Williamson that has a separate agent representing him – because you can’t have the NCAA or the schools involved – and they go out and sell Pepsi, and during an NCAA tournament game he drinks a Pepsi, implying he’s the NCAA tournament sponsor? ‘ The host said. “The answer was, ‘I’m not sure we’ve thought of that.’ And there is a lot more to be done to make sure that (it works).

“Paul Miller Ford is the UK’s exclusive car sponsor through JMI (a college sports marketing company), and let’s say Tyrese Maxey comes in and advertises Chevrolet. How much does that take out of what Ford pays? And the university depends on that income, and the income now goes to a player. “

The host said he was not opposed to the players generating income and was open to the book about his own financial struggles as he pitched for the Kentucky baseball team in the 1950s. But he also warned against “altering the capacity of whoever owns the rights”.

Change the game does not address pre-epilogue NIL concerns. Host education at Ashland isn’t a primary focus of the book either, but residents of northeast Kentucky will find nuggets on the 1954 Sweet Sixteen semifinals between Ashland and Newport, the genesis of Greenbo Lake State Resort Park, Paintsville radio personality Paul Fyffe and West Liberty Bluegrass League baseball team.

Change the game can be purchased from for $ 34.95. There is an option on the site to order signed copies.