Jorge Villalobos, Sports Marketing Monterrey’s CEO and co-founder, is an international entrepreneur and a noted Latin American expert in sports & entertainment, talent management, and marketing. Sports Marketing Monterrey represents and consults over forty-seven athletes, coaches and elite teams, including Cruz Azul F.C. & Pumas UNAM, representing their rights for touring, licensing, sponsorships and media distribution. His company has helped global brands, such as Coors Light, Pepsi, MoneyGram, Splenda, and Starbucks, engage the Hispanic market through sports.
Mr. Villalobos successfully promoted the largest Hispanic professional club competition in the USA, with an impressive attendance of over 200,000 people in cities like Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Chicago, with a live broadcast in the USA and 20+ countries, via ESPN.
Sports Marketing Monterrey was recognized in 2015 for its impressive 1,031% revenue growth on the Inc. 5000, a prestigious list representing the fastest-growing private companies in the United States. The company ranked #450 in the Inc. 500 group, and was the only agency in the sports industry featured on the list.
Mr Villalobos and his company are actively involved in the community, with children as their principal focus. His commitment to battle school desertion, diabetes, and child obesity has driven him to organize free soccer clinics with professional athletes, youth soccer tournaments, as well as hiring international players and athletes as speakers to motivate and improve leadership skills.
Sports Marketing Monterrey also provides thousands of free tickets to an important number of schools and nonprofit organizations across the country, including the Dallas Independent School District (ISD), to maintain children and parents’ engagement in school, while also providing unique sporting experiences with their idols and public figures, and developing programs of school attendance.
Jorge studied international marketing at the University of Monterrey in Mexico and began his professional career, in 2001, in the consulting industry with Villalobos&Asoc, Ad2GO (a digital outdoor advertising agency), and JV Entertainment Group (producing and promoting concerts and live shows with “A-list” acts, such as Kiss, Motley Crue, Black Eyed Peas, etc.)
Tell me about your early career.
I graduated from the University of Monterrey with an international marketing degree. Ten months prior to graduating, I started my own advertising agency, which was a one-man shop, with no office. The main idea was to provide consulting and marketing/advertising services to small clients and accelerate their growth. Five years later (in 2002), I added the media side to the agency and developed outdoor media on plasma displays in the subway, shopping centers, and in other high-traffic areas. We added the entertainment side to expand and drive my clients to new adventures, by promoting live events (mainly, music concerts). Football (soccer), and sports in general, are my passion, so I’ve had the opportunity to meet great players and I ultimately decided to also start a sports marketing department, leading to what Sports Marketing Monterrey is today. We started representing the commercial rights of our clients, providing “full shop” representation by fixing their contracts, moving them between teams, and finding new business opportunities.
How did the concept for Sports Marketing Monterrey come about?
There was a strong need for professional advisement in the sports marketing world, particularly in Mexico and for soccer teams. Observing what the industry leaders were doing with the World Cup, Olympics, and other leagues like the NFL, inspired me to not just represent the talent, but the institutions and the teams as well.
How was the first year in business?
Our first year was amazing. We were profitable and received a lot of attention. It was a fun year. However, our second year was a difficult one. Our clients had very high expectations, and there was also a huge overhead increase in an abnormal and aggressive way. Looking back, I would’ve gone a different a route, and would’ve chosen to build a good foundation to keep the growth steady, instead. So there were a few bumps, but a couple of years later, we created a healthy, fully operational agency.
What was your marketing strategy?
Hustle. That was it. It was getting things done, signing clients, offering the best service, making 200 phone calls a day, making great pitches, and delivering great results. That is what a sixteen-year-old overnight success looks like when it’s going in the right direction.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Fast, not just in revenue, but also in building relationships and getting the word out, with no advertising at all. I believe we’ve had over 1,000% growth in the first three to four years.
How do you define success?
It’s different for everyone, but money is always involved in the equation on how people measure your success, which is the easier way to do it, but I believe success is just a lifestyle. Success, to me, is a balance with your family, your profession/career, yourself, and the way you positively impact on others.
What is the key to success?
Hustle. It’s not just having one thing. I think it’s a recipe that works different for everybody, but you have to believe in yourself and use your ingredients (love, determination, perseverance, and passion). Then start using the right tools, such as be focus and flexibility, and surround yourself with the right people. And like someone once told me, “You have to take the stairs. There is no elevator to success.”
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I have hundreds, with all of them having something in common, because I’ve learned the hard way by making mistakes and, sometimes, making bad decisions. So it’s okay to fall, or fail, but you have to get up, learn, and keep going until you make it happen.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
When you think you’ve failed. When you ask yourself that question if you should continue with the endeavor. It’s hard when you get to that one minute in your life when you doubt yourself about being able to achieve your goal. And I have to say that having or working with unethical people is also hard to digest.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My family and love for what I do. I really enjoy it and believe that I will be a game changer when the time comes, so I have to be ready.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Be brave, treat others as you want to be treated, and never lose focus on what your goals and objectives are. The community, the country, and the world need good people, so no matter what you decide to do with a new company, product, service or technology, do it with your heart and be kind.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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