Sale Plays Matchmaker Again
ICM's new brand guru has a knack for creating perfect pairs
By Ben Grossman -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/12/2006 7:00:00 PM
Lori Sale likes putting people together. Twice, she has introduced couples who have gone on to get married, and she has come close with some others. And although Love Connection was one of her favorite shows in college, her matchmaking prowess goes far beyond pairing up potential soulmates.
Sale also has a penchant for matching brands with entertainment properties, a skill that has helped her build a very successful career in the media industry. From her first job out of college to her latest position as head of International Creative Management’s new global branded-entertainment division, Sale has made her mark by successfully pairing partners.
After graduating from the University of Texas, the St. Louis native moved to Dallas and began learning how to create events and properties to attract ad dollars. First with the Dallas Times Herald and then with Loews Hotels, Sale cut her teeth planning events and exhibitions and bringing sponsors on board to help fund them.
But after meeting her husband, Scott, also from St. Louis, she moved back to her home state and started her own PR and event business, Marketing Mix. “I was a little snotty at 26 and thought I could do my own thing,” she says.
Sale soon landed her first client, a phone company, for a $5,000 monthly retainer. But she still had a lot to learn. “I knew nothing,” she recalls. “My husband asked if I had an accounting firm or what I was doing with my stuff. I showed him the shoe box I kept everything in.”
But she had a knack for marketing, and she knew the value of relationships—a combination that helped Sale grow the firm to a 50-person outfit with a Los Angeles satellite office.
“I collect relationships,” she says flatly. “What I do isn’t brain surgery.”
Her clients believe she’s selling herself short. “Lori takes the time to understand your business and marketing goals,” says Kristin Petersen, VP of brand exposure and promotions for Gap Inc. “Then she can whip up an entire concept over lunch.”
Sale’s first big-media pitch was CBS, which she landed through a friend. Soon after, she was running a mall tour for the network called Eye on Women, which showcased various female characters on CBS programs, and bringing in sponsorship money along with it.
WINNING CABLE CLIENTS
But she would part company with CBS a few years later after the Turner networks wanted to hire her firm. CBS demanded exclusivity in the TV world, so she walked, taking on projects for the likes of TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network.
Sale rapidly built a solid stable of cable clients after learning to master the challenge of the networks’ tighter budgets. “You had thousands, not millions,” she says. “And that money had to not just draw advertisers but brand the network, work for affiliates and everything else. It was very early brand integration.”
Her company would expand its media clientele to print and film partners, but the one constant was that none were based in St. Louis. After 13 years, the constant travel was wearing her down.
But in 1999, she received a call from Miramax, a company she admits she knew very little about. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what a Miramax was,” she says with a laugh.
Nonetheless, Sale was soon on her way to New York to meet with Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein. When she arrived, Weinstein—late returning from Cannes—made her wait almost four hours.
It got the meeting off on the wrong foot. “I was not in the best mood. I’m not that patient,” she admits. “I remember saying I wouldn’t wait four hours to meet the Pope.”
But when Weinstein finally showed, they hit it off famously—even if Sale initially found his first question offensive. “He asked right away if I had kids and I said, 'Yes, why?’” Sale says. But Weinstein merely needed some advice for a sick child, and Sale, the mother of two, had some words of wisdom to offer. “It was a very personal moment right away,” she says. “It was a good start.”
BUILDING FROM SCRATCH
Sale left behind her business and joined Miramax in Los Angeles, where she took on film and TV projects ranging from Spy Kids to Project Runway. Runway was a chance to build a show from the ground up, but Bravo was paying a license fee that didn’t cover the show’s deficit. So she brought in Elle magazine as a partner, which gave Runway fashion-industry credibility—as well as financial support.
Now Sale brings her matchmaking skills to ICM, where she is charged with building a division that will match the agency’s assets with brands—such as bringing a brand in as a co-producer on a new show. She excitedly says the new division is a “blank white piece of paper” in need of filling in.
Sale’s past business partners are perfectly confident she’ll thrive in her new setting. “Lori has a keen eye for entertainment properties and an innate understanding of the value of the brand,” says Joshua Katz, who worked with her as head of marketing at Cartoon Network and VH1. “Above all, Lori is a matchmaker with a killer Rolodex, tireless spirit and ability to bring big ideas to life.”
Once again, she’ll scan that Rolodex and see what she can create with her network of names. “If they haven’t retired to a golf course or gotten hit by a bus,” Sale says, “we can still do business together.”
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