IB Expo preview: Discover your competitive advantage

The 8th annual IB Expo & Conference will provide the tools to build your dream team, work on your organization, and acquire the necessary knowledge to win in business.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Your next, best chance to become a business MVP comes at the In Business Expo & Conference. Set for Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Alliant Energy Center, the IB Expo is the Madison area’s premier business-to-business event and gives you a leg up on your competition by connecting you with over 115 exhibitors and 1,100 professionals. Don’t miss your chance to build your dream team, work on your organization, and acquire the necessary knowledge to win in business.

Plus you’ll hear from key professional and college sports leaders from Wisconsin who will share their business insights!

This year’s event kicks off with a keynote presentation from Steve Battista, former senior VP of brand for Under Armour, and the man responsible for the sports apparel company’s famous “Protect This House” campaign. Battista’s strategy of building a brand rather than focusing on an emotionless product helped bust through the global leaders such as Nike and Adidas, to take the small T-shirt company to a $5 billion global phenomenon.

Battista will reveal how your brand can sidestep the normal marketing strategy to win the hearts and minds of customers. You will learn how to build and protect your brand through emotional campaigns, amazing brand experiences, genuine product placement, and savvy digital marketing.

Attendees also can visit the lively, centrally located expo floor, which will be buzzing with excitement throughout the day with a packed schedule of events and business exhibitors from around the Greater Madison region and the state.

New to the expo this year is a Business of Wisconsin Sports panel discussion featuring leaders and executives from the Wisconsin Badgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the PGA (Professional Golfers Association) who will share their business insights in a discussion moderated by Matt Lepay, “The Voice of the Wisconsin Badgers.”

Additionally, visitors to the exhibit hall can participate in a scorecard game and collect signatures from exhibitors on their IB scorecard for a chance at winning a number of exciting prizes, as well as join other attendees, exhibitors, and IB staff for a free networking tailgate following the expo.

Preregister now at MadisonBusinessExpo.com to make your check-in faster on the day of the event.

From underdog to brand powerhouse

When Steve Battista joined Under Armour as its 19th employee in 2000 as director of corporate communications, little did he know that he would help the startup brand grow from selling four products into a $4.8 billion global business selling 40,000-plus products.

Steve Battista

The Maryland native studied writing and journalism at Towson University, and was working as a sports writer when a college professor submitted a novel manuscript he had written as an undergrad to the prestigious Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars.

“I had no idea about the program’s reputation at the time,” the 44-year-old Battista admits. “I thought only doctors and lacrosse players went to Johns Hopkins.”

Battista was accepted and got to work on his novel, which was his passion, but when his novel didn’t go anywhere — “My agent said no one’s buying family dramas right now” — he switched gears. “All along while I was at Johns Hopkins I’d been working in advertising at night, so I transitioned from the journalism side over to the dark side of marketing and PR. I was doing that when a buddy of mine who I’d played high school football with, and who played college football at Maryland, started talking about this guy he’d played football with in college who had this crazy idea for a T-shirt that wouldn’t absorb sweat or moisture and would keep you cool, dry, and light. I helped him with their catalog and then went full-time in 2000 for this little company called Under Armour.”

In his 17 years with the company, Battista wore many hats, building Under Armour’s marketing, branding, PR, and communications departments, and leading its groundbreaking advertising campaigns. His gritty and compelling marketing — including the award-winning “Protect This House,” “Click Clack,” And “I Will” campaigns — helped propel Under Armour’s rise to become “the sports brand of this generation and the next,” a distinction further substantiated through the company’s partnerships with some of the world’s most accomplished athletes, including Stephen Curry, Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps, Misty Copeland, and Tom Brady.

“We had the luxury of being really naïve [in the early days at Under Armour] and not knowing that you can’t start an apparel company in the U.S. and go up against a giant like Nike and win,” Battista reflects. “It was a benefit not knowing that failure was a real possibility, and it was great having a Darth Vader to fight against for the first 20 years.

“It was tough, we grinded every single day, but for some reason we never thought it wouldn’t happen,” continues Battista. “Being naïve and not knowing that this shouldn’t happen, we did things our own way and that’s what stood out. That’s what cut through the clutter of the advertising world.”

Never having made a commercial before, and then making it their own way, the “Protect This House” campaign looked so different compared to every athletic apparel company out there. “When the campaign came out people just stared because they didn’t know what to think, but it struck a chord with the kids and the athletes, and that’s why it really broke through,” Battista notes.

Striking that chord is crucial in any branding and marketing a company does, Battista explains. Under Armour had all the science to back up why its shirts were built for performance, but Battista and his colleagues didn’t want to lose their identity in their message.

“You want to be true in all things to your brand and your brand’s voice,” says Battista, “but secondarily you have to be able to capture and captivate your audience very quickly. You might not have time in an ad or a 15-second pre-roll on YouTube to tell your entire story or showcase your entire product line, but you can get people to come visit your website or brand in other places to get more of your story, and that’s where you really need to be concise and direct and get people with the one line that is of extreme importance to your brand.”

Following Under Armour’s 20th anniversary, Battista left the company to pursue new challenges, co-founding the brand Revtown, an online clothier featuring premium denim made with stretchable fibers for a fraction of the cost of designer jeans, with Henry Stafford, another former Under Armour exec.

Participants in this keynote presentation will take away a renewed appreciation for the power of strong branding and authenticity in marketing, and in allowing your organization’s story to dictate your brand’s message in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

The keynote breakfast costs just $50 per person or $325 for a table of eight. Reservations can be made online at MadisonBusinessExpo.com.

Keynote sponsored by Corporate Business Systems and MassMutual Wisconsin



Bucking for attention

Alex Lasry isn’t much older than a lot of the players on the Milwaukee Bucks roster, but don’t let his age deceive you. The 31-year-old Bucks senior vice president has his hands in many facets of the NBA team’s business operation and he notes there are many similarities between running a pro sports team and working in the White House, which by the way, he’s also done.

Alex Lasry

​Lasry was born and raised in New York City and he went to college at the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in political science. Following graduation, he worked at the White House for a couple years during President Obama’s administration as the deputy chief of staff to Valerie Jarrett, who served as a senior advisor to the president. He left his post at the White House to attend the NYU Stern School of Business, and fully intended to return to politics after he obtained his MBA, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“I grew up wanting, like most 10-year-old boys, to play in the NBA, and then when I realized I was going to stop growing at 5’8” that changed to wanting to work in the NBA,” recalls Lasry. “After my freshman year of college I found other interests besides trying to work in sports. Politics and public service really became a passion of mine.

“This was what I wanted to do because I’ve been so blessed and lucky to be in the positions that I’m in and have the life that I was able to grow up with, that I always looked at giving back,” Lasry continues. “So after studying political science and then moving to D.C. to work at the White House, that was something that I wanted to continue doing.

“I thought post-business school that I would go back into government, whether it was local government or back on the federal side. However, when my dad [Marc Lasry, Bucks co-owner] bought the team and gave me the opportunity to come work out here, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Basketball was always my favorite sport — I grew up playing it, I still play it — so having that opportunity was something I felt like I had to jump at.”

Lasry is on the team’s management committee and he helps create, develop, and execute the strategy of the organization as a whole. He also worked on all of the Bucks’ work development efforts for the new Fiserv Forum, which included making sure the organization was hiring minority small businesses and women-owned businesses as contractors for the arena, as well as making sure the organization hit its hiring goals. In addition, Lasry runs all of the Bucks’ digital marketing and helps out with the team’s ancillary development.

“It’s kind of a big pot of things but it’s been cool because I can keep my hands in a bunch of different sectors of the business,” says Lasry.

Lasry’s excitement over the team’s on-the-court potential is evident when he talks about the Bucks.

“I think we’re moving in the direction we want to be moving, which is up,” he says. If you’re not going forward you’re then going backward, especially in the NBA. We just got someone who I think is one of the top coaches in the NBA in Mike Budenholzer, we’ve got one of the best players in Giannis [Antetokounmpo], and then you look at Khris [Middleton], [Eric] Bledsoe, Malcolm [Brogdon], [Tony] Snell, Thon [Maker], and all of our guys coming back from last year, I think we’ve got a really good team. And then I think we’ve filled out our depth, which can make us a great team. From a basketball standpoint I couldn’t be more excited for this season and we should be knocking on the door.”

But his enthusiasm about the potential for the business side of the organization and its shining new crown jewel arena is just as high.

“When you look at the business side for what we’re doing with the Fiserv Forum and Milwaukee, it’s really impressive,” Lasry notes. “We’ve reached all of our hiring and minority, small business contracting goals for the arena, we’re developing 30 acres of previously undeveloped land right in the center of downtown, and we’ve got an arena that now is going to be hosting some of the biggest concerts, which were previously skipping Milwaukee. We’re starting to revitalize and reintroduce the city to the country, and everything that we are doing from a concert and event business and then also what we’re doing on the community side in trying to make Milwaukee a better city, I couldn’t be more proud of the direction that we’re going. There’s only room for us to grow.”

Sports panel sponsored by Acuity Insurance and State Bank of Cross Plains

Business of Wisconsin Sports panel

Discover the challenges and opportunities facing Wisconsin sports when key professional and college sports leaders meet at this first-ever panel discussion.

Moderator: Matt Lepay, “The Voice of the Wisconsin Badgers”

Barry Alvarez, director of athletics, University of Wisconsin
Jason Hartlund, chief revenue officer, Milwaukee Brewers
Alex Lasry, senior vice president, Milwaukee Bucks
Dirk Willis, PGA, general manager and group director of golf, Kohler Co.

Time: 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. (check-in and lunch will start at 11 a.m.)

The Business of Wisconsin Sports panel costs just $30 per person and a lunch buffet is included. Reservations can be made online at MadisonBusinessExpo.com.

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