TMR Q&A: Jim Van Stone, Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s President & CCO, Brings Us Up To Speed on MSE

As we flip the calendar past baseball and into the winter months, no ownership group has been more active than Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

Led by Ted Leonsis, MSE continues to find ways to lean in and adapt to a changing landscape, whether it’s with new looks for a partner brand like KPMG, growing a fervent international sponsorship portfolio, or acquiring its own regional sports network, NBC Sports Washington.

MSE is ubiquitous across the entire sports landscape in the nation’s capital, owning teams and many of their venues across esports, NBA, NBA G League, NHL and WNBA:

Monumental Sports & Entertainment just kicked off their 25th anniversary celebration

How does it all fit together? We asked Jim Van Stone, MSE’s President, Business Operations & Chief Commercial Officer, who oversees ticket sales and services, corporate partnerships, executive suites, marketing and retail business, to take us through the business.

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Van Stone Monumental Sports & Entertainment
Team Marketing Report: What were the biggest business lessons MSE learned as we emerged from the pandemic?

Jim Van Stone: One of the crucial qualities we had to master during and through this transition of the pandemic is how to be nimble.  We were not immune to the impacts felt by all in the live entertainment industry, so we have had to lean on what we know best: innovation. We reimagined our game day experience and fan engagement opportunities virtually and in person and have expanded on many of those new features as we were allowed to reopen our doors to the public. At Monumental, we deeply understand our responsibility to our region as a major convener in the heart of the nation’s capital. We became incredibly intentional about how our return to business would begin a domino effect for our surrounding businesses and community members.

TMR: The activation with KPMG is literally groundbreaking—you took a traditional hospitality suite within an arena and transform it into a state-of-the-art technology and business development center during the business day, then back into a suite for games—how did that come about and how can it be used as a new standard for partnership engagement?

JVS: Our alignment with KPMG was so natural and befitting of both organizations who are innovation leaders in our respective industries. As we embarked on the process to reimagine an existing suite in our arena, which would otherwise go unused during traditional work hours, we collaboratively visioned our facility to be more than an event building, but a daily sports and entertainment complex for business development. We look forward to continued application of the model we’ve created for the intersection of sports & entertainment and business development.

TMR: The Wizards continue to be an international draw for brands, what makes DC and basketball attractive regardless of on court success?

JVS: Our athletes, our sports, our city—they are all inherently global. We are proud of our global focus: we just played a game in Japan, we launched foreign language channels for the Wizards in Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew and Mandarin. We had a WNBA player from Japan. We have players from Latvia, Japan, Israel, Sweden, Russia, Canada, etc. Walk the concourse of Capital One Arena and I guarantee you will hear at least three different languages being spoken by fans on any given night. Brands understand how much we understand that and that’s why they are so eager to partner with us.

TMR: You were recently in Japan with the Wizards, what were the learnings from the trip, especially given the Wizards’ successful work with a rising star in Rui Hachimura?

JVS: Our recent trip to Japan helped solidify the Wizards international presence in sports and business and continued to secure their position as one of the worldliest teams in the NBA. Rui Hachimura enjoyed a hero’s welcome and the team embraced all of Tokyo from the fans in Saitama Super Arena to the unduplicatable cultural experiences like at the Tokyo Tower and the team camaraderie that was built across those several days together. Our trip also allowed us to announce two additional Wizards Global Partners with Recruit and Tamagawa University and as part of those announcements we hosted a variety of local events throughout Tokyo.

Washington Wizards during their recent trip to Japan Monumental Sports & Entertainment
TMR: MSE recently acquired NBC Sports Washington, from a sales and business perspective what does that mean for the organization?

JVS: It’s incredibly valuable to us to own our rights and we’re confident this is the best step toward a completed vision of Monumental Sports & Entertainment as a platform enterprise. The network and its staff, with which we have enjoyed a synergistic working relationship for years, are now fully under the MSE umbrella and will allow us to maximize the longevity of our organization through our exclusive media rights, while engaging with our fans in new and exciting ways. Full ownership of our network also provides a unique opportunity for our corporate partners to have a real integrated solution that combines our traditional sports and entertainment programming with immersive media and broadcast assets, creating a complete 360 solution through their partnership with Monumental.

TMR: With a wide array of teams…NBA, NHL, WNBA, NBA 2K league, G League…how do brands find their way? What is key in making sure partnerships work in Washington, D.C.?

JVS: In a potential partner, we prioritize those that align with our values of fearless, innovation and community connection. Under MSE’s umbrella, we offer brands the opportunity and solutions to reach an audience of millions of passionate individuals. MSE fans, and sports fans in general, are an audience that is focused, full of enthusiasm and raw emotion. It’s a diverse audience enjoying a wide range of entertainment from basketball to hockey to esports and that is what we offer our partners direct access to.

TMR: What is the best way to explain the brand-value proposition with an organization in the nation’s capital and throughout the DMV? How is it different from say Philadelphia, or Dallas or LA?

JVS: We view our marketplace of fans from north of Baltimore to south to Richmond representing nearly 7.5 million residents with an affluent, highly educated and millennial audience making it nearly the 3rd largest DMA in the country. At our arena on any given night — nearly 250 nights out of the year — there are 20,000 fans of sport and entertainment who are captivated for more than three hours. Our guests are elected officials, policy makers, thought leaders and some of the most influential people at the local, state, federal and international levels of government, media, technology, and finance. There is no other city or organization which can boast that kind of audience in Business-to-Consumer, Business-to-Business and the one-of-a-kind Business-to-Government access.

Van Stone: At Monumental, we deeply understand our responsibility to our region as a major convener in the heart of the nation’s capital. We become incredibly intentional about how our return to business would begin a domino effect for our surrounding businesses and community members.

TMR: Looking ahead the Caps were first adopters with the patch program. Now that the NHL season is here, how is the partnership business of hockey in Washington going?

JVS: The Capitals became the first NHL team with a patch secured through the league’s Jersey Advertising Program last fall. Our partnership with Caesars Entertainment has been robust from day one when we embarked on the first in-arena sportsbook, and then shortly after brokered this deal to expand our relationship. Like Caesars, the Capitals’ other partners including but not limited to Capital One, Leidos and Mars see the opportunity to expand their value through the team’s direct connection to fans and community.

TMR: The Mystics have long been a gold standard for engagement on and off the court. How has that property evolved in your tenure?

JVS: One of the greatest moves we were able to accomplish for the Mystics was working in partnership with the District to build an arena for the team in D.C.’s Ward 8. Entertainment & Sports Arena is the home venue for the Mystics and is also connected to a world class basketball training center for all of our Monumental basketball properties. The Mystics’ players workout alongside the Wizards’ players — they have the same amenities and access to workout facilities, food and nutrition, and recovery and rehab protocols. And it’s located within the community of the fan base which has really embraced them. We have had record sellouts of games in our most recent (non COVID-impacted) season, sales of team merch are through the roof and our players have built credibility with the community by consistently showing up and speaking out on social issues. It’s really remarkable to see the evolution. The growth of women’s sports is on the rise and it was evident in so many ways for our Mystics including ticket sales, sponsorship, social media growth, retail and broadcast viewership and we clearly believe the best is yet to come.

TMR: Lastly, with all the winter seasons now back to pre-COVID engagement, what programs are you most excited about as things get going? What can consumers look to see that is new around the arena and the teams from a team marketing standpoint?

JVS: We’ve had many things in the works since before COVID and a few things we’re discovered through the pandemic to help make our business and arena practices more efficient and engaging for each fan’s experience. Capital One Arena is now a completely cashless venue with expedited ingress and egress options via mobile ticket scanners and Evolv security technology. Our concourse features countless autonomous convenience tech including Zippin concession technology, and Uber Eats ordering from your seat! Our teams have also become more savvy in their engagement with digital content offerings and increased opportunities for direct feedback from fans through social media campaigns and emerging digital spaces like TikTok and Twitch.

A look at the KPMG Ignition spaceMonumental Sports & Entertainment