In his eight years as director of promotions and sponsorship for the San Diego Padres, Ron Seaver always preferred Major League Baseball’s business meetings over watching on-field action during regular season. The networking and exchanging of ideas sparked a question that would change Seaver’s life: What if front officials from baseball got together with their peers in football, hockey, basketball and other sports? His answer was creating the National Sports Forum, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year in Cincinnati. It didn’t always look like the conference would reach this milestone, but through his expertise in sponsorships, Seaver kept his dream alive as attendance grew from three people to its current average of 1,000. We talked to Seaver about the sports industry and the growth of his event.
What do you remember about the first Forum?
Three people came to Cheyenne Conference Resort. They were all from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and they didn’t even need hotel rooms because they were commuting each day. I was dying because, as you know, when you put on an event, you live and die on hotel pickup.
How did the venue’s management respond?
The hotel sales manager said, “You owe me $65,000.” I told him I didn’t have it and described how hard I had worked. He responded, “Is that going to be cash or credit?” I struck a deal that I’d pay $5,000 per quarter until I had the debt repaid. The next year, we had 32 people. The owner then agreed to absolve my debt if I could make one lump payment. That kept me going, and once I got a small start I could get sponsors.