5 AAF-Honored Marketing Leaders Reshaped Their Careers, Industry

Ian Schafer (2015 AAF Hall of Achievement winner)
From movie studio to stealth sports media launch

Ian Schafer began his career in 1997 with digital agency i-Traffic, primarily because he wanted to help create advertising for The Walt Disney Co., which then hired and nurtured him. work on Miramax. He served as vice president of new media for Disney until 2002, leading digital and media innovation for Miramax.

“I knew at a very young age that I wanted to live at the intersection of media, entertainment and technology,” Schafer said, and Disney made that possible.

“I felt like I got a master’s degree working there,” Schafer said. “Part of what enabled this was how dysfunctional the environment was. I was able to kind of exploit that to get into meetings that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I felt that working there- bas taught me to be an effective generalist.

The malfunction Schafer is referring to, of course, is Miramax’s connection to co-founder and now convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein.

“The dysfunction became more and more evident,” Schafer said. Outside of Weinstein, from a marketing standpoint, he felt Disney wasn’t innovating fast enough. Miramax acquired a DVD business because it didn’t trust Disney to distribute its movies, but Schafer also had doubts that DVDs would be the future of home entertainment.

This led him to launch the agency Deep Focus, and to convince Disney to become a client rather than replacing his role internally. Right from the start, Deep Focus did award-winning work for the launch of “Kill Bill”. The success spawned work for other Hollywood studios, then record labels and cable networks, where Schafer helped “those companies get ahead so they were seen as great innovators instead of the most great laggards”.

That in turn attracted business from major non-entertainment marketing brands, including Microsoft, Nestle and Unilever, he said. Ultimately Deep Focus was sold to Engine in 2010 and Schafer stayed on until 2017.

“I felt like I needed a break from growing other people’s brand,” he said. “And over the years, I had developed a strong frustration with the status quo.”

As he watched coverage of Davos in 2018, he recalls a climate activist’s comment that “it’s like sending a bunch of arsonists to a convention to talk about how to put out the fires I remember seeing a photo of a poverty exhibit with a guard sitting in front of it, and I thought to myself, this is exactly how not to solve the world’s problems.

From there was born the idea of ​​Kindred, a community of “motivated leaders” dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as the advancement of the environment, sustainability and governance.

The initial idea was around building events, the first of which was to take place in May 2020. “It turned out to be one of the most 2019 ideas of all time,” Schafer said. The pandemic, and then the murder of George Floyd, quickly changed things. Kindred has become a virtual educational platform for executives seeking training on how to effect positive change.

For his next act, Schafer is currently working on a sports media company in stealth mode.

“I believe in the power of storytelling,” Schafer said. “And I also believe in what athletes can do, and say now, to inspire millions of people to take action.”

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