Jim Erlick '77 is in the business of corporate matchmaking. As president of The Erlick Group, a Manhattan-based firm, he pairs big-name entertainment properties with corporate sponsors. His clients come from all over the entertainment industry- Broadway (Rent, Chicago, The Full Monty), music (MTV, The Litchfield Jazz Festival), film (General Cinema, MovieFone), magazines (The New Yorker, Rolling Stone), and various venues in New York City (Carnegie Hall). His partners are equally diverse-from Fleet and American Express to Delta, American Airlines, Bloomingdale's, and Lexus.
The Erlick Group has been around ten years. Erlick, who spent fourteen years in marketing at General Foods, Seagram Wine Company, and American Express, says his experience has helped him create successful marriages between his clients and the large corporations-the same sort of large corporations Erlick used to work for himself.
"Even though the Group's formal client is the entertainment property, the way we view it, we really, truthfully regard both companies as clients," he says. "So if I put together TWA and Sunset Boulevard, even though [Sunset composer] Andrew Lloyd Webber is paying me a fee, I do whatever I can to be objective, not only in structuring the best kind of program I can, but also in being meticulous about promises on both sides."
As a so-called corporate matchmaker, Erlick needs not only to be diplomatic, but also creative. When People magazine needed to find sponsors for a twenty-fifth anniversary charity concert they were throwing, Erlick got American Airlines and Oldsmobile to lend their support, and signed Dewar's to sponsor a post-concert party. After HBO hired him to secure a stylish sponsor for the channel's hit show Sex and the City, Erlick brought it together with Remy Amerique's Cointreau. In addition to putting together a national retail promotion tied to Cointreau's online sponsorship of the show, the product was mentioned several times on the actual program-fitting, since the trendy characters on the weekly comedy were sipping Cosmopolitans well before Cointreau's sponsorship came along.
Usually, after he agrees to represent a client, he develops a "hit list" of possible partners, based on the demographics of the client's audience. Credit-card companies, for example, often make good partners regardless of the client, because most consumers use credit cards to make their purchases.
After finding a suitable partner for a client, he helps the two sides figure out the best way for the coupling to work. Though his firm is relatively small (he has only a few administrative assistants), Erlick says he doesn't have much trouble coming up with creative and moneymaking partnerships.
It isn't too surprising that he ended up in this field. After graduating from Duke, he headed straight to the University of Chicago, where he earned an M.B.A. Following graduate school and fourteen years in marketing, he began running the Group. He also served on the Duke Alumni Association's board of directors for four years.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks that rocked New York on September 11, many entertainment venues in the city are hurting financially. Erlick represents sixteen different Broadway shows, which means his clients are diverse enough so that his business won't be greatly affected. But he admits concern. "When ticket sales are soft, people are affected, but it makes what we do that much more significant," he says.
He recently finished putting together a sponsorship for the national tour of Mamma Mia!, a musical revue based on the music of the Seventies group ABBA, with the Olive Garden restaurant chain. "With people scrambling to find marketing plans to break through the clutter, these partnerships become all the more important."
--Lucas Schaefer '04
Duke Magazine: CORPORATE MARRIAGE BROKER
February 8, 2002
Publication: Duke Magazine
Publication: Duke Magazine