By ALAN SNEL
Nehme Abouzeid had what most marketing professionals would consider a dream job – serving as chief marketing officer for a major league expansion sports franchise mere months from inaugurating its maiden season.
Not only that, the sharply-dressed, fashionably-hip Abouzeid had evoked envy among his former marketing colleagues on the Strip by parlaying his impressive marketing positions under the twin casino tycoons of Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn into that plum CMO job with the Vegas Golden Knights. It was a transition that brought admiration from those in Las Vegas’ ultra-competitive marketing world who were impressed that Abouzeid made the jump from the Strip to the big leagues of sports.
And it wasn’t just any sports team. It was Las Vegas’ first major league sports team. Abouzeid, a Boston native and southpaw who enjoys playing tennis, had scored big.
But something very unusual happened on the way to the Golden Knights’ first game in October.
Abouzeid left the franchise effective June 30 amid mystery about 100 days before the puck was going to be dropped and he’s now starting a new turnkey consulting business LaunchVegas LLCthat is designed to take advantage of his vast 14-year Vegas network of local contacts and consultants to help national brands launch their businesses in Las Vegas.
In an interview this week with LVSportsBiz.com, Abouzeid declined to describe the exact circumstances that led up to him leaving the Golden Knights and noted he enjoyed his relatively short stint. He was about to roll out a diversified ad campaign to promote the Golden Knights’ rookie season that would have included a healthy dose of digital promotions, and was proud to have launched the team’s new flagship retail store, The Armory, at T-Mobile Arena.
Several weeks ago, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley confirmed for LVSportsBiz.com that Abouzeid left the team to launch a consulting business. Foley, a self-proclaimed deal-maker with businesses ranging from his home title insurance brands and California wineries to restaurants and a Montana golf community, offered no other explanation for Abouzeid’s early departure. He’s been at his wineries lately chatting with local Channel 3 sportscaster Amber Dixon and Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney.
It’s not uncommon for executives to come and go. But the timing of Abouzeid’s departure caught people’s attention. He had worked under two CEOs known for very strong opinions and personalities – Wynn and Adelson. But his shortest tenure was with Foley, who – to the public eye — appeared more easy-going than the two casino titans of the Strip.
Marketing is one of those lines of work where everyone thinks he or she knows best – whether the person is a sports fan making minimum wage or a big-league team owner who has billions of dollars in assets. Was there a conflict in marketing philosophy between Foley and Abouzeid? We don’t know. Neither one is talking – publicly, anyway.
So, Abouzeid said he’s looking ahead. He has the resume, the skill set, a sharp eye to micro Vegas trends and a network of local consultants to make a successful jump to his new consulting business. The former Middle East journalist has a diverse marketing career, ranging from helping start the public radio program, “To The Point,” to developing resorts in Asia for Las Vegas Sands Corp. to marketing Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers at Wynn Las Vegas.
“I realized I have a passion for starting businesses and rolling out brands the right way. After 14 years of launching everything from casinos to retail stores to shows to sports teams, I believe there is a market need for someone who has the skills and experience to help national brands break out in a hyper-competitive market like Las Vegas,” Abouzeid told LVSportsBiz.com.
“Everyone is competing for the same two million locals and 42 million tourists, but the mass market has shattered into a million niche markets — and a brand’s marketing strategy needs to adapt,” he said.
Abouzeid envisions working as a intermediary, doing turnkey marketing work for a national brand that is taking root in the Vegas market for the first time. With the brands lacking a Vegas data base, Abouzeid sees himself working three to six months on an assignment. He already has picked a website name — LaunchLV.com.
He has identified four categories of clients — retail, sports, tech and hospitality.
While at the Golden Knights, Abouzeid used his experience of monitoring Vegas tourist trends and major conventions to advise the NHL on the best nights to schedule home games for the new Vegas franchise. He analyzed hotel occupancy rates and suggested Golden Knights games on the “shoulder dates” of major conventions; that is. he recommended games on the days before and after huge trade shows such as the Consumer Electronic Show.
“I have a trained eye on what not to spend your money on,” Abouzeid said.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com