San Francisco 49ers Tap Turnkey Search to Find Chief Marketing Officer

The NFL and its teams continue to look to specialist recruiters to fill top C-suite roles. This time the 49ers have picked sports specialists Turnkey Search to fill their top marketing role. Diana Busino and Allie Crone take Hunt Scanlon Media inside this important search.

February 12, 2019 – Turnkey Search, a subsidiary of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, has been selected by the San Francisco 49ers to lead its search for a new chief marketing officer. Managing director Diana Busino is spearheading the search along with recruiter Allie Crone.

The San Francisco 49ers were the first major league professional sports franchise based in San Francisco. Originally part of the All-America Football Conference, the team joined the NFL in 1949. The team now competes at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, 45 miles southeast of San Francisco. Boasting five Super Bowl championships, six conference championships and 19 division championships, the 49ers are one of the most celebrated teams in NFL history.

The incoming chief marketing officer has responsibility for all areas of marketing including brand marketing, communications and game/event presentation including the totality of the at-event show and driveway-to-driveway experience. Other areas include: creative services/creative content creation, media and new media including broadcasting, digital and social media platforms, and community programs and impact.

The CMO will also lead “all integrated marketing and communication functions to achieve the 49ers’ objectives of growth and the enhancement of the brand reputation to ensure positioning is consistent with the strategic direction,” said the search firm.

In addition, the CMO is charged with efficiently streamlining delivery of innovative, data-driven creative in conjunction with each of the individual properties by creating and delivering an overall vision for the structure of the group.


The 49ers want a proven marketing leader with a demonstrated track record of performance and business achievements. Candidates must have an exceptional track record of developing and implementing marketing strategies that have consistently met or exceeded planned revenue and strategic objectives. Prospects must have “evidence of highly developed collaboration, persuasion, relationship building and interpersonal skills that results in the trust from peers, public and private stakeholders and company ownership/leadership,” said Turnkey.

It is also critical that the incoming executive have demonstrated communication effectiveness in all forms as well as the ability to educate and inform broad audiences with evidence of well-developed influencing, persuasion and negotiation skills.

Chief Marketing Officers Gaining Momentum As Business Game Changers
Today’s CMO works with the CEO to accelerate the organization and drive transformation. CMOs also collaborate with other members of the C-suite, especially with a company’s top HR executive to shape the company brand. 

More than 1,000 Placements

Founded in 1996, Turnkey Search is a specialized talent recruitment/executive search firm focused on recruiting C-level, senior-level and mid-management level talent for sports, entertainment and media enterprises. Over the past 20-plus years, Turnkey Search has filled more than 1,000 positions across these three sectors. The search firm helps teams, leagues, stadiums, arenas, theaters, college athletic departments, events, sponsors, agencies, media companies, private equity firms and other clients identify, recruit and hire top management talent.

Len Perna, founder, president, and CEO, manages all aspects of Turnkey Search. A top executive in the sports industry since 1985, he began his sports career as a business attorney for Cap Cities ABC/ESPN and also served as a top executive for the Detroit Red Wings/Tigers and the Dallas Stars/Texas Rangers.

Related: DHR Recruits Chief Marketing Officer for Under Armour

Turnkey’s clients include the University of Alabama, the Atlanta Hawks, CitiGroup, the University of Denver, Louisiana State University, the University of Michigan, the Milwaukee Brewers, the University of Mississippi, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the University of Nebraska, the Oakland Raiders, Richard Childress Racing, RocNation, Rutgers University, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Temple University, Ticketmaster, Townsquare Media, the United Center, VStar Entertainment Group and the Washington Nationals.

Ms. Busino and Ms. Crone sat down for an exclusive interview with Hunt Scanlon Media recently to discuss the search and the recruitment of marketing executives to sports organizations. Here’s an excerpt from that conversation.


Diana Busino

What type of leader would be the best fit for the 49ers?

The 49ers engaged us to find a true marketing leader who can tell the story of this iconic franchise and continue to leverage the pioneering/innovation culture of the brand and Silicon Valley and the Bay area. In short, the 49ers need a highly-collaborative, partnership-driven CMO to support corporate partners, community partners, as well as internal and philanthropic stakeholders.

Related:Recruiting Overseas Leaders to U.S. Sports Teams Heats Up

Allie Crone

Where will you be searching for talent? Will you be looking at candidates from outside the sports sector?

Turnkey believes that certain roles inside sports leagues, teams and properties are ripe for candidates from outside sports. Marketing is a perfect place to add innovation, creativity, diversity of thought and background by searching outside sports and entertainment, for example at brands, agencies, etc. That said, you have to be careful to make certain that the body doesn’t reject the transplanted organ. A top Fortune 500 marketer may be incredible with the resources of a Fortune 500 company, but unable to adapt to the lean, mean, marketing machine found on the property side where we mostly rely on marketing partnerships, media partners and a lightning fast marketing cycle. Turnkey has a big database of candidates from inside and outside of sports and entertainment. Knowing lots of candidates is easy. What’s hard is knowing which ones can (and cannot) make a successful jump from buy side to sell side. That’s Turnkey’s core strength from 23 years of attracting talent within sports and entertainment.

“Certain roles inside sports leagues and teams are ripe for candidates from outside sports. Marketing is a perfect place to add innovation, creativity, and diversity of thought. That said, you have to be careful to make certain that the body doesn’t reject the transplanted organ.”

NFL Taps Hanold Associates to Find CHRO
Chicago-based Hanold Associates has kicked off its search for the National Football League’s next chief human resources officer. The front-office opening is a vital one for an organization that is among the top professional sports leagues in the world.


What makes this role with the 49ers appealing to candidates?

One, the brand is to die for: five Super Bowl titles, plus Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, et al. Two, the location is amazing in the heart of the Silicon Valley/Bay area with opportunity everywhere. Three, their new stadium in Santa Clara is the most technologically advanced stadium in the world. Four, ownership and management is considered among the very best in our solar system. Fifth, (just in case anybody needs another reason), it’s 72 degrees and sunny virtually every day!

Related: Executive Search Gets ‘On the Ball’ In Sports Recruitment

What are some challenges this executive will face in this role?

Going from good to great is one thing; going from great to even greater isn’t for everybody. The 49ers invented the West Coast offense. Their brand is innovation and pioneering – ALWAYS. Ownership and management want to CONSTANTLY be pushing the envelope, just like their neighbors all across Silicon Valley and the Bay area. This CMO role is for someone who isn’t afraid of constantly reinventing what marketing, storytelling, content and engagement looks like for this incredibly enterprising organization.

Can you share some other marketing executives that Turnkey has recruited for sports organizations? 

Turnkey has placed dozens of marketing roles across the full landscape of sports, sports media and entertainment. A few examples within the NFL would include  recently the Atlanta Falcons (AMB Group), Buffalo Bills (and Sabres), Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and that’s just in the NFL. We have placed similar numbers in all the other leagues, too; plus key sports marketing roles in agencies and brands like AT&T, Citigroup and others.

Related: Prodigy Sports Forms Recruiting Partnership with Alliance of American Football

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

Share This Article


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments