David Chavez loves his work. You can tell by the dozens of autographed photos, baseballs, hockey sticks, basketballs, and caps on his office shelves and walls. Olympic gold medalist, Rulon Gardner; Billy Blanks of Tae-Bo fame; the NFL’s Jamal Anderson; or NASCAR great, Bobby Allison share one thing in common: they’ve all contracted to appear for events and promotions through Pro Sports MVP – and they know and like Chavez.
Starting at the age of 15 as a batboy for a minor league baseball team, Chavez eventually earned his bachelors degree at the University of Arizona in Public Administration with a major in Federal Law Enforcement. His real love, however, continued to be the game of baseball. “I was hoping to get on as an equipment manager with a major league team,” he said, noting that he ended up running into Jim Morley (a former professional baseball player) who invited him to work for his new baseball league — the Senior Professional Baseball Association in Florida.
When the League suspended operations, Chavez eventually was recruited in 1990 by a national sports marketing firm, based in Pittsburgh. They hired David to travel to Japan and Europe to represent the company at Old Timers’ games and special retired player appearance. The firm also valued his solid athlete relationships. “We all wanted David to strike out on his own,” said Morley, acknowledging that it took a few years for David to decide to start his own company. “All of us knew he would succeed. He is very thorough and organized in everything he does.”
This four-year old company, started by Chavez, Colorado Springs’ Jim and Mark Morley and one other partner in 1998, is already a serious contender for the top spot among national celebrity promotion companies. According to Jim Morley, the success of the company in large part reflects Chavez’s enthusiasm and deep understanding of the athletic and more recently, the Hollywood psyche. “It’s David’s talent for excellent customer service, attention to detail and professionalism that makes Pro Sports MVP such a great company,” Morley said. On top of all that, it is profitable.
Pro Sports MVP (an acronym for Marketing Ventures and Promotions), provides celebrity guests and keynote speakers for events ranging from corporate sales meetings and trade shows to fundraisers, retail appearances and award functions. Founded in late 1998 by David Chavez with Jim and Mark Morley as principal investors, the company has already booked enough business in first quarter 2002 to make budget projections for the entire year. “More than 80 percent of our business is repeat business,” Chavez said in an interview with the Colorado Springs Business Journal. “We have lost maybe three or four clients over our four years in business – and one of those went out of business.”
From lists of sports and Hollywood celebrities to his well-packaged promotional materials and busy phones, a visitor immediately picks up the sense of urgency that drives Chavez. One moment he finds out that Melissa Joan Hart, TV’s “Sabrina,” may have to cancel an appearance for a U.S. Air Force event – and the next, he has compiled a list of 31 possible back-up sports and TV/movie celebrities for Air Force review. These challenges are all in a day’s work for Chavez who was once the equipment manager for the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball League in Florida – as well as with the Iowa Cubs (Triple A club for the Chicago Cubs) and several other minor league teams after his graduation in 1982. “David had such a great way with the players,” said Morley. “They liked and respected him—he’d bend over backwards for them.”
Aside from all the glitz of daily operations (which is as much hard work as it is glamorous), Chavez spends much of his time building relationships with prospective client companies and with the Armed Forces. The latter has been especially appreciative of Pro Sports MVP’s programs and resources.
Last October, on the heels of the terrorist attack in New York, the Stars and Stripes military newspaper published a story on an appearance by Billy Blanks at Camp Comanche in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Two hundred men and women packed into a tenant at Camp Comanche in Bosnia last week to spend the evening with world-famous Tae-Bo creator, Bill Blanks,” the article begins. The same report goes on to say, “Even after three hours of non-stop time with the troops, Blanks showed no sign of tiring. Some fans requested photos with Blanks performing a high kick or action action. He complied with all of them.” That’s the part of the business that keeps Chavez motivated.
One of Pro Sports MVP’s especially successful corporate promotions included a Coors Brewing Company distributor’s meeting in Lake Tahoe last year and a celebrity sports card program for Nabisco Cheez-its in 1997. Coors was looking for a way to impress its audience and Chavez came through with a special appearances and a keynote address by Mike Eruzione, 1980 U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey Captain who scored the winning goal in the USA’s “Miracle on Ice” victory over the Soviet Union. In addition, the Pro Sports team had customized hockey sticks and pucks made commemorating the event, which were all signed by Eruzione.
While working back east, Chavez was involved in what was considered a landmark national consumer promotion for Nabisco in 1994 and 1995. The two year mail in promotion was created in which purchasers of specialty marked cookies and crackers would get an autographed baseball card, signed by the actual player. Chavez added that Jim Palmer, Ernie Banks and the late Don Drysdale and Willie Stargell all agreed to participate. “Any promotion that Pro Sports MVP does has to bring value to the customer and set itself apart from other special events in the marketplace,” he adds. The Nabisco promotion was a coup for the young company and the first of many future product and corporate tie-ins.
“It was at an All-Star Rockies game in the summer of 1998 that I met with Jim and Mark Morley,” Chavez recalls. “They’d been talking to me for years, but I hadn’t been ready to take on the challenge of running my own company. But here I was with a wife and baby – it was time to get serious and make a good living.” Initially, Chavez and the Morleys planned to bring in outside investors. In the end, the decision was made, the Morley brothers funded the start-up with Chavez as president of the new company. “With Pro Sports MVP, I was in a position to have actual ownership in a company – and that’s the only way you can get to the next level financially,” said Chavez.
So far, all parties are pleased with the company’s performance. “This isn’t like running a dry-cleaning or plumbing business,” said Chavez. “Sports and celebrity promotions are not a necessity in anyone’s life. You have to keep people excited or you’ll lose your momentum.” If the last four years are any indication, Pro Sports MVP is on its way to major league success. One thing is sure. David Chavez will never take his own success, the success of his celebrity colleagues, or his clients for granted.