A not-so-secret agent man

My profile on Colorado sports agent and all-around good guy Johnny Alamo for ColoradoBIZ magazine.

Let’s get this out of the way now: Your name is not Johnny Alamo and my name is not Johnny Alamo and that is simply the unfairness we must carry through life.

On the flipside, there actually is a real Johnny Alamo, whose given name oozes cool, who once made a living as a professional freestyle-skier, who used to work side-by-side with legendary filmmaker Warren Miller, and who now spends his time as a Boulder-based sports marketing specialist with a client list that exhibits a detectable lean toward the young, the spirited and the supremely talented. As in, Olympic-athlete kind-of-talented. And in several cases blonde. And in several cases beautiful.

All of this, I believe, justifies a strong priori distaste for Johnny Alamo, or at least the lathering up of a festering resentment toward Johnny Alamo before you ever meet him.

(Style note: Newswriting convention dictates that we refer to subjects by last name on second and subsequent reference, but c’mon: The guy’s name is Johnny Alamo and writers only live once.)

Except then you do meet Johnny Alamo, and despite your very best effort to try to detect some sort of prim donn Jerry-Maguire-before-his-spiritual-crisis thing going on, you find this to be impossible, because here under a red baseball cap in a wood-and-brick-and-exposed ductwork office on Boulder’s Pearl Street is this genuine-seeming, enthusiastic, just about adorably earnest entrepreneur talking to you convincingly about concepts like alignment and balance and “authenticity” in life and in business. And you are pretty much doomed from there on out to like him.

This is not just me, people. This is also more or less the fate that befell Vail’s Heidi Kloser, the 2014 U.S. Olympic team skier, after an acquaintance from Vail Resorts suggested she pay a visit to Johnny Alamo. Kloser and her father had talked with other representation candidates, but over tea, Kloser
discovered an easy camaraderie with a fellow freestyle skier who actually seemed – sports agent clichés be damned – sincere. “He was like me, wanting to inspire young people to go out and do things,” Kloser says. “And he really knew what he was talking about.”

It helps Alamo’s business case that he had done deal after deal recruiting sponsors to help finance film projects for Boulder’s Warren Miller Entertainment over a 13-year run. His contact list in the sports marketing arena runs deep, which is one reason his company has been hired by organizers of next year’s FIS Alpine World Ski Championships event in Vail/Beaver Creek to identify corporate partners.

But beware: If you’re looking for somebody to speed-dial for dollars, you’ve got the wrong Johnny. Alamo believes the business rationale for sports marketing is blasting like a downhill racer past old-school models of static sponsorships and mechanical counting of consumer impressions at ordained
cost-per-thousand rates. To Alamo, slapping a logo on an oversized stadium billboard seems very 1990s in a world where instant digital media interaction now creates unprecedented transparency between brands and audiences. “People’s B.S. detectors are at an all-time high,” he says.

The solution, and the part that gets Alamo excited, is the idea of “authentic alignment,” or creating experiences that bring brands and audiences together in meaningful, respectful ways to inspire conversation and interaction. An interactive exhibit involving the sports-camera maker GoPro Inc., for example, would probably fit the bill nicely at the FIS AlpineWorld Championships, Alamo says. A billboard from a cigarette company, not so much.

A similar philosophy guides Alamo’s work with athletes like Kloser. Sincerity and humility are qualities Alamo looks for in individuals he represents. He says he aims to help them build a persona and presence that reaches beyond just the athletic performance. That’s been the case already with Kloser, who suffered a horrific leg injury in a final practice run at Sochi that prevented her from competing. Despite the setback, Alamo enlisted Liberty Mutual Insurance and Nike as corporate backers for Kloser, aligning their brands with her resolve to overcome adversity. “That was really unexpected,” says Kloser, who’s determined to return for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Maybe so. But for Johnny Alamo, it was just a matter of being authentic.