Navigate Research

Industry Insights

As the industry leader in evaluating and measuring marketing investments, Navigate has a wealth of knowledge in the sponsorship and marketing space. This blog shares our knowledge and insights on current events in the sports business, marketing and sponsorship worlds.

Landing a Spot on SBJ's Forty Under 40

Navigate Research - Thursday, April 09, 2015

Career success can be measured in a variety of different ways – money, title, awards, reputation – the list goes on. As one of the most difficult industries to not only break into, but remain successful in, the sports industry has created awards to recognize those individuals whose hard work has paid off. Today, popular sports periodical, the

Sports Business Journal, will be honoring this year’s Forty Under 40 class in Los Angeles, CA. For those not familiar with this highly respected award, here is a little more background. 

The SBJ Forty Under 40 award was first established in 1999 to honor the most successful and promising executives in sports business under the age of 40. After reviewing hundreds of nominations, the final winners are chosen by a committee of SportsBusiness Daily/Global/Journal editors. The winners are then invited to bring family, friends, and those who have helped them in their career journey for a black tie awards ceremony. This year’s class includes executives from the NBA, NFL, ESPN, Chicago Cubs, MLB, Facebook, and AEG to name a few. 

What makes this year’s Forty Under 40 class so special, though, is Navigate’s very own president, AJ Maestas, has been selected to receive this impressive award. AJ’s tremendous work ethic combined with his natural ability to befriend anyone and everyone around him has allowed him to receive great success in his career and this has not gone unnoticed. Great career success does not come easy. As most sports industry professionals can attest to, it starts with numerous internships and extensive amounts of grunt work, but if you can stick it out by learning from every experience you encounter, networking with as many people as possible, and setting yourself apart from your peers, you may one day find yourself on the SBJ’s Forty Under 40 list. Congratulations, AJ!

Navigate's AJ Maestas named in SBJ's Forty Under 40 Class of 2015

Julie Frank - Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Forty Under 40: AJ Maestas

AJ Maestas

AGE: 38
COMPANY: Navigate Research
TITLE: President/founder
WHERE BORN: Fairbanks, Alaska
EDUCATION: University of Washington (B.A., finance), Arizona State University (MBA)
FAMILY: Wife, Lacey

CAUSE SUPPORTED: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago.
MOST THRILLING/ADVENTUROUS THING I'VE EVER DONE: It was either when I left Alaska for good or a more recent safari in South Africa. They were both sort of dangerous. 
IF I COULD CHANGE JOBS WITH ANYONE FOR A DAY, IT WOULD BE: The athletic director at the University of Washington. Being UW AD is my dream job.
2015 WILL BE A GOOD YEAR IF: My family, friends and myself enjoy good health.


The 2007-09 recession was the best thing that ever happened to AJ Maestas’ career. As one of the few research agencies specializing in sports marketing, his Navigate Research’s offerings were suddenly in demand.

“We filled a critical need at exactly the right time,” said Maestas, whose Chicago-based firm 
has grown since 2006 to around 20 people, with clients including the NBA, MLS, ESPN, NBC, Fox, TNT, Anheuser-Busch/InBev, Farmers Insurance and Southwest Airlines.

Maestas grew up in the Fairbanks suburb of Moose Creek, Alaska, (population: 747) without electricity or a telephone but with sled dogs. A “burning desire” to get out impelled him to the University of Washington. There, he fell in love with collegiate athletics, and a meeting with Gary Barta, then UW’s senior associate athletic director and now AD at the University of Iowa, set him on the path of working in sports.

An MBA at Arizona State and some experience working a NASCAR sponsorship for freight company YRC Worldwide showed Maestas the need for better measurement. Navigate was born shortly thereafter.

An early client was the Sacramento River Cats, who needed an independent valuation of their naming rights. “AJ has this ability to break down the raw data and show how they really demonstrate value,” said former River Cats senior vice president of business development Darrin Gross, now senior director of partnership marketing and business development at the Sacramento Kings.

An assignment from the NFL helped establish credibility for Navigate, and in recent years, the firm’s annual growth rate has exceeded 25 percent. Last year, the agency did 140 studies for 100 entities, and the next move for Navigate (and for Maestas) is to Australia, where the firm already has clients.

— Terry Lefton

The "B" Word in Higher Education

Navigate Research - Friday, March 13, 2015

Written by Jackie Schetter 

Earlier this week Mark Cuban brought attention to the announcement that Sweet Briar College would be closing its doors when he tweeted, "This is just the beginning of the college implosion."  ESPN, Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, NPR and multiple other news outlets have also picked up the story or chimed in on the unfortunate situation.  Cuban has expressed his concern for funding in the higher education space for a few years, as evidenced by his creation of, a site that tracks student loan debt.

With student loan debt on the rise and many public universities feeling the crunch of state budget cuts on an annual basis, administrators are under a lot of pressure to fix this problem.  This problem being - how to successfully operate on less without displacing the burden on the students by raising tuition.  This is a tall task but as the saying goes, there is no education like adversity.
While use of the "B" word has traditionally been discouraged in higher education, the call to action here is for universities to start operating like Businesses.  While the number one priority of schools should be to maintain the integrity of their mission and the delivery of education, they do need to start thinking like and operating like a business if they want to remain relevant and keep their doors open.

One key area that is being underutilized by most schools is the purchasing and procurement process.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over $450 billion are being spent annually by post-secondary institutions on a wide array of products and services.  By nature, the RFP (Request for Proposal) process is very stiff and transactional.

Navigate Research is working to reinvent the RFP and transform it into more of a "Request for Partnership," which would create a two-way, living and breathing partnership opportunity.  Between a dozen or so key procurement categories, universities can raise millions of extra dollars per year by harnessing the power of their loyal communities (faculty, staff, students, alums, etc.) and delivering the full package to their vendors.

Sponsorship Activation Monday - 3.9.15

Navigate Research - Monday, March 09, 2015
Each Monday, we will share some great activation practices throughout the sports and entertainment landscape. This blog will serve as a space to highlight innovative ideas and campaigns. Want to have your idea or campaign featured? Send us a note on Twitter at @Navigate_Res

Today, Samsung Canada announced a sponsorship deal with the NHL to be an official corporate partner. However, they are looking to get more than just exposure out of their sponsorship. Brands today are looking to use sports sponsorships to generate content tying in both the brand name and associated sponsorship in order to enhance their overall impact. 

Samsung Canada is leveraging their sponsorship with the NHL by allowing Samsung smartphone users who download the NHL app exclusive access to videos that other phone carriers are not allowed to access, including edited footage from the NHL's "Situation Room," where officials review videos on disputed calls. After a call is made, Samsung users will also be able to view a video explaining how the officials reached their decision on the play call. 

Senior Vice President of the KMAC Group marketing consultancy, Keith McIntyre, says, "Samsung's products fit with how people consume games. People want to be able to stream, and it allows Samsung to truly showcase how their products can be brought to life." 

While Samsung's deal also includes sponsorship of a blog on, the exclusive content they are receiving is the most vital element because it reflects broader sports sponsorship trends. Fans our looking to experience a brand through content, rather than simply viewing their logo in an arena or on TV. Sponsors nowadays must build experiential marketing elements into their sponsorship packages in order to gain greater impact.