Cliff Kaplan is chairman of Equity Sports Partners (ESP), a boutique sports marketing and media company, based in New York City, and launched in 2013. Previous to founding ESP, Kaplan served for many years as president and CEO of Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment, a leading sports marketing company and a division of Van Wagner Communications. Kaplan has been an industry leader for more than 25 years, holding senior-level management positions across leagues, networks, and sports marketing companies. For the better part of the past 20 years, he has helped launch, grow, and sell several sports marketing businesses and developed a reputation for successfully launching/building/expanding business by driving revenues and creating increased asset value.
In launching ESP, Kaplan’s focus is to evolve the traditional business model employed by sports marketing agencies which focuses largely on representation. Clients and business partners of ESP include WWE Network, IMG Media, Tough Mudder, Anthem Media, the World Series of Fighting and several international sports media organizations.
Prior to launching ESP, Kaplan served as president and CEO of Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment, which he joined in December 2005 when the company that he previously founded, Premiere Sports & Entertainment (PSE), was acquired by VWSE. At VWSE, Kaplan oversaw all aspects of the business, including the development of the business vision, full operational responsibility as well as oversight of investments and acquisitions. He expanded the business from what was initially an organization focused largely on the sale of television visible signage at major sports venues to what is today a diversified sports marketing and media company that now complements its roots in television visible signage with businesses focused on corporate consulting, sponsorship sales, media rights management, content production, and team and venue services.
PSE, a boutique sports marketing and television consultancy, harnessed Kaplan’s sports marketing and media experience working for and on behalf of leagues, networks, teams, and venues by creating an organization that was focused on providing sponsorship/media sales, media rights negotiations and corporate consulting services to those groups. In the span of four years, PSE had assembled a blue-chip roster of top sports property clients, accumulating a strong track record of success in delivering results and growing the businesses of its various clients.
After initially breaking into the industry as a sales executive at Madison Square Garden, Kaplan went on to hold senior executive positions at The Baseball Network, SFX Sports and the NBA. While at the NBA, Kaplan served as senior vice president, where he oversaw the sponsorship sales efforts for the NBA, WNBA, NBDL, and USA Basketball. Additionally, he was responsible for overseeing the advertising sales and management of the NBA’s television assets, serving as the key liaison for the league with its domestic television partners.
Kaplan, a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications, sits on the Advisory Council for the University’s sport management department. He is married with three children and resides in West Harrison, NY, in Westchester County.