As President of TRINE, a boutique marketing agency based in Los Angeles, California, James Skubic has over a decade of international sponsorship experience, working major events like the Summer and Winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, the NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl. Most recently, he brought his talents to the Herbalife24 Triathlon Los Angeles, which made its return to race calendars in 2019.
We spoke to Skubic to learn more about his background in event activation and what advice he would give to someone starting out in the industry.
Tell us more about your career path. Was working in marketing and sponsorship management always in the cards for you?
I've been involved with sports marketing and event management from a very young age. My father worked at an agency his entire career that specialized in sports sponsorship management and hospitality, so that world was always something I was familiar with. I suppose I took to it quickly because I always enjoyed the controlled chaos and think-on-your-feet environment events inherently bring with them. Combine that with sports, and I was hooked. With this event, I also have had the opportunity to work with my father again, which has been a blessing.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
I think it's having the opportunity to work on a large project in my backyard. I was born in Santa Monica and grew up in California, but most of my career has been outside the U.S. with Olympic and World Cup sponsor programs and events. It's so nice to help bring something to life that impacts much of the city I was born in and now reside.
In 2019, the Herbalife24 Triathlon Los Angeles made its big return. What motivated that decision?
This was definitely something that Herbalife Nutrition propelled into reality. They were the presenting sponsor of the Los Angeles Triathlon in previous years, and I'm thrilled they made such an effort to return the triathlon to L.A. I hope the city and our participants agree.
How did you feel about the 2019 event? What did you learn that you wanted to take into 2020?
Being the first year back after a several year hiatus, 2019 was seen as a massive success. As with any event's first year—or any subsequent years for that matter—there was room for improvement, but overall, we were very happy with the outcome and reception from the triathlon community.
For 2020, we wanted to maintain what made our first year a success: the return of a high-quality participant goody bag, an engaging and fast course across the city and an iconic finish festival in the heart of Los Angeles at L.A. Live.
One goal of this year's pre-event build-up was to grow the training experience for our participants. Last year, we had a few group meet-ups which were fun and informative, but we think our participant community could benefit from even greater participation. This year, we're hoping to offer more group meetups, six-week training plans for different experience levels and generally more community events.
The pandemic has obviously affected the racing industry tremendously. How did your team respond, given your 2020 race was originally scheduled for May?
As event people, our day-to-day is typically fraught with challenges, hiccups or other unforeseen variables. Although the current pandemic might qualify as one of the largest and most impactful in recent history, our team has seen it as an opportunity to think creatively about how to execute the event later in the year, while providing participants a memorable outing in which to take in Los Angeles. We don't expect things will be back to normal in October, so we are planning accordingly and working within the city’s and health officials’ recommendations. At the end of the day, we're happy to still have the opportunity to bring this event to life in October.
What tools or strategies have been the most useful to you recently?
Just last month, we organized a two-week virtual challenge through ACTIVE's platform, and 100 percent of the small registrant fee went to our non-profit partner, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which funds type 1 diabetes research. All participants were entered to win a few special prizes, and we saw great engagement.
What advice would you give to somebody who is starting out in this industry?
Admittedly, it's a tough time to be starting in events, but we'll slowly see them return. People love sharing experiences, whether it's for sports, travel, family celebrations, concerts, etc. I've always loved this industry, because you're able to be a part of what brings people together and provide them with a memorable outcome.
Also, it never gets old. One month it's a sporting event and the next you're backstage helping a music festival come to life. One of my sayings about managing events is if your guests (or client) think what you do is easy, then you're doing a great job, because this job involves long hours, hard deadlines and pressure-filled work environments. It's not easy. I love it.
What do you want your race participants to remember the most?
There are so many different neighborhoods, communities, people, architecture and settings in L.A. that I'd urge our participants to spend a few moments taking it all in. There's no place like it, and starting in Venice and ending in Downtown provides a fantastic (and car-free) opportunity to experience the complex and diverse nature of the city.