Ascendent Sports Group is a dynamic, full-service marketing agency focused on innovative sponsorship sales, brand consulting, and event management and production within the global sports and entertainment sectors.

We develop and monetize sponsorship platforms on behalf of our property partners, driving increased revenue and measurable results.

We leverage our unparalleled position at the nexus of sports, entertainment and technology to deliver effective and strategic consulting.

We connect leading brands with established and emerging properties to uniquely engage consumers and fans.

Stephen M. Ross
Co-Founder
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Stephen M. Ross
Co-Founder

Stephen M. Ross is the Chair and Founder of Related Companies, an international real estate firm that has developed over $22 billion in property and owns real estate assets valued at over $20 billion. Mr. Ross is also the owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, a franchise that has become one of the most fan-friendly under his leadership.

In 2012, Mr.Ross partnered with Matt Higgins to found RSE Ventures, a multi-national technology, sports and entertainment venture firm. As the Chair of RSE, Mr.Ross has overseen a number of initiatives including: an investment partnership with Gary Vaynerchuk, the incubation of five distinct businesses, and the creation of the International Champions Cup; a global pre-season soccer tournament.

In addition to this, Mr.Ross serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Equinox Holdings, Inc. and a trustee of Lincoln Center. He is also a trustee of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Throughout his career, Mr.Ross has received numerous awards and honors for his business, civic, and philanthropic activities. Most recently, he was named a New York Power Player by the New York Times, the Most Powerful Person in New York Real Estate by the New York Observer, Multi-Family Property Executive of the Year by Commercial Property News, and Housing Person of the Year by the National Housing Conference.

Mr.Ross graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in Business Administration and later received his JD from Wayne State University Law School. In 2004, the University of Michigan honored Mr.Ross by renaming their business school to the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

 

Matt Higgins
Co-Founder
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Matt Higgins
Co-Founder

Matt Higgins serves as both the Vice Chairman of the Miami Dolphins and the CEO of RSE Ventures.

In 2012, with co-founder Stephen Ross, he launched RSE Ventures, an international sports, entertainment and technology venture firm. As CEO, he has founded several successful companies including Derris & Company and Catalyst Media Group. He is also one of the founders of the International Champions Cup, a global pre-season soccer tournament that was broadcasted to over 600 million households in 2014. In addition to building businesses, Higgins actively invests as a partner at Vayner/RSE, an early stage venture fund created in partnership with serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

Prior to RSE, Higgins worked as the EVP of Business Operations at the New York Jets where he transformed the team’s profile through social media and non-traditional brand extensions. He has also served as COO of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation where he was responsible for helping lead the rebuilding effort of the World Trade Center site.

Matt is also a board member of Autism Speaks where he leads the MSSNG project, a partnership with Google that aims to demystify autism through genetic sequencing and open science.

In 2008, Higgins was recognized in Sports Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 as one of the most outstanding executives in sports.

 

Bob Brennfleck
President and CEO
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Bob Brennfleck
President and CEO

As Ascendent’s leading executive, Bob brings more than twenty years of experience within the sport and entertainment sector.  Prior to joining Ascendent, he most recently served as the Vice President of Partnership and Media Sales for the New York Jets of the NFL.  During his twelve-year tenure with the Jets, Bob was a critical member of a sales division that took the franchise from the league’s lower quartile into its top five in overall gross partnership and media revenue.

Brennfleck has cultivated strong relationships with many top, global brands, which were built while he served in senior leadership positions across multiple professional sport and entertainment properties.  Bob has a strong passion and vision for Ascendent Sports Group and is driven to develop the business into a diverse agency enterprise that is responsive to its clients and regarded as one of the industry’s innovative strategy and thought leaders.

Bob earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Richmond and remains active within his alma mater’s alumni community.  He and his wife Karen are proudly raising their three sons; Ryan, Drew and Justin in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey.

Kevin O'Grady
Senior Vice President, Event Management and Production
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Kevin O'Grady
Senior Vice President, Event Management and Production

Kevin O'Grady joined Ascendent in 2015 as a Senior Vice President and is responsible for Event Management and Event Production. For over 20 years he has worked in event design, management and operations.  Kevin comes to Ascendent from Populous, the largest sports focused architecture firm in the world. Prior to Ascendent he has worked on Super Bowls, Pro Bowls, NCAA Final Fours and hundreds of other events. For 8 years he managed the team working on the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.  

O'Grady has extensive experience in all areas of event planning, management, design, operations, ownership, television production, marketing, budgeting, and project management. His responsibilities include project master planning, strategic project development, project management and project programming. Kevin has extensive experience in designing and building events and facilities around the globe and most enjoys unique and unusual builds.

Before working with Populous, Kevin worked for Octagon, Speed Channel, Outdoor Life Network and ESPN.  Kevin lives in Lloyd Harbor, New York with his wife and two children.

Doug Hall
Senior Vice President, Head of Consulting
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Doug Hall
Senior Vice President, Head of Consulting

As Ascendent's head of corporate and property consulting, Doug brings over twenty years of experience successfully helping brands and rights holders maximize their value from sponsorship.  A leader with unique experience on the client, property and agency side of the business, Doug brings clients a proven ability to achieve and exceed objectives.  A skilled negotiator, Hall has led countless negotiations throughout his career, including local, regional and national sponsorship and media agreements. 

Prior to Ascendent, Hall was Vice President, GD at Team Epic, where he led strategy and negotiation for best-in-class corporate clients such as FedEx, Mars, ConAgra and Gillette.  He was also instrumental in the new business process, leading several key wins and contributing to the selection of Epic as Agency of the Year by the Sports Business Journal.

Before joining Epic, Hall held the position of Director, Marketing Services at Monster.com, where oversaw the Olympic and NCAA sponsorships in addition to marketing promotions and licensing. His work at the NCAA Men's Final Four in 2004 was recognized by industry peers in a survey conducted by the Sports Business Daily.

Prior to Monster, Doug worked at the U.S. Olympic Committee, where he was responsible for guiding advertising, brand development, creative services and market research efforts as Associate Director of Brand Marketing.

Doug holds an MBA from the University of Oregon and a BA in Psychology from the University of Washington. He lives in Fairfield, CT with his wife Shelley and two children, Sierra and Jack.

Chris Brahe
Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships
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Chris Brahe
Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships

Chris Brahe joins Ascendent with over two decades of sales experience, within the sports and entertainment sector.  Chris served the last ten years with Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, where he held the role of SVP-Global Partnerships.  He led the integrated sales team and managed cross-platform sales, while also leading the efforts for the sale of Barclays Center Founding and Legacy partnerships.  Prior to Brooklyn, Chris held various sales positions at NASCAR over a six year tenure.  He got his start in the sports industry, with the New Jersey Nets, in their ticket sales unit.

Chris brings a wealth of experience and leadership skills to Ascendent.  He is committed to creating a strong, productive sales environment, rooted in professionalism and true teamwork. Chris resides in NYC with his wife Patty and two boys Tyler and Owen

Gordon Kane
Group Vice President, International Consulting
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Gordon Kane
Group Vice President, International Consulting

Gordon most recently was the Founder of Victory Sports Marketing. He combines the discipline and structure of brand management with over 20 years of sports marketing experience with world class sponsors and Properties. His marketing background includes an MBA from Kellogg (Northwestern) and several assignments in brand management at Kraft.

His work within the Olympic Movement is without compare.  He is the only person in the United States who has held leadership positions at the United States Olympic Committee, a US Bid City, A US Host City and consulted for two current USOC sponsors (Deloitte and USG). His work for Olympic sponsors includes areas such as overall strategy, program development, employee engagement and metrics.

Outside of Olympic work he has worked with brands such as Gillette, Sprint, Umbro, and Dodge to help them leverage major investments in sponsorships. In addition, he has worked directly for Properties such as The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, The National Football League, The ATP Tour and Manchester United.

In Brand Management with Kraft General Foods, Gordon worked on some of America’s largest brands, including Miracle Whip, Parkay, and Kraft Barbecue Sauce, managing multi-million dollar advertising, promotion and research budgets.

Peter Honig
Vice President, Consulting
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Peter Honig
Vice President, Consulting

As Vice President, Corporate and Property Consulting, Peter brings over 15 years of leadership with experience at the league, team and agency level.  Honig has a diverse background having worked at Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment, the National Hockey League, Mandalay Baseball Properties and Pricewaterhouse Coopers.  Honig has represented numerous clients including MetLife, Minnesota Vikings, Verizon, Allstate, Wendy’s and York across MLB, MiLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and PGA Tour events.

Prior to joining Ascendent, Honig was a Vice President at Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment where he was responsible for overall client strategy, design and development across a broad range of sports and entertainment properties. 

Honig was recognized by the NYU Sports Business Society as Ambassador of the Year and he currently serves as an adjunct faculty member for the Tisch Institute of Sports Management, Media and Business.

Peter holds a B.A. from Amherst College and an M.S. in Sports Business Management from New York University.  He currently resides in Manhattan with his wife Vanessa and son Cameron.

Charles Gould
Vice President, Head of Executive Search
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Charles Gould
Vice President, Head of Executive Search

Charles established Ascendent’s Executive Search practice, where he works with sports and entertainment properties, financial institutions and corporations, advising on and executing retained search assignments as well as providing consulting projects and mentorship programs.

Charles most recently led the sports practice at Lygon Group in London, where he worked extensively with sports organizations across the UK, Continental Europe and North America. Prior to Lygon, he was the European associate for the Sports Practice at RSR Partners. His experience includes assignments in Europe, the United States and Canada across a broad range of sports including football, golf and the Olympics. He has worked in New York and Houston, where he focused on financial risk management and energy and commodities trading. He has executed multiple searches for banks such as Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan as well as multinational organizations including Shell and BP.

Jeff Lesser
Vice President, Global Partnerships
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Jeff Lesser
Vice President, Global Partnerships

Jeff is the Vice President of Global Partnerships, with a focus on developing new partnerships for Ascendent Sports Group’s growing family of represented properties, including the Miami Dolphins, International Champions Cup, Motivate/Bike Share, Hudson Yards, College Football Playoffs and the ACC Conference.

Prior to joining Ascendent, Jeff was Director of Corporate Partnerships for the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was a major contributor to a team that led the NFL in year-over-year sponsorship growth. Before that, Jeff was Director of Global Partnerships at Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, where he helped to shepherd the successful relocation of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn and oversaw the widely heralded opening of the state-of-the-art Barclays Center. Jeff began his career in ticket sales with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues.

Jeff graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis and currently resides in New York City.

TJ CIRO
Senior Director, Global Partnerships
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TJ CIRO
Senior Director, Global Partnerships

At Ascendent, TJ is the Sr. Director of Global Partnerships with a focus on driving revenue for the ICC & Relevent Sports.  Before joining Ascendent, TJ was Director of New Business Development for sister-agency Relevent Sports, where he developed and maximized new and current revenue streams for the International Champions Cup.

Prior to his time with the RSE Ventures family, TJ was Director of Team Partnerships at Madison Square Garden driving revenue for the Knicks, Rangers and the other sports and entertainment properties under the MSG umbrella. Earlier in his career, TJ sold sponsorships for the Philadelphia Eagles, premium inventory for the New York Yankees and helped build the Intelligence platform at Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.

TJ graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing.

Stephanie Marciano
Vice President, Client Management
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Stephanie Marciano
Vice President, Client Management

At Ascendent, Stephanie heads up client relations, including brand strategy, pitch development, project management and activation fulfillment.

Stephanie joined Ascendent Sports Group in June 2014 after spending 3 years with ESPN Sales and Marketing focused on brand positioning and strategic storytelling across platforms and sport properties. She managed pre-sale marketing initiatives for leading global brands such as Diageo, AT&T, Pepsi, and Home Depot, and helped craft ESPN’s positioning of soccer and coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Prior to ESPN, Stephanie coached collegiate women’s basketball and played professionally in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. 

Marciano is a former Yale University student-athlete with an MS in Sports Business from Columbia University.  

Andrew Beilenson
Director, Global Partnerships
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Andrew Beilenson
Director, Global Partnerships

Prior to joining ASG, Beilenson was Senior Manager, Business Development at Major League Soccer / Soccer United Marketing, in which he helped lead the Global Sponsorship group in supporting the League and enterprise’s strategic priorities. At MLS / SUM, Beilenson was responsible for securing integrated corporate marketing partnerships for MLS, U.S. Soccer Federation, Mexican National Team and National Women’s Soccer League.

Previously, Beilenson held various senior sales positions at The NPD Group, which is a leading global market research and business solutions firm.

At Ascendent, Beilenson serves as Director, Sales and New Business Development. He is responsible for creating and packaging solution-based partnership marketing programs for ASG’s growing family of represented properties, including the Miami Dolphins, International Champions Cup, Motivate/Bike Share and the ACC Conference.

Beilenson earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. He and his family reside in Old Greenwich, CT.

 

Matt Jankowski
Director, Event Management and Production
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Matt Jankowski
Director, Event Management and Production

Matt comes from an extensive background of over 20 years in event planning, design, delivery, operations and management. Over the past 8 years he has been involved in the planning, design and delivery of large international multi-sport events, including the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, London 2012 Summer Olympics and recently the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.  In addition, he worked on the Toronto 2015 Pan-American Games and the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, where he was integral in the planning and delivery of the venues as well as the training and mentorship of the local teams to help them deliver and operate the venues.

Prior to Matt’s international work, he developed a diverse portfolio of event planning and operations experience in the U.S. working on several action sports events, alpine ski racing, NFL Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, Breeders Cup Horse Racing and various festivals.  Matt earned a degree from the University of Massachusetts in Sport Management and will be responsible for event planning, management, design and operations at Ascendent.

Nicole DeRoker
Senior Manager, Business Administration
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Nicole DeRoker
Senior Manager, Business Administration

Before joining Ascendent Sports Group in 2015 Nicole ran a variety of offices throughout her career, from the creation of RSE Ventures to an NFL team to an investment bank and movie studio. Nicole serves as Senior Manager of Business Administration responsible for all office operations at ASG. She brings over ten years of experience managing offices and business operations.

Julia Lavelle
Manager, Client Management
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Julia Lavelle
Manager, Client Management

Julia joins Ascendent Sports Group after spending three years with The Madison Square Garden Company. While at MSG, Julia managed the strategy and fulfillment of corporate partners and suite holder’s campaigns. She was involved in the development of a major renewal process and managed over $25 million in annual revenue. Prior to MSG, Julia worked for the New York Football Giants in their Marketing/ Production group. During her time there, she was responsible for show and content delivery to all major networks as well as ran the live entertainment in stadium. She was fortunate enough to be part of their 2011 Super Bowl run.

Julia is a former Division 1 Women’s Lacrosse student-athlete and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College. 

Niha Reddy
Manager, Client Management
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Niha Reddy
Manager, Client Management

Before Ascendent Sports Group, Niha interned at an experiential marketing agency, ignition, where she worked on several accounts including Coca Cola and Victoria’s Secret. She graduated from New York University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Management & Organizational Behavior.

Despite being a terrible athlete due to lack of coordination, Niha has always loved sports. When she is not working, she can be found reading, watching a movie, or planning out her next meal.

Michael Mueller
Manager, Client Management
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Michael Mueller
Manager, Client Management

Before joining ASG, Michael was an Assistant Media Buyer with Karlen Williams Graybill Advertising. He also interned for the New York Knicks and New York Liberty at The Madison Square Garden Company, where he was a member of the Event Presentation/Game-Day Operations team.  He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Management from Northeastern University in 2014.  While in Boston, he completed his last internship at John Hancock Financial, where he was involved in the sponsorship of the 2013 Boston Marathon.  

A fan of comically-unsuccessful sports franchises, Michael can often be found watching his favorite teams lose, attending live music events, or playing sports.

Sean Gannon
Account Executive, Global Partnerships
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Sean Gannon
Account Executive, Global Partnerships

Sean Gannon joins Ascendent in the summer of 2016 after a six-month stint in sponsorship sales at Fenway Sports Management in Boston. Before that, he worked for the only nationally syndicated sports program on public radio, Only A Game. 

At Ascendent, Sean will be an Account Executive in the Global Partnerships department, working to develop new relationships while driving revenue across the various properties that fall under the ASG umbrella.  

 Sean earned a bachelor's degree from Brown University where he played baseball for two years before realizing that a future in the business of sports was far more realistic than one in the Majors. Sean is hoping that New York City proves welcoming, even though he's a Massachusetts native and not shy about being a diehard Boston sports fan!

Michael Gutman
Coordinator, Global Partnerships
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Michael Gutman
Coordinator, Global Partnerships

Before joining ASG, Michael worked at Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, where he interned for the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders. While in Brooklyn, he worked alongside the Partnership Marketing & Partnership Sales teams, assisting with new lead generation and activating existing partnerships. He previously interned with the Madison Square Garden Company, where he worked with the media team. Michael graduated from Syracuse University in May of 2016 with a B.S in Sport Management.

Michael is an avid sports fan and was the catcher on the Syracuse Club Baseball team. He is often found surfing the beaches of Long Island and spending time out on the water.