Posted At: March 20, 2013 11:00 P.M.
by Jessica Ruffin
There’s no question what college football team Steve Webster favors when one steps into his office. A framed and autographed Greg McElroy jersey hangs on one of the crimson-colored walls, along with several Alabama paintings. Across the room, a life-size Mark Ingram cutout stares down anyone who walks by. And if the décor wasn’t enough, the name of his company – Crimson Marketing and Public Relations – should convince even the most uninformed sports fan for which team he cheers. However, you wouldn’t expect this Crimson Tide-loving office to be located in the city of Trojans and Bruins – Los Angeles, Calif.
Webster is the president and CEO of Crimson Marketing and Public Relations, a sports and entertainment PR firm that Webster started in 2004.
“A lot of PR agencies created by an individual or partners are named after themselves,” Webster said. “I didn’t want to do that because I felt it was too self-serving.
“I did, however, want to name the agency after something that represented me and nothing represents me more than my passion for the Crimson Tide.”
Webster’s love for the Tide came naturally. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., and graduated from The University of Alabama with a degree in communication.
“After finishing school, I moved to Charlotte, N.C., and was lucky enough to get a job in PR working for both the Charlotte Hornets (NBA) and the Charlotte Coliseum, where the Hornets played,” Webster said. “It was great experience right out of school, and although I had wanted and hoped to become a sportscaster, I was happy to have a job in the world of sports.”
Webster’s passion for sports and hardworking personality led him to become the head of public relations for the Charlotte Heat, which is part of the co-ed professional tennis league, World Team Tennis.
This job paved the way to another job opportunity with a sports marketing firm in Los Angeles, Webster said. At the firm, he worked with professional Los Angeles-based sports teams, such as the Lakers, the Strings and the Kings.
“I was really lucky that I got a job in my field of interest right out of school,” Webster said. “I didn’t have to go through the same struggles as most people do when they finish college and are looking for the right job.”
In 2002, Webster married Stella Sampras, who currently serves as the head coach for the UCLA women’s tennis team. The couple would later become proud parents of twin girls, Sophia and Savannah. Webster would also go on to represent Stella’s brother — and tennis star — Pete Sampras upon the creation of his own PR agency.
Bringing some crimson to L.A.
After working for companies such as Fox Sports, Sony Pictures and Universal Studios, Webster created Crimson Marketing and Public Relations because he wanted to focus on both sports and entertainment public relations.
“No other agency in town was doing that then nor are they now,” Webster said. “There are plenty of other agencies in town that do both but all specialize in one or the other, while CMPR is equally focused on both worlds.”
CMPR’s clientele includes ESPN, “The Celebrity Aprentice,” the ESPY awards, “The Office,” Nike’s Winforever and “Nashville Star.” The company also works with athletes and entertainers, such as Greg McElroy, Eddie Cibrian, The Black Eyed Peas, Luke Walton and Matt Barnes.
Even though Webster and his team work with big names in the world of sports and entertainment, he said that he prefers the quality of their work to speak louder than anything.
“I built the brand on the quality of clients in the sports and entertainment worlds,” Webster said. “We have never, even to this day, advertised or promoted ourselves to gain business or accounts.”
Although CMPR’s client and employee lists have steadily grown over the years, Webster said he doesn’t want to lose a personal connection with his clients by expanding too fast.
“Given the economy the last few years, I don’t want CMPR to become too big, too fast, only to eventually lose business, collapse and fold,” Webster said. “I believe that there is something to be said for growing on a slow and steady scale and adding one or two employees a year and five-eight accounts a year, in addition to the long-standing accounts we already have, like ESPN.”
His advice: Intern!
John Swidzinski serves as CMPR’s manager of publicity and was hired by Webster after he interned for the company in 2009. He said that for him, Webster has served as a great mentor and teacher.
“Every day is something new; you never know what you’re going to get,” Swidzinski said. “But at the same time [Webster] is a great individual to learn from, because you are able to learn from his years of experience in the industry.”
For Webster, internships like Swidzinski’s are vital to being successful in today’s public relations field.
“I strongly believe that people who intern have a 75 percent better chance of getting a job after graduation than those who did not,” Webster said. “Internships are important, not so much anymore for even the experience, but for the invaluable connections that are made.
“Networking while in an internship and getting to know people already in the industry are the key to gaining a position in the same industry after finishing school.”
Webster’s own interns have enjoyed the opportunity to work star-studded events and also interact with Webster himself. Dustin Thaler is currently studying communication at Michigan State University and worked as an intern at CMPR this past summer.
“My favorite part of my internship with CMPR was the experience I got while working at the various events we put on,” Thaler said. “I enjoyed the teamwork we had to make sure every event was a success and every celebrity was pleased.”
Thaler called Webster “enthusiastic and ambitious,” and said he learned much from his experience.
“Working for Steve was great; there was a perfect balance of getting work done, but also having fun doing it,” Thaler said. “He knew how to keep the mood light, but when it was time to crack down and get things done, that point was clearly communicated.”