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Why this CEO is rooting for the U.S. women’s soccer team in Rio

Aug 5, 2016, 12:10pm EDT

John George Senior ReporterPhiladelphia Business Journal

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Count Todd Leff among the fans rooting for Delran, Burlington County-native Carli Lloyd and the rest of the U.S. women’s national soccer team at the Rio Olympics.

    • Leff is CEO of Hand and Stone Massage, which hired Lloyd as a celebrity spokesperson last year shortly after her World Cup heroics that saw her score three goals in a 16-minute span and led her team to a victory in the finals over Japan.

      Enlarge

      Wikimedia Commons / Ilianabs

      The two-year deal officially began Jan. 1 of this year.

In an interview earlier this year, Leff talked to me about how the partnership came into being.

Leff, who became Hand and Stone Massage’s CEO during the summer of 2009, was previously the CEO at Aamco and Cottman Transmission, where he had experience working with celebrity endorsers ranging from actress Zsa Zsa Gabor to former Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

Based in Hamilton, N.J., Hand and Stone has 285 franchise locations in 29 states and Canada, including 45 in the Philadelphia region. The company plans to open another 60 franchises over the next six months.

“As we developed the Hand and Stone Massage brand, one of my goals was to find an empowered female athlete to represent the brand,” he said. “Our demographics showed 70 percent of our members are women and the [average] age was coming down as we were reaching a younger audience.”

Leff said a few months before the World Cup began, the company had started looked into potential spokeswoman candidates.

An Olympic snowboarder was considered.

Then they discovered Lloyd had been a Hand and Stone Massage member for several years. “She ticked off all the boxes in what we were looking for,” Leff said.

The company approached Lloyd’s representatives at the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles about three weeks before the international tournament began. Her representatives showed an interest, but said negotiations would have to wait until after the World Cup was over.

Leff was watching the World Cup finals at home when the player he hoped to secure as his company’s national women scored a goal.

A member of his executive team sent him a text message that simply read, “uh oh” with a dollar sign.

When she scored her second goal, Leff texted him back with the message her price tag might be going up even more.

When Lloyd scored her third goal, Leff figured his target had just priced herself out of his price range. “I thought we wouldn’t be able to afford her anymore,” he said.

That ended up not being the case.

“She was already engaged with the brand and wanted to talk with us,” Leff said. “We didn’t have to coach her on who we were. She had already bought in.”

Leff told the Philadelphia Business Journal this week that the sponsorship deal has included Lloyd, who is captain of the U.S. women’s team, appearing in a series of commercials for Hand and Stone that have aired nationally. Lloyd has also done speaking engagements for the company, and promoted Hand and Stone Message through social media.

“It’s been great; she has a huge following on social media,” Leff said. “Its been great for the brand. We have somebody who is a member playing in the Olympics. “

White the official ceremony marking the start of the Olympics is Friday night, Lloyd already scored the first goal of the Olympics in the U.S. team’s 2-0 victory over New Zealand Wednesday.

“You couldn’t ask for anything more,” Leff said.

Lloyd’s other endorsement deals include Visa, Nike and Comcast Corp’s Xfinity brand, and Ewing, N.J.-based NJM Insurance Co.

John George covers health care, biotech/pharmaceuticals and sports business.

 

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