The New Must-See TV

Will Funk ’94 connects brands with fans of live sports
by Bryan Wendell
The road to becoming the official sports drink of March Madness or pizza of the NBA on cable channel TNT runs through the New York office of Will Funk ’94.

As executive vice president of the Turner Sports division of WarnerMedia, Funk works with brands to design innovative, organic ways to reach target audiences through live sports.

Companies such as AT&T, Coca-Cola and Capital One want their names in front of the right customers at the right time, but doing that has become more challenging as the entertainment landscape expands. On a Thursday night 20 years ago, advertisers knew where to find everyone: at home watching Friends. But the practice of viewing a program at a scheduled time has largely vanished — with one exception: live sports.

“If you have a product launch on Friday, and there’s an NBA game on TNT on Thursday night, you need to be in front of those people on Thursday night,” Funk says. “There’s no substitute for that.”

Will Funk
Photo: Turner Studios
For Turner Sports, Will Funk ’94 strives to reach audiences through live sporting events.
Today’s brands want something else, too: integration into the fabric of the programming. That might mean play-by-play announcers talking up the fall’s biggest action movie during a timeout, or studio analysts eating a slice from Pizza Hut at halftime.

“They want it organic, and they want it seamlessly there for consumers to see,” Funk says.

Funk’s interest in sports began at Bucknell, where the political science major and inveterate Bison basketball fan knew he wanted to work on the business side of sports entertainment. After stops at the MSG Network and NBA, Funk joined Turner Broadcasting’s sports sponsorship division.

Through it all, Funk tapped into the reading, writing and people skills he first developed at Bucknell.

“Ours is a relationship business,” he says. “It’s all about communicating with your customers, your clients, your fans and your employees. Bucknell set the table for me really nicely.”