I grew up in Evanston, son of two parents who went to Northwestern. The last place on earth I wanted to go for school was Northwestern. However, thank goodness fate led me to graduate from Northwestern University.
While at Northwestern, I met my business mentor who structured the deal to by Burns. I wanted to pay him back yet a wealthy investment banker is hard to find a gift for. After telling him I’ve racked my brain for what to get you to say thanks, he said don’t thank me. If you want to do something, start an intern program at Burns and help other NU students the way I helped you. That’s the best gift anyone could give me.
Twenty years and over 250 interns later, he was right. I’ve hosted dozens of NU students thru the years helping them confirm their passion in the entertainment, sports, and music fields. Every employee on our account service team interned at Burns.
David Burns founded what Burns is now as Burns Sports in 1970. On April fool’s day 1970, an opera buff who knew literally zero about sports founded Burns Sports. He was an entrepreneur boxed into an account exec role at McCann Erickson advertising. All his friends laughed and tried to stop him from quitting a premiere job but there was no stopping David Burns.
His idea was to fill a void; no one was the agent for the buyer. All the top celebrities had agents. So, he started keeping a database on note cards—how to reach celebs, who their agents are, how much they cost, interesting tidbits about their lifestyles, and offering that information and negotiation/representing them. He was THE pioneer in this role, the very first. Yet, his client service philosophy was simple and drove the company’s growth. Exceed a client’s expectations. Cliché? Yes. David had pure passion for living this each and every day. So did the family PR firm I worked for.
The tie that binds us all together is passion. Extreme passion for entertainment, music, sports celebrities and most importantly—client service. We have always wanted to be the best not the biggest. My mentor is most proud of the interview doors we’ve opened for interns elsewhere. Being the hub of a celebrity wheel allows us to develop deep relationships with agents, managers, publicist, ad agencies, public relations firms, large brands, sports teams, non-profits and others. An inside view of how these work and how Burns serves them cements where your passions lie. Knowing and learning where your passions are not is sometimes more important than learning where they are. Real life, hands on, close experience helps our interns find their niche while working with glamorous celebrities in exotic locales.
David Burns wasn’t a fool. He was an entrepreneur with passion for many things. May you find your passions and indulge them at work. Northwestern shaped my destiny and I am forever grateful to the alma mater. Nothing in business gives me more pleasure than opening an interview door previously closed and helping to shape an NU student’s career.
Burns Entertainment is an Evantson-based entertainment marketing firm specializing in celebrity procurement and music licensing for integrated campaigns, at local and global levels. Burns works with some of the biggest brands in the world and matches them to the right celebrity and music talent to be used in the entire marketing mix.
If you are interested in an internship with Burns Entertainment, log into SoConnect for more information and to apply!
Bob Williams is a ‘86 alum who majored in communication studies and has been the CEO/COO of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing since 1993. Prior to Burns, Williams worked seven years at a consumer product public relations firm.