Keith Bruce, Illinois ’87, has spent more than three decades promoting some of the world’s best-known brands through sporting events. He’s worked with the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, and he recently completed a three-year term as CEO of Super Bowl 50. Now, he’s leading the fan experience for Formula One as the recently acquired racing series sets its sights on transformational growth and a wider audience base.
When Bruce accepted SigEp’s Citation award at its 2017 Conclave, he reflected on how his college years with the Fraternity had influenced his life and career. “It taught me how to live, learn, love and lead,” Bruce said. “To aspire to do more, do more for others, not always for yourself, and to never settle — to work as a team and realize it is all about people and getting the most out of every relationship you have.”
After graduating with a degree in marketing, Bruce entered the management trainee program at the Leo Burnett advertising agency, one of the industry’s most highly coveted programs among recent graduates. His big break came just a few years into his career when he was tapped to promote national events such as the Virginia Slims tennis tour and Marlboro’s Formula One auto racing. The assignment was his introduction to building a client’s brand through a sporting event.
Bruce eventually moved on to advertising agency BBV, where he was made a vice president. There, he oversaw Gatorade’s iconic ads featuring basketball star Michael Jordan and managed the brand’s professional and collegiate sports partnerships. The experience with BBV solidified his love of sports marketing, and he convinced his next firm, Foote, Cone & Belding, to launch a department focused on sports.
As one of the top professionals in a rapidly growing sector, Bruce was a natural choice when Omnicom, the world’s largest advertising and marketing agency, needed a global head of sports marketing. In 2006, he was named president of the company’s SportsMark unit. At the time, SportsMark primarily worked with clients on promotions related to the Olympic Games. Under Bruce, the firm quadrupled its business by expanding to other events, including the PGA tour, FIFA World Cup, NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl.
Bruce’s experience working with clients on sponsorships for multiple Super Bowls and Olympic Games made him the perfect candidate to serve as CEO of the Super Bowl 50 host committee. When he was chosen for the job in 2014, none of the details for hosting the event had been planned. Bruce got to work developing budgets, selecting vendors, and managing all the hotel, security and transportation logistics needed to accommodate the influx of fans that would descend on the San Francisco Bay Area. His keen attention to detail resulted in a hiccup-free game day.
With a vision to take the event to a new level, Bruce also set out to extend the Super Bowl 50 experience beyond the game itself. Super Bowl City gave fans the opportunity to celebrate their love of football through various exhibits and activities against the backdrop of San Francisco’s famed Market Street. The free, nine-day festival was enjoyed by more than a million visitors.
It wasn’t just about fun and games, though. Using the theme “Big Game Bigger Impact,” Bruce also worked with his team to bring social relevance to the event. The 50 Fund provided more than $13 million in grants to area nonprofits to ensure that Super Bowl 50 would benefit Bay Area residents of all backgrounds.
Today, Bruce has followed up his Super Bowl success with a new role as president of QuintEvents International and its joint venture with Formula One, F1 Experiences. Formula One changed ownership in 2017, and the new management firm, Liberty Media, is eager to see the sport grow. Bruce is running the official ticket and travel package programs as well as the on-site programming and hospitality products for the global racing series.
Bruce believes Formula One — which has 20 races this season on every continent except Africa and Antarctica — is entering a transformational period in its history. “That’s one of the magic words that attracted me to this opportunity … the transformational aspect,” Bruce said. “I’m a growth-oriented type of CEO, and joining a company that’s poised for transformational growth was a major goal on my checklist.”