SME5Q is our discussion forum with various industry leaders, where we ask five thought-provoking, brand-related questions about their areas of expertise.

SME5Q Title


Tod Leiweke was named CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Pete Times Forum in July 2010. Prior to joining the Lightning, Leiweke was the CEO of the Seattle Seahawks and Vulcan Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the Seahawks, Sounders FC, the Portland Trailblazers and the Rose Bowl. Leiweke also served as President of First and Goal, Inc., the managing arm of Qwest Field and the Event Center for the state of Washington.


Leiweke’s dedication and commitment to winning in the stadium/on the field is evident with every position he’s held.  With the Seahawks, he was instrumental in forming the “Spirit of 12” Partnerships which linked several organizations together for various community-based projects.

Leiweke also served as President of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, CEO of Minnesota Sports & Entertainment and had executive positions with the PGA Tour, the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

SME sat down with Tod to discuss his plans for the Tampa Bay Lightning, sports and philanthropy, his favorite brands and how he’s adjusting to the climate change in sunny Florida.


If you were to stand alone on the stage at TED, just you and a microphone, what would you speak about?


I’d definitely talk about earning the right to give back. The most gratifying part of my job has been working in communities and working on platforms where I have the opportunity to give back - ultimately that’s what makes the world go around. Developing the connections between teams and communities has been the best part of my career.  That would be my defining moment.


Outside of the brands that you've worked for, what brand would you say is the greatest? Nike or Apple please...


I really admire the Ford Motor Company.  The company was on the verge of slipping away, but they connected to the values that originally founded the company.  Alan Mulally (CEO) stepped in without any government subsidy, and he got people to buy back into the values that were the origin of the company and it’s become the brand we know and love again.  I also admire Starbucks. At one point, people predicted the demise of this amazing company, but they have taken it back to a really good place.  Starbucks has changed the way we drink coffee and how we perceive coffee houses – turning it into a high-end accessory and a gathering spot for social and intellectual interactions. It’s a modern-day brand that just continues to amaze me.  


How would you compare the challenges you faced taking over the reigns at Vulcan Sports, to the challenges you face today in Tampa Bay?


Many of the challenges are not dissimilar.  With the Seahawks, we focused on the brand, the fans and the community and that’s what we’re going to do here.  Where they differ comes down to the make-up of the brand and its different components.  I’ve made a living based on the understanding that sports provide hope and that hope extends to the communities we serve. That’s what we’re going to do here.  In Seattle we created a relationship with players and fans.  Our involvement as front office staff sort of faded into the background and it became a one-on-one relationship with players and fans and we’ll try to accomplish the same thing here in Tampa Bay.


Given the speed of changes taking place in digital and social media, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing teams and league’s ability to engage fans in meaningful ways?


Technology has definitely changed, but the challenges remain the same, which is mindshare.  It used to be more difficult to reach consumers and with the advent of,  first overnight delivery, which became interim technology, and now the evolution and changes with the internet and all sorts of social media,  it’s become a little less difficult.  Still the challenge is mindshare and fighting for that with consumer. You’ve got to have a brand that’s relevant and easy for consumers to reach.


We understand that back in Seattle you were a “monster” mountain climber.  How do you feel about trading in your hiking boots for flip flops?


I climbed Mt. Rainier a couple of times, but I’m not a monster, yet!  It’s been really fun to come down from Washington to a completely different climate here in Tampa Bay. I get a chance to do things I wouldn’t normally do like wake up in the morning to watch the waves in the bay.  I’ve seen dolphins and all kinds of ocean life right in my “back yard.”


Life is a journey and this is a really cool and interesting one. It’s a really welcoming community and a really nice and beautiful place to live… we’re surprised at how much we like it in such a short amount of time!