INDIANAPOLIS – Learfield Licensing Partners ushers in the new year bolstering its senior leadership as former Major League Baseball licensing chief Howard Smith will lend his expertise to a rapidly evolving business within one of the nation’s premier collegiate sports marketing companies. Senior Advisor Smith and newly appointed COO Eric Johnson join CEO Bob Bernard in directing strategic initiatives and ideation in support of Learfield Licensing Partners collegiate clients.
A 30-year sports marketing veteran, Smith most recently served 17 years as senior vice president, consumer product licensing for Major League Baseball Properties overseeing a 35-member staff. MLB’s consumer product business recognized triple digit growth rates during his league stint. Smith also spent six years with Reebok International as senior director, U.S. sports marketing, managing all professional sports league relationships including the negotiation of all respective licensing and sponsorship agreements.

“Howard is a true professional who knows this business inside and out,” said Bernard. “Without a doubt, we know he’ll provide valuable insight and outstanding guidance to Learfield Licensing Partners and look forward to teaming with him.”

Johnson joined Learfield Licensing Partners on January 4 from WinCraft, Inc., where he served 14 years with the licensed retail and promotional products leader. He was the company’s vice president of collegiate sales and marketing for four years and prior to that, held roles as WinCraft’s vice president of marketing; vice president of direct marketing; direct marketing and research manager; and business development manager. He also has 12 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and medical sales industry.

Learfield Licensing Partners has four office locations to support its collegiate clients nationwide. The company was unveiled in February 2015, marking the final step in a complete integration of the two separate businesses previously acquired by Learfield – Licensing Resource Group (LRG) and Strategic Marketing Affiliates (SMA).

“Our licensing area is always evolving as is the collegiate landscape, and we must ensure we’re in the best position possible to provide our clients with first-rate deliverables and ideas,” said Marc Jenkins, Learfield COO. “Eric, with his proven success at WinCraft and excellent reputation in the industry, will be an immediate asset to us particularly coming from a top licensee. Howard is extremely bright, having made a huge mark in the industry by essentially transforming MLB’s business by putting the brand and fan at the forefront. I knew him during my days with the Chicago White Sox and was thrilled when there was an opportunity for him to join us as senior advisor.”

Learfield Sports is a leader in collegiate sports marketing. In addition to managing multimedia and sponsorship rights for 120 collegiate programs, Learfield titles the prestigious Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup with award co-founders NACDA and USA Today. Representing collegiate institutions, conferences and arenas for their respective rights and sponsorship initiatives, Learfield not only offers these partners with licensing and trademark consulting but also professional concessions and ticket sales, digital platform expertise and venue and technology systems through its owned companies. To learn more, visit For more about Learfield Licensing Partners’ clients and services offered, visit