Founder & Principal
Ladd founded Champion Management in Aug. 2002 and has since helped build the Dallas-based firm into one of the largest and most respected boutique public relations agencies in the Southwest. Champion represents a blue-chip roster of clients spanning multiple industries on both a local and national level, with a heavy emphasis on restaurant brands. Champion was ranked the 17th largest foodservice agency in the U.S., and the 5th-largest PR Agency in Texas in 2016.
Over his nearly 30-year career, Ladd has distinguished himself as an award-winning marketer, publicist and writer with strong creative and leadership skills.
Prior to forming Champion, he was one of the most recognized and fast-tracked junior executives at American Airlines. As Director of Worldwide Sales Promotion, Ladd developed and executed the strategy that made American the world’s seventh most-prolific corporate sports sponsor. His unconventional deals with the NFL, NBA, NCAA, America’s Cup, U.S. Ski Team and World Cup ’94 established Ladd as one of the “deans” of corporate sports marketing in the early 1990s.
Recruited to the National Association of Manufacturers in 1992, Ladd served as the powerful business group’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Member Communications & Services for nearly a decade. Within a year of his arrival, he helped reverse the NAM’s steady membership and revenue declines and began a multi-year run of record growth and profitability. In 1994, the NAM’s Board of Directors appointed Ladd to the additional role of President of The Manufacturing Institute; and in 1995, he earned a prestigious Silver Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America for his comprehensive campaign marking the NAM’s Centennial year.
During the NFL season, Ladd moonlights as a nationally syndicated fantasy football columnist. He was voted “Football Writer of the Year” by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2010 and 2011 (and was a Top 3 finalist in 2012, 2013 and 2016). His columns appear in roughly a dozen major dailies — including The Dallas Morning News, Chicago Sun-Times and San Francisco Chronicle – and on his popular Fantasy Fools blog.
Ladd was nominated for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing for a series of op-eds he authored on the perils of urban gas drilling. His columns helped galvanize his hometown of Flower Mound to replace the Mayor and pro-drilling majority on the Town Council and thwart the objectives of the powerful Oil & Gas industry.
He is also co-owner of the popular Grapevine Wine Tours, which has been offering daily, year-round excursions to the award-winning wineries of Grapevine since 2010.
A native of Coral Gables, Fla., and graduate of Baylor University (BBA, 1984) and Harvard Business School (MBA, 1987), Ladd and his beautiful wife of 26 years, Shelly, are the proud parents of Shane, Spencer, Preston and Victoria. He enjoys playing racquetball, traveling, reading and cheering on his beloved Miami Dolphins.
Eric is an expert in small business growth and retail/consumer marketing. Over the last 15 years, Eric has taken struggling companies and turned them into strong, profitable businesses using his sales, marketing and customer service expertise. Eric is also a passionate fan of LSU football.
Senior VP of Marketing
Russell Ford brings more than 30 years of corporate marketing and advertising agency experience to his role as Senior Vice President of Marketing for Champion Management. Successful brand building and marketing expertise are the cornerstones of his career as evidenced with his repositioning work for two major brands, America West Airlines and Reliant Energy. He is a marketing strategist who grasps the big picture but focuses on details and integration.
Russell’s marketing background has been primarily focused in highly competitive retail and service categories. in addition to being a strategic visionary, he embraces the chance to brainstorm to find creative solutions to issues or challenges. idea generation is a core strength and is viewed as a critical component for marketing plans.
Russell — or Rusty as he is known to his friends — has a passion for developing creative and highly effective marketing campaigns. He has supervised the development of numerous domestic and international marketing campaigns for brand building or tactical purposes. and targeted both consumer and business audiences. He has worked closely with some of the most creative marketing agencies in the world including DDB, Publicis & Hal Riney and The Richards Group.
Rusty is especially adept at sponsorships and sports marketing as he has been involved with sports for most of his career. He is able to identity. evaluate. negotiate and activate targeted sports sponsorships, titling rights, promotions. entertainment marketing and special events. One of his proudest accomplishments is negotiating the largest and most comprehensive sports venue naming rights deal known as Reliant Park. He also directed American Airlines‘ largest and most complex sponsorship program – World Cup soccer. This included coordination with numerous governing bodies and other sponsors, overseeing a 22-department task force and executing marketing programs across the globe.
Rusty is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a double major in Marketing and Finance, and a minor in Advertising. Post graduation, Rusty started his marketing communication career by working for three advertising agencies in account service. Agency experience includes The Richards Group, Ackerman & McQueen and Temerlin McClain. The education was invaluable as he learned how to maximize agency relationships. This proved to be beneficial when he jumped to the client side in 1990.
Rusty worked for more than seven years at American Airlines overseeing both advertising and promotions. He was then recruited to America West Airlines to reposition and polish the brand post-bankruptcy. Rusty was recruited to Reliant Energy in 1999 as its first vice president of advertising and brand equity as it was shedding a regulated mentality to start competing for customers in electricity and telecommunications.
On the personal front, Rusty has been happily married to his college sweetheart since 1990 and is the proud father of two ambitious sons. He likes to volunteer his time to charitable efforts and at his church. Personal hobbies include golf, fly fishing and college sports.
VP of Media Relations
Prior to joining Champion in Feb. 2017, Jami was the Director of Corporate Communications for RAVE Restaurant Group, the parent company for more than 300 Pie Five Pizza Co. and Pizza Inn restaurants operating domestically and internationally. Jami is a self-professed news junkie and skilled storyteller with a public relations and communications career spanning more than 20 years. She has spearheaded all aspects of communications from media training and messaging to brand positioning and crisis communications. Prior to joining RAVE, Jami was the Director of Public Relations for Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants where she guided the brand through a period of unprecedented growth and evolution. Before that, she was a feature writer and entrepreneur, forming and operating her own branding and marketing practice. Through her corporate communications, PR agency endeavors and independent work, Jami has earned a reputation as a creative and savvy industry leader in omni-channel communications, corporate reputation strategies that maximize management and consumer engagement.
Media Planner & Buyer
Paul has more than 30 years in Media Planning and Buying; working with Tracy Locke, DDB Needham, Integer and now a Principal of straTact Media Group, LLC. Paul has extensive experience in national, regional and local media planning, research and negotiating across broadcast, print, out-of-home and digital, as well as knowledge across many business categories such as retail, manufacturing, financial, packaging goods, casual dining/QSR and gaming.
Clients have included Frito-Lay, Coors, Mrs Baird’s, Borden Dairies, Phillips Petroleum, Mcllhenny, Ben Hogan, Haggar, La Quinta, The Dallas Morning News, Brink’s Home Security, 7-Eleven and Harrah’s Casinos.
Career highlights include winning an Effy Award for Texas Commerce Bank (Chase), sports negotiations for Haggar, Coors, Ben Hogan and The Dallas Morning News; and the development and leadership of a dedicated Merchandising team for Harrah’s Casinos.
Paul grew up in Dallas and received his BA degree from the University of Houston and MFA from Southern Methodist University. He and his wife Melissa, have one daughter, Sarah. He enjoys golf, live music and attending sports events.
Director of Client Services
Courtney Mazzella is one of Champion’s true superstars. She leads the agency’s proprietary Local Store Marketing efforts on behalf of several clients, helping to create buzz, build awareness and generate goodwill at the local market level before, during and after New Restaurant Openings. She is equally adept at media outreach, regularly scoring hits for our clients.
Courtney is a graduate of the University of North Texas School of Business. During college, she was actively involved in her sorority, Sigma Kappa. After graduation, she became a general ledger accountant for Dallas Tigermark, LP, where she helped develop and lead the marketing department. This included managing social media, event planning and branding for the company’s automotive clients.
In August 2011, Courtney joined the Champion Management team as a marketing specialist, working directly with clients to develop and enhance their social media, design ads, plan events and boost their visibility in the marketplace. Over the years, she has earned several promotions and become one of our most valuable players.
Senior Account Executive
Victoria Davis is a story teller, marketing maven and content curator. She joined the Champion team in July 2016 as a Senior Account Executive, bringing more than 10 years of experience creating traditional and digital marketing and public relations campaigns. She has worked in multiple business sectors — from nonprofit organizations to a smaller-sized company — and has also done consulting work in the retail and consumer spaces.
Victoria began her career as PR coordinator for the DFW Muscular Dystrophy Association chapter where she handled regional PR, marketing, events planning and the organization’s first social media campaign. She went on to serve as senior marketing manager at Volunteer Now where she handled all marketing and PR activities for the agency. Most recently, she managed digital marketing efforts for Imprimis Group, where she created and executed the first digital marketing strategy in the company’s 30-year history. Victoria attributes her marketing success to a journalistic background and strong writing foundation. She prides herself on her ability to navigate the dynamic world of marketing and public relations and find ways to share her clients’ stories through the appropriate medium.
Victoria is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma (BOOMER SOONER) with a major in journalism and minor in business. She went on to complete her MBA at the University of Texas – Arlington.
Champion’s wide variety of restaurant clients gives Victoria the opportunity to bond two of her passions – food and marketing. When’s she not busy creating strategies for clients, you can find her eating her way through North Texas as a lead writer and blogger for Dallas Food Nerd, burning off those meals at the gym and spending time with her family and friends.
Public Relations Director
Champion’s “Wizard of Words” joined the team in April 2016 as our Public Relations Specialist. Her passion for creativity brings a unique angle to every press release, alert and pitch she pens. That, paired with her team spirit and can-do attitude, enables her to keep our clients in headlines across the nation.
Brooke played soccer at the University of Central Arkansas, where she graduated with a Bachelors degree in public relations.
While in school, she worked as a marketing intern for the Law Offices of Alan LeVar. Prior to that, she was a social business strategy and analysis intern for Spredfast, a social media marketing company in Austin. While at Spredfast, she helped moderate content that appeared on over 800 FIFA.com pages.
After graduation she worked for Idea Grove as a public relations intern. She wrote press releases, blogs, media lists, buyer personas and participated in other marketing endeavors for Idea Grove’s clients.
When she’s not diligently working, you can find her hiking with her dog Gandalf or continuing her search for the best cheeseburger in Dallas.
Carina joined Team Champion in January 2017 as a college intern, and did such a great job we hired her on full-time in June. She attended Southern Methodist University, where she graduated in May with a B.B.A. in Marketing and a B.A. Spanish.
While at SMU, Carina worked for two years at The Dragonfly Agency in Dallas, where she managed models and actors. She then moved on from marketing people to marketing businesses at Norton Creative LLC in Houston. Having studied abroad in both Madrid and Sydney, Carina specializes in international marketing with a specific interest in the philosophy behind consumer behavior.
When she’s not at work, Carina hangs out with her adopted twin dogs and practices water sports of all kinds.
Leisha joined Champion in June 2016 as a college intern. She did such great work on our accounts that we decided to hire her on full-time in July 2017, after she graduated from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing.
Although her internship was social-media focused, Leisha is putting her degree to good use and officially joins Team Champion as a Marketing Specialist.
When she’s not in the office, Leisha enjoys taking photos, sharing a bottle of wine with friends or cuddling up to her Australian Shepherd, Scout, and watching a good movie.
Gabrielle joined Team Champion in Oct. 2017 as a Junior Account Executive direct from Manhattan, Kansas, where she graduated from Kansas State University in May 2017 and earned her degree in Mass Communications and Journalism.
While in school, Gabrielle worked as an intern with the U.S. Army in the public affairs office at Fort Riley. During her time at Fort Riley, Gabrielle managed the installation’s social media channels, assisted in media escorts, and wrote and edited articles for the 1st Infantry Division Post newspaper.
Outside of the office, Gabrielle spends her time attempting to blend in as a Dallas native and in hot pursuit of the best chips and queso Dallas has to offer.
Marilyn joined Team Champion in September 2017 as a Marketing Specialist. She attended The University of North Texas where she graduated in December 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in strategic communications.
Prior to joining Team Champion, Marilyn lived in Austin for two years where she worked as an assistant account executive for Bread & Butter Public Relations. During her time at B&BPR, she was responsible for drafting a variety of press materials – including press releases, media alerts, pitches and more – used to create brand awareness and maintain client relations. Before joining Bread & Butter, she worked for Leverage PR where she assisted with the production of SXSW’s Interactive conference.
When she’s not busy working, you can find Marilyn at a local concert or spending time with her unbelievably large family.