Arena Partners is a next generation consulting and experiential agency focusing on the intersection of growth and execution to help clients maximize the benefits of sponsorship, activation, and affinity programs.

The team has decades of experience working with global brands, governments, properties and talent, having delivered some of the most recognizable events in the world. Arena Partners’ most notable business entities include Chi-Town Rising, the Midwest’s marquee New Year’s Eve Celebration, and Exclusive Event Experiences (E3), a hospitality services and activation company delivering unique experiences, including upscale tailgate events at Chicago’s Soldier Field and elsewhere.


Growth Strategy

  • Corporate Growth - defining and delivering aggressive growth strategies and tactics
  • Public Sector Economic Development - tourism, trade & investment strategies
  • Regional Competitiveness - talent and business attraction/retention strategies

Marketing Strategy & Execution

  • Sponsorship, Affinity and Activation – defining strategic objectives, evaluation criteria and proof points to guide investment
  • Execution Planning – aligning sales force preparation and activities with strategic objectives to increase effectiveness and drive ROI
  • Activation Support – boosting success of internal and agency teams in-market


  • Corporate presentations, trade shows
  • Sponsor hospitality and VIP experiences
  • Targeted tourism strategies & events (sports, music, food, fashion, culture)
  • Activation Support – boosting success of internal and agency teams in-market

Our Team

The Arena Partners team has a history that’s filled with incredible clients, spectacular work, and terrific partnering.

John Murray

Founder & President

John Murray is a seasoned strategist and proven operator, specializing in innovative strategies, complex program design, and elite event execution. His breadth of experience developing strategies for some of the world’s biggest brands provides John with an ability to balance business goals with creative innovation, leading to incredible experiences that deliver high return-on-investment.

John has had a diverse range of experiences, bound together by a fierce competitive spirit and desire to partner with the most elite brands in the world. Over the last 30 years, John has served in the President’s helicopter squadron, assisted Fortune 100 companies with their most critical issues, served as the chief bid officer for a U.S. Olympic Bid, and worked with governments around the world to understand and address the realities of the new economy. His experience with organizations such as the U.S. Marine Corps, Delta Air Lines, McKinsey & Company, Accenture, and the U.S. Olympic Committee, provides him with a unique pedigree and a laser focus on delivering results.

John’s passion for Chicago has led to significant roles in making the City more competitive. In addition to his leadership role with Chicago 2016, he has served on multiple civic-focused boards. John co-founded the Chicago Sports Commission in 2011, serving as inaugural Chairman and overseeing its growth; helping to drive an increase of more than 200,000 hotel room nights by attracting new sport events to the City, including the NFL Draft. He has worked on the transitions for both Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and is part of the team that developed UI LABS, a new applied research institute responsible for bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in new R&D spending to the City over the next few years. His ability to balance business goals with creative innovation leads to incredible experiences that deliver high return-on-investment.

Kenny Crawford

Vice President, Partnership Sales

An experienced marketing executive consultant, Kenny has established and activated over 350 strategic partnerships and marketing programs during his career on behalf of global agencies, brands, properties and talent. His creative, activation strategy and relationship management expertise has been leveraged by leading brands, organizations, teams and talent including Big Sky Conference, The Kentucky Derby, David Ortiz, Georges St. Pierre, Madison Square Garden, Miami Marlins, NASCAR, New York Yankees, NFL, Ottawa Senators, Serena Williams, UFC and United SportsCar Racing.

While heading up the New York offices of Omnicom’s The Marketing Arm, Kenny established his resourceful approach to brand and consumer marketing strategy and activation through the global partnerships he cultivated, executed, activated and managed including AOL, AT&T, DIRECTV, E*Trade, Gillette, FedEx, Pizza Hut, Visa, NFL, MLB, FIFA, Real Madrid, David Beckham, Tiger Woods, Queen Latifah, Muhammad Ali and Donald Trump. Constantly chasing 'goose­bump experiences’, Kenny leverages his passion for pop culture, sports and entertainment to create unique brand experiences that impact growth and drive revenue.

Amanda Manci

Marketing & Communications Lead

Amanda is a rising talent who joined Arena Partners in 2015 as a marketing and communications manager. In her current role, she develops and executes Arena Partners’ marketing strategy that allow clients to maximize the benefits of activation, such as the citywide promotion of the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago.

Prior to her role at Arena Partners, Amanda’s work at the United States Olympic Committee focused on media relations, crisis management, the 2024 bid effort and promotional events to increase Team USA’s brand recognition and elevate the profile of its athletes. She also served as part of the U.S. delegation at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games and the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games. Previously, Amanda served as an athlete sponsorship and marketing associate at Impact Talent Associates, Inc. She received dual bachelor’s degrees in communication studies and psychology from the University of Michigan.

Sara Travis


With a background in marketing, advertising and communication, Sara joined Arena Partners in 2015, where she currently focuses on marketing research and supporting the company’s strategic sponsorship outreach. Sara is a recent graduate of Millikin University, where she received a degree in marketing and captained the women’s varsity volleyball team. During her time at the university, she assisted in developing the Tabor School of Business’ newest marketing campaign and finished top-10 in the International Collegiate Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) Advertising Campaign competition.


We are honored to work with forward-thinking, results-driven brands across a variety of sectors, including:


"There isn’t a group out there that John couldn’t unite and lead. During the Olympic Bid he served as the hub, pulling together elite athletes, volunteers, vendors and top business and political leaders from across the globe. He has the skill, finesse and charisma necessary to work effectively with the most complex organizations.”

Patrick G. Ryan
CEO of Ryan Specialty Group and Chairman of Chicago 2016

"John has an unmistakable and undeniable passion for helping governments develop strategies for growth. This passion comes through in everything he does in the public sector.”

Mark Angelson
Deputy Mayor for the City of Chicago (2011-2012)

"John comes from a really unique background, including being a US Marine, a commercial pilot, a management consultant and an Olympic Bid leader. That combination of experiences has given him an incredibly unique skill set…he’s able to keep a keen eye on business objectives, inspire teams into action, and deliver experiences with uncompromising artistic integrity. It’s an incredibly effective combination.”

Patrick Moloney
GM of Freeman XP

"John’s innovative thinking and attention to detail are nothing short of remarkable. He quickly comprehends complex issues, takes on the burden as though it is his own, and comes up with unique and innovative solutions to drive results. Throughout planning, preparation and execution, he keeps his eye on every detail while never losing site of the goal.”

Don Welsh
CEO of Choose Chicago


Our name and mission are inspired by one of the most enduring quotes in history:

“It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt
at the Sorbonne, Paris, 1910

Arena Partners
104 South Michigan Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60603

Get in the Arena. Contact us today.