At its core, insurance is all about anticipating, preparing for, and covering risks. Insurance Office of America has been finding ways to cover those risks with a customer-centric approach within a myriad of industries. For over a decade, the company has fulfilled a supporting role for sports teams by providing customized coverage and partnership. This enormous segment of the company that partners with athletes has flourished as a result of IOA's commitment to personalized care. To date, the IOA Sports Partners division continues to produce valuable partnerships.
Heath Ritenour became the CEO of Insurance Office of America (IOA) in 2008 and Chairman in 2019. His father, John Ritenour, founded IOA in 1988 and continues to offer guiding support. Their willingness to put in the hard work and offer value over everything else is exactly why IOA is a dominant force in the insurance industry.
IOA Offers Insurance Coverage for Major Sports Teams
Offering insurance coverage for sports teams is complicated. Heath Ritenour notes that football is one of the higher-risk sports, but each sport has its own potential pitfalls and complicated issues. To adequately anticipate dangers and potential concerns, insurance professionals must truly know the team in order to help them maintain adequate coverage. You have to know the ins and outs of the business or you might miss something big.
"In insurance, you really have to [think about the worst-case scenario]. Your job is to mitigate risks for your customers," notes CEO Heath Ritenour. "To do that, you've got to look for the pitfalls-you've got to look for blind spots. You have to look for risks that may not be on the surface, and you need to educate your customer on the potential of the risk. Then, it's their decision whether or not they want to buy a policy to cover it." Heath adds, "Our job is not necessarily to just sell them a policy, it's just to make them aware of the risk. Some customers will decide that it's worth self-insuring, and others will say, 'No, I want to buy a policy to make sure that if it happens, I have insurance for that.' We look at ourselves as risk managers, not salespeople."
At the end of the day, if the team wants to take up the full coverage, it's the insurance agent's job to find the policy that will cover them from every major angle. Current challenges include adjustments due to COVID-19 and controversial issues, like concussions. Sports teams have to decide which risks they are going to take seriously and seek out coverage for.
"There's obviously a ton of liability when you're insuring football and basketball arenas, with terrorism threats, COVID, and other factors" says Heath. "There is a ton of liability that comes with operating in the world that we're in today. We take a very proactive approach of helping guide and walk our teams through mitigating as much of that risk as possible and making sure they insure themselves properly-that if any of these bad things happen, that they're made whole and they're taken care of."
With a decade under their belts, it's safe to say IOA has successfully operated as a partner in this process-ensuring the teams stay safe.
IOA Plans for Growth in Sports Insurance
IOA currently partners with the Orlando Magic (NBA), Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL), Charlotte Hornets (NBA), Las Vegas Raiders (NFL), US Club Soccer, Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Capitals (NHL) and more.
"I could just see the division expanding into other NGBs (National Governing Bodies), like USA Swimming, and growing our sports practice beyond your typical football, baseball, basketball and racing that many of us think of as the big four," says Heath. "I could see [the division] in large amateur sports, governing bodies and things of that nature. Where that ends-I believe the sky's the limit. I think over time, we'll continue to expand and grow."
The sports industry has been growing steadily for the past decade. In 2018, the value of the global sports market was rated at $471 billion. The US alone holds nearly a third (32.5%) of the global sports market. Each NBA team has been roughly valued at no less than $1 billion and closer to $2.12 billion on average during the 2018-2019 season (which was up 14% from 2017-2018).
With so much money on the line, it's no wonder that teams want to be sure they are fully insured.
The right insurance is going to help prevent serious loss from just about any kind of disaster. The wrong policy could leave some very large gaps that end up costing teams millions. Finding those gaps is what allowed Heath Ritenour and John Ritenour to get their foot in the door with sports insurance.
As with everything else in their insurance producer approach, Heath and John Ritenour looked for ways they could really help out the teams they partner with. It becomes a two-way street-the team gives them business and they give them the kind of attention that leads to air-tight liability coverage at a highly competitive price. With so much going on in the sports world, IOA feels there is nearly no limit to how they could grow this division of the company.
Starting the IOA Sports Partners Division
John Ritenour may have started IOA, but the company has turned into a father-son legacy. The IOA Sports Division is just one example of their incredible teamwork to build something lasting. Heath Ritenour says he wishes there was a big strategy involved, but that the opportunity nearly fell in their laps. In reality, it took a lot of insight and legwork to solidify the first partnership that started the division.
Heath Ritenour had a contact that reached out from the Orlando Magic, asking for a meeting to discuss a sponsorship from IOA. Heath took the meeting, but John asked why the team's own insurance company wasn't their go-to for a sponsorship. The Orlando Magic followed up with IOA to let them know the other insurance company had turned them down. Heath recalls telling the contact:
"We would love to find a way to be the official insurance broker of the Orlando Magic, but the way a two-way partnership would be is, we entertain our customers at games and we hold events in the community with the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation so we can partner in the community to do good. We can use our local team to entertain our best customers and give away tickets to charities and things like that. On the other side, give us the opportunity to do a deep dive into all of your policies and make sure that: number one, what's in place is proper for you, but number two, if we find any gaps or holes, we'll bring them to you."
The strategy worked. The Orlando Magic sent over their insurance policies for Heath and John to review. "They sent the policies over to us and we found a couple of huge holes in the program," says Heath Ritenour. "We were able to fill those holes and we started that relationship with the Orlando Magic."
There was no long-term plan or big scheme to start up a sports division. Heath and John simply saw a need and found a way to fill it. "Frankly, it's something we fell backward into. I wish I could tell you it was this grand vision, and we had this wonderful, brilliant idea," states Heath. "It felt kind of like it was meant to be-it just kind of happened through those conversations. It's turned into a very large division for us and one that we're extremely proud of."
Forming Partnerships and Community Ties
After that inaugural partnership, it became easier to organically grow the division. With a major team under their belt, teams would see IOA listed in the fieldhouse or Magic materials and come knocking to see if IOA would want to be a sponsor at their own games. Just like with the Magic, Heath Ritenour told each prospective team it needed to be a partnership.
Through adding value and being extremely careful to explain their liability coverage, Heath Ritenour and the IOA team has been able to win over a number of top-tier sports teams. This has been growing for over a decade, under the innovative leadership of Heath Ritenour as CEO. "I don't even know, it's probably been 15 years ago by now," recalls Heath about first getting the Magic on board. "The way our sports division has grown, we now insure a number of NFL, NBA, we have some NHL teams and even some racing teams."
Those partnerships have provided IOA with a lot of community recognition as well. Most professional teams take up a beloved central place in their local community. Through various community programs involving the teams and advertising at games, IOA has been able to expand into certain cities even faster.
"That division took on a life of its own, and we now have a very large sports division in a lot of the major sports leagues," says Heath Ritenour. "It's been a great way for us to not only get involved in the community and get our brand out there, but also partner with local quality teams that are centerpieces of the community."
About Insurance Office of America (IOA)
From the start, IOA was built to be something different. John Ritenour and his wife, Valli, started up the insurance company in 1988 after John was tired of other insurance employers changing up deals to mitigate his success. IOA was built on hard work and designed to offer the best deals in the industry-deals that wouldn't change when a producer was making a lot, or a year was particularly tough.
Based on John Ritenour's personal values, IOA ensures agents own their books of business, commissions remain unchanged and the client is held in the highest value every time. This has turned into more than two decades of continued success and steady growth. In 2008, Heath Ritenour took over as CEO of Insurance Office of America.
The company has navigated tough markets, like the Great Recession in 2008-2009 and the worldwide pandemic in 2020. Despite a few difficult years, the company holds an unwavering long-term vision. "Never sell, never go public" has become a kind of motto for IOA. The company is determined to stay privately run, so that clients and producers can remain the primary focus-not profits and shareholders.
IOA started as a one-story, 3,000 sq. ft. office in Florida. Now, the company has over 60 offices throughout the US and London. IOA works with over 1,200 team members across the globe. The Sports Division is just one area where IOA has worked with recognizable organizations.
IOA is the 25th largest insurance agency in the US with over 80,000 clients. In 2019, IOA won the "Top Workplace Award" from the Orlando Sentinel. In 2020, IOA was ranked 11th on the "Top 100 Independent Property/Casualty Agencies" list.
About John Ritenour
From a young age, John Ritenour was an incredibly hard working man with a drive for success. He began his professional journey working in a steel mill, and moved on to sell insurance door-to-door. Both of these jobs required a lot of hard work and determination. He outperformed everyone, gaining the skills he needed to start his own company. After building up IOA for decades, John Ritenour had the honor of passing the company leadership role to his son. Building up a legacy, there was nothing he wanted more than to keep it within his family. He has continued to serve as a guiding voice and mentor throughout his retirement.
Throughout his career, John Ritenour has won a number of awards, including the "Eloise Trainor Award" from the Symetra Tour, "Success Award for Business Achievement" from Success Magazine and "Entrepreneur of the Year" from Dynetech and Crummer.
John Ritenour puts a lot of emphasis on the value of hard work. He wanted to ensure he instilled the same work ethic in his own son, Heath. In the process, he's become a top role model and mentor to his son-a relationship that has served to take IOA to the top.
About Heath Ritenour
Growing up, Heath Ritenour wasn't interested in insurance. While his father always felt he would fit a leadership role at IOA, Heath Ritenour never saw himself as an insurance seller. As he struggled to find his zest in a career that was fulfilling, he became a summer intern at IOA. While there, Heath witnessed the difference between the hardworking representatives that put customers first and the hardworking representatives that put the sale first. He thought the relationship-building side of the business was something meaningful, and he wanted to pursue it.
Heath Ritenour eventually signed on as an IOA producer. He spent 12 years working his way up to become the top producer in the company. He realized that hard work wasn't enough-it had to be productive too. At first, he wanted to "look" the part by being first-in and last-out each day at the office. Over time, he realized that the value of the relationship had to be the top priority.
When John first approached Heath about taking over the role of CEO, he responded with a resounding "no." John asked more than once, and each time, Heath said no. As he pondered the offer, he kept coming back to, "If not you, then who?" In 2008, after considering the importance of the legacy of IOA, Heath Ritenour accepted the role as CEO.
Together, Heath and John Ritenour have built up IOA into a force to behold. The company has continued to grow steadily for more than 30 years.