Areas of Focus
"My clients seek out new opportunities, new businesses and new challenges. They don’t want to live in a world that is risk free and they don’t want a lawyer whose goal is to eliminate risk. Instead, I manage and optimize risk to their advantage.”
Jim Johnston helps sports, entertainment and media clients venture outside their comfort zone and into uncharted territory. By understanding their business goals and managing their risk, he’s cleared paths for clients to invest in film and television programs, launch streaming services, and sponsor sports arenas with worldwide audiences. Fledgling sports leagues turn to him for airtight media, sponsorship and facility partner agreements to get their brands off the ground.
Jim’s clients have big ambitions. Whether they aspire to break into new businesses, launch an innovative product or service, or build toward the future, he puts himself in their shoes to understand their concerns from the inside out. Initially drawn to his reputation for negotiating complex agreements and closing challenging deals, clients find that it’s his commitment to prioritizing their greatest needs and addressing their biggest risks that gets them where they ultimately want to be.
In the fast-paced world of sports, media and entertainment, Jim positions his clients to pivot quickly to renegotiate deal terms or restructure sponsorships. He’s helped some of the world’s most well-known and up-and-coming brands negotiate Olympic and professional sports venue sponsorships and plan for uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jim has counseled clients through partnerships of massive size, scope and geographic reach while helping teams across multiple leagues and sports find common ground. Highly attuned to the costly wrinkles and roadblocks his global film, television and advertising industry clients face, he works with producers, studios and agencies to keep time-critical projects moving forward.
Assisted a major public packaging company with its transformation to a consumer-focused business by helping it enter the realm of sports sponsorship. Negotiated a 10-year naming rights and sponsorship agreement, which included naming rights for an NBA, NHL and NLL arena, as well as interrelated sports sponsorship deals involving teams and venues in the major American sports leagues and English Premier League.
Advised a leading children’s publisher on the development and production of a 3D CGI television series based on a best-selling children’s book series. Advised and negotiated production agreements, writer agreements, producer agreements, and voiceover talent agreements and helped navigate the demands of both the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Writers Guild of America.
Serving as media and technology counsel to a global sports streaming platform. Advising on advertising, product and privacy issues, including the launch of its platform in the US, the structure of its subscription programs and adtech/privacy compliance.
Representing a podcast content producer as it prepares for launch. This has involved complex equity and incentive compensation structures for performers, financing arrangements to fund the new network, as well as the third parties to build the technological infrastructure that will drive its growth.
Advising a professional sports league labor union as it evolved into a full-fledged events company, merchandise licensor and year-round resource for players to create and distribute content to audiences around the world, growing from a player representative to a multimedia powerhouse.
Counseling an American professional league as it emerges from a season disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic to a period of renewed growth and expansion. Guiding our client in its expansion into storytelling and content production that charts the rise of this red-hot sport.
Advising a tennis legend in a new business venture to license name, image and likeness rights to ensure the preservation of a ground-breaking legacy.
Counseled a preeminent Minor League Baseball club as it navigated the complete restructuring of its industry by Major League Baseball and the transformation of its relationship with the organization. Negotiated agreements for the first-ever music festival at the club’s stadium and helped create new uses, revenue streams and opportunities for off-season fan engagement.
Insights + Events
- Alert New Jersey Not All-In on College Sports Betting Yet
November 16, 2021
- Event Association of National Advertisers One Day Conference | NIL and Athlete Sponsorships: The Changing Landscape
September 14, 2021
- Alert July 1st Marks First Day of School for Student-Athletes Seeking to Exploit NIL Rights
July 9, 2021
- Event Counsel 2U® Advertising + Marketing Webinar | Making Sure Your Sports Sponsorships Are on Target Post-Pandemic
June 10, 2021
- Press Mention Bloomberg Law | Pixar ‘Inside Out’ Case Shows Gray Area Between Inspired, Swiped
February 16, 2021
- Alert Regulators and Businesses Are Racing to Fill the Collegiate NIL Void
December 3, 2020
- Alert Ballots Continue to Come in for Legalized Sports Betting
November 12, 2020
- Trends in Marketing Communications Law Hollywood Attempts to Reopen Production After COVID-19 Shutdown
October 6, 2020
- Getting in the Game of College Athletics, Media and Marketing Score! College Athletes Will Soon Cash in on Their Name, Image and Likeness
October 6, 2020
- Trends in Marketing Communications Law Betting on a New Industry: The Meteoric Rise of Online Sports Betting
October 6, 2020
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- UCLA School of Law and Anderson School of Management at UCLA (J.D./M.B.A., Order of the Coif, 1997)
- University of California at Los Angeles School of Theater (B.A., magna cum laude, 1991)
- The Best Lawyers in America® 2021-2022, Sports Law
- Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business® 2012-2019, New York Media & Entertainment: Film & Television
- The Legal 500 United States® 2014-2021, Intellectual Property: Copyright
- The Legal 500 United States® 2017-2019, Advertising and Marketing: Transactional and Regulatory
- Media Law International® 2019-2021, Media, Sports and Entertainment Law
- The National Law Journal “Sports and Entertainment Trailblazer” 2019
- Variety Magazine “Legal Impact Report” 2014
- New York
Member, Davis+Gilbert Mentoring and Professional Development Committee
Member, Davis+Gilbert Pro Bono Committee
Member, American Bar Association
Member, New York State Bar Association
— Member, Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law Section
Member, Sports Lawyers Association
Member, New York City Bar Association
— Member, Sports Law Committee