A highly successful production studio and integrated marketing company, BrandStar is using its forces for good, supporting local charities and going beyond to impact the South Florida community. Founded by Christian businessmen Mark Alfieri and partner Doug Campbell, BrandStar’s client list includes fortune 500 companies such as Home Depot, Microsoft, Ford, Amazon and Google, and local clients such as the Levan Center of Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. Yet they’ve also harnessed their talent behind nonprofits, giving back to the community through organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, Gateway Community Outreach, Live the Life South Florida, BeStrong, Kids in Distress and 4KIDS, among many others.
In the TV production business for close to 30 years, BrandStar’s founders made their mark on what they call branded education, through programs such as Access Health, The Balancing Act, Designing Spaces, Military Makeover and Inside the Blueprint. The focus of each show is connecting people to brands so they can do life better. They also work in partnership with Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment on a show called Going for Broke, starring Ashton Kutcher.
As you walk into their 43,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility in Deerfield Beach, you can’t help but notice their prominent display of Telly Awards, 137 in all, honoring the video and television production for these shows, which air on the Lifetime Television Network and are syndicated to over 200 stations around the country.
Recognized as South Florida’s largest production studio, BrandStar Studios recently invested millions in technology and equipment to provide in camera virtual production, augmented reality and mixed reality capabilities utilizing state-of-the-art LED walls and the unreal gaming engine. “We can basically put anyone, anywhere, in real-time,” said Alfieri. “The combination of equipment and technology makes us a true next-generation studio comparable to the most sophisticated movie studios in California.”
Beyond the studio, BrandStar has developed into a fully integrated production company, marketing agency, and content exchange platform. The company has grown both organically and through strategic acquisition to develop what they call the BrandStar ecosystem, consisting of 37 brands within 16 operating divisions.
“The whole concept of BrandStar is vertical integration,” said Alfieri. “The idea is to build an ecosystem where a brand can walk into the door, and we can do everything from building their brand architecture – that’s the I Lab team – to developing creative assets. If it’s a TV commercial, BrandStar Studios. If it’s a social media campaign, BrandStar Agency. If it’s PR for the brand, it’s Krepps PR. With everything about the go-to-market strategy of the brand, we continue to bolt on other divisions. We even have BrandStar Connect, which can do outbound telemarketing, outbound customer service to help brands figure out what customers are saying about their brand or help sell products or services…. You don’t need to hire 10 different companies. You can hire BrandStar and we can quarterback.”
Hitting the reset button
However, it’s BrandStar’s mission of positively impacting lives that sets it apart. After more than 12 years in business, BrandStar hit the reset button in 2018, intentionally determining to drive the company culture first. “We came up with our company values and decided we were going to run this company like a family, people first, with a culture of accountability,” said Alfieri. “We even hired a full-time communication coach to teach people healthy communication, mutual respect and lean into difficult conversations instead of running to talk around the water cooler.” Since then, the company has grown from 80 employees to about 350.
Campbell explained, “We use the word TRAITS – Teamwork, Respect, Accountability, Integrity, Trust and Service. We started to define these core values and not just speak about it, but we really made sure that we lived it out and we did things.”
This passion for making a difference became BrandStar CARES, an active committee of BrandStar staff who come together to support local nonprofits and go beyond to impact their South Florida community.
It’s no surprise this move came shortly after both Campbell and Alfieri graduated from Lifework Leadership, a program designed to give Christian business leaders a clear understanding of their calling, connect them with other Christian influencers and captivate them with a desire to utilize their God-given influence for the good of the city.
Describing BrandStar as a secular company that deploys Christian values, Alfieri admits, “Everything has been learned by us from our experience going through Lifework Leadership. I’m also in CEO groups and on boards of impact organizations (such as the National Christian Foundation and Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale), but for me this is the ministry. This is our mission field.”
Campbell grew up in the church and has attended Church by the Glades (CBG) with his family. He describes CBG Pastor David Hughes as a positive influence in his life, and said they looked to Church by the Glades as a model when first installing LED screens at BrandStar.
“Doug is a good guy and has been with us for years,” said Pastor Hughes. “He told me what caught his attention with CBG was what he called a “wow factor” – that we presented a clear, uncompromising biblical message with very high production values.” Interestingly, Hughes also did some acting for Campbell in the early years to help pay the bills while he was in grad school.
Stephan Tchividjian, president of the National Christian Foundation South Florida where Mark Alfieri serves on the board, said, “Over the past 20 years, I have only known a humble and generous Mark, who has used his God given talent to honor God. Mark’s willingness to think creatively while being a student of leadership has made him someone that others want to emulate. I have a pen in my hand when Mark speaks and often walk away from my conversations enriched and better.”
BrandStar put that leadership to work when tragedy struck at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018. Five BrandStar employees had someone at the school, including Campbell’s son. Partnering with the BeStrong, a nonprofit combatting bullying, BrandStar recorded and aired a segment sharing a message of hope from Columbine High School Shooting Survivor Crystal Miller including interviews from local students, helping them process the event and bring comfort.
Two years later BrandStar honored a Marjorie Stoneman Douglas hero on their popular TV show “Military Makeover,” hosted by Montel Williams. They orchestrated a makeover on the home of Debra Hixon, wife of Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and a retired Navy veteran who died when he went back into the school and tried to save lives. More than 200 of Hixon’s friends and supporters came out for the big reveal.
Carol A. Ray, founder, president and CEO of Gateway Community Outreach, an economic crisis intervention program, recalls she first met Doug Campbell at BrandStar the day of the Parkland shooting. “He carried out the whole meeting with me and in a matter of months he was on our board. Now he is very active in what we do.”
Ray said, “The thing that was so impactful about that meeting was how they really wanted to work with charities to help and back them up in whatever way they can. It was one of their main goals besides obviously running a beautiful, successful business. And I was thrilled when I was asked to go on the tour, and I saw on one of the monitors that they had Joel Osteen as one of their clients. It seemed you could feel the peace and the presence of God… I think both of them, Mark and Doug, come up with fantastic visions of what they want to do, and they never forget about the people that are out there helping others.”
Chris Gentile, Co-CEO of Boys and Girls Club of Broward, agreed, “BrandStar has been good partners with us and done a lot with our kids, showing them different career opportunities.”
BrandStar participates in the Boys and Girls Clubs’ annual career day and have invited 40 to 50 teens to spend the day at their facility learning about their industry, social media marketing and branding work. “The kids get to experience what it would be like to work at BrandStar, and they love it,” said Gentile. “Obviously, this generation loves social media. They love opportunities to do things on YouTube and Instagram and just to see how BrandStar does this for clients. And the TV production, a lot of kids are interested in this technology and want to make careers out of this, so they were very fascinated.”
For a while, Todd Paton, president of Paton Marketing, a BrandStar company, served on the board at the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Gentile said, “He did a bunch for us social media wise, specifically around membership marketing. His target marketing campaign two years ago generated about 450 new members for the club. They also introduced us to a partner who gave us a donation toward scholarships. They filmed a segment about it at their studio, which we were able to showcase to our donors, and it helped us expand our reach.”
Gentile said, “We have a lot of businesses who volunteer at the club or give financial donations, which is important, but when an organization does more than that by making connections and getting involved on the ground floor, its really special to see them giving their time, talent and treasure.”
Recently, BrandStar took an all-inclusive look at Live the Life South Florida for the kickoff of their 10-year initiative entitled “All In” for marriages and families, which is designed to transform Broward County for the better through healthy relationship education.
“My first encounter with BrandStar was when I heard Mark Alfieri speak at a Lifework Leadership event,” said Lisa May, executive director of Live the Life South Florida. Then during COVID, BrandStar filmed the livestream event and charities for StrikeForce 421, a giving circle from whom Live the Life received a grant. “Ultimately, I went to them because of what I had seen personally,” May said. “They seemed to really care about what the mission was, so that increased my confidence to go ahead. It’s been a significant investment for us, but I think it will have been worth it.”
BrandStar Studios produced a short film for the “All In” launch, Krepps PR, a BrandStar company, is assisting them with messaging, and a team is working on their website. “They are totally immersed,” said May. Admitting the process “has not been without bumps,” she said, “they have exceeded what our agreement was, which doesn’t happen very often. I have respect for them and think they are hugely talented.”
Tchividjian acknowledged, “The whole marketing and branding space can easily get a bad name; however, BrandStar’s team, under the leadership of Mark and Doug, are exceptional, and their ability to strive for excellence is why I loudly applaud them.”
Read more stories like this at https://www.goodnewsfl.org/