John Ritenour Explains the Complexities of Sports Insurance


Providing insurance for professional sports teams has long been challenging. Due to the nature of the associated sports-related facilities, insurance companies have tended to approach the industry with reservation. On the other hand, John Ritenour saw an opportunity, which led to the development of the IOA sports division. In concert with IOA’s  the team works with IOA Sports Partners, which was “established to fill a void [and is] a leading specialist in comprehensive business-to-business solutions for teams, leagues, entertainment venues, municipalities, and the general business community.” The division facilitates change to optimize spending, drive real savings, and unlock additional “commercial value” while creating long-term sustainable partnerships.

About IOA

IOA was founded in 1988 by wife Valli Ritenour and husband John Ritenour, with the vision of changing the insurance industry. While working as an agent, John saw a problem – agents who worked hard were restricted when it came to their income. Due to caps on commission, many agents were not reaping the full benefits of their diligent efforts. Therefore, the Ritenour’s set out to change the landscape of the business, and 30 years later, IOA has more than 1,300 team members in over 60 locations in the United States and Ireland. The firm services more than 80,000 clients while bringing in more than $225 million in revenue. It is the 11th largest privately held property and casualty (P&C) agency and the 25th largest insurance brokerage in the United States.

In 2008, Health Ritenour – the son of John and Valli – was named CEO of IOA, and in 2019 he became chairman. His father continues to work as a consultant for the company and a mentor to his son.

IOA Sports Coverage

IOA works with a wide range of industries, including aerospace and aviation, entertainment and production, health care, law, lawyer malpractice liability, and professional sports – the latter being one of the most exciting additions since the company was established.

IOA’s expansion into sports coverage started by chance. A representative from Orlando Magic reached out to Heath Ritenour to discuss a company sponsorship. John Ritenour and his son agreed to the meeting but wondered why the team’s insurance broker wasn’t its go-to sponsor. Heath informed the representative that finding a way to be the official insurance broker of the Orlando Magic would be a desired outcome with a two-way partnership that would benefit both parties by serving their customers and the community at the same time. Part of the agreement would involve events in the community with the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.

The strategy worked, and IOA became a sponsor of the Orlando Magic, thus commencing its expansion into the sports insurance arena. Heath recalls, “I wish I could tell you it was this grand vision, and we had this wonderful, brilliant idea.” He continues, “It felt like it was meant to be as it unfolded through those early conversations. It has turned into a very large division for us, and one that we’re extremely proud of.” IOA continues to partner with the Orlando Magic today.

John Ritenour was eager to seize the opportunity to expand his global platform into the sports industry. He had long been a supporter of his son’s athletic pursuits and was now able to implement his business model in a sector in which he also had a passion.

John Ritenour’s Outlook on Sports Insurance

IOA prides itself in providing best-in-class management and insurance solutions customized to fit its clients’ needs. However, when it comes to sports, coverage is ever-evolving – the IOA team needs to understand the true depths of various sports and the risks associated with them. Furthermore, they must get to know the teams. Every sport and every team presents a new challenge, and to provide adequate coverage, IOA needs to conduct its due diligence.

“In insurance, you really have to [think about the worst-case scenario]. Your job is to mitigate risk for your customers,” reports Heath. “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.”

Experienced insurance professional John Ritenour identifies that depending on the sport, insurance companies must assess various risks. For example, football is recognized as one of the most dangerous and expensive athletic activities in the world. Due to one-on-one physical contact, serious injuries – including traumatic brain injuries – are more prevalent in football, whereas golf presents a limited risk – the lack of person-to-person contact reduces a golfer’s potential for injury. Likewise, gender may play a role in the level of risk for an athletic team. Studies have shown that female athletes have a slightly higher risk of injury than their male counterparts. Thus, all of these factors, and more, must be considered as part of any risk management strategy to ensure organizations are fully insured and protected.

Heath shares, “Our job is not necessarily to sell [an athletic team] insurance; it’s to make them aware of the risks. 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.”

With every client, John Ritenour and his son cover the same goals. Their services focus on understanding the concerns of the client and working with them to establish their objectives; providing clients with cost-effective solutions for their insurance and risk management needs; acting as a resource for their in-house risk management department; and anticipating their clients’ needs and creating solutions for problems. Through this platform, IOA has established numerous relationships within the professional athletics industry.

IOA Sports Partnerships

John Ritenour and his team at IOA have had the opportunity to work with collegiate and professional teams, sports leagues, and national governing bodies covering a diverse range of sports, including basketball, soccer, football, swimming, golf, and more.

A decade of targeted experience in sports insurance, combined with a client-centric attitude, has allowed IOA to work with some notable professional teams.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Thanks to the partnership established by John Ritenour in 2008, IOA has served as the sponsor and insurance provider for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The IOA team has created, maintained, and modified the team’s policy as needed, and in 2019, John Ritenour successfully renewed the company’s contract with the Jaguars.

Orlando City Soccer Club

IOA became the official insurance provider for the Orlando City Soccer Club in 2017, marking its first partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS). In addition, IOA acts as a sponsor to the philanthropic side of the Orlando City Soccer Club, Orlando City Foundation. The firm contributes by supporting the foundation’s annual awards ceremony and fundraising efforts; promoting soccer programs, health and wellness training; and more.

Ladies Professional Golf Association

In recent years, IOA has contributed its efforts to sponsoring various LPGA events. In 2013, the company announced its official sponsorship of the Symetra Tour Road to the LPGA. In 2019, John Ritenour and the IOA team became the proud presenting sponsor of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, an event that features LPGA winners, sports professionals, and high-profile celebrities.

Additional IOA Sports Partnerships

Additionally, IOA partners with the Charlotte Hornets (NBA), Las Vegas Raiders (NFL), Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Capitals (NHL), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Memphis Grizzlies (NBA), and Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL). The company has also worked with  USA Swimming, USA Triathlon, and racing teams.

Heath explains, “The division [has taken] on a life of its own, and we now have a very large [presence] in a lot of the major sports leagues.” He continues, “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 quality teams that are centerpieces of the community.”

A Prosperous Future

The sports industry continues to grow – with new opportunities emerging every day. John Ritenour and the team at IOA continue to utilize their experience and proven methods to build a positive reputation both in the Florida community and in the sports community as a whole. Creating the risk management strategy is the name of the game – and the Ritenour’s have established a platform to provide ongoing solutions for collegiate and professional sports teams. Taking on the risks that other insurance providers have shied away from, IOA has established itself as a dominant force in today’s sports insurance industry.



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