What We Do

Connect brands with their audiences.

How We Do It

In person experiences.

Why Us

We take your challenges and treat them as our own. We are seasoned. We are experts. We are creative problem solvers. We have the right connections to pull off just about anything.

And most importantly, we have the business acumen required to deliver creative market-facing touchpoints that tie to your business goals while protecting your bottom line and your sanity.

Our Offerings

A choreographed media network in The Dubai Mall. A national bid to host the Olympic Games with hundreds of touchpoints over a 3-year period. A trade show buildout constructed from our client’s hydraulic and industrial hoses. What do these have in common? They're all custom, creative, business-driven audience engagements. And they all shepherd a brand from strategy through execution utilizing a common knowledge, experience, expertise and thought process regardless of how different the end experiences may be. Every client, every situation, every challenge is unique. So every solution we develop must be uniquely innovative whilst governed by a proven approach.


  • Growth strategy development
  • ROI/KPI criteria definition
  • Partner/sponsor strategy & sales
  • Media/talent strategy & planning


  • Experience concept development
  • Visual concept development & design
  • Message mapping & development
  • Omni-channel communication deliverables


  • Corporate trade shows & events
  • Consumer activations
  • Branded environments
  • City-wide activations

Executive experience. Personal attention.

Arena Partners delivers the ideal mix of executive-level experience found at large firms with the personal attention of a boutique agency. With this combination, we lead brands through the entire journey from identifying and defining growth strategies through to the market-facing touchpoints that bring those strategies to life. John, Gretchen and Graeme each have unique professional backgrounds, that when brought together, deliver the ultimate combination of creative and practical execution tied to real business strategies and goals. Experienced, connected, creative and practical, Arena Partners is the nimble and lean boutique solution for organizations that want to reach their audiences in meaningful ways. We love what we do and we’d like to do it for you.

John Murray


“Life is too short to work on the uninspiring”

John is driven to help organizations identify and execute opportunities for growth. This passion is what led him to start Arena Partners.

It’s the brands that want to boldly jump into the Arena that he’s drawn to the most. Helping these brands tackle their biggest aspirations is where he excels. His experience and abilities enable him to successfully develop business-minded, results-driven strategies.

His diverse professional background includes five years military service in Marine Helicopter Squadron One, a stint as a commercial pilot, an MBA in Marketing & International Business, and serving Fortune 500 companies globally as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company and Accenture.

John took a 3-year break from the private sector to serve as Chief Bid Officer for the U.S. Bid for the 2016 Olympic Games; a pursuit that cemented his commitment to taking on bold challenges.

John is the co-founder and inaugural chair of the Chicago Sports Commission, sits on multiple nonprofit boards, and created & produced the largest New Year’s Eve celebration in Chicago’s history - attracting 3.5 million television viewers and generating 2.5 billion global media impressions for the city.

Graeme Staunton


“Detail drives efficiency which drives value to the Brand”

As the Brand’s representative and a seasoned Project & Cost Manager, Graeme finds joy in discovering efficiencies and opportunities to bring things to life in a way that saves the client time, money and stress. Graeme has a storied career to date. Born and raised in Ireland, before attending University and his first career move as a Contracts Manager for a Civil Engineering Contractor in England, it was at this juncture that Graeme embarked on a global journey.

Whilst building experiences across 6 continents, he became a Member of the Institute of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS) in Quantity Surveying, a LEED Accredited Professional and pursued a new career path with Faithful & Gould working across multiple sectors including Pharmaceuticals, Manufacturing, Industrial, Commercial and Retail.

It was building Flagships and Branded Event Spaces across the World for Nokia that he discovered his passion for customer-facing experiences delivering “wow” moments mixed with employing lean standards to reduce waste and add value. He now specializes in retail, hospitality and events working with owners to establish an increased market presence through managing high profile branded projects and events. The Brands he has worked for speak for themselves.

Bill Bartolotta


"Work is the best way I know to share time with someone"

Bill delivers mighty solutions through multiple mediums to individuals, corporations, institutions and public spaces. He provides creative and execution skills for the integration of visual, audio, edible, touchable, aromatic and intergalactic talent into the environment. Bill procures animals, minerals, vegetables, and humans; managing the process and the people. He is dedicated to dissolving existing and imagined barriers between guests, hosts and entertainment… all in the persistent pursuit of pleasurable activities.

When it comes to guests' perception of an event. Bill's focus is on cultivating content that will express rather than inform; defining the content, charging it, making it worthy of the guests attention, reaching to stand exclusive to each individual while at the same time inclusive to everyone.

Bill’s tales birth complex organisms that marvel each and every guest as individuals, and as collectives. Bill’s live experiences are fantastical spectacles that defy description, but leave guests clamoring for more… ”I can’t describe the place, where it was, what was there, what happened, the food, the sensation, but when it happens again I want be there, you want be there.”

Gretchen Donaldson

Experiential Adviser

For more than 2 decades, I’ve had the pleasure of putting my creative problem solving skills to work for a wide variety of brands, audiences and situations—most notably in my role as Founder and former CEO of Culture22.

The diverse nature of my clients and situations has presented me with the opportunity to continually develop new strategies, new concepts, and new solutions for an immense collection of market-facing scenarios.

As a marketer, I have a passion for identifying the authentic core within a brand and packaging it in a way that makes it resonate with its audiences. I’m equally passionate about developing pragmatic solutions; never a fan of unnecessary complexity.

As a client service professional I have a passion for creating long-lasting relationships that make the client’s job easier and more enjoyable, because life is too short to work with people who do the opposite.

As a team leader and avid fan of incredibly talented people, I have a passion for pulling together individuals with unique skills, gifts and quirks who are perfectly suited for the task at hand. I find that when you have the right tools in your toolbox, every job can be highly successful.

Sara Travis

Senior Manager and Associate Producer

Sara joined in the Arena Partners team in 2015 where she focused on marketing research and supporting the company’s strategic sponsorship outreach. In her two years with the company, Sara quickly transitioned into a leadership position where she became a key team member in the production of Chi-Town Rising and oversees Arena Partners elite hospitality company, Exclusive Event Experiences. Sara is a 2015 graduate of Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, where she received a degree in marketing and captained the women’s varsity volleyball team.

Michael Walus

Assistant Project Manager

Michael has assisted with managing project controls for global re-branding project. He has also helped update and develop a cost database to input, process and maintain project costs, actual costs, and anticipated final costs. Furthermore, he has assisted with updating executives on a weekly basis with progress reports comparing current statuses versus projections.

Taylor Raymond

Development Associate

With a background in political science as well as business management, Taylor currently works to maximize fundraising efforts and develop project management processes to maximize a client’s potential. She is a recent graduate of Arcadia University where she received a degree in International Relations and worked as a research assistant for a published professor. While attending Arcadia she also worked as a Deputy Campaign Manager for a local State House race that unseated the longest serving politician in Pennsylvania House history.

A few of the brands we’re proud to have worked with.


“Staunton became integral to the success of the Vodafone Retail Transformation Program enabling us to understand our cost structures and how to optimize them, have more efficient logistics and stock management in place and ensure our global vendors perform to the highest standards across Europe and Africa.”

Jonathan Hilton
Vodafone - Head of Retail Delivery

“Whether it’s providing Project or Cost Management we always could count on the Staunton team to ensure efficient and effective consistency with a WOW mindset for any of our Experiential Marketing Projects.”

Ian Atkins
Global Senior Brand, Retail and VM Manager, Microsoft

"We have partnered with Staunton Inc. on multiple Social Media Week events globally and have been impressed by the creative solutions they’ve provided to ensure our events engage attendees on multiple levels. Some of the experiences we’ve most enjoyed were the repurposed cargo pods used for breakout spaces and the client totems crafted to promote event sponsors.”

Brian Leddy
Social Media Week

"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
401 W. Ontario
Suite 225
Chicago, IL 60654

Get in the Arena. Contact us today.