WPP unveils new sports marketing agency

Advertising and public relations giant WPP is launching a new sports marketing agency through GroupM, its global media investment management company.

ESP will serve as a rights-holder-facing operation encompassing the ESP Properties and ESP Brands businesses. ESP Properties will be created through new hires, the integration of existing GroupM business units including leading sponsorship agency IEG, and the acquisition of data-driven sports marketing agency Two Circles.

ESP Properties will be GroupM’s first company dedicated to serving sports and entertainment rights-holders, offering assessment and advice on data, digital and content development as well as global partnership sales. ESP Properties will also work with GroupM Entertainment on new programming concepts and, “where mutually beneficial,” will provide direct finance for new projects.

ESP Properties will launch with more than 150 staff in hubs across New York, Chicago, London and Singapore, plus additional teams in Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Dubai amongst other destinations. The operation is launching with a roster of clients such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Valencia, Rock in Rio, England and Wales Cricket Board, Pele, and City Football Group.

The new ESP Properties will be led by John Kristick, global chief executive of GroupM ESP since 2011. The business will be led regionally by Jonathan Hill (EMEA), Laren Ukman (North America) and JinWei Toh (Asia-Pacific). ESP Brands will be managed regionally in North America by Bryce Townsend and through the individual GroupM agencies in other regions.

“ESP Properties’ offering is truly unique in meeting the changing needs of the world’s leading federations, events, leagues, teams and other rights-holders,” Kristick said. “We have brought together a range of experts from across GroupM, such as IEG with over three decades of experience in sponsorship consulting, and our new partners Two Circles who have been leading the way in data-driven sports marketing. By combining this strategic expertise with unmatched understanding of how to navigate potential brand partnerships, we can uncover new revenue opportunities for rights-holders worldwide.”

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell added: “There is significant and growing demand on the part of clients to invest more in content and sports but few in our industry have had a serious response to this. Our new ESP Properties will bring creative power and commercial insight to rightsholders for the first time, providing unmatched opportunities to better tailor their offerings to the needs of today’s brand sponsors. ESP will also work hand in hand with our recent investment in Bruin Sports to provide our clients with access to many high-value media and sponsorship opportunities.”

George Pyne, the founder of Bruin Sports Capital, said that the ability to access the group’s “unmatched global resources and corporate client base” would be “very helpful as we create value for the relevant businesses Bruin operates.”

For an exclusive, an-depth interview with John Kristick, where he outlines the full ambition for ESP Properties, pick up the June issue of SportBusiness International magazine, published June 1.