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GroupM ventures into sports and entertainment rights under brand ESP

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MUMBAI: GroupM is expanding its sports and entertainment offering under a new global agency brand, ESP, which will comprise two separate businesses: ESP Properties and ESP Brands.

Both businesses will be part of WPP’s media investment management company GroupM, but remain independent of its media-buying operations.

ESP Properties will be GroupM’s first company dedicated to serving rights holders from the worlds of sports and entertainment, including federations, leagues, events, teams, publishers and venues. It will offer a thorough assessment of their commercial programs, and advise how to grow the revenue they generate through a full range of services across data, digital and content development. It will also offer global partnership sales on behalf of rights holders, both to existing WPP brand clients and beyond.

ESP Properties will be formed 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. It will collaborate with specialists from the WPP network to deliver a full range of marketing services. It will also work with GroupM Entertainment on new programming concepts and, where mutually beneficial, provide direct finance for new projects.

ESP Properties will launch with over 150 staff in hubs across New York, Chicago, London and Singapore, plus additional teams in Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Dubai amongst others. It launches with a roster of globally recognised clients including the All Blacks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Valencia CF, England and Wales Cricket Board, Pele, and City Football Group.

WPP CEO Martin Sorrell said, “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 rights holders 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.”

GroupM is also expanding its support for brands to plan, negotiate and activate sports and entertainment partnerships by growing the specialist teams in its individual media agencies. These specialist teams will be underpinned in key regions by the second business within ESP, ESP Brands. ESP Brands will be an evolution of the former partnerships consultancy GroupM ESP.

GroupM Global president and ESP chairman Dominic Proctor added, “The global launch of ESP Properties brings leading commercial and creative capabilities to some of the world’s most celebrated names across sports and entertainment. Sport is a driving force in media and we want to serve the market better by assisting rightsholders in optimizing their properties and creating more winning partnerships with leading brands. At the same time we will ensure we work more efficiently on behalf of brands by providing even more resources for the specialist sports and entertainment practices that are embedded in our GroupM agencies, underpinned by a central team in key regions, ESP Brands.”

GroupM ESP global CEO John Kristick will lead the new ESP Properties as CEO. Kristick is a senior sports marketing executive with nearly two decades of international experience, including being appointed managing director for the USA Bid Committee to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and previously working for more than ten years in Europe serving as an executive director for Infront Sports & Media from its inception.

The business will be led regionally by Jonathan Hill (EMEA), Laren Ukman (North America) and JinWei Toh (APAC). ESP Brands will be managed regionally in North America by Bryce Townsend and through the individual GroupM agencies in other regions.

Kristick said, “ESP Properties’ offering is truly unique in meeting the changing needs of the world’s leading federations, events, leagues, teams and other rightsholders. 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.”

It may be recalled that WPP recently invested in Bruin Sports Capital and this move is part of the agency’s growing commitment to content.

Bruin Sports Capital founder George Pyne said, “ESP Properties provides rights holders around the world with a very powerful combination of strategic services and sales expertise. The ability to access the group’s unmatched global resources and corporate client base will be very helpful as we create value for the relevant businesses Bruin operates. We also anticipate collaborating with ESP Properties to jointly deploy capital and create new businesses as opportunities arise.” 

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