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Group M launches new sports marketing arm

WPP’s media investment management arm GroupM is expanding its sports and entertainment offering under a new global agency brand, ESP. ESP is made up of 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 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. According to a GroupM statement, 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.”

ESP Properties will offer a thorough assessment of its partners’ commercial programs, and advise how to grow the revenue generated through 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.

The new ESP Properties will be led by John Kristick, global CEO of GroupM ESP since 2011. 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 in APAC by JinWei Toh. He was last managing director of Parallel Media Group Asia.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Hill will be leading EMEA and Laren Ukman will lead North America.

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, said that today there is significant and growing demand on the part of clients to invest more in content and sports but few in the ad 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,” Sorrell (pictured) said.

Dominic Proctor, chairman of esp and president of GroupM Global, said:

“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 rights holders in optimising their properties and creating more winning partnerships with leading brands.”

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.ESP Brands will be managed regionally in North America by Bryce Townsend and through the individual GroupM agencies in other regions.

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