WPP’s GroupM Sells Sponsorship Consultancy IEG To Bruin’s Engine Shop
WPP’s GroupM has sold its sponsorship consultancy practice, IEG, to Engine Shop, a fast-growing sports and entertainment agency.
While there has been speculation that WPP will pare some of its assets in the wake of the April departure of founder Martin Sorrell, the IEG deal has been in the works since late last year. People familiar with the matter say it is unrelated to any new strategic course.
WPP and Engine Shop did not disclose financial terms of the deal.
Founded in 1982, IEG is known for its research, including evaluating how much sports and entertainment sponsorships are worth to brands and so-called rights holders, which include properties like teams, leagues and music festivals that sell sponsorships. IEG runs an annual conference in Chicago that attracts major sports and entertainment industry players. It also has a subscription-based content arm that publishes widely cited reports such as the top spending sponsors in the major pro sports leagues.
“IEG’s proprietary sponsorship valuation services and platforms have made lifestyle brands smarter for more than three decades,” Engine Shop CEO Brian Gordon said in a statement. “We are going to build on them and create even more innovative and customized valuation tools that help marketers make the best decisions for their sponsorship investments and programming.”
WPP acquired Chicago-based IEG in 2006. In 2015, GroupM folded IEG within a new offering called ESP, whose businesses included consulting to brands right holders, and selling sponsorships on behalf of rights holders. Engine Shop does not plan to get into the sponsorship-selling business. Instead, the agency will focus on consulting. It will keep IEG as an autonomous affiliate, headquartered in Chicago.
The deal means WPP will end the ESP brand in the U.S., but it will keep it alive in select international markets, David Grabert, GroupM’s global head of marketing and communications. “Engine Shop’s acquisition of IEG and the U.S. consulting practice of ESP will help them expand their portfolio of capabilities and it furthers GroupM’s strategy pursuing sports opportunities in local markets with specialized agencies and partners,” he stated in an email. He added that WPP will continue to service rights holders through Two Circles, a London-based sports agency it aquired in 2015.
WPP will still have a stake in IEG because it’s an investor in Bruin Sports Capital, which owns Engine Shop. Bruin was founded in 2015 by George Pyne, former president of IMG Sports and Entertainment. Before that, he was chief operating office of Nascar. Bruin’s holdings also include On Location Experiences, a premium hospitality business; Courtside Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund focused on technology and media in sports; and deltatre, an international sports media and technology business.
Engine Shop’s clients include Mercedes-Benz USA, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Johnson & Johnson, Under Armour, Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League. The shop’s offerings extend well beyond event activations, including branded content, digital strategy, influencer marketing, measurement and more.