Droga5 Found Its Newest Client, NRG Energy, Through Old-Fashioned Matchmaking

WME's sports unit made the connection

Droga5's deal with William Morris Entertainment continues to pay dividends.

WME's 49 percent investment in the agency has led to choice creative projects for WME clients like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. And now it has opened the door to Droga5's newest account, NRG Energy, landed without a pitch process.

Agency leaders first met the company through WME's sports division, IMG. IMG has worked for NRG since 2010, negotiating sponsorship deals with teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles. After NRG chief marketing officer Sicily Dickenson said she needed agency help, IMG svp Justin Zambuto recommended Droga5.

Initially, the two sides discussed ideas around NRG's eVgo charging stations for electric cars, but very quickly the conversation expanded to include core brand efforts and ads for solar power. And although Dickenson initially talked to a handful of other shops as well, those conversations ended once she found a match in Droga5. NRG represents the first client shared by the agency and its investor.

The initial IMG referral "took a lot of the upfront barriers that typically exist on both the client and agency side away because we had a track record with someone that we both knew and trusted," Dickenson told Adweek. "It expedited the relationship." 

So, rather than cold calling the agency or issuing a request for proposals, NRG found Droga5 through a mutual connection. It was less an open search and more old-fashioned matchmaking.

Droga5 CEO Sarah Thompson echoed Dickenson's sentiments, noting the conversation about a larger assignment began quickly—after a break in the first meeting, in fact, which included Thompson, Dickenson, Zambuto, four other agency executives and one other NRG exec.

"The team always felt with NRG that they're putting a lot of faith in us and IMG, and that's what makes you do your best work," said Thompson. "It's rare."

Annual media spending behind NRG's marketing efforts is expected to grow under Droga5, though Dickenson declined to specify a figure. Last year, the energy company spent more than $13 million in media, according to Kantar Media.

Carat plans and buys media for NRG, and Innocean continues to create ads for the company's utility business, which targets consumers in Texas and the Northeast. That business is marketed under the names Reliant Energy, Green Mountain Energy and Cirro Energy.

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