Events Unit Gains Independence

The new owners of The Spark Agency, formerly Busch Crea tive Services, said being out from under Anheuser-Busch’s ownership is a ticket to growth.

“They have been great parents, and now we got our degree and moved out of the house,” said Mike O’Neill, CEO of the St. Louis-based events shop.

Karen Branding, a prin ci pal officer at A-B, approached O’Neill and his partners John Nickel and Kevin Quigley ear lier this year to see if they would run BCS as an independent com pany, O’Neill said.

A representative for the St. Louis-based brewery declined to say why A-B decided to unload BCS, other than to say doing so would make the agency “even more competitive.” BCS was opened 22 years ago and now claims annual revenue of $27 million. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

One source suggested the subsidiary’s sale was a way for A-B to cut overhead.

BCS has handled business meetings, retail-sales promotions, mobile and event marketing, interactive media and exhibits for A-B and a num ber of other companies, such as Coca-Cola, John Deere and Motorola.

As The Spark Agency, it will continue to work for A-B and other clients, O’Neill said. Even as a subsidiary, it had to bid for A-B business, he said.

With independent ownership, O’Neill said the shop will be able to pursue new business more easily, while acknowledging that it now lacks a safety net.

Like executives at most small to midsize independents, O’Neill argued his shop can work faster and smarter than larger competitors. “We do not have to do some of the reporting requirements like a huge corporation,” he said.

The Spark Agency’s other clients include Circuit City Stores, the St. Louis Rams and Volkswagen.