GroupM Expands in Sports Sponsorships With New Unit, ESP

One unit focuses on teams and other rightsholders; another on advertisers looking to sponsor

GroupM is expanding its sports and entertainment operations through the creation of a new global brand called ESP, an umbrella that includes two new units. ESP Properties, one of the units, marks the first time GroupM is targeting rightsholders like teams, leagues, events, federations, publishers and venues in an effort to aggressively pursue the business of sponsorship sales.

The other unit, ESP Brands, is an outgrowth of existing consultancy GroupM ESP, which already works with advertisers to reach sponsorship deals.

The WPP Group network will keep the ESP unit separate from its media-buying operations. The launch is part of WPP's growing investment in content, such as those in MediaPro, Vice, Indigenous Media, FullScreen, MRC and most recently Bruin Sports Capital. In January, WPP led a syndicate investing $250 million in the global sports marketing firm, which was launched this year by George Pyne, the former president of IMG Worldwide's global sports and entertainment business.

"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," said WPP chief Martin Sorrell in a statement. "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."

ESP Properties opens with a roster of clients including the Cleveland Cavaliers; City Football Group, the Anglo-Arab holding company that controls soccer teams including Manchester City and the new New York City Football Club; Pele, the Brazilian soccer icon; Valencia CF, a Spanish soccer team; England and Wales Cricket Board; and the New Zealand rugby team All Blacks.

In working with rightsholders, ESP Properties will offer assessment of commercial programs and advise how to grow the revenue they generate across data, digital and content development. It is also representing global partnership sales for them, both to existing WPP brand clients and those outside the holding company.

With ESP Brands, an outgrowth of former partnerships consultancy GroupM ESP, the WPP media network is also expanding efforts for advertisers to plan, negotiate and activate sports and entertainment partnerships by growing specialist teams in key regions.

The new ESP Properties will be led by John Kristick, global CEO of GroupM ESP since 2011.