Bruin Sports Capital’s Engine Shop Buys GroupM’s IEG Unit and ESP Consultancy

The WPP network has a stake in the buyer

Engine Shop acquires IEG and U.S. consulting practice of ESP for undisclosed sum. IEG

Engine Shop, Bruin Sports Capital’s sports and entertainment marketing agency, today announced the acquisition of WPP-owned GroupM’s IEG Sponsorship Conference and the U.S. consulting practice of ESP Properties for an undisclosed price.

The purchase is Engine Shop’s fourth in eight months, adding to the acquisitions of The Gamer Agency, T Burns Sports Group and the SA Studios Global Esports and Soccer business.

“We plan to build on IEG’s unrivaled tradition of helping property owners, rights holders and brands understand how to create and capture value for their multi-million dollar sponsorship investments,” Engine shop CEO Brian Gordon said in a statement to Adweek. “IEG has been the gold standard for more than three decades and will continue to serve clients from all lifestyle sectors with independent, well-synthesized research.”

Engine Shop said in a statement that IEG will operate as its “autonomous affiliate” and continue to be headquartered in Chicago. The agency buyer plans to conduct a “reimagination” of IEG’s content and event platforms and introduce a “new set of research and valuation services.”

The annual IEG Sponsorship Conference has been a staple in the industry for the last 35 years, but IEG is also known for its suite of analytics tools, forecasts, proprietary valuation and measurement services used by global brands and organizations. Engine Shop said it would “significantly invest” in those services, as well as start to roll out changes to the conference in 2019.

Initial tweaks to the conference will include a new programming format that covers “multiple consumer engagement drivers” including sports, entertainment, music and the arts, according to Engine Shop. The agency said it will also relaunch its own Sponsorship.com editorial homepage as IEGWorld.

Engine Shop said its focus for IEG will continue to be on trend forecasting and thought leadership. The agency said it will utilize ESP’s U.S. consulting practice to “offer a new set of proprietary sponsorship valuation and measurement methodologies co-developed with the new IEG team.” Areas of focus for the consulting arm will be in planning, negotiation, goal setting and measurement across all channels of engagement.

WPP acquired IEG in 2006 and took a $250 million stake in Bruin Sports Capital in early 2015, so the holding company will still partner with the sold properties.

“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,” a GroupM spokesman said in a statement. “We already work closely [with] Bruin Sports Capital/Engine Shop thanks to WPP’s investment.”

The GroupM spokesman declined to comment further when asked to elaborate on the relationship between GroupM and the sold units going forward.

The announcement comes three months after the departure of longtime WPP CEO Martin Sorrell, who left in April following the launch of an investigation against him into allegations of “personal misconduct.” After his exit, analysts and experts in the industry speculated on what would happen to WPP, predicting some assets would likely be sold.

This weekend, Sky News first reported that Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba were in talks to acquire approximately 20 percent of WPP’s operations in that country.


@kitten_mouse lindsay.rittenhouse@adweek.com Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.
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