As agencies grow by acquisition, Playfly brings in Neuman, Parise to start consulting practice
Michal Neuman (left) and Dan Parise (right) will join COO Craig Sloan at Playfly Sports.Courtesy of Playfly
Three-year-old sports marketing and media agency Playfly Sports is continuing to gild its marketing lily, launching a New York City corporate consulting practice under veterans Michael Neuman and Dan Parise, who will be co-heads of the new Playfly Sports Consulting.
Over the past 12 years at Horizon Media, Neuman launched and grew Scout Sports & Entertainment, prior to his March departure. Parise was most recently CMO at Rival.
Neuman begins at Playfly with a mission to replicate his success at Scout with clients like Geico, FanDuel and Burger King, and an additional charter to grow by acquisition. Over its three years (actually, 34 months), Playfly has reached around 1,000 employees through myriad acquisitions, including most recently Bernie Mullin’s Aspire Group ticketing agency.
“This is an organization focused on the future, and they are all about sports,” said Neuman. “We exited a place [Horizon] where I believe we built something special, but they were not always focused on sports. Now, we have a white canvas, access to capital and support, along with a shared vision that will allow us to leverage our industry relationships to drive revenue across this company.”
Said Playfly COO Craig Sloan: “The most exciting thing about this is that they [Neuman and Parise] built an industry-leading sports and experiential agency within another company. That shows collaboration, which is not easy. We think we can do that bigger and better, using their leadership. We also put a premium on people and culture. They’ve done great work there, and that area is vital. It’s what moves a business forward as much as anything.”
Playfly Sports acquisitions
Launched September 2020
September 2020: CSL Esports (previously known as Collegiate StarLeague) (esports platform); WorldGaming Network (online video gaming platform); Outfront Media Sports (college athletics multimedia rights; previously known as CBS Collegiate Sports Properties)
March 2021 (from Fox Sports): Impression Sports (sponsorship/naming rights); Home Team Sports (ad sales); Fox Sports College Properties (college athletics multmedia rights)
January 2022: Premier Partnerships (sponsorship sales, strategic consulting and valuation agency)
May 2023: The Aspire Group (ticketing consultancy and sales representation)
While there aren’t many independent sports/experiential agencies with clout and high-value clients, there’s an increasing amount of medium to large agency consortiums chasing the ones remaining. After acquiring a “significant stake” in Klutch Sports Group before the pandemic, UTA has been on the prowl for additional agencies, as has Underdog Venture Team, recently acquired and recapitalized by private equity firm NewSpring Holdings with a new mission to expand by acquisition. 160over90 just last week announced an acquisition of London-based creative and experiential agency XYZ, while Wasserman snapped up Squadra Sports Management and Toronto-based creative and experience agency Trevor//Peter within the past few months.
“There’s always a steady drumbeat of big agencies looking for smaller ones, but now live content matters more than ever to marketers,” said Wasserman’s Elizabeth Lindsey, president of brands of properties, “and what matters most within live is sports and music, so. …”
With big sports spenders including Pepsi, T-Mobile, and Anheuser Busch InBev, independent Genesco Sports Enterprises is at the top of every shopping list for sports agencies.
“There’s new money coming into sports for things like the expanding soccer footprint, the Olympics and World Cup here, along with women’s sports, NIL, and even the dollars that will be coming into sports from the Middle Eastern countries as they transition from fossil fuels to other business. Those all are growth areas and required particular expertise,” said Genesco president and founding partner John Tatum, acknowledging that acquisition inquiries have been increasing.
Other likely catalysts for sports agency consolidation:
“There’s a lot of PE capital at the top fueling this,” said Larry Rothstein, president of independent agency Source Communications, which leverages MLB rights for brands including CohnReznick and Amtrak. “The big agency conglomerates are increasingly getting beaten up on fees; adding more capabilities is a way for them to fight that.”
The changing face of sports ownership is another leading factor, according to Playfly founder/CEO Mike Schreiber. “So much of pro team ownership is moving from families to entrepreneurs, new money and PE,” he said. “Those are more business-oriented, and accustomed to partners and consultants, so things that traditionally were insourced are now being outsourced.”
Originally built with capital from PE firm Access Holdings, Playfly more recently attracted investments from Monroe Capital and MidCap Financial “to fund near-term acquisitions.”
In its short tenure, Playfly has acquired or launched firms with expertise in TV sales, tech/digital, RSNs, college rights, content, production, ticketing, esports and property sales. Neuman said he’s already had acquisition discussions with at least one agency. When asked what capabilities Playfly must add to achieve its stated goal of being a “top-five agency within five years,” Sloan cited talent management and international capabilities as two of the most important.
Schreiber described Playfly’s differentiator as a dedication to “reaching, engaging, monetizing and measuring fans. … That’s our core,” he said. “This move feeds that plan even more.”
Terry Lefton can be reached at [email protected]
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