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A new start for Millsport

A new start for Millsport

By Terry Lefton, Staff Writer

Published

Omnicom’s Millsport will be folded into fellow agency The Marketing Arm, creating one of the largest sports marketing consulting divisions in the industry.

Under the merger, the two Omnicom Diversified Agency Services (DAS) shops will create a “new” consultancy that will be a business unit of The Marketing Arm, yet retain the 29-year-old Millsport name. Previously, the separate, yet wholly owned Omnicom agencies would compete for clients, but now they will have one sports marketing consulting unit under TMA’s broad umbrella. Millsport’s staff of around 40 will bring TMA’s head count to 150.

Millman back at startup
with PMC

Jim Millman founded Millsport almost 30 years ago, when a

Millman
dedicated sports marketing agency was not something marketers were familiar with. Now, with Millsport merging with another Omnicom sports firm, Millman is back in startup mode with the Partnership Marketing Connection (PMC), an agency he’s founding and co-owning with Omnicom/DAS. PMC’s charter is to foster and implement joint marketing programs among the many clients of Omnicom’s various agencies.

Millman envisions PMC as the catalyst for a wide range of activities, such as cross-marketing products or services to disparate employee groups, procurement, media and event buys and corporate foundation initiatives.

Initially, the five-person firm will be housed within Millsport’s Stamford, Conn., offices. Millman has been on the road for the last few months and says he has had a good reception from the Omnicom shops. Since the corporate initiatives he’s hoping to coalesce have normally been spearheaded from within companies, Millman knows he must change ingrained behavior to be successful. However, “sponsorship is probably the ultimate kind of partnership marketing, so I feel well prepared,” he said, “and it’s fun starting something brand-new after all these years.”

— Terry Lefton

The combined unit, with annual revenue of more than $10 million, will have a client list with no conflicts, including brands like Frito-Lay, SBC Communications, Nasdaq, Nokia, Office Depot, Sunoco and Taco Bell.

While precise figures are not available, SportsBusiness Journal estimates that the new Millsport will rank third in annual revenue among sports marketing consultancies, behind the consulting divisions of Octagon and IMG. Still, the principals said this was less about scale and more about trying to re-establish Millsport as a marketing agency leader.

“We want to elevate our game, deliver more analytics and be able to provide the right mix of services as the marketing communications business shifts from traditional media to more experiential marketing,” said Howard Jacobs, who will be elevated from senior vice president of marketing and business development to president of Millsport in the new setup.

Concurrent changes in the executive ranks see Bob Basche, who has run the Stamford, Conn.-based agency with founder Jim Millman for years, gaining the titles of chief relationship officer for The Marketing Arm and chairman of Millsport. Millman is ending his association with Millsport and launching another Omnicom agency. Chris Smith, who ran consulting for TMA, now becomes chief strategy officer for TMA.

Millsport, founded in 1975, is one of the country’s oldest sports marketing firms. The merger with TMA follows a tumultuous few years that saw it tumble from near the top of the sports agency business, lose most of its signature Pepsi and Visa business, experience senior executive turnover and become increasingly dependent on its Charlotte motorsports division for much of its revenue. More recently, however, it regained some momentum, winning Sunoco’s “Official Fuel of NASCAR” business and a number of Taco Bell assignments.

Basche said the “new” Millsport will not represent sports properties in an attempt to avoid possible conflicts.

Millsport will retain its Stamford and Charlotte offices, but its Dallas office will be combined with TMA’s headquarters there. The expanded TMA co-exists with a roster of Omnicom sports agencies that includes GMR/Radiate, Horrow Sports Ventures, Steiner Sports and Optimum Sports, not to mention a plethora of traditional agencies and promo shops under the Omnicom/DAS umbrella that compete for sports clients.

If there has been a strategy among those Omnicom sports agencies,

Clark
it has been to let those sports shops block other agency conglomerates by having more horses in any particular pitch. As such, it is the network of agencies established by Omnicom’s GMR, under the Radiate brand name, that TMA founder and current CEO Ray Clark identifies as his “biggest competitor day-in and day-out.” So Clark is enthused at being able to battle Radiate or any other agency with a combination of TMA’s business units now including Millsport, along with U.S. Marketing & Promotions (events), PromoLink (promotions) and Talent Link (entertainment and sports talent booking).

“If the experiential agency space is not completely defined now, it is quickly coming,” Clark said. “Now we have great capabilities and scale in consulting, events and promotions that should allow us to break from the pack.”

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