Ascendent expands its horizons with additions

Ascendent expands its horizons with additions

By Ian Thomas, Staff Writer


Originally the sponsorship agency behind the International Champions Cup, Ascendent Sports Group has used acquisitions and organic growth to build out a full-service marketing agency that is expecting double-digit revenue growth in 2017.

Ascendent, a division of the RSE Ventures holding company co-owned by Stephen Ross and Matt Higgins, launched in 2012 as Insignia Sports & Entertainment to serve RSE’s portfolio of sports companies and other ventures, such as the ICC, the Miami Dolphins and Hudson Yards. It rebranded in 2014.

The agency has grown to have four distinct divisions and has begun serving a number of additional clients, positioning it for its strongest revenue year yet, CEO and President Bob Brennfleck said.

Earlier this year, the agency promoted Peter Honig, formerly of Van Wagner Sports Group, to head its corporate and property consulting division. In 2016, it acquired Gordon Kane’s Victory Sports Marketing, appointing Kane to oversee international consulting, and in 2015 it hired Kevin O’Grady from Populous to oversee event management and production. Charles Gould, who most recently led the sports practice for U.K.-based Lygon Group, is the head of executive search for Ascendent.

Honig said the growth has helped provide the opportunity to work with new clients from sports, music and entertainment. One is the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, with which Ascendent is developing a new sports marketing strategy for the state, as well as attracting new events. The agency helped the state land a recent deal with the Los Angeles Clippers to bring their training camp and multiple preseason matchups to Hawaii. Ascendent also is working with the College Football Playoff and Motivate, the bike-share system operator of New York’s Citi Bike, among others. Honig declined to provide other client names, saying their deals with the agency are private in nature.

Ascendent continues its work with the ICC, which launches its 2017 edition later this month. Sponsors include Aon, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Gatorade and Nike, as well as Heineken, which returns as the presenting sponsor for the second year in a row.

Brennfleck said that while he’s thrilled with the agency’s growth, he’s also mindful of getting too big too quickly.

“Our growth has been guided by our continued ability to provide senior-level executive leadership to all of our clients. We don’t want to be so big we lose that,” he said.