Sports Powerhouse Wasserman Media Acquires Laundry Service

Deal Gives Agency Access to Network of Instagram Photographers

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Casey Wasserman and Jason Stein
Casey Wasserman and Jason Stein

Wasserman Media Group has acquired New York-based digital shop Laundry Service, continuing the trend of marketing and entertainment alignments in Adland.

The move bolsters the marketing services offering at Wasserman, which represents high-profile athletes and also touts clients like Pepsi, Nationwide and American Express.

It also means the sports and entertainment company gains access to Cycle, Laundry Service's network of more than 1,000 social media influencers run by Liz Eswein. Ms. Eswein touts 1.2 million Instagram followers who know her as @newyorkcity. Much of Laundry Service's content is produced in house by Cycle's fleet of Instagram photographers, many of whom the shop also manages and connects with brands.

"The ability to create and add value for clients both on the athlete and brand side is significant," Wasserman Media Group's CEO Casey Wasserman told Ad Age. "We see social media's magnitude and obvious influence in sports and entertainment, and Laundry Service is the right team to augment our client commitment in this area," he added in a statement. "Together, we can scale our business opportunities on a more significant global level."

On the representation side of the business, Laundry Service may help Wasserman's athletes "drive and build their social engagement in ways they haven't before," Mr. Wasserman said. "On the brand side, clearly, there are capabilities from technical expertise, creative expertise and the influencer business that have that value proposition with brands we work with."

For Laundry Service, the sale provides greater access to a roster of influential athletes, entertainment marketing services and media rights and licensing strategies that will complement the 80-person shop's digital content production and media buying strengths.

For both agencies, culture was as important as capability. Mr. Wasserman and Laundry Service CEO Jason Stein met late last year for the first time and instantly hit it off. "When I met him in December, I knew we'd do a deal," said Mr. Stein. "[Casey Wasserman] is someone who understands social and has a vision for it."

Mr. Stein also saw similar businesses that complemented each other. For example, Wasserman manages athletes while Laundry Service represents social influencers; Wasserman touts brand sponsorship strategy; Laundry Service has a digital paid media capability. "There are a lot of symmetries," he said. "We'll be able to infuse original content and storytelling in what they're doing."

Mr. Wasserman's global reach was also appealing for the shop, which currently has offices in New York City, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., said Mr. Stein.

Laundry Service was one of the agencies to watch in Ad Age's A-List issue in January. Among the clients the shop added in 2014 are Beats by Dre, Nike's Jordan brand and Oprah Winfrey Network. It more than doubled revenue in 2014 and early this year predicted 95% growth for 2015.

Each company declined to discuss the terms of the deal, but Mr. Wasserman said that this won't be his last. "It's safe to assume we'll continue to be very acquisitive," he said.

Laundry Service's deal adds to a growing list of marketing service firms teaming up with entertainment companies, such as Edelman and UTA and Droga5 and WME.

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