The new unit, Element 79 Sports, aims to expand the Chicago's expertise and services through sports-marketing consulting and analysis, while also underscoring its past sports work honed on clients such as Gatorade, the LPGA and motor racing sponsors Lowe's and Supercuts.
Won't chase beer clients
Element 79 Exec VP John Fraser, who is leading the new unit, said it hopes to attract clients in the media, durables, auto, retail, financial services and package-goods categories. But it won't, however, go after one of the biggest sports sponsors -- beer -- Mr. Fraser said, because sibling DDB is Anheuser-Busch's agency of record.
"We think this can give us a huge advantage with clients who want to be in sports," Mr. Fraser said. "If they say, 'Help us make better sports ads,' we can do that because we've got a lot of experience working with athlete endorsers. If they want to know who to use as an endorser or what an existing sponsorship is worth, we can do that, too."
He said that early rumblings about the sports unit have helped the agency enter account reviews for three pro sports teams and a non-sports business, which he declined to identify, and also helped the agency win accounts from Champion apparel and CV Technologies, a Canadian pharmaceutical company launching an anti-cold drug called Cold-FX in the U.S. with hockey legend Mark Messier as spokesman.
The sports division "was a major reason we chose them," said Norm Oliver, CV Technologies' senior VP-sales and marketing. "We liked that they've got a systemic way of leveraging what they've learned from Pepsi and Gatorade and others to help us."
Robust growth for young agency
If other marketers feel the same way, the unit could fuel Element 79's already robust growth within a Chicago market that is largely stagnant. According to Advertising Age's 2006 Agency Report, the 5-year-old agency -- named for the 79th element on the periodic table, gold -- saw its U.S. revenue grow 34% last year, to $41.2 million, as it climbed to No. 45 from No. 56 on the ranking.
It isn't completely clear yet how Element 79 Sports will function within the larger agency. Mr. Fraser said that while the he and the group's other leaders, including Group Creative Director Danny Schuman, a Gatorade veteran, will continue to work on non-sports accounts as well. But executives on every sports-related account within the agency will meet regularly to share insights and best practices, he said.
If the new structure works, it could potentially lead to the creation of other specialty agencies within Element 79. "There is other expertise that resides in our agency, like moms, tweens and package-goods," Mr. Schuman said. "There's a little bit of floating a trial balloon to this."