IPG’s Amusement Park Entertainment Forms Sports Marketing Unit
By Steve McClellan
Amusement Park Entertainment, the Interpublic Group-backed branded entertainment agency, has launched a new sports content creation and marketing arm that will enlist athletes to help create sponsored content for various media platforms.
According to Amusement Park CEO Jimmy Smith, the firm will sign some athletes as clients, such as the Philadelphia Eagles’ DeSean Jackson, while others will sign as partners for specific projects.
For example, one TV program is called “Divas and Jocks,” designed as a one-hour weekly series that will pair male athletes and female entertainers. Together, they will endure the rigors of a workout regimen overseen by a pro athlete trainer. The pilot episode features the Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (paired with rap royalty’s Angela Simmons) who also has an ownership stake in the program, along with Amusement Park and Radical Media.
The agency is also working with the Fox Sport Networks on a new freestyle street sports tournament that Amusement Park has created called “VS-Mode.” The program, consisting of a one-hour TV special and multiple hours of online programming, is expected to air in the spring or summer of 2013.
The firm is currently talking to brands about sponsorships, Smith said. Events in the “VS-Mode” tournament include break dancing, graffiti competitions, street basketball, and DJ-style turntable competitions, among others.
Smith said he hopes to develop the competition package, billed as the “Freestyle World Games,” into an “X-Games”-type franchise that will spin off star athletes like Olympic Gold Medalist snowboarder Shaun White. He also said the new sports arm would help athlete clients develop product lines of their own, such as video games and potentially clothing or equipment lines.
The models for athlete-brand endorsements and sponsorships are changing, said Smith. “It’s not about going to one of the shoe brands and saying, pay me some money, and I’ll wear your stuff.” Increasingly, he said, it's about the athlete’s proposal to a brand: “I’m starting my own thing and do you want to be a part of it? That’s a much more powerful proposition for an athlete,” as well as for marketing partners that sign on, he said.
The new sports unit at Amusement Park is overseen by three former athletes, including Reggie Turner and Eugene Hackett, who co-founded the sports marketing firm Skybox Global in 2007, and former college and pro football player Donovan Warren. Smith credits Amusement Park Partners Bobby Ware and Roberto Grande with helping to form the new sports operation.
Smith and IPG created their joint venture agency about a year ago. Previously, he had been group creative director on the Gatorade account at TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles. Prior to that, Smith held senior positions at ad shops BBDO and Wieden + Kennedy. Separately, Amusement Park has formed a specialty unit that is focused on the music space.