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WPP's Sports Division ESP Tapped To Find New Sponsor For U.K.'s Great Run Series

SportsBusiness Daily, November 24, 2015

By John Reynolds

WPP’s new sports division ESP has been charged with finding a new sponsor for one of the U.K.’s most high-profile mass participation events and believes that tapping into WPP’s large pool of resources coupled with its “data-driven” approach will spell a new dawn in sport sponsorship. WPP set up ESP earlier this year as it looked to take on the likes of IMG and Wasserman by moving into the sports rights area. Its 150-strong unit sits within WPP’s media buying unit, GROUPM, and its client base includes the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers, Man City and the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. ESP is working with consultancy Two Circles in finding a new sponsor for the Great Run Series, a series of mass-participation runs that includes the flagship Great North Run half marathon event, which Mo Farah won this year. The new sponsor is replacing outgoing sponsor supermarket chain Morrison’s. Heading up the hunt is Jonathan Hill, global commercial director & EMEA head at ESP Properties division, who argues that the incoming sponsor will benefit from a level of audience insight drawn from WPP’s global resources, such as its blue-chip clients, which its competitors cannot offer. Hill: “Our approach is data driven and digitally orientated with Two Circles at the heart of the ESP Properties offering. For The Great Run Series we have created a unique package which guarantees connection between the sponsoring brand and the right audiences via the most effective digital media as well as some of the more traditional fixed assets.”

DOPING NOT AN ISSUE: Hill said that the popularity of the Great Run Series, which attracts around 250,000 runners a year, will be undimmed by the recent explosive revelations from WADA about the alleged doping in athletics. He said, “We have found interest in mass participation sport to be undiminished by the recent WADA report. The Great Run Series exists for the person who wasn’t sure if they could achieve what they wanted to achieve.” Hill said that ESP was in discussions with a number of brands to sign as sponsor to the events. He said, “Suffice to say the combination of mass appeal and the ability to engage deeply with millions of active consumers, plus their friends and families, means that the Great Run Series will continue to attract both leading and challenger brands.” Prior to Morrison’s sponsorship, the Great North Run was sponsored by healthcare provider Bupa for 22 years.