GLOBAL BRIEF: IPG eyes up the sports arena - Harriet Green asks if IPG should take a stake in the world of sports marketing

Interpublic Group finally woke up to the benefits of diversification beyond straight advertising last week, by adding two sports-marketing operations to its string of conventional agencies.

Interpublic Group finally woke up to the benefits of

diversification beyond straight advertising last week, by adding two

sports-marketing operations to its string of conventional agencies.



For an undisclosed sum, IPG has brought Washington-based Advantage

International and 60 per cent of the UK’s API Group into its nest of

agency networks (principally comprising Ammirati Puris Lintas, the Lowe

Group and McCann-Erickson). Together, the two new companies will form a

single sports-marketing group with initial billings of dollars 550

million and revenue of more than dollars 50 million.



The range of sports involved in the deal is substantial, offering

coverage around the world. API, founded by the British Olympic

medallist, Alan Pascoe, specialises in sponsorship sales for clients

such as the Benetton Formula One Team, and event marketing for the

Commonwealth Games Federation, among others. Advantage International

acts for stars such as Steffi Graf (tennis), Darren Gough (cricket),

Sandy Lyle (golf) and Grant Hill (basketball).



Phil Geier, IPG’s chairman and chief executive, says: ’I believe we will

be able to create a new group in this rapidly expanding area, competing

at the highest level in all aspects of global sports marketing.’



The deal may be good news for shareholders in IPG, and for the managers

at API and Advantage, as it offers access to new funds, and the

possibility of expansion. Gabe Harris, a spokesman for Advantage, for

example, hopes Interpublic’s ad agencies will ’come to us first’ when

looking for athletes to appear in advertising.



But clients at the APL, Lowes and McCanns may find it hard to see how

they benefit. If advertisers choose to use sport marketing, who’s to say

that IPG’s new sports units can offer the stars, or the events, to suit

them? And even if advertisers do select one of the Advantage/API stars

or events, how can sister Interpublic agencies honestly broker a

deal?



Won’t there be a conflict of interest?



Eugene Beard, vice-chairman at IPG, concentrates on the upside: ’This

resource is available to agencies and clients if they want it.’