Sportfive name revived in Lagardère Sports and Entertainment rebrand

The Lagardère Sports and Entertainment agency has brought back the Sportfive name in a rebranding exercise following its takeover by H.I.G. Europe, an arm of the international private equity and asset management firm.

The revived name and new corporate identity was unveiled this morning and is effective immediately across all regional operations and for most subsidiary companies.

H.I.G. recently acquired a 75.1-per-cent stake in the business in a deal valuing the company at €110m ($120.9m). France-based media conglomerate Lagardère retained a 24.9-per-cent shareholding.

The rebrand follows the restructuring of the global leadership team at the agency.

The four-person executive committee includes chief executive Stefan Felsing, the experienced sports marketing executive who has returned to the agency, chief operating officer Philipp Hasenbein, the long-time head of Lagardère Sports Germany, plus Robert Müller von Vultejus, another Lagardère Sports veteran who takes up the newly-created position of chief growth officer.

The executive committee is now based out of Hamburg, where all three have held varying positions at Lagardère-owned agencies and where Lagardère Sports Germany – formerly Sportfive Germany – has been based. Chief financial officer Christian Peters, an expert in mergers and acquisitions, post-merger integrations and financing, completes the quartet.

As the Lagardère name now disappears, the Lagardère Sports agency, the Lagardère Plus brand consulting arm, the Hamburg-based U! Sports agency and VIP Sportstravel hospitality agency will all adopt the Sportfive name.

Subsidiaries Rooftop2 Productions, the New York-based experiential marketing firm and consultancy, and Event Knowledge Services, the major events consultancy, will retain their brands but will “receive an endorsement as a Sportfive company”.

Onside, the organiser of football friendly matches and training camps, and creative agency Brave will continue to operate under their existing names.

In 2006, Lagardère acquired the Sportfive agency, then a powerhouse in European media and sponsorship rights sales, for an enterprise value of €865m.

Lagardère went on to acquire the IEC in Sports and World Sport Group agencies in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Sportfive, IEC and World Sport Group were subsequently housed under the ‘Lagardère Sports’ name in a rebranding exercise undertaken in 2015.

Agency positioning

On its positioning going forwards, Sportfive said today (Thursday) that its “business model continues under the principle of customer centricity”.

Sportfive continued: “Whilst believing in the power of sports and that its responsible commercialisation benefits all, the agency creates and grows sustainable long-term value for brands, media partners, and rights-holders.

“Sportfive continues to provide end-to-end solutions to stakeholders with its global and regional expertise in consultancy and management. The agency enables its clients privileged access to a sporting world, where individual solutions to meet the customers’ dedicated objectives are of the highest priority.”

The inclusion of ‘Five’ within the name is important, the agency group said, as it “represents the five core stakeholder groups it serves: brands, rights-holders, media platforms, fans and its people”.

Felsing remarked: “Today marks a milestone for our agency. A new leadership team, new ownership and reintroducing to the world of sport a legacy brand name, Sportfive, that not only represents our founding pioneering spirit, but also our strong future of being one of the most progressive and respected partner in sports.”

Sportfive and its subsidiary companies currently employ 1,200 staff across 15 countries.

Asked if the company’s international headquarters would now move from London to Hamburg, Felsing told SportBusiness: “As a global company we don’t have one headquarters. We do have strong country offices and are working with a reduced executive team out of Hamburg where the corporate functions will be managed as well.”

Questioned on the impact of the current Covid-19 pandemic and if staff had been furloughed, offered reduced working hours or made redundant, Felsing said: “The Covid-19 situation has an impact on everyone – on us as well. We took reasonable counter measures in terms of reduced working hours to get through the situation.”

He added: “The restart of the Bundesliga for example has been a first step back into the direction of normality and we hope to re-accelerate further in the coming weeks.”

Arnaud Lagardère, general and managing partner at Lagardère, first said in February 2018 that he was “open” to a sale of the sports division. The process was, however, hit by complications, including the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) cancellation of a 12-year global media and sponsorship rights contract.

The loss of the CAF agreement deprived Lagardère Sports of the second of two contracts previously regarded as the ‘crown jewels’ of the division. The Asian Football Confederation business ends next year after DDMC Fortis won the contract from 2021 to 2028.

The sports and entertainment unit finally delivered a positive Ebit in 2014 following a restructuring of operations and years of Arnaud Lagardère being accused of running the sports operation like a personal “hobby”.

A reliance on media-rights trading, previously through its Sportfive, IEC in Sports and World Sport Group agencies, was reduced as the strategy shifted to encompass sectors such as athlete and player representation, consulting and stadium management. Uefa’s centralisation of national team media rights in 2012 hit Sportfive hard, and the agency was also left chastened by the provisions for risk booked on its sale of 2014 and 2016 Olympics broadcast rights in Europe.

Alongside its various other revenue streams, the new Sportfive entity does remain involved in media-rights trading. Its headline properties remain the sale of the International Handball Federation’s international rights (from 2019 to 2025) and the sale of the Commonwealth Games broadcast rights through the ‘CGF Partnerships’ venture.