IPG Launches Advantage International, Sports Marketing Shop

Interpublic Group has launched a new sports marketing agency called Advantage International and has hired 20-year industry veteran Tom Haidinger to run it as president.

The holding company already has a huge presence in the sector with Octagon, the sports marketing, sponsorship and representation firm with 800 employees around the globe.

With growing interest in the sphere from clients, and the opportunity to grow market share while avoiding potential client conflicts, IPG was prompted to launch a second shop in the space, according to Haidinger.

In fact, with Advantage International, IPG is dusting off an old nameplate and putting it back into the market. That was the name of Octagon before it rebranded in 1997. “It still has a lot of name recognition in the business so were bringing it back as a brand,” said Haidinger.

Based in Darien, Conn., Advantage is starting from scratch, and won’t be importing any Octagon clients to help kick-start the operation. But the shop has signed Hyundai Motors as its first agency of record account and is working on a strategic project for Samsung, the Korean electronics giant, Haidinger confirmed.

Hyundai will be handled out of Los Angeles, where the agency has a second office and the U.S. operations of the carmaker are based. (Sibling agency Initiative handles the car company’s media assignment). Ann Stefano Bash runs the L.A. office as group director and reports to Haidinger. Previously, Bash was with sibling IPG branding shop Jack Morton.

To start, Advantage will focus on corporate planning and strategy and not other areas that Octagon is involved in like athlete representation and event ownership and management.

Haidinger helped IPG formulate the plan to start Advantage before signing on as president. Earlier, he served stints at Genesco Sports Enterprises, Major League Soccer and Capital Sports.

PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that globally the sports marketing business will grow nearly 4% a year through 2015 to $145.3 billion. In the last couple of years, a number of agencies and holding companies have entered the sports marketing space, or expanded their presence in it to grab a share of the business, including Horizon, MEC, MediaCom, Havas and MDC Partners.

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