SBJ/Jan. 10-16, 2011/Research and Ratings

Deal combines specialists in brand exposure metrics

Repucom America has acquired Image Impact, consolidating two of the sports industry’s leading media valuation and brand exposure measurement companies.

Both sides cited as catalysts for the move the similarity in their technology and product offerings as well as an increasingly vocal demand from clients for a single measurement voice in the marketplace.

“When we launched nine years ago, it was with the idea that we wanted to create a currency that would speak across networks, brands and properties,” said Russ Cline, Image Impact founder and CEO. “Then Repucom came in from Australia, and eventually clients and potential clients just got confused because we were both offering basically the same services.”

The combined entity, whose individual client lists were fairly even, now boasts MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL, NASCAR, UFC, PGA Tour, LPGA, several television networks and multiple teams as clients.

The allure of such a powerful portfolio made the acquisition logical, said Repucom President and CEO Paul Smith.

“Now we have all the data under one roof,” Smith said. “If a client wants to know ‘How does NASCAR compare to Rally racing or Formula One?’ or ‘How does MLB compare to NBA?’ we have that information.”

Both Cline and Smith said the global economic struggles of the past few years have helped the research industry, as the demand for deeper data continues to increase. The acquisition addresses that growing demand by increasing the staff and technological capabilities of each individual company.

Image Impact will remain in Prairie Village, Kan., and Repucom’s U.S. headquarters will remain in Stamford, Conn., but staffing at both locations is expected to increase. While most titles have not been determined, Smith will be CEO of the consolidated group, and major new business will be handled through the Stamford office. Sales operations will be divided across the Stamford and Kansas offices and a new, yet-to-be-determined location on the West Coast.

More than 20 employees work at each firm. Both Cline and Smith said they expect that, based on current market demands, the business that will be generated by the merged company will be greater than what the sum of the companies individually has produced.

The biggest expected growth in revenue will come from doing consulting and research for brand-side companies. The biggest challenge, according to Cline, will be the cultural assimilation, and not just between the groups in the Midwest and Northeast. In November, Repucom formed a strategic alliance with Sport+Markt AG, a similar but larger company based in Cologne, Germany.

Both deals were funded by the GF Capital Private Equity Fund LP, a New York-based private equity firm.
“This is about getting in and growing this business,” Smith said.
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