SBJ/April 22-28, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Engine Shop revs up client roster

When Brian Gordon was a partner with the Miami Marketing Group, there wasn’t any problem that couldn’t be solved with a good party. He and one of his partners with the agency, who was known as the club king of Miami, were known for matching brands with entertainers at some of the grandest parties on South Beach.

Along the way, he met Ed Kiernan, who came from a more traditional sports marketing background, running golf programs for clients at Peter Jacobsen Sports and later GMR Marketing.

The firm developed Corona’s ATP World Tour activation.
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Together, they thought they could further blur the line between sports and entertainment marketing, and deliver clients a unique approach to activation. So 14 months ago they formed Engine Shop, a firm based in New York’s Flatiron District that’s quickly becoming known as the agency that solves marketing dilemmas with a heavy dose of style and flamboyance, whether it’s producing the ESPN party at the Super Bowl or staging a Bud Light Lime concert under the Brooklyn Bridge.

During Engine Shop’s first year, it has attracted Mercedes-Benz, Omega, Johnson & Johnson, and Carey International, among others, as clients for its sports and entertainment marketing.

“Brian and I met 10 years ago and we talked about getting together several times and until now, it just never worked out,” Kiernan said. “Finally, we were able to bring together this unique set of disciplines and Rolodexes that give us access throughout the sports and entertainment world.”

In the last year, the agency has grown from 15 people to 60, and it is hiring for seven new positions. Kiernan estimates that Engine Shop could be up to 100 employees by the end of the year.

At the core of the business is finding marketing opportunities that bring sports and entertainment together.

In New Orleans, Engine Shop took Mercedes-Benz into GQ’s Super Bowl party as one of the primary sponsors, where it had branding around the party site in the Garden District and placed a CLA model inside the venue.

The GQ party also provided Mercedes the opportunity to invite some of its best customers to an intimate concert by Lil Wayne for no more than 500 people with celebrities such as model Kate Upton and actress Hayden Panettiere in attendance.

“Within sports, we’re seeing an increasing convergence of entertainment and creative activations that stretch from events on-site to
At the Super Bowl, Engine Shop developed programs for ESPN and Mercedes-Benz.
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concerts and parties off-site,” Gordon said. “So, the question becomes, how do you pull all of that together in the right way for the clients?”

Gordon, who brought a deep list of connections from the entertainment world, and Kiernan are two of five partners in the agency, along with Jennifer Carper, Ryan Schinman and Chris Handy.

Shinman and Gordon formerly were partners at Miami Marketing Group, which included a marketing agency on one side and nightclub ownership on the other side. They bought the third partner, David Grutman, out of the marketing business and rolled it into Engine Shop. Clients like ESPN came with them.

Johnson & Johnson came on board last year. Engine Shop is working with J&J sports medicine brand DePuy Mitek on a FIFA World Cup program. Corona, PrimeSport and Omega also are clients.

Soccer player Alex Morgan was called in for a clinic sponsored by DePuy Mitek.
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But the big win of 2012 came last fall when Mercedes-Benz USA named Engine Shop its agency of record for everything from sports to fashion.

“That really helped catapult us to where we are today,” Gordon said.

Carper, who had worked on the Mercedes-Benz business for the last 15 years, had been with Sage Collective, where she negotiated Mercedes’ naming-rights deal with the Superdome in 2011.

She struck out on her own last year, and after giving her own consultancy a try, Carper in February came to Engine Shop, where she has been reunited with Mercedes. She remains based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

“Yes, we understand the traditional sports base, the naming-rights deals, the endorsement contracts, the sponsorships, but we also bring an extra umph into activation because, what’s nice, is that we’re intersecting with entertainment marketing,” Carper said. “We can cross over into golf and host outings with executives from the entertainment industry.”

That will likely come into play with Mercedes as it seeks a stronger connection with Hollywood. One way to do that is to establish relationships with film and TV executives through unique golf experiences, something Engine Shop is considering with its client, which also is a patron sponsor for the PGA of America.

“It’s no secret that many of Mercedes’ competitors are very active in film and television,” Gordon said. “Mercedes needs those top-down relationships in the entertainment world and music world. These are the people they need to know, and we can use our relationships” to help facilitate that.

Engine Shop still has a bevy of non-sports entertainment business, such as the Absolut-sponsored Swedish House Mafia private concert in Los Angeles, but the convergence of sports and entertainment will continue to mark Engine Shop’s business.

“You can start to see how this network of relationships can add value,” Kiernan said.

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