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Volume 21 No. 1
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Wasserman builds around its endurance events

In its first year, Wasserman Media Group’s endurance sports group has boosted business around its racing events and expanded its stable of athletes. 

The agency launched its endurance group early in 2014, with executive vice president Matt Wikstrom overseeing a staff of eight. The group negotiates contracts and marketing deals for professional cyclists and operates three racing properties: San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers race and the multicity 5K Electric Run and obstacle series ROC Race. 

By operating events and promoting athletes, Wasserman’s ownership model is unique in the U.S. endurance sports space. The company employs a similar strategy in action and Olympic sports, as well as soccer. 

The adult-focused Electric Run combines a nighttime 5K with lights and a party.

The company’s high point came in May, when the Bay to Breakers surpassed 40,000 paid registrants, up 20 percent from 2013. Wasserman bought the event from AEG in October for an undisclosed amount. 

In the lead-up to the race, Wasserman signed apparel manufacturer Under Armour, training website Map My Fitness and travel website Zozi as premier race sponsors, deals valued in the low to mid-six figures. 

“The new deals helped from a financial standpoint, but they also elevated the race’s visibility,” Wikstrom said. “We made some really positive inroads this year.”

The group has also boosted sponsorship revenue around the Electric Run series, which features 23 events made up of a nighttime run followed by a party with electronica music. The group is positioning the events primarily for the adult market, and it cut low-six-figure deals with energy drink Rock Star Energy, whiskey maker Southern Comfort and fitness technology company FitBit.  

Wasserman also grew its stable of professional cyclists to 12, adding cyclocross national champions Jeremy Powers and Logan Owen and road cyclists Caleb Fairly and Travis McCabe. 

Wikstrom plans to branch beyond cycling into other endurance athletes in 2015. 

“We’ve always known what we’re good at, and that’s representing athletes and brands and properties,” Wikstrom said. “We’re applying that to endurance sports, but we’re not getting away from our core focus.”

Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.