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Volume 23 No. 8
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Engine Shop on the move

Bruin Sports Capital is acquiring agency

New York-based marketing firm Engine Shop was founded more than three years ago as an edgy experiential agency intent on further blurring the lines between sports and entertainment.

Now that George Pyne’s operating company, Bruin Sports Capital, has acquired the agency for an undisclosed sum, Engine Shop’s new challenge is to forge into previously uncharted areas with the resources Bruin supplies.

Pyne’s team finalized the acquisition of Engine Shop last week after talks intensified through the summer, giving Bruin a second business to go with the NFL hospitality agency it acquired in March.

Engine Shop and NFL On Location will operate separately under their existing names. Engine Shop, a company of 55 employees, will retain its offices in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, and its leadership will remain intact.

“We’re simply here to help,” Pyne said of his latest buy. “The NFL is one platform business. Engine Shop is a different platform in marketing services. We will deploy capital as needed when it creates more value for their clients.”

Brian Gordon, Engine Shop’s chief executive and one of four partners, estimated that the agency had been approached 15 to 20 times over the past 12 months about selling. The question of whether the partners would sell gradually became less about if, and more about who and when, Gordon said.

“As we found ourselves wanting to do more — bigger, better, faster — than we’re able to do, you start to think about who you can align with to help growth,” Gordon said. “There comes an important time in the life cycle of every business where you say, ‘Let’s do something big and bold that will propel us to the next level or we’re going to just sustain and build organically.’ We wanted to do something big and bold. These guys [Bruin] came along, right place, right time.”

Engine Shop was born in January 2012 out of Gordon’s former business, Miami Marketing Group, which was known for its elaborate and festive Super Bowl parties and celebrity/athlete events at the MTV awards, ESPYs and other big shows.

From that beginning, Gordon partnered with Chris Handy, Ed Kiernan and, one year later, Jennifer Carper, to create a deeper experiential marketing firm with a strong focus on digital and social media at a time when those disciplines were evolving.

Engine Shop’s big break came late in 2012, when it won agency-of-record status for Mercedes-Benz for everything from sports to fashion. In addition to taking the luxury auto into the ESPN Super Bowl party as a sponsor in 2013, the agency also negotiated the naming-rights deal for Mercedes-Benz at the new Atlanta stadium, as well as a sponsorship with Augusta National for the Masters.

The Roster

Brian Gordon, partner, CEO
Chris Handy, partner, president
Jennifer Carper, partner, chief client officer
Ed Kiernan, partner, chief marketing officer
Nick Hines, junior partner, EVP
David Wilson, junior partner, EVP
Patti Blythe, EVP
Josh Pelz, EVP

Sampling of Clients

Anheuser-Busch InBev
Inc. Magazine

Mercedes’ naming rights at the Superdome was done in 2011 by Carper when she was at Sage Collective.

“One of the things we liked is that they’re as well-versed in Augusta National and golf as they are in music and fashion,” said David Abrutyn, principal and executive vice president at Bruin. “Their ability to deliver solutions based on consumer engagement and experiential is really impressive.”

While Bruin and Engine Shop have not yet decided on any specific plans, additional funding could come in handy for global growth and other areas, such as research, measurement and content.

Pyne said Bruin will continue to keep its eyes open in the marketing services categories for additional targets. It’s not certain if any future acquisitions would be folded under the Engine Shop name.

Pyne founded Bruin by raising $250 million in capital over the final six months of 2014, giving him a total buying power of $500 million. He announced the formation of Bruin in January and just months later acquired NFL On Location from the league. Unlike private equity funds that look to flip companies in three to five years, Bruin looks to build businesses over a 10- to 15-year runway. Pyne stresses that Bruin is an operating company, not a fund.

“We’re on a long journey,” Pyne said. “And we’re very happy with where we are.”

Added Gordon: “George said it in our first meeting: The only thing holding us back are the things we can’t dream of, and we bought into that from meeting one.”