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Volume 22 No. 40
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Motorsports-heavy Spire Sports shifts gears, moves into music and esports spaces

Spire Sports & Entertainment, one of the most influential yet under-the-radar agencies in NASCAR, is working to raise its profile in 2018 amid on-track success and a new push into music and esports.

Founded in 2010 as a driver-focused motorsports agency, Spire has a roster that includes some of racing’s brightest young stars, and it has grown a stable of corporate sponsorship clients.

On top of having deep ties in dirt-track racing, Spire has close relationships with a number of team owners in NASCAR, such as Rick Hendrick and Chip Ganassi, auto manufacturers like Toyota, brands like 5-Hour Energy and the sanctioning body itself. It also does work in IndyCar and is looking to do more work in Formula One.

Spire routinely helps broker deals in NASCAR such as driver transactions, sponsorships and endorsements. Yet that work is usually, and intentionally, done without the agency getting public credit.

But after seeing perhaps its best year from its drivers on track, led by Kyle Larson winning four races in NASCAR’s premier series, and with a new effort to diversify into other forms of entertainment, the agency is working on a public relations plan to increase its brand recognition.

Spire Sports & Entertainment

Headquarters: Cornelius, N.C.
No. of employees: 23
Key executives: Co-founders Jeff Dickerson, T.J. Puchyr and Chris Newman
Key clients: Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Kyle Larson, Knoxville Raceway, 5-Hour Energy
“Some of our sponsors, and certainly our teams and drivers, I think they like us because we’re private,” said Jeff Dickerson, co-founder of Spire. “[But] the best thing for the sales guys and maybe for the company overall is to probably be a little more forward about it.”

The agency started with three employees and just two rooms in an office outside Charlotte where it now controls the entire floor. On top of Larson, Spire’s roster includes NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Christopher Bell plus IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe. In addition to 5-Hour Energy, Spire represents brands including Auto-Owners Insurance, Eneos and DC Solar.

Spire has grown to 23 employees. Almost all of its annual revenue now comes from motorsports, with its corporate sponsorship business growing the most. Spire charges retainer fees for its work and then bills based on specific projects.

Staffing will increase now that Spire is building out a new music venture that will link corporate brands with musical artists and festivals. Spire won’t be a promoter of concerts but will rather broker deals with sponsors who want to get into the space.

Spire’s first client that will push into music is 5-Hour Energy, according to Ty Norris, a longtime NASCAR executive who came over last year after Michael Waltrip Racing folded. The “energy shot” brand will endorse undisclosed national touring artists, activate and promote with the artists at the performing venues, engage on social media, create a philanthropic program with some of the artists, and create in-market retail programs.

Spire is also dabbling in esports. It recently became a founding partner in a new venture called Triggerfish Partnerships, which is the media and sponsorship sales arm of Infinite Esports & Entertainment, a holding company founded this year by Texas Rangers co-owner Neil Leibman that includes OpTic Gaming and other esports verticals. OpTic Gaming features teams that play across several first-person-shooter games.

Agency executives noted that the plan is for motorsports to stay at the heart of Spire’s work, but now the agency is capable of extending relationships to music and esports for clients looking for broader reach.

“In some ways it’s still the exact same — motorsports is still the focus of it,” Dickerson said. “You have this success, this is your time to capitalize and maybe take on some risk but you can’t take your eye off the core business — and our core business is going to be NASCAR and IndyCar.”