Catalyst: Agency Business Report 2015

The nine-year-old firm's sports practice accounted for 48% of billings, followed by active lifestyle at 27%, and entertainment at 25%.

Bret Werner, SVP and MD
Bret Werner, SVP and MD

Principal: Bret Werner, SVP and MD
Ownership: IMG Worldwide (part of William Morris Endeavor)
Offices: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Charlotte, NC; Chicago, and London
Revenue: $11 million to $14 million
Headcount: Global: 49; US: 46

Bret Werner, SVP and MD at Catalyst, says an ownership change will help the firm continue its track record of revenue growth, which last year was up by at least 15% on 2013 revenue of $9.5 million. 

Entertainment talent agency William Morris Endeavor (WME) closed on its $2.3-billion deal to buy rival entertainment and sports marketing company IMG Worldwide, which had purchased Catalyst in 2012.

"Our new parent company is a leader in sports, so our business will benefit from that. Sports, entertainment, and lifestyle have all blurred," he adds. "It has become about cultural relevancy and we know how to navigate those spaces very well."

The nine-year-old firm’s sports practice accounted for 48% of billings, followed by active lifestyle at 27%, and entertainment at 25%.

Client wins included Calia by Carrie Underwood, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Vibram, and Facebook. Catalyst is helping the social media giant with its sports presence. The firm also won competitive pitches for assignments with existing clients including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Microsoft, and Timex.

Catalyst’s growth was equally divided between new clients and existing relationships. Influencer marketing proved one of its most in-demand skill sets. It is spearheading several branded content initiatives for Courtyard by Marriott, for instance.

"We’re integrating digital and cultural influencers with a lot of our partners. Sometimes that means getting a major celebrity involved with the brand, but a lot of times it is an online star with a passionate following," explains Werner. "Influencer marketing has been the biggest driver for us, and will likely continue in 2015."

Catalyst stopped working for Coca-Cola’s Zico Coconut Water, an account, which was awarded to MSLGroup following a competitive review.

The war for talent
Staff turnover was 10%, with Werner saying "the war for talent is more competitive than ever."

"It’s key for any service business to win it. We’re competing with ad agencies and digital and PR firms," he asserts. "A diversified communicator who can work in traditional PR but have digital chops and drive strategy is a unique skill set."  

Catalyst has one P&L for its six offices. As a result, Werner says he doesn’t worry about market conditions in office locales. "We want to tap into the resources that will provide the best results, so we foster collaboration between offices," he explains.

To build its thought leadership presence in sports, the agency produced its Fan Engagement Study for the fifth consecutive year, monitoring the social media habits of sports fans, and, for the first time.

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