The Playbook, which will focus on sport, active health, wellbeing and technology brands, is being set up as a separate legal entity within the group, and will sit separately from other parts of the business in its City offices.
The launch follows the departure of Claire Furlong, who joined Hanover last year and launched its sports practice in November, and has this month taken the role of general manager of media and comms with the International Cricket Council in Dubai.
May, who arrived at the agency late last month, takes on the role of MD of The Playbook, supported by Leigh Ireland as creative director, and Gavin Megaw, who also leads Hanover's corporate and brand division as director. May founded Threepipe in 2004 alongside Jim Hawker and left in mid-2015. Ireland has been with the firm since autumn last year, and Megaw since 2011.
Hanover Group has 86 staff, with the majority working for its original comms consultancy of the same name. It has eight staff in Brussels and four working for Multiple, a tech consultancy in which the group took a majority share in mid-2015. Clients including Goldman Sachs, Sky, Microsoft, the NFL and the England & Wales Cricket Board. Existing sports clients will transfer to The Playbook.
Group CEO Charles Lewington said the launch "enables us to become a full-service communications group that delivers for the most exciting brands on the global stage".
May said that the new agency's mantra was "smart thinking that moves people", which among other things reflects its goal of encouraging participation in sport and activity.