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April 4, 2018 – Grace Blue, which specializes in recruitment for the media, marketing and communications sectors, has expanded into the sports industry to target leadership at sports agencies, teams, venues and leagues, as well as eSports, media and technology companies. The launch comes in conjunction with industry veteran Eric Guthoff joining the firm as partner.
Grace Blue will bring its network and specialized experience to help organizations proactively plan for the talent they need now and in the future. New roles are being created across the sports industry in areas where Grace Blue has strong expertise, including digital, content production, e-commerce, analytics, data utilization, influencer marketing and technology strategy.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the North American sports industry alone is projected to grow to over $78 billion by 2021. This growth will be impacted by the evolving fan experience inside and outside stadiums and driven by patrons who are able to control where, when, and how they consume content. Additionally, sports organizations and brands are looking to create new revenue streams by tapping top talent in media, technology and digital.
Grace Blue believes organizations will need to diversify their talent pool, expand their core capabilities and increasingly broaden where and how they look for talent in order to fully capitalize on the growth ahead.
“There is an incredible convergence in the world of sports, media and technology right now,” said Claire Telling, co-CEO of Grace Blue. “Grace Blue will help sports marketers proactively recruit transformative leadership talent and acquire the companies that will keep them ahead of the evolving landscape. We are also thrilled to welcome Eric to lead our expansion into such an exciting and innovative sector. His background, combined with our reach into forward-thinking agencies, consultancies, and Silicon Valley, will be a powerful solution for sports marketers.”
Mr. Guthoff said he was excited by the possibilities that his new role presents. “I joined Grace Blue because they have the know-how and capabilities to prepare the industry I’m passionate about in an evolving market,” he said. “Talent is the bridge that will take sports organizations into the future, but the current pool lacks diversity and often falls short in areas such as digital marketing, data utilization, and content strategy – all critical to growth in this new world.”
Prior to Grace Blue, Mr. Guthoff co-founded GlideSlope, a boutique marketing agency in global sport, and helped guide it through an acquisition by CSM Sport & Entertainment last year. There, he led the business development and talent acquisition strategy and built a diverse global network across the sports landscape of brands, agencies, rights holders, media and technology companies. Mr. Guthoff also worked in the consulting divisions at Octagon and IMG (Endeavor), two of the largest sports and entertainment marketing agencies in the world, building multi-channels strategies for clients across the sports, entertainment and lifestyle spaces.
Mr. Guthoff recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss Grace Blue’s new offering.
Eric, give us an overview of the new sports practice at Grace Blue.
We are expanding our existing business into the sports and gaming industries to target leadership at sports agencies, teams, venues and leagues, as well as eSports, media and technology companies. Our mission is to help these organizations plan for the talent and capabilities they need now and in the future. I will lead this expansion working with the Grace Blue teams in London, New York, Singapore and Shanghai. Our executive team has held leadership roles in marketing and media businesses themselves. We will continue to focus on competencies that define the brand consumer connection such as digital, content production, e-commerce, analytics, data utilization, influencer marketing and technology strategy.
What led to the decision to start the practice?
As more of our clients are using sports and gaming to engage their consumers, we have seen a sharp increase in the need for the kind of innovative talent that can help drive the change happening in this space. Sports is going to be $78 billion dollar business by 2021 in North America alone. This growth will only be met with an effort to widen and diversify the talent pool and bring in new capabilities to keep pace with an evolving fan. The chief revenue office must be surrounded with a chief fan experience officer, a head of content strategy and a director of data utilization to win in the next 10 years. The combination of Grace Blue’s specialized experience and expansive network with my credentials in sports is going to be a powerful solution.
“As more of our clients are using sports and gaming to engage their consumers, we have seen a sharp increase in the need for the kind of innovative talent that can help drive the change happening in this space.”
What challenges do you expect with the practice as it moves forward?
There is a tremendous opportunity when it comes to expanding the talent pool and bringing new capabilities into the industry because the face of sports has changed so rapidly and will only continue to do so. The biggest challenge I foresee is the industry getting to know Grace Blue as much more than an executive search firm. We want to be the go-to resource for forward-thinking organizations looking to align a talent strategy with their growth ambitions.
Competition in this space has been heating up – what’s your differentiator?
A few things differentiate us. First and foremost, the breadth and depth of Grace Blue’s experience and relationships in the marketing, media, digital and now sports worlds. Whether you are looking to build a talent strategy, future-proof your marketing department, bring in a transformative leader or acquire a business with new capabilities – we are unmatched in our experience, network and global reach. I’m very excited to introduce our consultative products with our research driven executive and M&A advisory offerings to an industry I am passionate about.