Meet the Shortlist 2021: Agency of the Year

18 Aug 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

The Sport Industry Awards 2021 will see the industry’s biggest night of the year return to Evolution London on Wednesday 8th September, and will also be the 20th anniversary of the event.

Ahead of the night, we’re taking a look at this year’s shortlist, to see who might be returning home with the famous trophies on the night.

Make sure you don’t miss out on attending the in-person return of the Sport Industry Awards - book your place now.

Agency of the Year is the one they all want to win. The ultimate agency gong for those who have delivered, for their clients, for their teams, and for the industry. It’s been a challenging year to say the least, but the names on this list have adapted and pushed forward. 

Read on to see the shortlist below...


Ear to the Ground

Ear to the Ground is an independent global creative agency using sports and esports to build brands that lead culture.

Despite the pandemic, its Fan Intelligence product drove unprecedented growth for the agency in 2020. Net profits tripled YOY and clients enjoyed record-breaking results.

The agency model, built around remote listening and collaboration, proved resilient, enabling Ear to the Ground to not just survive but thrive, with revenue increasing 32% YOY.

Fan Intelligence used sport as a bridge to wider culture to drive the biggest console launch in history (the Sony PS5), and record-breaking sales for sportstech brands STATSports and Therabody.

Insight-driven strategy and creative also saw the agency retained as New Balance Football’s global creative agency, while for PlayStation there were more key successes across global and grassroots sport and esports.

Importantly, the team enjoyed stability - no jobs were lost, 22 new hires were made with a 'Work From Anywhere' policy introduced.

Little Dot Studios

Little Dot Studios is a digital content agency and media network with a large, dedicated sports specialism. Creating meaningful connections between premium content and digital audiences; realising potential in every sporting moment.

Born for the digital entertainment era and made up of over 300 digital experts across UK, US, Germany, and Asia, they work with the world’s most recognisable TV, consumer and sports brands including The FA, Formula E, ICC and ECB, creating content for more than 500 YouTube channels globally and delivering 6 billion views every month.

Little Dot run their own digital broadcast network of more than thirty channels across social platforms and OTT video on-demand services; licensing over 15,000 hours of hand-picked long-form content and watched by 400+ million viewers in 2020.

Little Dot Studios also own sports-focused production studio WING, as well as broadcaster Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast network and SVOD service.

LiveWire Sport

If you’re a sports fan, it’s highly likely you’ve engaged with LiveWire Sport content every day for almost a decade, and the agency says it has let its work do the talking. But this year, as it becomes the first social-first sports agency to turn ten years-old, it says it's time to step out of the shadows.

In a time of unfathomable tragedy and disruption in the industry, LiveWire Sport has grown its team by 75%; recorded a ninth straight year of turnover growth; won new business with some of the biggest rights-holders in the world; supported the urgently needed development of unrepresented talent in the industry; launched a filming-at-home app; raised over £11m for UK charities through pro bono work; invested in a new sister agency, and continued to deliver for an enviable list of clients, all while continuing to develop its culture and nurture the well-being of its talented team in challenging times.

M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment

We didn’t just survive 2020. We changed & thrived.

We did this by refusing to sit still and bemoan our industry coming to an abrupt halt.

We adapted our offer & refocused our efforts to become a fully data-driven creative activation agency. An agency that offers independent counsel and world class creative activation to deliver positive impact for our clients and society.

We also chased down and won eight out of eight pitches landing retained work for the likes of Kia, McDonald’s, eToro and Dettol generating more than £1m new revenue.

Live events may have stopped but we pivoted to digital in a big way by delivering some of the most talked about virtual events of the year for Heinken, Kia and McDonald’s. Digital made up 70% of our revenue in 2020, up from 35% in 2019.

Two Circles

Two Circles uses data analytics around sports fan behaviour to drive commercial growth for the world’s leading sports rights-owners. Our technology-enabled, service-led offering helps clients grow revenue across their eventday, sponsorship and media businesses.

In 2020, when sport was shutting down across the world, Two Circles chose to go against the grain and lean into Covid.

Due to nine years of robust financial management, we were able to let clients reduce or defer scopes of work and payments, and avoid making redundancies or using furlough schemes. This enabled us to continue – and in many cases increase - our support for clients at the time they needed it most.

As a result we retained 95% of clients and achieved a ninth consecutive year of agency growth. In 2020, revenue grew 18% year-on-year and operating profit by 22%, while we welcomed 22 new clients, and opened a new office in Paris.

WePlay

WePlay was founded as the first performance-based sports marketing agency for the digital age. Our approach is entirely focused on delivering outcomes over outputs. That way, our clients can benefit from a world-class agency, without the traditional fixed costs associated with one.

Despite the significant disruption to the sports industry in 2020, we adapted our service offerings to the rapid changes in digital sports consumption with major success stories achieved in our work.

But, if we learned anything in 2020, it’s that the financial bottom line is not the only bottom line. We’ve supported organisations disproportionately affected by the pandemic and invested in protecting both the wellbeing of our people and nurturing their development in a virtual working world.

Remarkably, 2020 marked our best year to date with the foundations laid for even further growth in 2021. The best is yet to come.