Merging Revolutions: Co-founders Q&A

17 Sep 2019

By: Sport Industry Group

It’s been just over a year since the UK-based sports marketing agency Revolution Sports and the US based rEvolution merged to form one transatlantic organisation.

The two shared the same name, but also many of the same objectives. Both were looking to each other’s territories as spaces for potential growth and now, the two teams on opposite sides of the ocean work as one. Collaboration breeds growth and the UK agency is now on the cusp of moving into a new and larger space on London’s Southbank.

Ahead of their move, Sport Industry Group chatted to rEvolution’s President and Founder John Rowady and Managing Director Merrick Haydon to talk all things merger, expansion and future plans.


How did the merger come about?

JR: We were at the stage in our growth where I wanted to advance our ground-game in global sport. The environment for sports marketing-related acquisitions was aggressively competitive (and still is). We had a representative in the marketplace, and I asked if he knew the principals of Revolution Sports. It turned out he did and brought us together for a meeting. Merrick, Rod (Kohler) and I really connected, and the rest is history. Relationships are everything in these deals, and there was so much synergy in business cohesiveness and culture.  

MH: When we (Revolution Sports) lost my partner and co-founder, Rod Kohler, in 2018, it was a major transitional point for the agency. We (Rod and I) had met John and other members of the team through our work – the conversation we were having soon shifted from, “How do we work together?” to, “We should join together.”

 

There’s an element of chance that both original companies were looking to grow in opposite directions in the first place, but how much of a role did the name play in proceedings? Could it have happened without the synchronicity?

MH: We knew each other and respected each other’s work, even sometimes competing with each other. So it really was a win-win for both agencies in terms of where we both wanted to go. I will say that it’s been a tremendous opportunity for my team to join with another independent agency, one that could scale with us internationally and become partners with us as we broaden our services and reach.

JR: The same name just made it easier because the cultures matched. We were already on the same team and just didn’t know it yet. It’s extremely rare to have this happen, but getting founder owners to give up their name is one of the hardest issues to overcome in any deal. The name sameness was ultimately serendipitous. I would consider other agencies named Revolution if they are a fit!  

 

What has it been like to merge with another company in a different market and perhaps with a different way of doing things?

JR: In general, there has been a ton of excitement, especially considering that we are a year into the deal. We are winning together, which smooths the edges off the cumbersome nature of any acquisition. From a marketing and brand standpoint, rEvolution has been well received by all forms of relationships throughout the global sports industry. rEvolution now has a message that competitively differentiates us from others.  We are the renegades of sports marketing. We’re not part of the network agency system. Nobody from that perspective thought we would get here. Merrick and I have a lot of the same relationships on a global level, and we’re disrupting with a larger team in more markets. It’s been exciting and natural. 

MH: Sure, there are things like the time change, some new holidays and so on, but the good news is that many of the challenges we faced before the merger have now been overcome because of it. As one rEvolution, we now have a global footprint, a 100+ team across multiple offices with a far broader skillset at our disposal and a broader suite of integrated sports marketing services than ever before, making us able to challenge for new cross-market and global contracts. 

Did it take some time to settle into a working rhythm before things started to run smoothly?

JR: After the acquisition, we aligned our agency to act as one team — “one rEvolution”— rather than US and London separately. We’ve gotten the marketing, sales and branding cohesiveness, which created a much faster like-minded integration into one team. Now stable, we’re investing in the infrastructure to manage new clients and industry growth initiatives. I think that going into year two, we’re going to be able to focus on adding more teammates and service offerings that are headquartered in the UK, and we will start looking at other strategic partner companies in the UK and Europe. Now that our London HQ has moved to an incredible space in central London, we are on a solid path to advance our total organisational performance.

MH:  I completely agree with John, and I also appreciate that John has gone through these types of acquisitions before. Year one was all about stabilisation and cleaning up internal processes and many of the things in the back of house. Collectively, I feel the excitement and buzz picking up as we head into year two. What with major events on the horizon here in Europe, including the UEFA EURO 2020 and the Olympics in Paris, plus the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the World Cup United Bid, it’s a thrilling time to be in the sports business.

 

What have you been working on during the first year?

MH: Year one has been about stabilisation, and it has been a building block year. For starters, we’ve moved into a great space that allows us to ensure the same world-class customer service. We’ve also added several key members to our team on the research, operations and sales side that will help us grow into year two. We’ve had excellent conversations with brands and sports federations telling us we are on to something.

JR:  Agreed – in Year one, we’ve been focused on streamlining our organisational alignment into “one rEvolution,” which was building a strong organisational structure and back-of-house systems, establishing a global sales team and expanding our international reach through client acquisitions, retentions and with our firestarters – rEv YOUTH, RGE (global hospitality) and REV/XP (esports). We’ve focused on bringing our current clients into the larger service offerings and markets, and we’re intent on servicing our clients at the next level.

 

What does year two and beyond look like for rEvolution?

MH: The future for rEvolution is very bright. I’m steadfast in my belief that sponsorship, media and sports marketing remain a bull market and will for the foreseeable future. There’s hugely positive forecasts of growth for the coming decade. In year two, I only expect us to have more opportunities and continue the positive momentum we’ve started to see in year one.

JR: As we head full steam into year two, we are looking to continue our internal streamlining, bolstering our staff, adding new service offerings and building our reputation in the UK and Europe - and beyond. This takes time, but we do see a lot of progress here. Our work has given us credibility in global sports, such as football, golf, motorsports, the Olympic movement and esports. And on the flip side, we are able to represent international brands, events and sports federations that want to expand their credibility in the US consumer marketplace.

Year two of this acquisition gives us an exciting opportunity to continue to win across the globe as our internal U.S. and London branches build a stronger, aligned “one rEvolution.”