Bruin's Engine Shop acquires Burns' new consultancy in whirlwind move
By Callum Murray
Terrence Burns, the Olympic bid and marketing strategist best known for his work with the likes of Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018, Russia’s bid to host the 2018 Fifa World Cup and LA 2028, has joined Engine Shop, the engagement and experiential agency owned by George Pyne’s Bruin Sports Capital, just weeks after announcing the launch of his own consultancy, T Burns Sports Group.
In a whirlwind process lasting less than eight weeks, Burns has been appointed executive vice-president, global sports for Engine Shop, after the agency acquired T Burns Sports Group, comprising Burns himself plus a handful of other executives yet to be announced.
Speaking via an exclusive conference call from Engine Shop’s headquarters in New York, Brian Gordon, the agency’s chief executive, described the timing of the acquisition as “fortuitous,” given that it had been preoccupied since its own acquisition by Bruin in late 2015 with activities including the recent acquisition of the Gamer Agency, the eSports strategy, event production and development company, meaning that it had put its international expansion ambitions on hold.
Now, Gordon said, the agency has asked itself, “What’s next to give us the growth and scale to compete with global sports marketing agencies? We’re already competing at that level, with clients asking us to help them with their global strategic thinking and needs. We now believe we can compete in any territory, with any agency, for any client.”
Engine Shop’s clients include the likes of Anheuser-Busch, ESPN, Greyhound, Johnson & Johnson, Mercedes-Benz, Moët Hennessy, Tiffany & Co. and Under Armour, and it has offices in Beverly Hills, Atlanta (where Burns will be based) and Miami.
Contributing to its growth strategy, Engine Shop has also announced the appointment of Gord Lang as chief growth officer for the company. Lang joins Engine Shop after 17 years as chief revenue officer for the Octagon sports marketing agency, where, Engine Shop said, “he played a leading strategic and operational role in the agency’s growth and worked closely with its parent IPG.”
Gordon said that Engine Shop plans to take advantage of the fact that at least two global sporting events, the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles and the 2026 Fifa World Cup look set to come to USA (USA is part of the ‘United 2026’ World Cup bid, together with Mexico and Canada, which is favourite to win the rights to host the 2026 tournament). The agency is also hopeful that a US bid might be successful in winning the right to host the 2026 or 2030 winter Olympic Games.
Speaking on the conference call, Burns (pictured, top) said that he is in talks with “all” of the potential 2026 winter Olympic bidders about becoming a consultant to their bids. The International Olympic Committee said last week that it has been holding talks about a bid for the games in its new ‘invitation phase’ with four cities: Sion in Switzerland; Sapporo in Japan; Stockholm in Sweden; and Calgary in Canada. Graz and Schladming, two cities located in the Austrian province of Styria, have also recently said that they are exploring the possibility of launching a bid, while a US bid is also a possibility.
The IOC must receive expressions of interest for 2026 by the end of March.
However, both Gordon and Burns stressed that Burns’ role at Engine Shop will not be confined to bidding, with Gordon saying: “He is not content just doing what he’s been so successful in doing with Fifa and Olympic bidding. He wants to continue to innovate, to disrupt on the brand side as well. He’s a marketer and storyteller. When you combine that with what we can to do with brands, there’s more than on the surface.
“Securing bids and the bid world is only part of what we have the ability to do. A lot of Olympic sponsors have pretty traditional applications on the engagement side. The question is how to get the most out of it [the Olympics], how to engage people in a different way than historically in the past.”
Burns, who began his Olympic marketing career working for Delta Air Lines when it was the official airline of the Atlanta 1996 games, added: “If it was purely about bidding I would have stayed by myself. But I cut my teeth with a sponsor and I want to do that work again.”
He said that after leaving his previous role with Teneo Sports, the management consultancy firm, he had talks with “all the usual suspects,” but eventually decided to set up his own consultancy before being approached by Engine Shop. He said: “They’re the best in the business at what they do. They’re setting new standards in consumer engagement. This is an opportunity to add value to the Olympic movement, a way to conduct business that will be fresh and new.”
Burns was attracted to Engine Shop in part because of his admiration for Pyne, who leads Bruin, the international media, sports, marketing and branded lifestyle investment company, and with whom Burns worked for about a year in 2003 when both were employed by Nascar, the stock car racing series.
Burns continued: “I think they [Engine Shop] are doing it better and differently from anyone else in the world. I’ve seen nearly every Olympic activation since Lillehammer [in 1994]. Some are good and memorable, but it’s not unfair to say it’s a formula. It’s not wrong but it can be better.”
Having launched his own consultancy, Burns said, “No one was probably more surprised than me at how quickly this happened. But you have to be ready for an opportunity.” Comparing his new role with the one he occupied at Teneo, he said: “Engine Shop is a true marketing services company with an emphasis on sport. It’s a much better fit with my experience and skillset. At the end of the day we’re in the people business. I respect George Pyne greatly.”
Burns was previously chief executive and founder of Helios Partners, the global sports marketing firm with a specialty in the Olympic Games, having made his name in the Olympic world with Meridian Management, the erstwhile marketing agency for the International Olympic Committee.
Asked, in an exclusive interview with Sportcal earlier this year, whether the race to host the 2024 and 2028 games had set any precedents for the International Olympic Committee, Burns said: “I think lots of precedents were set in this campaign - good ones, including a much more collaborative process with the IOC.
“As to the future, I think the IOC needs to look at potential bid cities as the key to their own brand, not something distinct and separate - that’s what’s caused all the problems up to now. Bid cities and OCOGs are the living manifestations of the Olympic brand during non-games time. But, it’s still a relationship game with the membership and the Olympic family. They have to know you and like you before they will vote for you.”
To read the interview, click here .
In a statement, Engine Shop said of Lang that he “delivered consistent double-digit growth at Octagon and had worked with blue-chip brands such as The Home Depot, DOW, Beam Suntory, Taco Bell, Kaiser Permanente, Marriott, Topps, Dannon, and DHL. He also organized a global collaborative network of 250 across 65 IPG agencies driving significant incremental revenue for the company. His best practices for business development, client services, and talent management have been integrated throughout that organization and are still in place today.”Sportcal