TSE Consulting becomes Burson-Marsteller Sport to tackle 'larger trends'
By Callum Murray
The full integration of TSE Consulting, the Lausanne-based sports consultancy, into the WPP-owned public relations giant Burson-Marsteller, to become Burson-Marsteller Sport, is timely because it enables the combined and expanded unit to respond to “larger trends” in the sports industry, including “reputational risk driven by a lack of transparency,” according to Ramiro Prudencio, chief executive of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Prudencio (pictured) was speaking following this morning’s announcement that TSE Consulting, which was acquired by Burson-Marsteller in February 2016, will operate under the new name Burson-Marsteller Sport, combining “TSE Consulting’s industry expertise and knowledge with Burson-Marsteller’s global resources.”
The new unit will continue to be led by Lars Haue-Pedersen, formerly managing director of TSE Consulting, and will combine TSE’s team of consultants with sport experts from various Burson-Marsteller offices. Prudencio said that he expects this to lead to more than a doubling of the unit’s staff numbers, from the 10 to 15 that were employed by TSE Consulting, albeit not all of those will be based in the Lausanne office.
He told Sportcal: “There is the option of any [Burson-Marsteller] employee who has a passion for sport to become part of the group. I expect Burson-Marsteller Sport to grow to 25 to 35 staff across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, initially, then as we identify projects and opportunities the goal is to activate in other regions.”
Burson-Marsteller's Andreas Sigl, formerly based in Geneva, will join the Lausanne office initially to act as a “channel between the two organisations, which will become one.”
Prudencio added: “Working together [since 2016], we’ve been getting to know each other and exploring synergies. There is also a branding element to this, although it’s not the most important one. Lars and his team believe that aligning under the Burson-Marsteller brand will give them a higher profile to sell services which Burson clients might not have understood we can offer.
“For Burson, it’s the opportunity to energise the network. We’re in 110 countries, with 77 offices and 85 affiliate offices. We’re on the ground and often close to national Olympic committees and municipalities and regions that want to host events. We’re able to activate more effectively by bringing in TSE’s expertise. It broadens the universe, and works both ways.
“Other things make this timely. There are larger trends around accountability and transparency, which is a major issue for all institutions: reputational risk driven by a lack of transparency. Burson has a long history of helping corporates work on reputational risk issues. That trend is only going to continue. The risk/reward equation will become more important to more institutions. Stakeholders are demanding more accountability.”
Asked whether Burson’s risk-mitigation strategies might have helped protect Fifa, for example, from the major corruption scandal it has endured in recent years, Prudencio said: “In hindsight, everything is possible. I wouldn’t want to say we would have been able to avoid it, but what we do know is that organisations that put reputational risk at board level tend to be able to identify, mitigate and act quickly when something happens.”
For the new division, success, according to Prudencio, would entail rights-holders, host entities and federations, from the IOC to national federations, recognising Burson-Marsteller Sport as a “partner to think through the challenges and opportunities that they face. Each will have a different set, some of them discrete. We want the market to realise the deep expertise in sports offered by the TSE heritage.”
Asked if the new division is seeking to compete in new markets and sectors, Prudencio said: “Ideally, yes. As global as the public relations industry is, the decision to hire sports consultancy is done at a local level. It’s incumbent on us to activate the network to ensure that our country teams have a clear understanding of what they can offer. Lausanne is important – it’s at the centre of many decisions – but if we activate effectively we can be in front of decision-makers across the entire world. There are places TSE was not present simply because of scale and size.”
TSE was perhaps best known for its work with event hosts and international federations, and had relatively little involvement with two of the biggest sports business sectors, sponsorship and media rights. This is not about to change, Prudencio said, albeit “there is obviously a link” between Burson’s-Marsteller’s areas of expertise and these sectors.
He continued: “If you mismanage at an organisational level, you may damage the economic opportunities. What we do will preserve and optimise the value of bidding for rights, but we’re not getting into that directly.”
However, Prudencio pointed out that Burson-Marsteller Sport is likely to work closely with the New York-based, WPP-owned Fan Experience, which works to “ensure that you get the best return for your sponsorship dollar by activating in a below-the-line way. If you ask fans who have been staring at a logo on an outfield wall what the brand was, they often don’t remember. The question is, what were you doing to tune the fan experience to your brand? That’s what Fan Experience does. It’s different from Burson-Marsteller Sport, but complementary.”
In a statement, Haue-Pedersen, now the managing director of Burson-Marsteller Sport, said: “This is a very exciting move forward for all of us coming from TSE Consulting. We are both proud and honoured be part of a leading global firm like Burson-Marsteller and we can now bring wider communications and PR services to our clients in the international sports world. I am convinced that the combined forces of our deep expertise in sport and the global reach of Burson-Marsteller’s strategic communication services will create a powerful impact for both current and prospective clients.”
The statement concluded: “Burson-Marsteller’s new expansion and investment in sport will provide clients with new resources and new services. As such, Burson-Marsteller Sport will include services including Campaigning & International Relations, Crisis Management & Corporate Communication. Event Strategy Development & Evaluation, Destination Marketing & Event Host Communication, Sport Strategy & Policy Development, and Training & Knowledge Transfer.”