Lucky Generals invests in sports marketing agency

Nairn, Dent and Upton: will harness Lucky Generals’ creative and strategy skills
Nairn, Dent and Upton: will harness Lucky Generals’ creative and strategy skills

Lucky Generals is backing a new sports marketing agency, Dark Horses, founded by former BBH Sport employee Simon Dent.

Dark Horses is the first agency start-up to join Lucky Enterprises, the holding company established by Lucky Generals in January. The new shop does not arrive with launch clients but is in talks with at least one Premier League football club.

Dent was one of the first employees at BBH Sport – Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s sports marketing arm – but left his role as business director to pursue Dark Horses. 

Lucky Generals founding partner Andy Nairn will take an active role in the business, as will Lucky Enterprises group chief operating officer Nik Upton. The trio believe that Dark Horses’ differentiating factor will be Lucky Generals’ creative firepower and Nairn’s strategic thinking.

"A lot of sports agencies don’t have strong strategic credentials or firepower," Nairn told Campaign. "That’s the way for us to have an advantage in that field."

Despite his time at BBH Sport, Dent’s background is in sports law and consultancy. 

He hopes that his commercial background will lead to different kinds of creative sports opportunities, such as an unusual licensing deal or creating a product for an athlete to prolong their career. 

While Lucky Generals has several sports-focused brands on its roster, such as Paddy Power and Betfair, there will not necessarily be cross-pollination of clients. Dent will instead be expected to build his own client list.

Nairn would not go into the financial details of the deal, but said there was no immediate pressure on Dent to start generating returns. 

"We’ll invest in the [Dark Horses] business and brand," Nairn said. "We’re not just chasing growth to clock up huge numbers in year one, doing lots of big, boring sports sponsorships."

Instead, the initial idea is to borrow the Lucky Generals formula of creating entertaining work for a few clients.

As previously reported in Campaign, Lucky Enterprises will take about a 50% stake in start-ups and pay the founders a salary. The size of the stake will vary according to the business.

Dent is currently Dark Horses’ only employee but he expects the agency to begin hiring by next year. 

Lucky Enterprises plans to back a broad range of agency start-ups. While its focus for now is on Dark Horses, Nairn hopes that the holding company will launch a new venture in the next six months. 

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