How Philly’s 160over90 Got Acquired by a Global Marketing Firm in Less Than 60 Days

And here’s what the deal means for the city.

160over90 CEO John Campanella. Courtesy photo.

Endeavor’s recent acquisition of Philadelphia branding and marketing agency 160over90 means the city is now home to a WME-IMG-affiliated firm. 160over90, has around 150 employees in Philadelphia who manage big name clients across segments like higher education and professional sports. Though terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, a source close to the matter told the Wall Street Journal the price was about $200 million. Endeavor operates in more than 30 countries and was named one of Fortune’s 25 Most Important Private Companies. 160over90 CEO John Campanella tells us how the deal came together in just two months and why the acquisition is really good for Philadelphia.

BizPhilly: Can you talk about the significance of Philly being the newest location of an IMG-WME affiliated office?
Campanella: Yes. I don’t believe that Endeavor has other properties here in Philadelphia, so this is significant. Philadelphia’s in a great position because we are benefitting from being historically and culturally rich. We are a young city in many ways, even though we are such an old city at the same time. Higher education in Philadelphia is prolific — we have tons of young people who are really helping to reimagine this city. With lots of commitments from companies like Comcast, we’re really seeing Philadelphia emerge as a significant player. And I think importantly, the Endeavor acquisition will allow 160over90 to bring even more to Philadelphia, whether its celebrity talent, music, culinary opportunities, to make the city even richer.

BizPhilly: This deal apparently came together in less than 60 days. How does something like that happen?
Campanella: I think it happens because 160over90 has always gotten a good amount of accolade and interest from a number of players who had seen the sort of work we put into market. For a company like Endeavor, that is very much smart and aggressive, they’re thinking about how to further bolster their portfolio. They know that we already have some adjacencies in our business. We’re already kind of aligned with one another based on the sorts of clients that we partner with and the ones that they partner with. Once we really started to look at one another and think about where there could be significant synergy, it became pretty obvious pretty quickly. It was clear there was huge opportunity here, not only for what Endeavor can bring to 160, but I think also what 160 can then bring to a number of those other Endeavor properties.

BizPhilly: How would you describe what your company does on a day-to-day basis?
Campanella: Most folks know us as a branding agency. Truth be told, I believe that we are a solutions company and a marketing consultancy in many ways. And fundamentally, we are storytellers. We have the ability to create a narrative that really helps elicit and evoke human reactions and emotions. What’s nice about this is that Endeavor, as president Mark Shapiro says, is in the emotion transportation business. They’re all about moving people. The good news is that we’re very much likeminded in terms of the sort of work we do. We take on very strategic, significant projects that our clients rely on us for, to help solve their fundamental business challenges and opportunities.

BizPhilly: What’s a recent project you think best sums up 160over90’s mission?
Campanella: Right here in Philadelphia there was a merger of two universities to form Thomas Jefferson University. They were two very disparate universities with their own ethos, and different cultures and ways about them. We had to figure out how to bring them together in a pretty significant way, to tell a rich, cohesive and authentic story about what possibilities are ahead based on that merger. For us, that was a significant project and signals where I think a lot of higher education is headed.

BizPhilly: What else does the deal mean for the firm?
Campanella: I think we’re going to experience a significant evolution within our business because we are truly going to blow the doors off of what it means to be an agency in Philadelphia and really in the world. I have a feeling that over the next several months we are going to attract great talent, period. We are also going to focus less on plugging holes for prototypical agency roles. It’s going to be more about how people with culturally relevant backgrounds, like cultural anthropologists of sorts, can really come here and make a significant difference.

We’ve always had a focus on growing our client base. And with this acquisition news, I think we’re going to start doing more work in the professional sports space. A lot of things could start to take shape either with other sports teams or with adjacent brands and areas that affect sports. Whether that’s sports apparel or things related to ticketing, I can see us doing a lot more to drive sports business.