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Infront acquires Referee Sportsmarketing further expanding its European presence and global sports portfolio

3 min read

Zug, Switzerland/Amsterdam, Netherlands – The leading international sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media is to acquire Referee Sportsmarketing (Referee), a Dutch sports marketing agency based in the Amsterdam area (Schiphol-Rijk), from major travel management company ATPI. The 100 per cent acquisition is planned for closing by 1 April 2015. Referee will be integrated into the Infront subsidiary network and rebranded to Infront Netherlands, whilst continuing to operate from its current office premises. 

ISU flagship events as key property

With this step into a new market, Infront is increasing its footprint in Europe, whilst further expanding its leading portfolio in winter sports. Referee’s main property is its exclusive marketing rights mandate for the ISU World Cup Speed Skating (carried out across Europe, Asia and North America) and the ISU World and European Speed Skating Championships in several disciplines.

As a reliable long-term partner to the International Skating Union (ISU), Referee has handled the properties’ sponsorship marketing for over 20 years. The company just recently extended the speed skating agreement with ISU until 2017/18 responsible for sponsorship, advertising and hospitality opportunities of ISU World Cup and Championships Speed Skating. Further mandates included in the Referee portfolio are partnerships with the Royal Dutch Speed Skating Federation (KNSB), the cycling team LottoNL-Jumbo (former Belkin Pro Cycling Team) and the Amsterdam Swim Cup.

Infront will retain the current Referee team to carry valuable Speed Skating expertise and domestic market know-how forward. Experienced Managing Director Barbara Peeters will also remain on board and complement Infront’s subsidiary management, reporting into Bruno Marty, Executive Director Winter Sports. She contributes almost 15 years of experience in the sports business and a profound understanding of both the commercialisation of Speed Skating and the Dutch market.

7 out of 7 Olympic winter sports for Infront portfolio

As a result of the acquisition, Infront will for the first time offer premium sponsorship opportunities across the entire global winter sports spectrum – biathlon, bobsleigh/skeleton, curling, ice hockey, luge, skiing/snowboarding and speed skating. This is complemented by first-class media content across most of the sports.

Philippe Blatter, President & CEO of Infront, said: “The acquisition of the Referee agency fortifies Infront’s position as the Number 1 in winter sports, proudly representing all Olympic Winter Sports Federations. As we welcome the new team members to the Group, we are confidently striding forward with our growth strategy both in terms of sports and geographies. Furthermore, the acquisition of Referee Sportsmarketing provides Infront with a dedicated presence in the Netherlands – offering our proven services, expertise and network to rights holders, brands and media in the market.”

Boosting sports business in the Netherlands

Infront is fully committed to further raise the impact and commercial potential of Dutch sports events and rights. Combining its international know-how with the regional expertise of Referee, the Group plans to create even more links between the Dutch and the international sports market.

John Jansen, International Director ATPI, commented: “Referee has built a leading position in the Netherlands and now, as part of the global Infront Group, will be able to substantially enrich its heritage – creating substantial synergies within the sports marketing industry. With its specific know-how, Infront is in the best position to further grow the Dutch business and set new benchmarks in domestic sports marketing. We wish the combined team great success on its future path and look forward to explore further cooperation opportunities between Infront and ATPI.”

The ATPI Group will further focus on serving its logistical sports travel and events expertise to a portfolio of international clients.

Barbara Peeters, Managing Director of Referee Sportsmarketing, commented: “Infront is the most competent and experienced player in the field of winter sports and has so far helped to boost the commercial impact of all its properties in the segment. Thanks to this profound expertise and network, the acquisition will add value to our existing clients and partners, particularly the ISU, as we now offer the best of both worlds. Moving forward, partners will receive reliable support and high-quality services out of the Amsterdam office, whilst gaining the long-term benefit of direct access to Infront’s global network.”

About Infront Sports & Media

Infront Sports & Media is the most respected sports marketing company in the world, managing a comprehensive portfolio of top properties. Led by President & CEO Philippe Blatter, Infront covers all aspects of successful sporting events – including distribution of media rights, sponsorship, media production and event operation – and has won a reputation for its high standards of delivery. As the number one player in winter sport and with a leading role in football and summer sports, Infront enjoys long-lasting partnerships with 160 rights-holders and hundreds of sponsors and media companies. Headquartered in Zug, Switzerland, Infront has a team of experienced staff working from 25 offices across 12 countries, delivering 4,000 event days of top class sport around the world every year.

About the ATPI Group

The ATPI Group is one of the world’s leading and long established global travel management and events businesses. With a footprint of wholly owned offices and network partners in over 100 locations around the world, the ATPI Group’s annual sales revenue is over Euro 920 million with an additional Euro 2.3 billion generated via its Network. The business boasts market leading travel booking technology, corporate event management skills and specialist knowledge in sectors such as shipping, energy and offshore, sports, retail, finance and professional services.

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