Barney Francis, long-time former managing director of Sky Sports has been appointed to the Advisory Board of WePlay, the fast-growing, first-of-its-kind, performance marketing agency for the sports industry.
The TV sports heavyweight – a 20-year industry veteran – Barney Francis spent 10 years at the helm of Sky Sports before becoming CEO of Comcast’s Future Sport division in 2019, tasked with identifying global growth opportunities within sport’s changing landscape.
He will advise WePlay on business growth strategy, joining as an advisor to the WePlay Board that was formed in late 2019 following an initial round of investment. Chaired by Simon Cummins, Global Head of Odgers Berndtson’s sports, media & gaming practice, it also features Olivier Gers, Digital Media Advisor, former IMG, Publicis, Endemol & IAAF (World Athletics) CEO, Adam Bellamy, former PureGym CFO and Nick Basing, Chairman of Ten Entertainment.
Barney Francis said of the appointment:
"WePlay is a really exciting agency, purpose built for this new era in sports. I’m a fan of the “outcomes over outputs” approach that sets WePlay apart from the old agency guard. This is becoming increasingly important at a time when marketers need to justify every cent of brand spend."
Simon Cummins, Chair of the WePlay Board, said:
"Barney is a terrific addition to the team, which speaks to the direction of travel – not only for WePlay but the sports industry at large. We are very fortunate to have someone of Barney’s standing to join our existing Board.”
The appointment comes at a strategic time for WePlay, which specialises in helping sports brands to achieve their commercial growth objectives across emerging direct-to-consumer revenue streams, as the impact of Covid-19 accelerates the transition towards OTT/ SVOD, eSports, digital sponsorship and e-commerce.
The UK-based agency has a growing global presence with bases in London, Paris & Madrid, serving a global clientele including ESPN, UFC (Fight Pass), FIFA, LaLiga, European Club Association, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, IRONMAN, World Rally Championship, PGA European Tour, British Athletics, Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) and Olympique de Marseille.
Luca Massaro, WePlay CEO, said:
"It is absolutely fantastic to welcome someone of Barney’s experience, industry clout and knowledge to the WePlay team. The shift towards OTT and other direct-to-consumer sports revenue streams is accelerating exponentially and we have seen it directly over the Covid period, with 220% growth in our OTT business, 140% in ecommerce and over 300% in digital sponsorship. We have aggressive growth plans to expand internationally and I firmly believe that Barney can help us to achieve our ambitions for the future, building on a proud track record of year-on-year growth since the agency’s inception.”
WePlay was founded in 2012 by then 27-year-old Massaro, formerly of Chelsea FC, who was identified as a Sport Industry NextGen Leader in 2016. WePlay has accumulated multiple awards, including back-to-back Football Business Awards Agency of the Year titles in 2017 and 2018.