By Jack Witthaus – Reporter, Houston Business Journal
Houston-based Professional Sports Partners, a sports marketing firm owned in part by Lopez Negrete Communications, is growing its business following the recent success of Bayou City sports teams and their most recognizable players.
The firm could add another two to three people by the end of the year on top of the roughly 20 full-time employees it has now, CEO Jason Kohll said. Professional Sports Partners started in 2012 with only Kohll, but the company has since expanded its business due in part to Houston’s top athletes, such as James Harden, Jose Altuve and J.J. Watt, who serve as ambassadors to major brands such as Papa Johns.
Most of the company’s growth has occurred in the past three years, Kohll said, during a period some have called the “golden age” of Houston sports.
“Over half of our business is in Houston,” Kohll said. “The sports scene in Houston has, kind of, exploded of the past few years. That’s benefitted our growth.”
Some of Houston’s best athletes are “incredibly marketable,” Kohll said. For example, Altuve has an underdog story that’s attractive to brands and also highly resonates with the Hispanic community. Harden, perhaps the most marketable, is one of the highest-paid celebrities on Earth, raking in about $46.6 million in earnings in 2017, according to Forbes.
Recent major sporting events in Houston, too, have been a boon for Professional Sports Partners, which did marketing work for the 2017 Super Bowl and 2016 Final Four.
One of the fastest-growing segments for Professional Sports Partners is in esports, Kohll said. The Houston Outlaws, part of the new Overwatch League created by a division of California-based Activision Blizzard Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI), Blizzard Entertainment Inc., launched in Houston late last year and has attracted a fan base of millions of people. The team’s first official watch party in Houston in early 2018 attracted hundreds of fans despite being planned with little notice.
“People who have not been exposed to how large their fan base is, I think will learn very quickly,” Kohll said. “We see them no different than we see the Rockets, Texans, Astros or Dynamo.”