If you want your brand mentioned on-air by Joe Buck or John Smoltz during the World Series, you’d probably need a big media agency with tons of sports clout to make that happen, right? Turns out, maybe not, at least for corporate procurement company Coupa — not exactly a household name.
San Mateo, Calif.-based Coupa, according to its senior vp of corporate marketing Tom Gavin, couldn’t have gotten into the World Series without Apollo Partners, an independent media agency launched 20 months ago by founder Eric Perko. But Apollo negotiated Coupa’s biggest-ever media investment into the “Coupa Maximum Value Play of the Game,” which Fox’s baseball announcers read aloud every game. (Gavin wouldn’t disclose the amount spent to secure the deal.)
Apollo tries to punch above its weight — employing only eight full-time staffers and a total of 30 people working in some form for the agency — looking to find major TV opportunities for its clients, which also include VF Corp, Intuit and MailChimp (which was acquired by Intuit).
When it comes to bigger agencies vs. smaller, “we don’t see a single difference, in truth,” said Gavin. “Apollo’s got the relationships, they understand our markets, they’re available anytime and every time we’ve needed them. They don’t sit back waiting for us to come to them. And it’s helped us to take our our message and our engagement globally.”
The strategy has since expanded into a three-year deal with the New York Yankees, including in-stadium signage and a similar “Max Value Play of the Game” announcement on YES Network and radio coverage. Because of Coupa’s global reach — it has offices in Europe, Latin America and Asia with more than 3,000 employees worldwide — Apollo also landed sponsorship positions for the brand in Formula 1 and German soccer league Bundesliga.
It’s Perko’s philosophy to go big where other smaller agencies might shy away. “We’re in the company of some established brands because the perception is that something like the World Series is out of reach” said Perko, who cut his teeth in digital-first shops including Publicis’ Digitas and more recently GroupM’s Essence (now MediacomEssence). “And then it can be within reach, if you have the ability to focus on doing one thing really well, and figure out how you’re going to be really successful there.”
He also believes his tenure in the industry has served to Apollo’s advantage. “The industry for over a decade only focused on performance,” Perko said. “There’s a whole generation of talent that doesn’t really know how to do brand marketing and make an emotional connection with a brand.”
Apollo got its start actually helping other clients find agencies to work with, which is how Dave Raggio, vp of acquisition marketing at Intuit’s Quickbooks, started formally working with Apollo last year — although Raggio and Perko had worked together at Digitas years before.
“He realized that you don’t need to have a $150 million media budget to do [big things], said Raggio of Perki. “You just have to be smart about how you create a moment, capitalize on that moment, and surround it with the right activations.”
Raggio convinced MailChimp’s CMO Michelle Taite to turn to Apollo when Intuit acquired the email firm, given the track record he had with the agency. “I knew that Apollo Partners would be a good partner that would be able to help them evaluate their current state and provide some thought leadership and … help them transition into the Intuit world,” he added.
Perko said he hopes to expand into new client categories, including quick-serve restaurants, as a means to keep growing revenue. Although he declined to offer a revenue figure for Apollo’s first year, he said he intends to grow revenue by about 150 percent in 2022.
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