Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf buy into Cummins & Partners as agency plans London push

Investors: Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf

Investors: Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf

Former tennis superstars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf have become the latest partners to join Sean Cummins in his quest to build a global independent ad network, Mumbrella can reveal.

The married former world number ones have taken a 15 per cent stake in Cummins & Partners North America, which currently consists of an office in New York and Toronto, but will also include an office in London which Cummins said would be opening in the next six months.

Cummins told Mumbrella: “We’re flattered they want to buy into the agency. We had a relationship with them and they’d always said ‘if ever you come to the States let us know, we work with a lot of agencies and we’ve never worked with such a great agency as you’.

“It was a great compliment and Andre is such a brilliant performer and Steffi is unbelievable character and person and she’s everything you imagine – she is smart to boot. They have such unbelievable values and I think they saw great values in us because at the end of the day I’m a guy that’s just trying to build a business on his own nickel and they like that.

“They’ve invested in a lot of things and they like Australians a lot. There’s a long history between Andre and Australia that goes way back to his playing days. It’s one of those crazy things that happens really.”

Cummins met the duo, who won 30 grand slam events between them, when filming the branded content Open Up series for wine brand Jacob’s Creek which saw Agassi reliving anecdotes from his playing days as part of the brand’s sponsorship of the Australian Open.

“I want them there to be friends to the agency and good counsel and it’s a business decision for them as well and we’re looking at being involved where we can in their various ventures,” said Cummins.

“We’re a part of their company as much as they’re another part of our company.”

Asked whether the tie up would see the pair making introductions for the agency, which opened in New York in early 2014 and Canada in May, Cummins admitted there was a “strategic value in that” but added: “The proximity to Andre and Steffi is powerful when necessary, but it’s really about a bunch of people who enjoy working together and want to continue working together in some form.”

The AgassiGraf business is led by former Nike head of sports marketing Steve Miller and Cisco Aguilar as their general counsel.

Sean Cummins at the 2015 National Radio Conference

Sean Cummins speaking at the 2015 National Radio Conference

Cummins said it did not mean they would be pushing the pair forward to work with brands and front campaigns but admitted “if there are brands that would consider Andre or Steffi a good ambassador then great, but that’s not the purpose”.

The agency has 40 staff across the two offices, and Cummins said one client they had is currency exchange app ZenBanx, founded by ING Direct founder Arkadi Kuhlmann, adding they are currently working with two other brands which he said he could not talk about.

But he admitted there were some major differences in setting up an agency in the US as they are used to having specialist shops across different categories.

“Americans are very narrow [in their specialisms] but deep and Australians are more broad,” he said. “Over there it’s about being a specialist – you’re a travel and tourism agency, or a pharma agency. We’re going and having conversations and they say ‘well what’s your specialty?’ and we say we’re from Australia we kind of do everything. It’s been interesting.

“It’s a harder sell. They can’t understand how you can know about the whole universe that is the category, and I think it’s almost the great shortcoming of it all not to have cross pollination of ideas. You only have to look at their football they’ve got a guy comes on and all he does is kick the ball and then runs off.

“I think in Australia we’re a little more capable and Australians are doing so well over there – the market is geared towards the big box agencies, and having been there for 18 months my next push is to create scale. Whether I do that with investment rounds, whether I do it organically or acquire other businesses is yet to be decided.”


Alex Hayes


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