Octagon, the world’s leading sports and entertainment marketing and talent firm, enjoyed its best financial year to date in 2019, with a record 30 new brand and sports property clients added. As Octagon’s President of Marketing for North America, Lou Kovacs ’94 is leading the company’s pursuit of clients, opportunities and issues that will shape the cultural conversations in the 21st century.
Spanning dozens of countries around the globe, the firm’s business falls into three main categories: talent representation, sponsorship consulting and event management. In the U.S., Kovacs oversees the latter two, as well as a team of 400 employees in 10 offices across the country, advising brands and sports properties on digital content, media rights and experiential activations so clients can build brand awareness and position themselves to maximize growth.
Beyond the billions in spending managed on behalf of clients, Kovacs and his team produce events from the ground up, like a new LPGA tournament in Florida, and partner with corporations and celebrities to raise awareness for important causes.
“For many years I led our relationship with Bank of America, which entered into a partnership with U2 and Product RED with the goal of driving awareness for Product RED and HIV in Africa,” Kovacs says. That campaign included a Super Bowl ad featuring U2 and inspired a surprise pop-up concert on World AIDS Day in New York City, headlined by the Irish rock band and Kanye West.
From golf tournaments and rock concerts, to video games and emerging sports, the range of opportunities and issues that Kovacs encounters at Octagon is “very exciting and keeps things fresh,” he says. “There’s always a new sport or entertainment platform that people are interested in exploring. We have a lot of clients coming to us wanting to get into esports and gaming, or invest in opportunities for women in sports, so I get to sit down and map out a strategy — where they should invest and how to build marketing programs. Then I get to go do it.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global economy, Kovacs says, “We’re incredibly proud of the work we have been doing as an agency, to help our clients reach their customers and connect with fans during the pause in live sports and events around the world. We’ve led a wide variety of work, including some very unique campaigns and virtual events for clients such as Mastercard, Cisco, Northwell Health, and many others. As sports and entertainment continue to come back online and our ‘new normal’ sets in, there will be unique opportunities for brands to reach consumers, help fans return to live sports, and blaze the trail for the country and world to get back to business.”
At HWS, Kovacs majored in English, played a season on the Hobart basketball team and interned with the Office of Sports Information. These experiences helped pave the way for his career, he says — not only the familiarity with game-day operations, “which was helpful when I started networking,” he says, but “the combination of the classroom, learning strong writing skills especially, and the real world experience that I was fortunate to get as an undergrad.”
In his first job out of HWS, he took a position under the then University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy N. Foley ’74, working as a media and public relations representative for Gators Athletics, “a seven-day-a-week job for 11 months — and a great learning experience,” Kovacs recalls. He then moved back to the Boston area to work for the sports commission for the state of Massachusetts and, after a stint at another sports and entertainment agency connecting Olympic governing bodies with corporate partners, Kovacs joined Octagon in 2001.
Kovacs was promoted to his current role at the end of 2019, during which he won Octagon a record 30 new clients, including LinkedIn, UPS, General Mills and WWE. Today, with other big-name corporate clients like Home Depot and MasterCard, and athletes like Stephen Curry and Michael Phelps, Octagon is a vital “part of the cultural lexicon,” Kovacs says, making an impact that ripples far beyond the world of sports.