By Eric Smith

BSN Sports began 2020 where it left off last year—with a flurry of acquisitions designed to grow its footprint and expand its offering of team sports apparel and equipment to new markets.

After announcing one deal in January, the Dallas, TX-based sporting goods distributor went on a veritable buying spree with three acquisitions in February. That trio of portfolio additions highlights an otherwise tepid month for M&A in the active lifestyle marketplace.

BSN acquired Athletics Unlimited of Sacramento, CA; Longstreth Sporting Goods of Spring City, PA; and Kollege Town Sports of Sun Prairie, WI. Financial terms weren’t disclosed for any of the deals.

The moves continue a trend for the company, which is a division of Varsity Brands. BSN completed nine acquisitions in 2019, bolstering the company’s sales force and enhancing its team sports offerings, according to Terry Babilla, president, BSN Sports.

“In general, BSN Sports’ investments over the last 12 months—applied in equal measure across the entire team sports’ landscape—reflects our unyielding commitment to fulfill our mission and improve the lives of our student-athletes, coaches and athletic directors,” Babilla said. “Across the country, our sales force is now more local than ever and is poised to continue revolutionizing team sports through equal access, convenience and peace of mind. We look forward to continuing to seek out partners that share our values and have a passion for building lifelong customer relationships.”

Look for the company to be acquisitive throughout the year now that it’s almost halved its 2019 M&A total through two months.

Another notable deal from last month involved CGPR, a well-known public relations and marketing agency in the outdoor and active lifestyle space. Chris Goddard sold her eponymous PR firm to French/West/Vaughan (FWV), a Raleigh, NC-based public relations, advertising and digital marketing agency. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

The firm will be known as “CGPR, an FWV agency.” It will remain based in Marblehead, MA, outside Boston, with Goddard still at the helm.

The acquisition was announced in early February, closed February 28 and became effective March 1. Before those milestones occurred, SGB Executive sat down with Goddard and FWV President David Gwyn at January’s Outdoor + Snow Show to discuss the acquisition and the synergies it brings for both agencies.

Despite a new owner plus the impending addition of staff and clients, Goddard said CGPR’s culture won’t change. The backing of FWV provides the boutique agency the best of both worlds—it can remain a small shop at heart with the strength, scale and additional services (including video production) of a much larger firm. And she becomes an integral part of her new parent company’s team.

“They understood that part of our success is maintaining our culture and continuing to do the work that we have done,” Goddard said. “Now we have the ability to call on additional resources and function as a larger team, draw on FWV’s larger expertise and also for me to lend my expertise to their clients.”

As for FWV, adding CGPR is an important play on a few different fronts, specifically giving the company new access to brands the outdoor and active lifestyle marketplace. The agency does have some experience in this space. It has worked in the run specialty category with Nathan and Fleet Feet, handled corporate PR for VF for 12 years (the company, which moved to Denver, now handles that in-house) and counts former VF brand Wrangler as a longtime client.

“It’s an expansion strategy for us, both into a category and into some relationships like Chris and her very qualified team,” Gwyn said. “It’s a way for us to acquire talent. And it allows us to go back to those companies that we’ve worked for in the past with a highly credentialed expert in the field. That’s why we did it.”

Here is the least you need to know about these top M&A deals from February.

BSN Sports Acquires Athletics Unlimited
BSN Sports acquired Athletics Unlimited (AU), based in Sacramento, CA. AU, which has been family-owned and led by The Rasmussen Family for more than 30 years, is a team supplier in California and Nevada.

“We have always taken pride in our commitment to investing in our people and in our customers and believe—without equivocation—that joining forces with BSN Sports is consistent with this philosophy. We will now be able to access their unparalleled resources while maintaining our presence and relationships in California and Nevada. The innovation, technology and resources that BSN Sports brings will be a win-win for our customers and our entire team.” —Jordan Rasmussen, partner and CEO, Athletics Unlimited

What’s next?
Athletics Unlimited is “a business that aligns squarely with BSN Sports’ own values—most notably, a ‘people first’ approach that ensures a rewarding and winning culture for employees, excellent customer service and a commitment to investing in local communities,” Babilla said. He added that AU’s customers and employees will now “benefit from access to BSN Sports’ vast inventory, industry-leading technology and superior sales platform.”

BSN Sports Acquires Longstreth’s Team Apparel, Lacrosse And Softball Businesses
BSN Sports announced the acquisition of certain team sports businesses from Longstreth Sporting Goods, based in Spring City, PA. Specifically, BSN Sports has acquired Longstreth’s lacrosse and softball team sports businesses, as well as exclusive rights to supply uniform or team apparel and footwear to Longstreth’s field hockey team customers.

“Partnering with BSN Sports will create an extraordinary opportunity for us to continue to be a one-stop-shop for anything needed to play field hockey in the United States. We will focus on what we do best—being the No. 1 supplier of field hockey products in the U.S., utilizing the best global hockey equipment brands on an exclusive basis combined with world-class customer service from our team of hockey experts. We are excited to bring BSN Sport’s expertise in team apparel exclusively to our customers and, as well, Longstreth will enjoy a great opportunity to exclusively supply the best field hockey equipment to BSN Sports team customers.” —John Schaefer, co-owner, Longstreth Sporting Goods

What’s next?
Babilla said this move sends a “clear signal” to female athletes in lacrosse, softball and field hockey: “We are 100 percent committed to your success and empowerment and will continue to do all we can to ensure a level playing field. To that end, we will continue to seek out partners that share our mission and have a passion for building lifelong customer relationships.”

Riddell Sells Kollege Town Sports Apparel Division to BSN Sports
Riddell announced the divestiture and sale of certain assets associated with Kollege Town Sports, a division of the company’s apparel business, to BSN Sports. The acquisition will include approximately 50 sales representatives, sales management and customer service professionals, and Kollege Town’s fanaKTive graphic capabilities.

“We appreciate the years of service, hard work and contributions of the Kollege Town team. This development provides Riddell the opportunity to advance our core football protective equipment business in an incredibly dynamic marketplace. Riddell will continue to lead the industry forward as it brings new protective technologies to the field that help athletes perform at their best.” —Dan Arment, president and CEO, Riddell and BRG Sports

What’s next?
Babilla said BSN Sports shares Kollege Town’s “commitment to providing customers with the broadest array of high-quality products paired with innovative programs that maximize team budgets.” By combining the two organizations, BSN also expands its presence in key Midwest markets and adds “50 committed and passionate sales professionals to our platform,” he said. “We look forward to their contributions and to ensuring that Kollege Town’s customers recognize tangible and positive impacts from the combination of our two great companies.”

CGPR Sold To French/West/Vaughan
French/West/Vaughan (FWV), the public relations, advertising and digital marketing agency based in Raleigh, NC, announced the acquisition of CGPR, a public relations and marketing agency specializing in the active lifestyle, outdoor, ski, fashion, technology and travel sectors. The deal was announced in early February, closed February 28 and was effective March 1. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“We had been looking for ways to increase what we have to offer. I’ve been doing it for 27 years, and the industry is changing. It was important to me that we stayed relevant, so we were looking for a partner that would give us love and attention and the resources that we need. We found each other and here we are.” —Chris Goddard, owner, CGPR

What’s next?
Goddard told SGB Executive the plan is for CGPR to bring on additional staff and clients and tapping into FWV’s extensive resources while maintaining the culture of the firm she built from the ground up and has owned for more than 25 years. “Think of it as ‘CGPR 2.0,’” she said. “There’s no reason to change something that’s not broken. Heritage is so important and being able to maintain it was one of the reasons we moved forward with the deal.”

Other M&A Deals From February
In case you missed SGB Media’s reporting on other notable deals last month—announcements of either new acquisitions or ones that closed—click the headlines below to read.

Photo courtesy BSN Sports