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Paul Phedon, the CEO of Gung Ho, on Acquiring Influencer Marketing Platform Freestak


Paul Phedon, the CEO of Gung Ho, on Acquiring Influencer Marketing Platform Freestak

Gung Ho, a consumer sports and lifestyle PR, marketing, and communications agency, has recently acquired Freestak. Freestak is an influencer marketing platform specializing in sports influencers. Today, Paul Phedon, the CEO of Gung Ho, shares about this acquisition and how it will accelerate Gung Ho’s growth.

Who is Paul Phedon? 

Paul Phedon, the CEO of Gung Ho, has a background in sports marketing, having worked in both agencies and on the client side of influencer marketing. Before becoming the CEO of Gungo Ho, Paul was the Marketing Director at Speedo. Paul managed Speedo’s global marketing strategy, including their marketing strategy during several Olympics. 

What is Gung Ho?

Gungo Ho is a consumer sport and lifestyle PR, marketing, and communications agency. 

“The key thing about working in sports and with brands is a lot of brands that are directly involved in sports also tend to have a lifestyle proposition as well, so it’s not always about pure performance.”

Paul adds, “[Sports] is a big part of what we do, but many of them [the brands] have a lifestyle offer to a broader consumer, so our job as an agency is to know how to actually speak to the kind of pure sports consumer, but also broaden those brands out to reach a more lifestyle based consumer.”

He explains that Gung Ho helps brands launch new products and build audiences for the brands through influencers, which allows brands to reach new audience segments. 

“From a PR perspective, we traditionally use traditional media and obviously online PR. [However,] the impact of social media has been huge, and obviously, the impact of influencer marketing has been really big.”

In response to influencer marketing’s explosion within the marketing industry, Gung Ho has acquired an influencer marketing company, Freestak.  

Acquiring Freestak

Paul Phedon shares that Gung Ho is excited to acquire Freestak so that they can expand their services and offer more influencer marketing services to their clients. 

“What’s really become prevalent is that many of our brands and our clients do need to reach new audiences or broad audiences or understand how to reach an audience, but also what they clearly have is a need for content because many of them have platforms that they also need to feed.”

He notes that Gung Ho has been investing more time into content collaboration and influencer marketing. This time led them to come across the Freestak agency several years ago. 

“We [Gung Ho] had a good working relationship with them [Freestak], and we actually worked on a few projects together and what kind of came to the fall was that clients are requiring and needing a lot more analytics and insights into how their marketing is performing.”

Paul Phedon shares that Freestak was an appealing partner because they already have a database and a large community of people interested in endurance sports, such as running or cycling. The preexisting authenticity and love of endurance sports made the acquisition of Freestak a natural one. 

“It’s a really great marriage of having a database and engaged audience and giving them [Freestak] interesting campaigns to work on, but also enabling brands to have the right influencers creating for them. Creating content that can be shared on their platforms as well as reaching broader audiences.”

The Greater Impact

Paul Phedon shares that the acquisition will be an immediate benefit to all of their clients since nearly every client already uses influencer marketing and content collaboration to some degree. 

“We feel that we can expand the proposition on Freestak so it can include a more and more diverse range of sports, potentially another vertical, so we’ve got some really interesting plans.”

At this time, both companies are operating as separate units and working as a team by sharing knowledge on how each company can improve its platforms, operations, and marketing. Paul notes that the teams have bonded and melded together really well, which he is excited about. 

“We’ve [been] making some big investments in the technical side of things in the software development side so that it can actually be a more sophisticated platform to operate.”

Paul Phedon notes that all of the employees from Freestak will stay during this acquisition and continue with their work under the Gung Ho umbrella. 

The Current Environment

Paul shares that one of the main reasons he was so excited about this acquisition is that companies can’t afford to stay still in this environment, especially as an agency in communications. 

“I don’t think you can afford to [stay still] because the environment is so dynamic, things are changing so quickly, [and] tech and technology and data are becoming far more important. Honestly, I think you have to keep moving forward to stay relevant.”

Changes in the Market 

When asked about changes he sees in the influencer marketing world, Paul shares that there is a massive demand for content. 

“We’re seeing a lot more demand for authentic content and content collaboration. We are seeing a growth in TikTok as a platform… so we’re seeing a lot of creators move or develop their offerings on TikTok, but we also feel there’s a lot of development and still an awful lot of opportunity with YouTube.”

Paul expands on this by sharing that many creators don’t currently use YouTube, even though it could suit them very well. Gung Ho is also staying on top of Instagram, which is still the primary platform that many creators they work with use, although he notes many of these creators are focusing heavily on Instagram reels. 

He shares that they have also been working with their clients to develop stronger communities and storytelling online. 

Future Plans

In the future, Gung Ho will continue working internationally with many different sports and campaigns. 

“We’ve got lots of exciting plans to develop and expand into a few more different sports, and I think genuinely, we’ll be a lot more focused on campaigns and continuing to build communities for clients.”

He adds, “We want to be a real partner for communities and the clients… I think expanding the Freestak offer will be a key part of how we will grow on top of building what we’re already doing as an agency.”

Paul shares that he is excited to continue working with their fantastic clients, especially as they grow their international presence. 
“One thing that we are also doing is expanding our international footprint. We do have strategic partners in some key markets, particularly North America, Japan, and across Europe. So, whilst we do some work directly in some markets, we’ve got some really great agency partners that we are formalizing even further so that we can actually offer a really genuine global offer and proposition.”

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Amy DeYoung is a freelance blog post writer covering influencer marketing and business topics. As the daughter of two business owners, she's been fascinated by all things business from a young age, which led her to graduate from college with a bachelor's degree in business. When she's not typing away, she spends her time reading nonfiction books and mystery novels, baking scrumptious desserts, and playing with her dog.

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