VSS acquires majority stake in Brand Connections


Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS), a private equity firm focused on media, information and education industries, has acquired a majority stake in Brand Connections. The company operates in the alternative out-of-home sector, including airline tray-table advertising.

Terms were not disclosed as VSS acquired its stake from private equity firm The Cypress Group. The existing top management group at Brand Connections, including founder/CEO Brian Martin and COO Geoffrey Kantor, will remain as significant investors in the company.

Brand Connections, based in New York City, provides integrated venue-based media, marketing and promotion opportunities to its clients.  Products and services include digital and billboard media, product sampling, and event marketing reaching target groups of consumers in a variety of venues including airplanes, hotels, cruise ships, outdoor sports and recreation environments, and universities.  Brand Connections operates three divisions: Hotel, Resort & Cruise, Active Outdoor, and SkyMedia.  The company serves a deep roster of leading national advertisers and Fortune 500 companies, including Procter & Gamble, Verizon, Unilever, and Cadbury Adams who use its advertising networks to reach targeted audiences at captive moments for extended periods of time.  

From its origins in 2001 in winter sports, hotel, and cruise ship media and marketing, Brand Connections has expanded its networks both organically and through acquisition across multiple demographic and lifestyle segments including the SkyMedia network, which it acquired in 2006.  SkyMedia is the sole provider of all airline and transportation-related tray-table advertising in the US and Europe.

The alternative out-of home sector, in which Brand Connections operates, is one of the fastest growing sectors of the overall media industry.  According to the VSS Communications Industry Forecast, the alternative out-of home advertising industry will grow at a 28.1% compound annual growth rate between 2006 and 2011 to $13 billion.  

VSS Managing Director Chris Russell said, “We are very pleased to be investing in Brand Connections and backing its strong management team to pursue further growth and expansion. The investment in Brand Connections represents a very attractive opportunity to enter into the fast-growing alternative media and marketing space through a stable, scalable platform that is supported by a diversified, blue-chip customer base.”  

Brand Connections CEO Brian Martin added, “My management team and I are excited to be partnering with VSS given their great expertise in the media industry and their longstanding operational focus. We look forward to working together to grow Brand Connections both organically through increased advertiser awareness of the truly integrated brand experience we offer, and via add-on acquisitions.”