Former MasterClass Talent Executive and Emmy Award-Winning Producer Launch SonderCo To Reinvent Talent and Brand Partnerships
LOS ANGELES, CA -- Entertainment and talent executives have launched SonderCo, a new agency dedicated to innovating and deepening the way brands partner with talent, intellectual property, and other brands to create mutual long-term business value.
Building on his experience helping make MasterClass a global brand through talent partnerships, Sean Akaks, former Head of Business Affairs at MasterClass, is CEO, leading the vision, strategy and day-to-day operations of SonderCo. Akaks will run SonderCo with Partner and Chief Business Officer Jessie Mash, an Emmy Award-winning producer and former Head of Partnerships at clothing company Monica + Andy.
SonderCo aims to transform existing talent-partnership models from often transactional to a more long-term, holistic, 360-degree approach that reimagines how brands develop partnerships with celebrities, artists, athletes, actors, influencers, and creators. It will also manage brand-to-brand and licensing collaborations.
Understanding the diverse needs and economic climate for both emerging and established brands, SonderCo will offer bespoke deal structures, including equity stakes, revenue shares, leadership roles, and other forms of compensation tailored to each brand's unique situation and goals. SonderCo secures a range of partnership types for brands, spanning from Super Bowl ads and seasonal campaigns to spokesperson deals to brand ambassador relationships to co-founder roles, the latter of which is a growing trend as brands seek long-term solutions to maximize growth.
"It's getting harder for brands to reach customers and cut through the noise in a crowded market. We believe celebrity and influencer-affiliated companies will define the next decade of brand success," said Akaks. "SonderCo navigates this new world for brands by uniquely structuring partnerships, working hand in hand with talent, agents and managers to bring creative, long-term results and growth for everyone involved."
During his tenure at MasterClass, Akaks led the team that was instrumental in negotiating deals with talent—deals that ultimately made MasterClass a household name through its trove of online courses taught by sought-after celebrities and experts. He managed more than 100 talent deals, including ones for U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; filmmakers Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and Spike Lee; business leaders Anna Wintour, Bob Iger, and Sara Blakely; actors and producers Issa Rae and Shonda Rhimes; musicians Mariah Carey, John Legend, and Metallica; athletes Serena Williams and Tony Hawk; and artists Jeff Koons and Amanda Gorman.
Mash is longtime partnership and business-development executive. She saw the power of talent as a producer with ABC in Chicago, where she produced lifestyle segments with artists including Sarah Jessica Parker, Zendaya, Nate Berkus, Jason Wu and Martha Stewart, ultimately earning her three Emmy awards. She most recently served as Head of Partnerships at children’s apparel brand Monica + Andy, where she developed partnerships with brands and talent including Channing Tatum, Disney, Hello Bello and Lovevery to form unique product collaborations, events and content.
Investing in and backing SonderCo is Matthew Rutler, former colleague of Akaks and current EVP of Talent at MasterClass. Rutler, who has personally invested in more than 100 companies, including Lyft, DraftKings, Pinterest and Discord, was an early investor in MasterClass through MX Investments, the firm he owns with fiancee Christina Aguilera. Rutler then joined MasterClass in its infancy as its first executive, and recruited Akaks to help him build the talent-partnership team and lead deal-making efforts. Through these deals, the team grew the vast content offering into a global educational content platform.
"Sean is a builder with an incredible strategic mind," says Rutler. "He created tremendous value for MasterClass and understands how to create partnerships that lead to long-term growth for both talent and brands."
The leadership team will have a group of advisors, including award-winning entertainment marketing leader and former Showtime executive Dani Calogera, as well as experts from globally recognized companies such as Nike, Airbnb, Snapchat, Google, Everlane, and more.
Launch clients include Nasdaq-listed digital medicine leader Akili, Inc. As the company looked to launch EndeavorOTC, a first-of-its-kind digital product aimed at helping treat ADHD and attention issues in adults, it teamed up with SonderCo to identify influencer partnerships that excel at building awareness among the target audience.
"As we forged into a new target market and business model with EndeavorOTC, we enlisted SonderCo to help us raise awareness via product trials from influential personalities with ADHD symptoms," said Eddie Martucci, founder and chairman of Akili. "By year’s end, our work together will have resulted in multiple talent partnerships—an important component of our growth that helps to both generate awareness and gain user feedback to shape our roadmap."
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