Wheelhouse Group Taps Diageo Marketing Executive Dan Sanborn to Lead Wheelhouse Labs

Dan Sanborn Tapped to Lead Wheelhouse
Courtesy of Wheelhouse

Dan Sanborn, a longtime marketing executive at beverage company Diageo, has been tapped as president of Wheelhouse Labs, a new unit under Wheelhouse Group that will seek to pair advertisers with content creators at a time when the media and marketing industries are placing greater reliance on so-called “branded contnent.”

Sanborn will lead and launch the new Wheelhouse Labs and serve as chief marketing officer of Wheelhouse Group. He reports to Brent Montgomery, the one-time unscripted series producer who is CEO of the company. Wheelhouse was launched in 2018 and counts ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel as a partner in the venture. Sanborn had been senior vice president of culture and partnerships at Diageo, and the company is expected to continue working with him in his new role.

Wheelhouse has made a minority investment in JonesWorks, a public relations, marketing and communications agency led by Stephanie Jones, who is also Wheelhouse’s chief branding officer. The two companies are expected to work together on various initiatives, leveraging the latter concern’s talent roster and expertise in consumer product and celebrity branding. JonesWorks clients include Tom Brady; Dwayne Johnson; Venus Williams; Gisele Bündchen; Scooter Braun and SB Projects; Dany Garcia; Zac Brown Band; private aviation company Wheels Up; Ocean Spray; Rhone;  and Happy Family Organics, among others.

Under Sanborn’s direction, Wheelhouse Labs is expected to serve as an “idea laboratory,” an in-house creative agency servicing Wheelhouse’s growing roster of brands and investments, productions and pioneering partnerships – including content and development company Kimmelot, launched last fall by Wheelhouse and Kimmel.

“At Wheelhouse, our paramount goal is to provide a one-stop-shop for talent, brands, entrepreneurs, renegade producers and everyone in between looking to take big swings across various industries; we also aim to offer significant advantages for competing in this high-stakes environment,” said Montgomery in a statement. “To accomplish this, you need a ‘dream team’ with the vision and savvy to leverage our production infrastructure and partnership engine. Dan Sanborn is the perfect mad scientist to run our lab – he also happens to make a mean Old Fashioned – and JonesWorks founder Stephanie Jones is a uniquely smart, fearless, out of the box thinker who understands and can harness the power of brands and celebrity across all spectrums and audiences.”

Sanborn is known in advertising circles for pushing Diageo to partner with entertainment properties, such as the Paramount series “Bar Rescue” or a marketing team up between Diageo’s scotch portfolio and HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

“The truth is that as I began to understand the ambition for Wheelhouse and the breadth of talent Brent and Jimmy were bringing in, I recognized this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to design some new and unique creative collaborations,” said Sanborn in a statement. ” I’m excited for this next chapter with Wheelhouse Labs and to get to continue working with Diageo in this new capacity.”

“Dan and his team have become an important part of Diageo’s approach to culture and entertainment marketing and we are eager to continue collaborating with him, and the entire team at Wheelhouse,” said Ed Pilkington, chief marketing officer for Diageo’s North America operations, in a statement.

Sanborn will work closely with Ed Simpson, chief strategy officer of Wheelhouse Group, and Sean Cohan, president of Wheelhouse Entertainment and chief business officer for Wheelhouse Group.