This week I had the honour to speak with Sport Industry Group’s Communications and Content Manager. Tom shares insights around how the journey began, key learning’s he picked up, trends to look out for and advice for the next generation.
Question 1: Tom, thanks for joining me on Ash’s Sports Talk. How did your sports career journey begin?
I originally trained to be a journalist and started in the City as a beat reporter for a financial magazine. While doing my Masters, I’d got in touch with James Emmett – then at SportsPro – about some work experience, but dates never worked out, and we all moved on.
A few years later and while still working in financial journalism, a role at SportsPro as their Digital Editor came up. I got back in touch with James, and the rest is history, I guess. SportsPro gave me that entrance into sports business that I wanted, and then I found a true passion working in strategic campaign comms at Vero.
Question 2: I see you started your career in journalistic and editorial based roles. What did these positions teach you about the bigger picture of marketing and communications in sport?
I’m definitely not the only one to have done it, but working on both sides of the coin gives you a much broader understanding of the needs and wants of each role.
Comms, for me, is all about collaboration – you aren’t against each other. You’re working together – and knowing the motivations (and restrictions) that journalists have more intimately has definitely helped build those relationships.
Question 3: Which sports industry trends are ones to look out for in 2021?
I dread to read this in a year’s time..
I’m sure most people answer with NFTs, blockchain, or whatever the latest tech is, but I’ll go the other way and say that I think we’ll see a small shift *away* from digital over the next year.
Of course, after 2020 where everyone was starved of live experience, I think it’s obvious that people will be itching to get back to something more tangible.
Beyond that, though, I think there’s a growing apathy towards social media and some of the negativity it breeds, as well as the sheer churn of content you see now. Quality is way down (though there is still brilliant work), and I think you’ll see fans and consumers yearn for content that feels far more real in the next year.
Question 4: From your experience, what does it take to become an effective marketer in sport?
I’ll answer as a comms person, rather than a marketer, but for me, the most effective and successful people I see across sport are those that can collaborate and build relationships the best. I doubt this is exclusive to sport, either, but I was taught to ‘always pick up the phone early in my career, and I cannot stress enough how much it’s helped in making – and maintain – the relationships I have today.
If you start the conversation, you’ll never know where it might lead.
Question 5: What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced throughout your sports career journey? Plus, how have these adversities made you a more powerful asset to the sector?
It’s easy to forget that sport is still a business, much like any other. When I first started, it was hard at times to delineate the teams, athletes, leagues I’d grown up watching as a kid from the business entities I was now working with. Thankfully though, I’ve never been a particularly tribal fan of any team (apart from the mighty Altrincham FC), so that ability to step back and look at the industry objectively has been huge for me.
Question 6: Tom, reflecting on this discussion and your career, what is your killer piece of advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in sport?
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in sport’s self-importance and forget that we aren’t saving lives here. Yes, sport has the power to do good, but it is never worth burning yourself out over, and it’s easy to forget that.
I love working in sport – I’ve travelled the world with it, and I’m privileged to have been to some incredible games/events, but my favourite sporting memories are always those shared with friends or family. When it starts to get in the way of those moments, zoom out and consider what you really want to do.
What a great interview with Tom. I found his insights interesting, particularly with shifting away from digital ever so slightly. Most importantly, his point about giving yourself some time away to avoid burn out is essential. You can’t work at your best if you’re on zero fuel!