With the Team GB delegation now arriving in Brazil, Scott Field, Director of Communications at the BOA, highlights the key considerations for him around how to prepare the right conditions to maximise enjoyment around the athletes' success. He recalls his career experience, which he intends to draw on to create a new set of heroes and shape a wholly positive legacy for Rio 2016.
Part 4: Scott Field, Director of Communications
Could you please tell us about your career to date and how you came to be Director of Communications at the BOA?
I studied media studies at university, with the ambition of becoming a broadcast journalist, so I specialised in broadcast, particularly radio, and had a number of work experience opportunities around television and radio. For a number of years whilst at university and after graduation I freelanced in local radio. That was my first taste of working in the media. Also, at the same time I was working for my local football club, West Bromwich Albion, contributing towards their programme, their website, doing interviews for them and generating content. The work for these outlets was crucial for me to get my foot in the door. I was offering my services on a freelance basis, just trying to get as much experience as I could within the industry. Then I worked briefly as a writer, before I got an opportunity in PR working for a skills and training organisation. So having been ploughing a furrow in broadcast journalism, I moved to the other side of the fence and started thinking about PR and not just generating content but how to use that content to sell into the media and to generate stories.
Throughout the time I was working for the training organisation, I was still freelancing for West Brom, who eventually offered me a full-time role within the press-office team when it was still in its formative stages. There was a large broadcast element to the role, but it was entry level PR as well. The great thing about working at the club at that time was that I became a good generalist. From reporting, to creating video content for the website, to managing relationships with the journalists, I had to do a lot of things. I worked there for six years, then moved to Watford Football Club for three years. This time in a more senior press-office role. Watford was the place that I honed my PR skills.
I had always wanted to progress my career within football and an opportunity at The FA opened up. Working for such a prestigious brand, around assets and events like the FA Cup and the England Football Teams, it was too good an opportunity to miss. I stayed seven years as Head of Communications there. That pretty much brings us up-to-date with where I am now. I’ve been four months so far at the BOA. I’ve worked at World Cups, European Championships and Champions League Finals. I’ve done a lot of stuff within football. I also worked at the 2012 Olympic Games. The spirit and values that exist around Olympism, and around Team GB are great. There’s a lot of love for the Team GB team around Games-time, so when I was asked if I was interested in the role here, having worked at the London Games and looking to further develop my career within communications and PR I felt I had to take it. It’s a great opportunity to make an impact, create a new set of contacts, meet a new set of people and work across different sports.
What are your responsibilities as Director of Communications and where does your focus lie within the role, particularly as we near the start of the Olympic Games?
There are two roles within the responsibilities that I’ve got. One is business as usual, so to speak; working for the BOA on a day-to-day basis, enhancing the reputation of Team GB, helping to develop the story of Olympism in these isles. However, given that I only joined four months ago, much of the impetus within the role is around delivering the Olympic Games in Rio. This Games-time Team GB role is where the focus is at the moment. So that’s about supporting the 350-plus athletes that we’ll be taking to Brazil. It’s about supporting the sports; the disciplines, staff and teams within that. It’s about supporting them in their competition, in what is the most scrutinised world event in sport, the biggest event in the sporting calendar. We must maximise every opportunity to tell a positive story around the individuals, what they’ve done, where they come from, and celebrate all the successes along the way.
You mentioned the delivery aspect of your role in relation to this summer’s games in Rio. Looking beyond that, has planning already started for Pyeongchang 2018 and Tokyo 2020?
Indeed it has. In fact, planning for Rio 2016 started some 6 years ago, long before my time here. The BOA is recognised as being world-leading in terms of delivery at Games-time for our athletes, support staff and delegation. The processes are very well-developed in that sense. Preparations have already begun for Pyeongchang, and beyond that we’re already thinking about Tokyo. For example, where we’ll have some preparation elements beforehand, we’re developing a memorandum of understanding with various different bodies in Japan, people that we’ll be working alongside to help develop the best conditions for the athletes when we get to Tokyo. That gives an idea to the scope of the role. There’s a lot of long-term planning, a lot of strategy and strategic thinking, whilst at the same time dealing with the day-to-day aspects such as hosting press-conferences, creating media opportunities, working with athletes and making sure they’re accessible to the media, so we can tell the story far and wide.
The build up to the Olympic Games must be a pressurised time, what are the main challenges you need to overcome to achieve success in your role?
The first think I’d like to say is that I’ve got an excellent team. They’re very diligent, they know their roles well, are very experienced, understand the media landscape, so I’m very privileged to work alongside some very bright and enterprising people. None of us would sit here and say we’re the people that win medals – that’s of course the athletes. So if you just take a step back from that, what our focus absolutely has to be on, therefore, is supporting the athletes to their successes. To ensure that we help them in every way possible; to avoid distraction; to support them; to maintain their focus; to help them maximise all the opportunities that will come their way. Through ultimate success by getting on the podium, or relative success by celebrating personal bests and fantastic moments or achievements that all our athletes will experience, including just getting on the team in the first place. Not many people become Olympians. Over the course of a four year cycle, including the Winter Games, very few athletes will represent Great Britain, so that in itself is very important and something that we must cherish and celebrate. Our success comes through the success of the athletes, so that’s our primary focus at the moment. To be there to support, to help at the right times, to not become a hindrance or a distraction, to protect the athletes and help create a real spirit and sense of good will and good feeling around it. We all enjoyed the afterglow of London 2012 and there’s nothing like an Olympic Games to galvanise and unite people. Sport’s a great unifying force. You look at the athletes that have qualified onto the team and they’re from all different sports, from all different walks of life, all with great stories to tell. So for us, it’s about facilitating that and bringing the general public closer to the athletes whilst they enjoy them perform.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to build a career in PR and Communications within the sports industry?
Be focused on what it is you want to achieve and be open to learning. Create as many opportunities as you can for yourself. It’s a difficult job to get into, particularly in the sporting environment. A lot of people want this kind of role. Be open to learning all the time. I know it sounds very worthy, but just be open to new ideas and new ways of working every day. Listen to the advice that you’re being given. Work hard to create opportunities by knocking on doors, knock on as many as you can. Don’t be deterred by a setback or a failure; learn from it, go again. Use your contact network. I always maintain that for all the knowledge that we’ve got as PR experts, the relationships are critical. You have to be able to create good, lasting relationships. If you can do all that, you’ll go a long way in PR and media.
What are your expectations for the team at Rio 2016?
As I’ve alluded to, what I really want to do is make sure that we’ve celebrated every small success. From those personal moments, to the big gold medal moments. The key for us is to know that we’ve created some new heroes for a new generation of young people and aspiring athletes and sports stars. From a medal perspective, we’d all like to come away with it having been our best ever away Olympic Games. London’s going to be hard to beat, not impossible. No nation in history has ever bettered their home Games medal haul away from home, so clearly there are challenges with us going to Rio. It’s not London, we haven’t got the home comforts, but if we can better Beijing – brilliant. The biggest thing for me though, is knowing when we get back that everyone who’s had a success gets celebrated by the nation, recognised by the nation, and that people feel good about this at the end of it.
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