Earlier this month GlobalSportsJobs met up with five senior figures from the British Olympic Association (BOA) to conduct a series of interviews aimed at broadening your understanding of what it’s like to work at an international federation in the build up to a major event such as Rio 2016. Last week we brought you the first in our five-part series with Mark England, Chef de Mission, who shared unique insight into his role at the organisation, how Team GB prepares for the Olympics and offered valuable sports industry-related career advice. This week’s feature focuses on BOA's Commercial Director, Simon Massie-Taylor.
Part 2: Simon Massie-Taylor, Commercial Director
Can you tell us about your career to date and how you came to assume your role at the BOA?
Simon Massie-Taylor: I’ve been in the role for a couple of years. I worked in the Olympic world before; I spent four years working at LOCOG, the London 2012 Organising Committee, where I joined the commercial team. Before that, I worked in the city. I worked in finance, in an investment bank. I trained as an accountant, so I have quite a different background to most in the commercial sponsorship world.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to work within the sports industry?
SMT: First of all, I’d highly recommend working in the sports industry, if you’re not already in it. It’s growing and it’s becoming increasingly sophisticated. From a commercial point of view, there are infinite of opportunities, so it’s a really exciting place to be at the moment. In terms of getting into it, it depends where you’re coming from and what you want to do. From a commercial point of view, or anything to do with sponsorship, increasingly more people are coming from professional services, whether that be consultancy, etc. There are a lot of transferrable skills there, whether it be sales negotiations, running processes, etc. I believe in that route just because I came from it, but equally I think people who come from brands and have a marketing background fit very well into what has increasingly become a brand-led marketing position, especially with the Olympics where it’s so important.
Could you provide some insight into the cycles of partnership for Team GB as it prepares for an Olympic Games? And, what happens after an Olympics have finished?
SMT: When we hosted the London 2012 Olympics we amassed a large number of commercial partners (40+). However all those contracts ended after 2012 when the commercial rights came back to the BOA and only two partners (BP and adidas) renewed. Therefore the BOA had to go out and find a new set of sponsors in a challenging sponsorship market when the ‘big show’ had left town. So for a privately-funded organisation that has to rely ostensibly on sponsorship it was pretty much a standing start. That’s been the challenge for this four-year cycle. The great news is the power of the brand is so strong and the Olympics has become part of British life now so it has driven a lot of interest and led to us having the partners that we have today.
The sponsorship platform is doing really well. It’s all about long-term partnerships now and there’s a very well-structured business case around long-term Olympic partnerships return. If you look at Olympic partnerships globally, the average is 15-20 years. In essence the longer you’re in, the more value you’ll extract from it. If you look at Coca-Cola, they’ve been around since 1922. We’re going through the process of renewals with our partners at the moment, and the response has been great, meaning that at the beginning of this next quad we’ll have a firm basis of existing partners who will have renewed and then we just add to it.
You clearly place an importance on long-term partnerships. Have you already started looking beyond Tokyo 2020?
SMT: Yes, we’re looking very much beyond Tokyo. We renewed our adidas agreement until 2024, for example. They have been around for the last 30, or so, years, and even though we don’t yet know where the 2024 Olympics will be, the fact that they’re keen to commit for that length of time sends out a really strong signal about the strength our partnership platform. In fact, we’ve just written our 8-year strategy, building towards 2024, so we’re thinking long-term and building partnerships that have long-term value.
What are the unique opportunities and challenges that people should be aware of when looking to develop a career within an organisation like the BOA?
SMT: If you look at sporting properties – governing bodies, clubs etc. – as businesses, a lot of what is done relies on success. The unpredictability element is why everyone loves sport. Your team could get promoted, your team could get relegated; your team’s value could increase or decrease as a result. However, working at the BOA you’re relatively protected from that, because the team now has a long track record of success. Wherever we end up in the medal table I guarantee we will have dozens of stories of success in Rio. So, although we’re not future-proof from a decrease in performance, we do relatively well compared to many other sports organisations. The jeopardy in sport is that if your performance decreases, the money goes, and there is always a risk of that. With that being said, as long as your business is robust, like ours is at the BOA, you can protect yourself from that risk. One of the hot topics at the moment is governance, and if all the correct things are in place then you can weather poor performances on the track, in the ring or on the pitch.
What are your expectations for Team GB in Rio? Have we got reason to be optimistic?
SMT: We’re on the hook for having our most successful away games, which would mean beating Beijing’s 47 medals. At this stage we feel confident about beating that. Our best performance was London, when we logged 65 medals, benefiting from our home advantage. If we could improve on our best away games it would be a fantastic achievement.
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