Interview: Minal Modha, Head of Research, Aser Media / Eleven Sports
Minal Modaha is a 2018 'Sports Industry NextGen Leader' and has recently taken up the role of Head of Research at Aser Media, having previously been a Research Manager at Nielsen's sport. We spoke with Minal to learn about her career journey, what her role entails and her advice to those looking to build a research focused career in sport.
Can you share your career journey and how you came to work in sports analytics & research?
I started my career in commercial research sales at talkSPORT. This was really valuable because I was at the heart of a team selling sponsorship and advertising which as a graduate straight from university was a ‘deep dive’ into sports media and the business of sport as a whole.
I was then recruited by Octagon to initially go in-house at the Premier League as a consultant to help them take the title sponsorship to market for the first time. This included developing the commercial research and sales strategy needed make it happen. I then went back to Octagon and worked for the NFL UK, The FA and UEFA, primarily focused on commercial consultancy projects. An opportunity then came up at Nielsen Sports to work on the global Premier League research account and by this point I was really keen to get back into the heart of research and build up my skillset, so I took the opportunity and was been there for two years. Over that time, I was working on a range of clients from National Theatre, Premier League and World Rugby. I concentrated on commercial research and commercial strategy but also work with brands to ensure their sponsorship strategies were working, therefore making it quite a holistic role really.
I was approached about a role at Aser which involved shaping and creating a research function for the business which involved working with all Aser’s companies including ELEVEN SPORTS and Leeds United. My background meant there were transferable skills, but the opportunity to expand my knowledge of sports TV broadcasting was one I couldn’t pass up.
What type of projects do the research teams at an agency such as Nielsen or Aser undertake?
The Premier League for example, is a global account covering research in 24 markets with the aim for the Nielsen team to inform the business and commercial strategy for the clubs. We did a really exciting piece for them around ‘total audience’, trying to quantify the number of people who are watching Premier League football – away from just the TV broadcast figures, which is genuinely interesting work. We also did a mixture of tracking and ad hoc projects. For example, we branched into the media space and worked with SKY. It is a really good mix of both the commercial and brand positioning aspects of client’s business, which is fascinating work.
Whereas at Aser the focus is more on understanding the sport landscape and trends in our various markets. This can range from interest in more niche sports to understanding what the growth of esports means for us. In addition to this, there are CRM projects which need to be looked at across our portfolio to ensure we understand our audience in terms of who they are, where their interests lie and how we can make their experiences better and more meaningful.
What advice would you give someone interested in a similar career path in sport?
My advice is when at university get as many internships as possible. It may be a cliché, but the sports industry is still small and while merit comes into it, so much of what I've managed to achieve has been about who I have come into contact with throughout my career. Having internships is a good place to build this, as you can demonstrate your dedication and work ethic and show the time you’re willing to invest to achieve your career ambitions.
Sport is a competitive place to work. I was super lucky, I got into talkSPORT via a friend’s recommendation. But however, you get your foot in the door, it is about showing your drive and how much you want it. Muck in, be a team player and do the things people won’t expect from you, go over and above. The companies where I have worked have been ‘relatively’ small with that close family atmosphere which means you have to be a team player with a willingness to learn. Make sure you have this attitude, otherwise it can be really difficult to gel.
Be a sponge. There is so much going on at the moment and sport is becoming so fragmented through technology and innovation. You need to constantly learn to stay with the pack and you have to show a keenness to take it all in.
Finally, show good organisational skill. I can’t emphasise this enough, especially within research. Whether you are at an agency or in-house, you will be working on a number of different projects at the same time, your entire reputation depends having your house in good working order.
You are a 2018 Sports Industry NextGen Leader, what has helped you develop success in your sports career so far?
I think it has been believing in myself. I was very lucky to have a couple of great female mentors at Octagon who pushed me to go for what I wanted and supported me on that journey. They helped position myself within the company and gave me confidence I needed. It’s really valuable to have someone who is a bit older to share their experience, knowledge and help you grow your self-belief. If you can, find a mentor, it is an invaluable support system to building your career.
Why do you love working in sport?
I think is the people. Everyone working in the industry is so passionate about what they do. It creates such an incredibly exciting atmosphere that means you often don’t even feel like you're going to work! We are doing something we enjoy and are building meaningful outputs, that’s a great combination and feeling. Also, the social aspect is really important. You work hard but also play hard (especially in agencies) which means you quickly build a network of close friends rather than just colleagues.
What are your plans for the future?
For now, I want to settle into my new role and ensure that I can use the skills I’ve learnt so far to help Aser’s portfolio, but also be a sponge and learn about aspects which I have not yet been exposed to, particularly broadcast content strategy. My hope is to help ELEVEN become as data driven as possible and learn and grow along the way.
This interview was conducted by GlobalSportsJobs insights team.
Interested in developing your career within Sports Strategy & Research? Click here to search the latest opportunities. Alternatively, give your career a boost by signing up to our ‘Jobs by Email’ and get the latest jobs relevant to you and your career ambitions direct to your inbox.