My Career Story: Andrew Cox, Director, Strategic Partnerships, Opta
Published: 02 Nov 2012
Director, Strategic Partnerships at Opta
Managing Director, Entertainment & Sports Agency Ltd
Commercial & Operations Manager, Entertainment & Sports Agency Ltd
Licensing Sales Executive, Sports.com
Sports Editor & Website Producer, CBS Sportsline Europe
BA (Hons) - First Class, Business Management at University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Date of Birth:
8th December, 1977
GlobalSportsJobs: When was your big break in your career?
Andrew Cox: “I was about to join the ranks of management consultants as a postgraduate when a friend mentioned a sports media dot com start-up operating out of my home town in East Yorkshire that included Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan in the investor group! I was intrigued - sport is my passion - so I got involved in that instead.”
GSJ: What was the best piece of career advice you ever received?
AC: “I’m not sure anything particularly stands out but the nature of the businesses I have worked for have given me plenty of encouragement to learn by doing. An academic background was important to open the door but industry experience and a willingness to graft has counted for so much more. Wanting to progress into a commercial role was always the intention but keeping an open mind about how to get there, and the skills I learnt along the way, stood me in good stead for the future. When I started out I spent (probably too much) time making sure that I devoured industry press and networking opportunities to learn about the quite disparate way in which you might make commercial sense out of sports data in a real-world context. I don’t think that the desire to learn should ever leave you.”
GSJ: What was the biggest challenge or your most difficult decision of your career so far?
AC: “The completion of our acquisition by Opta felt great, but was tinged with sadness. Becoming a Managing Director at a relatively young age came with a lot of responsibility. We had a headcount of more than 20 full-time employees, across three business subsidiaries and two offices, so striking any kind of work-life balance was challenging but incredibly rewarding. It was difficult to give that up.”
GSJ: You have worked in various organisations in sport over the years. How has the sports industry changed, from a recruitment perspective, since you started out?
AC: “I think that the number of opportunities has increased as the business of sport has expanded but that’s not to say it’s any less competitive. There do seem to be more candidates coming through with academic or vocational qualifications that are directly linked to the industry. I think that’s an inevitability of some maturing sectors, particularly in sports data and related technology, where the commercial opportunities are much better understood than they ever were, even just a few years ago.”
GSJ: What do you believe are the most important things to consider when weighing up whether to move on from your current role to a new role?
AC: “I really don’t think there’s a checklist as it’s a question of individual ambition and circumstance. In actual fact, my career progression has been more about continuity within similar organisations but the commercial focus of each role has been very different, and this has brought variety. For me that’s been very important, alongside wanting to feel that I had an ability to initiate change or positively influence strategy and decision making.”
GSJ: Tell us about Opta and its role in the sports industry...
AC: “Opta are experts in the field of sports data collection and distribution of associated products and business services. Encouragingly the Opta brand is now fairly well recognised amongst sports fans, which in turn reinforces the credibility of what we can offer our key accounts and clients. Opta also advise and implement best practice data rights strategies on behalf of governing bodies to maximise value from their properties and their commercial partners. In particular, we have driven the development of the football, rugby and cricket data markets in the UK and Europe. We have a long-standing pedigree in working with broadcast, digital and traditional media but increasingly we are applying our data analytics and visualisation techniques to complement areas of thought leadership in professional sport, particularly around player recruitment. In 2013 it is our intention to do similar in quantitative modelling for the betting industry, while remaining committed to working with sponsors, agencies, developers and creative individuals who can harness technology and sports data in innovative ways.”
GSJ: What sort of candidates do Opta look for? What are their main qualities?
AC: “I would describe a typical Opta employee as bright, articulate and passionate about sport. Our data products are diverse and our recruitment increasingly considers specialists in the sectors we now serve. That said, we don’t seem to have lost any of our entrepreneurial spirit, which I think is important in an industry that’s still relatively young and constantly evolving and looking for new ideas.”
GSJ: What would be your key piece of advice for someone starting out in the sports industry?
AC: “Before you get too smug about landing your dream job it’s not all free tickets and rubbing shoulders with your sporting heroes. Working within the sports industry has always felt like a privilege but be prepared for plenty of unsocial hours - often when you’d rather be playing sport or at the game with your friends and family - and the unscrupulous boss who’ll take advantage by reminding you just are lucky you are. The industry needs talented people and should be prepared to pay for that talent, so if you’re adding real value, don’t be afraid to back yourself.”
GSJ: What are your future career aspirations?
AC: “At the moment it’s great to be part of a growing team of like-minded individuals who really are at the sharp end of the sports data industry. At times it seems like there’s almost an endless list of opportunities for us to point ourselves at - often one of the hardest things is learning to say ‘no’. I do think that there’s a lot more work to be done in respect of how governing bodies manage their data strategies so, at some stage in the future, it might be nice to become poacher turned gamekeeper – if only to disprove the belief that those characteristics are an inevitability of any data partner relationship and to demonstrate that the objectives of both can become truly aligned.”