Peter Daire (FA Group Head of Sponsorship) and Sean McAuliffe (FA Global Head of Business Development) are leaving their highly coveted positions at the Wembley-based FA to launch their own business. Their new agency, Sport Collective, will work with sports rights holders to maximise commercial value and with brands to develop engagement strategies that deliver ROI.
Touch of madness or stroke of genius?
GlobalSportsJobs had a catch-up with the pair to discuss their audacious move and their view on entrepreneurship.
You occupied positions many aspire to take on within The Football Association. Some will undoubtedly look on with raised eyebrows. What made you decide to leave and start your own business, and how did you decide the time was right?
PD – We had both been at The FA for around 6.5 years and it just felt like it was the right time to move on. It’s a great organisation and we’ve worked with so many fantastic brands like Nike, Umbro, Vauxhall, Mars, Carlsberg, Lucozade, William Hill, Budweiser and most recently EE, across all The FA’s assets such as England, The FA Cup, Wembley Stadium, St George’s Park and grass roots football”.
SM – Using this experience seemed like the natural thing to do, plus we’ve worked with and represented a myriad of blue-chip rights owners and brands before our time at The FA such as FIFA, UEFA, RFU, ECB and various football clubs and formula one teams.
How do you define success?
SM – It’s a combination of the quality of work we deliver for our clients, be they rights holder or brand and ensuring we deliver against the brief. Our scope of business is broad and not merely confined to sales.
PD – Absolutely, Sport Collective will work across the whole commercial side of sport such as sponsorship, licensing, ecommerce, broadcast and digital commercial exploitation, for example. This is not confined to rights holders but also for brands who either want to get into sport or understand how to use their rights better.
Tell us more about your new business venture. How did it come about? And how closely is it related to your commercial and sponsorship background?
PD – In our roles at The FA, we worked very closely together and very successfully. Taking that experience and using it for something new is something we had discussed but never acted on.
SM – Indeed. It’s difficult to leave somewhere like The FA, but with that experience and our deep understanding of the commercial world of sport, we felt the timing was about right. And yes it’s natural that Sport Collective is based on our knowledge gained from all our previous employments.
Have you always considered yourselves entrepreneurs? Is starting your own business something you've longed to do or was it a recent decision?
PD – If I am honest no, up until relatively recently. I have always worked for big blue chip companies and navigated my way around the roles that suited me best at the time. That is what I am doing now, it just happens that the role is working for my own business, with Sean.
SM – For me, the notion of running your own agency/company has been with me for some time but the challenge is identifying a proposition you’re truly passionate about, feel you have something different to offer and ultimately define the timing of launch to the best of your ability….though often easier said than done!
In your opinion, is entrepreneurship more about leadership or innovation?
SM – Regardless of sector you operate in you need to innovate and be willing to embrace new thinking. Leadership of course plays its part and at Sport Collective we need to ensure that we also focus on the key things and deliver them well.
PD – It’s a mixture of both but innovation is definitely key I believe. This doesn’t necessarily mean inventing something wondrous and new, it can be doing something in a different way and being able to create demand.
Considering where you are today, if you had the chance to start over your career, what would you do differently, if anything?
PD – Of course there are things you might have done differently if you had a chance to do them again, that’s human nature. However, I am happy with the opportunities I have taken and the path I have been on so it’s about making the most of what you feel you are good at.
SM – I agree. I think you need to be careful about wasting too much energy thinking about what you could or should have done looking back on your career to date. We each have close to twenty years’ experience in the sport business and media world and I think our choices over that time will position us well for our new venture.
Is there a pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
SM – Ask me in a year’s time! There’s certainly a pattern/formula for good business practice, but it’s about having the belief plus the energy and drive to make things happen. Build a valuable knowledge base and a network around you and make sure you enjoy what you do.
PD – Agreed!