If you love sports, you might have considered all sorts of careers: footballer, athlete, manager, maybe even referee. But chances are you didn’t really think about the business side of sports and what a career in sport sponsorship could mean. Gareth Griffiths, Head of Sports Sponsorship at O2, will be running around Twickenham this weekend making sure that everything is running smoothly from a sponsorship point of view during the England v Ireland Six Nations match. We had a chat with him to find out more.
Gareth didn’t set out on his career path intending to end up in charge of sports sponsorship; in fact he did a law degree, legal training, and started working for a law firm. But he realised pretty quickly that he wasn’t enjoying it and wanted to do something he was passionate about. “I had a big love of sport particularly,” he says. “And I’d done a lot of promotion and marketing work for the student union at Cardiff where I went to university. I made quite a career shift from law, but it was a conscious one. I knew what I was doing.”
The scheme that he found was with Lexis Agency and Gareth found himself working on the Barclays Premier League account. A lot of what he did in his law degree has been very useful while working in sponsorship. “I deal in contracts all the time,” he says. “Knowing all about the terms and how you activate sponsorship rights is really helpful. A sponsorship is essentially a contract between a brand, like O2, and a rights holder, like the RFU. The start of the whole relationship is a contract so you have to be able to negotiate and understand how that works and how you apply that contract to what you do day to day.”
And what exactly does the day to day look like? Well, it turns out that every day really is different – Gareth spends his time doing a range of things from preparing for big matches at Twickenham (like tomorrow’s Six Nations game against Ireland) by making sure that everything is ready for O2 customers who will be attending the game (they get loads of extra benefits, including a free pie and a pint, access to the Blue Room, and discounts at The Rugby Store), coming up with creative ideas for campaigns (including promotion for their Match Day App, where you can listen in to the referee in Six Nations games), and making sure that O2 Touch, their community rugby programme is running as it should be.
As well as all that, Gareth also has to spend a lot of time working out budgets. “It can be really hard saying no to creative ideas that you really like because you don’t have the money for them,” he admits. “Making the calls on where to spend your budget throughout the financial year can be tough too. You’re always questioning whether you’re doing the right thing and whether it’s getting the most value back for our customers, you have to make tough calls.”
But the hard parts of the job are more than made up for by the fact that Gareth gets to spend game day at Twickenham. He’ll be getting to the stadium for about 11am on Saturday for the England v Ireland game and his responsibilities include making sure that everything is running smoothly at the O2 Blue Room for the customers, checking that all the O2 branding in the stadium looks how it is supposed to, liaising with the team managers for access to the players and also making sure that the new content they’re producing for online this weekend all runs smoothly.
If you fancy working in sports sponsorship like Gareth, it’s going to take some hard work but it’s definitely a rewarding career. “It’s the best career in the world,” he says. “There’s never a dull day. Make the most of every opportunity but never take what you do in sports sponsorship for granted because the minute you do, you need to look for a new job.”
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