Welcome back to Behind Sport’s Industry Insider series. For our latest edition we sat down with Azhar Muhammad Saul, Partner and Senior Vice President of Paradigm Sports, one of the leading global sports management, business, and media agencies!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Azhar Muhammad Saul and I manage the international strategy and business development for Paradigm Sports. I joined the company just under a year ago after spending over 20 years in the financial sector.
What do you do in your current role?
I lead a group that drives the commercial side of our business. We are a multi-sports management, business, and media platform, that provides us with a huge playground in which to create compelling plans for our clients. My team works across our business ecosystem for our athletes. This includes, sponsorship and endorsements through to corporate partnerships and business venture creation.
What does a normal week look like for you?
A week? No day is normal! We serve a dynamic sport in a dynamic sector. The trajectory of growth Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has experienced over the past 15 years has been remarkable, but the reality is that it is still a green-field sport. Opportunities are everywhere. We blessed to wake up every morning and do what we love. There is no norm to that, it’s unpredictable but immensely rewarding.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I always wanted to work in sport. I am an Arsenal fan and football has been a constant in my life since I was child. I’ve been to countless games and even tried (unsuccessfully) to convince my parents to support me into becoming a journalist. I remember writing and sending my match reports to the local paper when I was 13/14 years old – I still have a few. That said, I enjoy reading and analysing data around sport and I’ve very grateful that my career via the financial markets of Europe, the US, Asia and MENA immersed me in the mechanics of business. This experience allows me to impact the sport in a far more strategic manner.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Execution. Whilst we pride ourselves as builders – My partners Audie, Kilay and I are constantly ideating and creating new opportunities for both our athletes and company. ‘Brain jiujitsu’ if you will, but we are just as focussed on executing these plans. Ultimately, whether in the cage of combat or the boardroom, one is always judged by results.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?
What do you think is next for your industry?
Content will continue to drive metrics. There’s an emotional currency that our athletes create that connect them with their fans. I see more creative, immersive plays to deepen that connection further. On the business aspect of combat sports, there is so much still to build and develop. We have some incredible new ventures that will come to market by the end of this year. As a company, we have the infrastructure and technology in place to build disruptive ventures that harness our athletes storylines and passions. It’s very exciting.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Respect the data and trust yourself. It’s important to understand fully the environment that your business operates in – analyze internal and external forces that are within that environment and build for efficiency always. Automate what you can. If one is agile in strategy and execution, the results will follow. From our team to our fighters to our ventures, we synthesis everything with data; big data, little data, where there’s a reading, there’s context to be found. Understand the context, back-test with analytics and then trust yourself and your team to deliver. The year has presented challenges that we haven’t previously had to find answers for. Just remember we are naturally inclined to be resilient, curious and to find answers. I’ll also add that it’s important to surround yourself with great people, I’m so proud to serve a company that has black-belts in every position.
How to follow Azhar Muhammad Saul on social media…
IG: @azmuhammadsaul and @paradigmsports
LinkedIn: Azhar Muhammad Saul
Thanks for reading Industry Insider with Azhar Muhammad Saul! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.