Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is Marketing Manager for New Balance Teamsports, Dan McGeachie!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hello I’m Dan McGeachie, I currently lead the marketing for a group of companies which includes New Balance Teamsports. Prior to joining this, I have worked at pretty much every level of English football, from grassroots right up to the Premier League.
Stepping away from a club setting has taken some getting used to, as there really is no other environment quite as exciting and fast-paced. However, no longer having to work every weekend has allowed me to witness first-hand one of the most incredible seasons in recent history at Elland Road.
What do you do in your current role?
Working across a group of companies, I am very much a generalist marketer. I’m sure anyone working in a small team or a lower league football club will relate to spending a lot of time wearing many hats. In the early part of my career I grew used to having little resource and sometimes being the entire marketing department, which helped me become comfortable across the full marketing mix.
My work now comprises of everything from designing ads to creating sales decks, writing press releases and balancing a marketing budget.
What does a normal week look like for you?
Working across such a broad range of companies as those in our group, a ’normal’ week is rare, especially during these challenging times.
For example, in the past three months one company within our group pivoted to start supplying face covers for many Premier League clubs. This was a new landscape for the whole team, and certainly presented a new challenge from a marketing perspective.
Likewise, I’ve also been heavily involved in the creation of “Fans From Home”, a business unit we’ve developed to supply thousands of cut-out fans to a whole host of professional sports venues in recent weeks.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I was actually training as a Project Manager when fate led me to a conference at Wembley Stadium. One of the speakers on the day was Scott Field, (at the time The FA’s Head of Media Relations, currently Director of Communications and Marketing at Team GB)
Hearing Scott speak so passionately about his role truly inspired me. I had always loved sport, but never really knew how I’d make a career in it. I left Wembley that day with Scott’s keynote ringing in my ears, so I headed straight to the nearest coffee shop, deleted my CV and started again.
A few weeks later, I got a job at West Riding County FA and for me, that was my first step into working in football.
During my time with the County FA, it was the all the experiences outside of my actual job which proved to be the most valuable. I would get to Wembley as often as I could to shadow the FA’s comms team during England matches and press conferences. I also took on various Team Liaison jobs for the FA and even spent three weeks at St George’s Park working on the Cerebral Palsy World Cup.
I ended up taking on many voluntary opportunities too, including commentating live on England youth internationals, writing a weekly column for The Yorkshire Evening Post and travelling to the USA to shadow comms teams in the MLS. Working closely with Mark Bradley and the Fan Experience Company also really shaped my understanding of the industry and I’ll be forever grateful to Mark for all his help over the years.
When I started to think about leaving the County FA, it was James Mason, who I’d later go on to work with at Bradford City who convinced me to join my first club, Harrogate Town. James’ commercial acumen is what helped me pivot from working in PR and comms to explore a more commercially orientated, marketing career.
I learned a lot during my brief spell at Harrogate Town, which was during their transition to professional football. Re-branding the club into what you see today, including changing the badge from a red and blue town hall crest to the modern yellow and black badge was a project which I’m really still proud of.
Regretfully though, I never achieved as much as I could have with Harrogate. Whilst I had bags of ambition and the best of intentions, at the time I lacked humility, perseverance and perspective. These are lessons which have stayed with me throughout my career.
After Harrogate, I joined James Mason at Bradford City where I ended up working very closely with then owner, Edin Rahic. Without going into too much detail, I can say that my time at Bradford was somewhat of a roller coaster. Although I was initially brought in to grow a marketing team, my role became all-encompassing and at times, absolutely extraordinary.
Working so closely with Edin showed me a side of football (and life!) I never thought I’d experience. Documentary crews, film premieres, late night hotel rendezvous, character assassinations and conspiracy theories, are only half the story.
I certainly wish circumstances were different during my tenure at Bradford, and I’ve got a lot of respect for the guys who stuck with the club through those tough times.
With things so tough at Bradford, I jumped at the chance to join Premier League champions Manchester City. As the marketing manager for a brand new business unit, focussing on experiential hospitality and targeting VVIP guests I was surrounded by truly great people. I am so proud to have had the chance to be part of the team at Manchester City, and some of the experiences I had during that time will stay with me forever.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
There apparel industry is constantly evolving and there’s so much going on it’s hard to keep track sometimes. However, innovation is at the core of New Balance, so I’m fortunate to find out about lots of really exciting advances in product development and technology.
However, in the sports marketing industry in general, I’m really keen to see the impact of athlete’s voices becoming ever more powerful. Football players in particular are clearly demonstrating a greater level of social responsibility right now and whilst they aren’t necessarily trying to monetise their position, there is no doubt that their stance on social issues will grow their personal brands and make them more marketable.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
First of all, I’ve probably made as many mistakes as anyone so my advice is from experience. When I was starting out, I thought the answer to making progress in the industry was to move fast, network tirelessly and say yes to everything. My biggest piece of advice now would be to slow down, think about the bigger picture and focus on real, meaningful connections.
For example, I know that I pissed some people off with my relentlessness at times. Although my intentions were good, and I always 100% believed I was doing the right thing for either myself, the business or the club, there have been times when I’ve gone about things like a bull in a china shop.
I wish someone had told me early on in my career how important it is to play the long-game and be patient. That doesn’t stop when you’re in the door either, as when it comes to communicating with sports fans, you can’t try and force an agenda or change, no matter how strongly you believe in it. Even if what you’re trying to do is wholly for the better, you can never simply tell fans to come on a journey with you.
To summarise, my advice is to resist the temptation to self-promote and “network” inauthentically. Be content to start at the bottom and focus on doing meaningful work, not chasing trends or likes. Above all else though, acknowledge and learn from your mistakes.
How to follow Dan McGeachie on social media…
I might have soon, but in the meantime I’m happy just to use my personal Twitter @mcg_daniel if anyone wants to connect.
Thanks for reading our latest Industry Insider feature with Marketing Manager for New Balance Teamsports, Dan McGeachie!