The latest instalment of Industry Insider sees us speak to Gaurav Kumar, the Founder and Executive Producer at Fresh Base – a production company specialising in sports & lifestyle.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Gaurav Kumar, I am the Founder and Executive Producer at Fresh Base – a production company specialising in sports & lifestyle which has been running for 5 years.
Before setting up Fresh Base I worked for over a decade across a range of creative agencies, working in more client services focussed roles – across brands like New Balance, Adidas, Facebook, Jack Daniel’s, MINI & Starbucks.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
As a big Liverpool fan, I’d always kept half an eye on jobs relating to the club or football in general but hadn’t pursued it properly.
In 2012, a job became available working at Wolfpack (now ZAK) on what was then Warrior Football, who made Liverpool’s kits. The timing wasn’t great as I’d only just moved to a new role, and wasn’t one for jumping around – but I absolutely had to go for it.
I loved it there, eventually launching New Balance into football globally and working with elite clubs and players. When my time was up there and I moved elsewhere, I missed working in sport too much – once I’d tasted it I couldn’t go back to a “normal” advertising role.
My end goal was always to work for myself but I didn’t know what I wanted to do – I had all sorts of hair-brained ideas including opening a pizza restaurant (despite having never made a pizza in my life). An old friend rightly advised me to focus on my experience and expertise, so I set up Fresh Base in 2018 and it’s been operating in various guises ever since.
What do you do in your current role?
I’d say it’s only within the last 12 months that I can really say my role has evolved to be an Executive Producer – sitting above and overseeing every project running through the agency, with a small but brilliant team running and managing the finer details.
For the first couple of years Fresh Base was essentially my freelance portfolio but positioned as a production company. It was in lockdown that I saw the potential of people wanting to work with “us guys” so decided to roll the dice and take on some support.
After a couple of years of trial and error, we now have a great business model where we work with a talented pool of freelancers and part time staff, scaling up and down when needed – there’s usually between 6 and 10 of us at any one time. As well as operating as an EP on a project level, as the owner I work across and guide the entire business.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
Sport isn’t a normal industry, and even more so when you get into production – the nature of it is unpredictable with moving dates and times due to the athletes’ training schedules.
A typical week for me will be book ended – I try to keep external meetings and calls to a minimum on a Monday, to make sure the week starts properly. Everyone generally avoids shooting on a Monday as well as can be trickier after a weekend for prep, equipment hire, etc. I also try to work from home as much as possible on a Friday as my youngest son is off in the afternoon.
Then unless we have shoots, I try to make sure I’m out and about at least one day in the week meeting people face to face – be that co-workers, old friends and colleagues, existing clients or prospects. There’s always a backlog of people to grab a coffee with, but I love it – I had a bad injury last year which kept me largely housebound, so I am making up for lost time!
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
The question I always ask myself and something I always have in mind is – what are we doing to progress and push Fresh Base forward?
My sister told me that as a freelancer you take on roles for Fame or Fortune, ideally both. The Fame element of that is what really drives me and the work we love to make – is this great work, is it interesting, creative, and will people notice. Then the rest will come.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
There have been two major moments in my career where I’d say I’ve failed – and both have come down to not having the right attitude and mindset. I was in roles but not focussed on them – I was already looking ahead to the next thing. That inevitably led to poor performance, which I now regret.
What I took out from that was to always be fully committed to what you’re doing and put everything into it, and if your heart’s not in it then follow your gut and do something else. I appreciate that not everybody is fortunate enough to be able to make that choice.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
The continued and rapid rise of women’s football is brilliant to see. We’ve worked on a number of shoots within the women’s game over the years and have seen a real upturn in the way brands are approaching them – now starting to give them equal importance and attention as the men’s shoots.
There is still work to do – I think brands now need to go deeper and explore storytelling with female players, and I’m interested to see how this continues to develop after the huge success of this recent World Cup.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
I can still feel occasional snobbery towards social media – despite it now being equally or sometimes more important than traditional media.
Ultimately the lines will continue to blur and brands need their media channels to co-exist – and production needs to acknowledge this, with shoots co-existing to cater for all sorts of capture with equal levels of importance given throughout. I think this is where agencies like ourselves will thrive as we operate across the lines.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Watch sports ha! My boots were hung up a while back, but my family comes first and the kids always keep me busy. My eldest has become obsessed with football within the last year so it’s great seeing it all again through his eyes.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
I’m really grateful for the path through creative agencies and non-sports accounts that have led me to this point – I think it has given me a well-rounded approach and a wealth of experience and contacts to draw upon. But I also know how fortunate I am to work in the industry, it’s incredible and as they say – love your work and you’ll never work a day in your life.
To that point I’d say if you have made your mind up already that you want to work in the sports industry then brilliant. I’m always impressed when I speak to young people who have a clear vision of where they want to go – perhaps it’s because it’s easier now to get information about what options are available to them. I mentioned earlier that I didn’t pursue it properly, and I could’ve very easily not ended up finding this path.
Mentoring is important to me, and is something we try to ensure we’re always doing – even if it’s just talking to people who want some guidance, bringing junior runners and work experience kids on set, etc.
How to connect with Gaurav Kumar…
Some links below for Fresh Base and Ballers Models too.