Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is Head of Marketing at Norwich City Football Club, Gavin Beard!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Gavin Beard and I’m the Head of Marketing at Norwich City Football Club. I lead all Marketing activity across the Club, looking after a brilliant team of 8. I’ve been in the business since January 2018, and experienced the incredible high of winning the Championship title in my first full season at the Club.
Prior to this role, I held the position of Marketing Manager at BT, where I looked after customer engagement across both BT Sport and BT TV. Effectively, my role was to demonstrate the value of a BT Sport/TV package to the existing customer base to reduce the propensity for churn.
I also spent around 3 ½ years at Coral, working at the Head Office in Stratford. I moved up the ranks from Product Exec to Marketing Manager at my time there, a great experience in a really unique industry.
What do you do in your current role?
My role is incredibly varied. We are a proudly self-funded Football club, so as a department we are very commercially minded, given the importance of generating revenue for the Club. However, we have a brilliant fanbase and so we also recognise the importance of delivering high quality fan engagement, and always strive to find the perfect balance between the two.
As a Marketing department, we are responsible for delivering product launches for the Club, and ensuring that the products already out in the market are performing. We have a really broad remit and are accountable for the performance of a number of different products; it may be a campaign to launch our new kit, a new matchday experience, or a suite in the stadium we are looking to sell on a non-matchday.
The most high-profile example is our ‘All Together Now’ campaign, which saw us win Gold at the 2019 Football Business Awards for Best Club Marketing Initiative. It’s a great example of how we operate; I’m a huge fan of The Office (UK, not USA) and had an idea about creating a fictional environment that saw our players join The Ticket Office. It’s a huge credit to the club and the brilliant team we have that a quite outlandish idea was so well executed to universal applause. The overarching symbolism we were trying to demonstrate was the togetherness that was at the heart of the Club. Everyone was pulling in the right direction, staying true to the Club’s visions and values, and the result was promotion to the Premier League.
The category was incredibly strong, and we were up against some big Premier League teams such as Chelsea, Wolves, Southampton and Leicester, so it was even more satisfying knowing we’d delivered our award winning campaign as a Championship team without the support of an agency. Being self-funded actually promotes us to be more creative and innovative to ensure we continue to compete at the highest level.
What does a normal week look like for you?
There are a number of cyclical events in the calendar that require new, innovative campaigns each year, but given our self-funded nature, there are always a number of new events or initiatives that arise.
Given the nature of Football, a lot of activity takes place over the weekend, so we’ll align each Monday morning to assess the key priorities for the week, and how products are performing against their KPIs. While we’ve built a long term strategy that underpins everything we do, but we have to be flexible and adapt to what’s happening on the pitch. Being this agile means it is fast paced, but that’s why being a part of this industry is so enjoyable.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
It feels like the stereotypical story, but I thought I could potentially forge a career on the pitch until my ACL told me otherwise. So I focused all my efforts on education, studying Sports Studies at the University of Hertfordshire, but after a few months I realised that it was Marketing that I was the most interested in. The Business School at the University of Hertfordshire had a link with the Universitat de Valencia, and through ERASMUS many Business Studies students were heading there, and I wanted to be a part of it. I seized the moment when a lecturer from the Universitat de Valencia was visiting our University, and after a lot of hassling, he agreed that I could join the programme. I was completely out of my comfort zone and had to quickly learn some basic Spanish; at that time Valencia had no where near as much Tourism as Madrid or Barcelona, so English wasn’t frequently spoken, especially in my neighbourhood. Throwing myself into that situation was great for my personal development and an experience I look back on very fondly.
Once I’d graduated, I wrongly assumed my degree was enough to jump straight into my dream role within Football. I often have University students reach out for some advice, and it’s always the same; a degree isn’t enough, you’ll need to think laterally in order to differentiate yourself from the huge talent pool out there that you are competing with.
I was approached by Coral for a graduate Product Executive role and took quite a big risk on the agreement that they would help me progress into Marketing. As soon as I joined the business, I met with the Head of Marketing and Marketing Director to express my desire to move into this area, and then had to sit patiently. After 9 months, a vacancy presented itself, and thankfully due to the relationship I had built, I was offered a Marketing Executive role after an internal catch up. I then progressed into a Marketing Manager role after 1 ½ years, which paved the way to me joining BT.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I think the current climate has forced Marketeers to think outside the box, which will certainly elevate the quality within our industry. A great example is our upcoming kit launch. Initial plans were scuppered, and we’ve had to rethink and build a new concept. The result is something we’re even more excited about, and we can’t wait for fans to see the output. I have also found it really refreshing how the industry has come together to support each other, knowing we are all going through the same situation. I have had a number of catch ups with my counterparts at other Clubs, and the knowledge sharing has been of great mutual value.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Opportunities in this industry are few and far between. While Football is a glamorous industry that many want to work in, I have found my route in via two different Sporting industries, Gambling and Broadcasting. Be patient; if you’re just starting out in your career, there’s nothing wrong with taking a related role in another Sports industry as that’ll give you some good experience in your discipline, and set you up nicely for when a role in Football becomes available.
How to follow Gavin Beard on social media…
Please feel free to give me a shout on Twitter: @gavinwithabeard
You can also find me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/gvnbeard/
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider feature with the Head of Marketing of Norwich City Football Club, Gavin Beard!