We’re back with another instalment of Industry Insider, our latest guest is Helen Nicholls!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hello I’m Helen Nicholls. I have worked in marketing for 12 years but in other industries. In 2017 I decided I needed to make the move into the sports industry to combine my passion for sport with my work. Starting at InCrowd as B2B marketing executive, I moved to Head of Marketing in April 2021.
What do you do in your current role?
My role is broad. As Head of Marketing, I am responsible for developing & delivering the wider marketing and brand building strategy across the business. I work closely with external customers and our commercial, account management and design teams to deliver bespoke and time-sensitive sales tools, marketing collateral and promotional material. I also assist with internal marketing and working with HR in creating and developing our supportive and collaborative company culture. The variation in my role is what I really love, getting to work with different departments and external partners and peers.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
This is a tough one to answer – hence the question I guess! In my role, I can have all the right intentions to complete my to-do list for that day, but it can change at the drop of a hat. Always on the cards are regular check ins with commercial and account management teams, and at least once a day having a look around Slack at general chatter to keep up to date with product development and progression of projects and checking in with the multitude of industry newsletters I subscribe to! Important to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on around you…
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
It was a case of “now or never” for me – after a few years of learning my craft, and admittedly getting a bit too comfortable, I knew if I wanted to work in the sports industry I needed to make it happen and started looking. I found the InCrowd role within a week, interviewed five days later and had the job a week after that. Never looked back, I have seen the company grow at an incredible rate over the last 4 years. It’s a fantastic place to work.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
I don’t think I apply this just to work, and it might seem a little cliche, but it really is about being communicative, keeping a smile on your face and also ensuring you’re taking the time out to take care of yourself when you need it. This industry is fast paced – its very exciting but things change, opportunities fly in and fly by and you have to be light on your feet to work through, get results and grow… that’s tiring for anyone after a while. So I guess my number one focus is doing the best job I can, and do what I’m here to do by being at my best physically and mentally. Even more so in a remote environment.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
Not at InCrowd but in a former role earlier in my career, we ran a marketing campaign that involved sending something “into space”. It was a pretty big expense, sending something to the edge of the atmosphere by space balloon – in hindsight, I think we were so excited about the concept and the video output of the flight, we didn’t put enough thought into the campaign around it… we just assumed people would want to watch it. The video was great but there wasn’t much traction or lead generation as a result. It is vital that you don’t just focus on the exciting stuff, but that you build a strong foundation in the build up and ensure you have a plan of action for post event. That and branding – we ran out of budget to properly brand the video content going out. Such a faux pas.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
How many organisations want to engage and connect with their audience on increasingly deeper levels and build memorable experiences for every fan on owned platforms – we’ve seen such an acceleration in aspiration and implementation on this across the industry over the last 20 months – really exciting for us as a business!
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
I wouldn’t say it’s an immediate change, but I’d love to see the momentum behind recognition of women in sport continue – not athletes as such, but women behind the scenes in ever increasing senior roles. It’s so exciting to see how far we’ve come, but we still have some way to go!
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Funnily enough – watch Sport! anything and everything… In 2020 when sport shut down, I got really into Ten Pin Bowling, Disc Golf and professional Cornhole over in the states – it was the only live sport I could find! I’ve recently taken up Archery and I love it – a sport for my competitive side, but less taxing on my poor netball-beaten ankles! Other than that, I love to do all the classics – read, head to the gym and who doesn’t love getting immersed in a good drama on the TV. If I really need to give myself a boost of laughter and some heart, it’s Ted Lasso or Gogglebox.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Be proactive and be bold – reach out and ask for conversations, attend events and meet people, and sign up to every newsletter going so you’re in the know. I find Sport to be an incredibly sociable industry!
How to connect with Helen Nicholls on social media…
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Helen Nicholls! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.