Welcome to Behind Sport’s Industry Insider series. Sharing his story in the latest in the series is Marcus Casey, Digital Comms at the Six Nations and The British & Irish Lions!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Marcus Casey and I work in Digital Comms at both the Six Nations and up until a week ago, The British & Irish Lions and have been here for almost five years.
The two are very much separate companies but have enjoyed a shared resource of staff since the early 2000’s. With both seeing such growth in recent times, the need for them to leave ‘the family home’ as it was, became obvious a couple of years ago. I will now be working solely with the Six Nations which is exciting.
This year, we have also been tasked with leading the creation and implementation of the Autumn Nations Cup (eight teams, 16 matches across Europe) in November and December.
Before this, I worked in Events & Marketing at Gymnastics Ireland where I managed both National and International gymnastics events attended by 3,000-6,000 fans per weekend.
I studied History and Geography at University College Dublin before doing an internship at the Federation of Irish Sport. I often think the internship I did straight out of University was the best decision I made. It really set me upon the path I am on now.
What do you do in your current role?
The areas I would mostly focus on in my current role (and with the Lions) would be around social media, social video, database growth through competitions, content gathering / creation and partner digital activation. My friends think I put out a few tweets from time to time, but I would like to think there is a bit more to it than that. Just a little bit more, of course.
What does a normal week look like for you?
I won’t say that no two days are the same because sometimes they are, but it very much depends on the time of year for me. A match week is obviously the most exciting and what you look forward to the most. I would generally narrow down our long-term content calendar into a weekly output, with a lot more detail on a Monday for the week ahead. Back to those friends of mine, many wouldn’t realise the detail that would be put into ‘just a few tweets’. So planning is an important part to the week. It’s about bringing all the right people and agencies together, so the weekends run as smoothly as possible.
In normal times (pre-Covid) I would be at a game to gather content and give fans that ‘live feeling’ through our social channels. So, for example, I was in Rome last February for a few days for Italy v Scotland. You are walking around Rome on a match day looking to find fans, interview them, talk to them and give people a sense of the excitement that is building before kick-off. Once the game kicks off, I am in the press box in the stadium and liaising with an agency to ensure our in-match clips are ready for social and are delivered to the relevant Union. Being the rights holder, we would put a big emphasis on servicing our six Unions and helping provide as good a service to them as possible. The same would be said for our broadcast partners and sponsors.
In terms of the Lions, the week would largely look the same. Both would have got really busy at times, so it was about trying to juggle the two. During the 2017 Tour I got to travel to New Zealand as part of the backroom management team which was incredible. A week in New Zealand was largely based around content gathering on the ground, packaging it up and sending back to the team in the UK and Ireland as we were on the complete opposite time zone. Our digital audience was largely here in the UK and Ireland so releasing our best content for them was key.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I would have to go back to that internship I did straight out of University to be honest. Uni is great, but for me there is nothing like actual hands on work. You get to understand so much more in an office (or in the field) than in a classroom…..well I certainly did. The CEO of the Gymnastics Ireland was on the board of the company I worked with for my internship and we got on and it went from there. From there I came across Shane Whelan, Director of Digital, Marketing & Communications at the Lions (previously the Six Nations too) and the rest is history.
I have always loved sport, particularly rugby. I probably left university not fully knowing what I wanted to do but just sort of found my way.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?
The experiences that you get from sport are certainly worth the late nights and long weekends of a match week. It’s great to be able to soak up the atmosphere at a Six Nations match, for example. I love that. Also, the launch we do every January is fun. All the captains and coaches gather for a day, two weeks before the Championship kicks off.
In terms of the Lions, it could be squad announcement day, which is broadcast live on Sky Sports News, releasing the jersey or getting to announce who the head coach is.
If I was to pick just one, it would have to be getting to travel to New Zealand for the 2017 Tour as part of the backroom team. It was incredible to see first-hand how an elite sports team operates and the fact it is over 10 games gives a huge build-up of anticipation.
Without a doubt the second Test-Match in Wellington will live with me forever. So much was riding on that game. Lose and the series was gone, win and it brought it to a decider in Auckland a week later. They won of course, Owen Farrell scoring a long-range penalty with three minutes to go to seal the win. The atmosphere on the pitch and back at the hotel afterwards was incredible. That was a special night.
What do you think is next for your industry?
I think as is the case with most things now, there is uncertainty, change and challenges given the current situation with Covid.
Having said that, I’m a strong believer that with change and challenges comes opportunity. With no fans allowed attend live sport, the emphasis on digital is probably bigger than ever. Fans double screening is obviously not a new concept, but I think during live sport in the last few months sports teams and leagues are seeing a good uptick in engagement and interaction online.
While it is uncertain when crowds will be allowed back into sports stadiums (we have seen them in New Zealand with full capacity and trials in the UK), there is one thing I am certain we will see – a massive hit when they return. I think Covid has shown how big a role live sport plays in peoples lives.
I would be quietly confident crowd numbers will bounce back very quickly and, in some sports increase, when the time is right.
Another interesting area is OTT and a change of how we consume live sport, entertainment, movies and so on. That is an area I think will continue to grow rapidly.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Firstly, I’m not sure if I am qualified to give advice but if I was to say to someone what I think you should do I would say talk to as many people as possible. We live in a generation where you can search LinkedIn, log on to a web talk, connect with people on the other side of the world. That’s not just in sport but everything we do. My dad always told me to reach out to as many people as possible when I was leaving University. Obviously, you need to narrow your focus, but most people are more than willing to talk to you and give you advice and the ones that aren’t I wouldn’t waste my time with anyway.
I am always happy to give people some time as many have done the same for me over the course of my career to date. It’s free to give and I know it has always helped me so I am happy to return the favour.
How to connect with Marcus Casey on social media…
You can connect with me on LinkedIn.