Edition #208 takes us to the capital! We head to East London to talk to Piers McDermott, Digital Lead for West Ham United about his career in sport so far…
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Piers McDermott and I’m the Digital Lead at Premier League football club West Ham United.
I started my professional endeavours within sport as Marketing Manager at Playwaze, a SaaS start-up helping users to organise their sport before joining sports marketing agency, WePlay in 2018.
I thrived in WePlay’s data-driven performance culture and had the pleasure of working with some of the sports industries biggest organisations such as the UFC, Ryder Cup & FIFA before departing as Media Director after almost 4 years to take up my current role at the Hammers.
What do you do in your current role?
As Digital Lead, I am responsible for West Ham United’s digital activity, covering CRM, social media, content, paid media, website, and app. Daily tasks encompass shaping & implementing digital strategy, maximising fan engagement, club revenue, and brand value on a domestic and global scale.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
The beauty of sport is that every week is different & although topline business goals remain, weekly demands & objectives to achieve these are fluid and subject to change. In my mind, digital means change, and we must therefore be continuously innovating to stay at the forefront of this ever-evolving space.
An “average” week revolves around global fan engagement & growth across digital channels and could range from player activations, to retail, or ticketing campaigns to ensure our 62,500-capacity stadium is sold out for home fixtures.
Strategy and innovation underpin digital campaigns and a portion of my week is spent on the technical side, building out our web and app infrastructure to deliver best-in-class digital systems for our supporters.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
Sport has always been a constant in my life and it’s a privilege to now work professionally within an industry I am so passionate about. I believe sport teaches us some of the most valuable lessons and life-skills such as teamwork, leadership, work ethic and communication.
For me, working in sport and football is the next best thing to playing so when I didn’t make it, (insert knee injury line here..) I knew I wanted to stay in the game in some capacity, and digital provides the platform to be at the cutting edge of it.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
The number one focus is to make a positive impact and provide a best-in-class digital ecosystem to drive maximum fan engagement, bringing fans from East London & around the world closer to the club they love and support.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
I fail regularly, but these experiences have provided some of the most valuable lessons that I apply daily.
Early in my career agency side, (chasing perfection) I would often take on entire projects and try to complete all tasks, instead of entrusting others to help share the load & their expertise. I quickly realised this way of working was highly in-efficient for all parties and more can be achieved as a team.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’m always on the lookout for new social media platforms, digital technologies, and ways to engage with our fans. For example, over the past year we’ve collaborated with influencers more than ever before, to increase our reach. The challenge to stay up to date is always exciting!
If you could change one thing about your industry, what would you change?
Although highly competitive, I would like to see a more open industry where knowledge is shared to drive growth throughout the football pyramid. I enjoy attending conferences and networking events to hear from thought leaders within our space, gaining new insights and understanding to level up our operation.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
I enjoy spending time & socialising with family and friends and attend as many events, (sporting and non-sporting) as possible. As a fitness enthusiast I love throwing myself into challenges which takes my mind off work. The Paris Marathon, Ironman 70.3, London-Essex 100-mile cycle, & Swim Serpentine is booked in for 2023 already!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
To be proactive with your networking and seek out new connections, knowledge, and opportunities as entry into the sports industry is competitive. A saying that helped me was ‘If you don’t back yourself, why should anybody else’, so prepare for applications well and be confident.
How to connect with Piers McDermott…
Thanks for reading our chat with Piers McDermott! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.