Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is Terri Lynam, Customer Director for the Rugby League World Cup 2021!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Terri Lynam and am an ex-pat from Australia and have lived in London for nearly 12 years. I’ve been in the sports industry now for over 10 years, mostly working on large sporting events like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, UEFA European Championships, UEFA Champions League, European Championships and Rugby World Cups. I’ve been lucky enough to run my own consulting business since 2012 and have worked on some amazing events all around the world, focussed on spectator communication and public awareness campaigns but have been involved in all sorts of event aspects in my time. I’m currently the Customer Director for the Rugby League World Cup 2021 and joined at the end of 2019.
What do you do in your current role?
My role is to provide leadership and direction to the Customer, Digital and Communications Team and to have oversight of most aspects relating to the customer outside of the venue and the operational elements of putting on the actual event.
The areas the team cover are Brand, Marketing/Social and Digital, Creative, Communications and PR, Customer Service, Ticketing, Spectator Experience/Transport and Sports Presentation as well as Host City and Town engagement. There is also the budget management, people management, contract negotiation, stakeholder engagement and leadership elements to the role as well. Overall, we are a small team in comparison to other major events, we all wear many hats, so the role is very diverse, exciting and challenging in equal measure.
What does a normal week look like for you?
Well, if you asked me this question a year ago, my answer would have involved heading into an office and collaborating side by side with colleagues but, as is the case currently for most of us, I do a lot of virtual meetings with the team, our agencies and other external stakeholders. It is really varied from day to day. In one meeting I could be reviewing ticketing sales figures, in the next I’ll be discussing marketing campaigns and creative and then it will be a presentation to our Board on our ticket sales strategy and communications planning. Every week is about putting us in the best possible place to deliver the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup ever. It can be challenging to plan and organise the delivery of an event the size and scale of ours in normal circumstances but trying to do it remotely and through a pandemic means you need to be agile, adapt and be ready for anything. It’s a good challenge to have, I’m lucky to have a team around me that is able to respond to those challenges while maintaining enthusiasm and momentum.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I’ve always been a huge sports fan; it runs in most Australian’s veins but I never really thought about sport as a career (I wish the lightbulb had gone off much sooner). At the start of my career, I was working in Australian Government, both Federal and State, and running large scale public behaviour change campaigns, it was great fun but sometimes difficult to manoeuvre around the politics. I also started thinking about moving abroad for a little while and like most Aussies that move to the UK, it was only meant to be for an 8-month stint but here I am – 12 years later! When I moved, I knew the Olympics would be in London in 2012 and that piqued my interest and I was determined to work on the event. I arrived in the UK in 2009 and after a year working in Central Government on a national climate change campaign, I made the move over to the Olympics, after which, I saw the opportunity to start my own business focusing on sports marketing communications. I wish I could say there was this light bulb moment, there was not, it happened organically, but I’m glad I made the move and have loved it ever since.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?
There have been so many, watching history making athletes and teams, the camaraderie and working with amazing people is always a highlight and it is great once you’ve done a few major sporting events that you see familiar faces at the next one, it feels like a small circle which is comforting in a way. The energy that is generated by a single team focussing on fixed deadline over a sustained period is quite addictive.
Working in sport does throw up some unexpected opportunities and the moment I will remember forever is when I got the chance to go on the pitch at the Final of the 2015 Rugby World Cup at Twickenham Stadium in London and helping to hold the biggest Australian flag I’ve ever seen and belting out the Australian Anthem and listening to an 70,000 strong crowd singing and cheering – it was electric! I will never be an elite sports person but for those few minutes I got to experience what it must be like to walk out on the pitch and the crowd go wild! (Before anyone says it, I know Australia lost to New Zealand that night – not so great but that electric feeling will stay with me for a long time to come)
What do you think is next for your industry?
More and more engaging content and hopefully continued focus on Women’s Sport. I think the Sports industry can support the communities they play within more, Rugby League World Cup is a real trailblazer in the Social Impact space – it is something everyone at RLWC2021 is so proud of and I think more and more sporting teams and even athletes will use their influence for these good and impactful causes – just look at what Marcus Rashford achieved with #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY or what rugby league legend Kevin Sinfield achieved by the ‘Seven in Seven’ or #runkevinrun campaign to raise money for his great mate Rob Burrows and the MND Foundation.
Next, I think the landscape of live sport has changed permanently, it has had to change so dramatically with COVID. Teams and organisers have had to adapt so quickly to the no fans in stadiums situation, that this has led to far more forced innovation in the digital space. More and more if you can’t be there live there is now a way to monetise watching from home but within the stadium. More and more sports will be looking to capitalise on the live and at home market not just through broadcast or streaming but live in-home events.
Then there is the continued rise of Women’s Sport and the spotlight being placed on these fantastic athletes who for years have had to do it significantly tougher to maintain being an athlete most either self-funding or having to work full-time on top of the commitment to their chosen sport. This is such an exciting time for women’s sport and if more partners and broadcasters get behind it, the future is deservedly bright. I think my point is really around inclusivity and at the RLWC2021 we are combining three Tournaments into one major event and I hope more sports look at how we are delivering those and a Physical Disability Tournament and think yes, it is ambitious, but we could deliver that too!
What are some of the challenges you’re facing at the moment in your role?
Planning a major sporting event in the ever-changing environment of the pandemic is the obvious challenge. We are remaining calm and confident in our planning to stage the RLWC2021 with full stadiums however it is difficult to deliver a tournament in a virtual way. We have been working via teams now for 10-months and most of my wider team I have only met in person once since they came onboard, that is tough but the results we achieved in 2020 speaks volumes about the dedication and passion our teammates have to the event.
I do miss the camaraderie of the office environment and the easiness of just walking over to someone’s desk to have a quick chat to sort something out.
Also deciding on ticketing sales phases and predicting the mood of the nation and more importantly the ever-changing COVID guidelines means a lot of time is spent on contingency planning than is normal, however remaining calm, confident, pragmatic, and providing reassurance to both the team and to fans and customers is key to overcoming these challenges. Remaining flexible, agile and adaptable is also critically important.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
There are so many ways to work within sport. You can work directly for a team or venue and that probably was my traditional view of sports when I was younger but there are so many roles, agencies and supporting industries in the sporting world – look at all the options open to you.
I didn’t realise before I started in major events just how many people and skill sets are needed to put them on. Event managers to lawyers to partnership coordinators to transport planners there is literally something for everyone either directly or indirectly through the supply chain.
If you want to work in major events but don’t know how to start, try volunteering. That will give you a flavour and you’ll find out if it’s for you or not.
How to follow Terri Lynam on social media…
You can follow me on Twitter @terrilynam21 or connect with me via LinkedIn but I would absolutely follow @RLWC2021 to find our more and get excited about the next big sporting event happening in England this year.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Terri Lynam! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.