Head of Sport
Best sports marketing campaign (that wasn’t yours):
Nike consistently kills it in this area. Their access to the world’s best talent combined with some great creative has resulted in some brilliant marketing moments that transcend advertising and become cultural events.
I like their current “Play New” campaign celebrating amateur athletes – it’s a diversion from their usual elite angle that I think strikes a chord after 12months where some sports have taken a total hiatus.
But their iconic 1998 Brazil World Cup advert is a stand out for me. To create a campaign that is so ingrained in the mind that anyone walking through an airport with a football stuck under their arm whistles the advert theme tune has to be a marketeers dream.
Best young industry talent:
There is some amazing talent emerging in the sports broadcasting world right now that’s completely changing the face of the industry. I wouldn’t like to pick just one but the shift in broadcast media over the last decade from TV and Radio to Youtube and Podcasting has lowered the barrier to entry and given a platform to thousands of young presenters who wouldn’t otherwise have seen the light of day. The brilliant thing about many of these new talents is they are unaffected by the “media training” and creative constraints of traditional media meaning what you get is a 100% unfiltered and authentic personality – probably the SINGLE most important trait when trying to connect to an audience.
Best sporting event attended:
The best is probably very different to my favourite but for the latter, it would be West Hams 5-4 victory over Bradford City in 1999/2000. I remember having some of the worst seats in the house (behind a pillar in the West Stand) for the match but it was a game that had everything! Not just goals either. On-pitch arguments, flying tackles and Paulo Di Canio famously pleading with Harry Redknapp to take him off the pitch because he was getting consistently fouled. I don’t remember much of the game itself and probably didn’t follow it properly at the time it was an amazing atmosphere to be part of. I’ve always enjoyed the matchday experience in old grounds like that: From walking down the street from Upton Park station past the various fast food vendors and scarf sellers to standing around for 2 hours afterwards waiting for the tube it’s an experience that is slowly being phased out of football and I’ll miss it.
Best sporting event on TV:
There is something very special about international sporting events and the shared experience they offer. I’m very much a club over country man when it comes to football but one of my favourite memories ever was England beating Holland 4-1 during Euro 96. My friends and I had started watching the game at home but decided at halftime we needed to decamp to the pub (it was 1-0 at that point). The overwhelming joy of everyone watching and the disbelief that England could beat a team like Holland at the World Cup was fantastic to be a part of.
It wasn’t so much the coverage of the match but the event around it and the shared moment that made it so memorable.
Best industry event or conference:
Not strictly sporting related but in the podcasting world, there are 1000s of events and seminars that tend to promise the same things… quick fix growth and monetization. I recently (well, when such things were allowed) spoke at the very first Pods Up North event (a small podcasting event based in my home city of Manchester) and was impressed by its refreshing difference. Instead of focusing on the impossible dream of life-changing money and growth they emphasized podcasting as a community and improving content. Most podcasts will remain hobbies for their makers rather than anything that generates huge revenue so by focusing on these areas I think if offered real value… a lovely event.
Best film containing a scene depicting the sports business:
The Netflix film/documentary “The Short Game” is fantastic. It follows the lives of a handful of young, wannabe professional golfers and gives a real insight into the pressure and commitment of the next potential Tiger Woods. The highs, the lows and the terrifyingly competitive parents behind them.
Best book recommendation:
It's been a while since I read it but Stanley Matthews autobiography “The Way It Was” is fascinating reading. I used to work for BBC Stoke (and with Matthews being a Potter I thought I should educate myself) and it kept me company on a few of my commutes from Manchester. It’s a little old fashioned in style but the difference between the life of one of the worlds best players then and now, in a mere 50 years, is startling.
Best bar or pub:
I’m blessed to have a fair few good pubs around my way. I’m a bit of a beer snob and like a good craft ale. “The George Charles” in West Disbury (part-owned by ex-City midfielder Michael Johnson) normally has some good options and is a great place to sit and people watch… hope I get a free pint from this.
Anywhere that does a good Nepalese Curry… I recently turned vegetarian and Indian food has become an even more prominent part of my diet. If you are even in Manchester then Namaste Nepal, The Sangam and East Z East are all good bets.
Best holiday resort:
I’m not very good at doing nothing so the idea of a beach resort in the middle of nowhere terrifies me. The only place I’ve ever stayed twice is in Zafiro Palace in Port D’Aludia, Majorca. Great for kids, an old town and new town close by and really good facilities.
Best box set:
It’s a total Cliché but I’ve never burnt through anything (no pun intended) quicker than I binged Breaking Bad.
Best influence on your career:
Crikey. That’s a big question… I’m not sure I’d credit one person here. I’ve worked with some great people and probably taken little bits from each of them professionally and personally. Anyone who strives to do what they want creatively because they believe is right and just makes it work has my utmost respect. People like Kenny Everett and Chris Morris can not fail to inspire.
Best dinner companions (min 4, max 6):
After the last 12 months of no eating out and no friends, I’ll take anyone.
Best job in the sports biz:
I’ve always wanted to be the guy who makes football montages set to music on Soccer AM or Match of the Day – combing two of my passions in Music and Football. I’m not even sure that’s a full-time job but there can't be many better gigs if it is.
Best professional regret:
I fell out professionally with a colleague a few years back and he recently passed away. At the time I felt like I was 100% right in the conflict that caused the rift but all I’ve heard in recent years is what an inspiration he was and what a nice guy he was – In retrospect, I could have handled the situation differently and probably learnt a lot from him.
Best skill you most covet:
Small talk. I’m a terrible networker, I find it really difficult to make chitter chatter – which is weird for someone who talks for a living. In an industry that revolves around casual meetings and drinks, it’s a skill I wish I had.
Best trait you admire in others:
As I mentioned before, anyone who dances to their own beat I’m a massive fan of. If someone believes so completely in an idea that they just make it work I admire that… it's not always the best approach and I’m a great believer in using many minds and collaborations but you’ve got to admire that level of self-belief.
Best overrated virtue:
Spelling and Grammar… is that even a virtue? I’m dyslexic and my dyslexia manifests itself as a difficulty in these areas. I have an irrational dislike of people dismissing opinions, ideas and work because it doesn’t conform to what is expected in this area. Whilst I understand it is important in some facets of life at the same time shooting something down because of a misplaced vowel is short-sighted.
There should be only one ambition for anyone… to be happy and be healthy. What happiness is like for everyone is different (and changes for me regularly) but it’s the only thing worth striving for.