The world of sport has changed, not just the players on the pitch but for everyone that works in it

Updated: Nov 10



By Oli Walsh


Almost a year since the outbreak, we have all been affected by Coronavirus in different ways. I wanted to share my story for others to understand, take comfort and offer advice. The sports industry is a small community and we can all help each other. I promise not to use the ‘C’ word again....

It’s a scary thought that my career started the year that ‘The Facebook’ was launched (2004). I was taking ticket orders via fax (for those who don’t know it is a mix between a letter and an email) and transporting gigantic steel vehicle displays across Europe for Ford’s UEFA Champions League sponsorship – a very different world of sponsorship activation to the digital one we now live in.

Fast forward to 2020. I was in the midst of leading Enterprise’s UEFA Champions League and European Tour partnerships when the world locked down. The challenge of the unknown led to scenario planning from A to Z becoming the everyday norm. After a long protracted process of furlough and a redundancy consultation where I represented the marketing department, adding to the responsibility and anxiety, the worst scenario happened for me; my role was deemed surplus to requirements and like many others I was made redundant.

Redundancy has been likened to the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). Although it is the role and not you being made redundant, it is hard to separate the two and not take it personally. You constantly question ‘what if’ and watching your strategy being activated can be painful. At some point you need to let go but still look back with pride. Time to reset and re-evaluate.

So how do you move forward? There are still too many unknowns and implications for our industry, but what can I share?

1. Take a step back and focus on you. As marketers we spend our lives creating brand strategies but struggle when it comes to our personal brand. Dedicate the time and approach as you would a client - unless you are clear on what you represent, it will be hard to articulate to others.

2. Don’t pigeon yourself as ‘sponsorship’. The beauty of sponsorship is that it transcends the marketing mix, giving you experience across all disciplines. When looking for a new role, don’t be put off by job titles and fish outside the pond.

3. Reach out. People are more willing than you think to reconnect, listen and offer advice. I have spoken to graduates, CMOs, people from different industries – they are in your network for a reason. Plan for two outcomes from each conversation and ensure it is mutually beneficial.

4. Develop and learn. Whether this is professionally or personally you may never get this time again. You don’t need to pay for credibility, with plenty of free resources and hundreds of seminars and podcasts appearing daily. Use your time valuably and try new things – I am giving my first university lecture in December!

5. Stay positive. This situation is no one’s fault and I am a great believer in karma, something good is always round the corner.

We all want our beloved sport to return and know it will play a key part in the recovery. I cannot wait to be a part of it again.


Oli Walsh is a global sponsorship and brand marketing expert & leader.

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