What is the founder(s) background?
Donald began his career in 2006 at the (of its time) iconic consumer PR shop Shine Communications, before moving into sport sponsorship at Synergy in 2011. Will’s subsequent arrival saw us working together for several years.
After leaving Synergy in 2016, Donald worked as an in-house comms consultant for several challenger brands, whilst Will freelanced with several governing bodies and rights-holders. In 2018, we started collaborating together in partnership, and in early 2019, MatchFit was
What drove you to start MatchFit?
We felt there was a vacuum in the PR and sponsorship industry for genuine specialism within football. As the global sport, football has the power to move people like no other.
Our past experience meant we had seen the best aspects of some excellent agencies, but also some of the limitations. So, we had a desire to take those learnings and forge our own independent path, underpinned by a remote-first model which pre-dated the pandemic.
We now sit here with a brilliant blend of clients within football, each with different audiences to reach. They include forward-thinking rights-holders such as The FA and The EFL, innovators such as LiveScore and Footy.com, world-leading venues in Wembley Stadium and St George’s Park, and major football clubs.
What key milestones have you achieved so far?
Submitting our very first (and very small!) invoice for paid project work was a huge moment, as was sealing our first long-term retained client in June 2020.
Offering the role for our first full-time member of staff was a poignant moment, whilst winning our debut award recently as Breakthrough Agency of the Year at the UK Sponsorship Awards 2022 was one to celebrate!
We are also currently shortlisted as Young Agency of the Year for at this week's Sport Industry Awards, which is one of our key target milestones.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Perhaps the biggest challenge was taking the leap of faith that we were ready to develop from a two-person consultancy to a growing agency with our own team. It was very much a ‘deep breath’ moment.
Everything about the last year has been about carefully bringing together a talented team from a background of sports sponsorship, consumer PR, in-house Premier League football clubs and journalism, all united by a love of football and its power to move hearts and minds for our clients and their audiences. This blend is vital as it ensures we benefit from a range of experience and perspective, no matter the client brief.
Today we stand as a team of eight, and as Co-Founders nothing makes us prouder than working with this brilliant group of people, and humbled that they have chosen MatchFit as the latest steward of their careers.
What have lessons have you learnt so far? Where to begin! It’s a cliché but almost every day has brought a new lesson and different challenges at each step of the journey.
A key lesson has been to stay calm, and take some of the emotion out of challenging situations – it is incredibly easy to take things personally when you are so invested in the business. As Co-Founders, we’ve learnt that we genuinely make each other better, and have complete trust in each other’s opinions and values.
We also learned that looking at the financials one year ahead is the fastest route to insanity!
Lowest moment? The nature of being business founders is that everything is heightened. The highs are more euphoric, the lows all-encompassing. It has been a rollercoaster emotional ride but from a low point it is hard to look beyond the impact of the first COVID lockdown, and the three-month closure of professional football.
All of our work was project based at the time, and we lost every piece of it. Mentally accepting the fact we were back to square one with zero confirmed revenue was brutal. It was the second time in our first 18 months that we were days away from finding a second job, just to keep things alive. Fortunately, work returned in June 2020 and we haven’t looked back since.
Biggest highlight? We began MatchFit completely from scratch, with no inherited or founding clients. So ‘that call’ when a client rings to confirm they want to work with us has always been a truly humbling and exciting moment to be treasured.
Last year, we received a phone call to tell us we had won a major pitch for retained business with one of the biggest and most exciting football clubs in the world. It so happened that we were both with our respective families at that moment, and we got to share the experience with them.
We knew it was a game-changing moment for the agency, and it was fitting we were with the people who had supported us most.
Ambition We aren’t about being the biggest, instead our vision is for MatchFit to be the best football PR and sponsorship agency in the world. We want to be at the forefront of a new and exciting generation for the game, and one which can have a big impact in the world. As an example, this will be the decade that truly elevates women’s football alongside the men’s game, and we want to help everyone from the grassroots to the commercial world make the most of that.
Find out more at www.matchfit.biz
By co-founders Donald Parish & Will Mitchell
Follow Donald, Will and MatchFit on the Twitter
@MatchFitDonald, @MatchFitWill &@MatchFit_Agency