• Mitch Parris

Transferring University Gowns for Premier Professional Success

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

At the present time, for many, finding a job straight out of University is easier said than done. Especially a job that you love. However, it is very much the story of Fraser Read. We sat down with him to hear about becoming part of the AFC Bournemouth marketing team…

As first jobs go, working for a football club you support you’d have to say is right up there. Unprecedented access to the stadium. Interaction with some of England’s finest players. Witnessing all the behind-the-scenes activities that you wouldn’t get to experience as a supporter. For Fraser Read, this is just ‘another day at the office’, working on the AFC Bournemouth marketing team. Inspired by a guest speaker at his school, he was instantly given a vision of the career he’d choose. A career that began when he landed his first job straight after university.

It’s been quite a few years for Fraser. At the time of his employment, AFC Bournemouth were enjoying their successful spell in the Premier League. However, with a burden of injuries (on the field), a string of unlucky results and an untimely pause due to the pandemic, Bournemouth’s time in the Premier League came to an end… for now! So how does a team prepare for a new season in a new league? This is where we join Fraser.

What has it been like trying to adapt your day to day working going into the English Football League?

I think it’s a challenge. Obviously, we’ve had such a short turnaround between Project Restart at the end of last season and the new season starting in about a week’s time now. The six-week turnaround has been madness. It has tested the whole club, but we have coped very well. Going between the leagues means that you’ve got to adapt to all the new teams that you’re working with at the EFL. You have to look at their processes in terms of who their commercial partners are, what rights do we have to provide to them? How does streaming work? There is a lot to consider when adapting to the EFL, which we haven’t had to experience for the past five years. We’ve had to pick things up and learn in such a short space of time in comparison to normal.

How involved are you in planning the Matchday content for the new EFL 'iFollow' streams?

The streaming service was introduced I think a season before last on a trial basis, and then was rolled out last season and will continue this season. It’s a platform called iFollow, which is provided by IMG and the EFL. We have our own platform called afcbTV, which is where we will host a live stream with parts of our content, as well as EFL content, on a Match Day. It runs very similar to your normal TV broadcast, and supporters pay £10 per game. It’s a really positive element of our media content this year and is a great benefit for clubs within the EFL.

We obviously produce a lot of our own Match Day content as well. Last year we had a preview show which we’ll change and evolve for this season. Then we’ll have our normal Match Day build-up across social media. I think in terms of the stream, it’s a relatively new service for us, so it’s important to get the right content on there and the right blend. Obviously, there’s your standard commercial breaks for the EFL and for our commercial partners.

All clubs have the opportunity to either host their own show as if they were a broadcaster, or to simply play highlights and content reels within that. So, I think for us, it’s just going to be testing the water and seeing how each option can work. We’re looking at this in quite a positive way as we’ve never had streaming before. With the first of the games happening behind closed doors, it’s a great opportunity for us to give something to our fans.

Was it always the plan for you to go into Marketing or pursue a career in Sport? What was your progression from education to where you are now?

It definitely wasn’t always the plan. I was at school, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’ve always loved all different sports, and I love business as well – not just sports business, but I’m an avid reader of business and entrepreneurial books. It wasn’t until I was in my final year of A Levels and I actually met my now boss, the commercial director at the club. He came in to do a talk at school about what he did at the club, which I attended. It just captivated me right there and then. I had the opportunity to email him after and say, “Thank you”, and I think I ended up emailing him about three times before I got a response. Eventually, I managed to secure a week’s work experience with him.

From then, I had to prove myself. I went to university and did Sport Business Management, because I decided that was the path I wanted to take. Anything that I worked on and produced, I took back to the club. I said, “This is what I’ve been doing, this how I think you could do something similar”. Whether it was actually put into practice or just an idea, it showed that I had a little bit of something there, that I wanted to get involved and I was keen. From there it flourished, and my degree went really well. Off the back of that and other work experience placements I did with AFC Bournemouth, they offered me the role I’m in now — Marketing Assistant.

How much do the Marketing Objectives change from a Football Club to an Agency or other In-House Marketing Departments?

I think there is a sense of every marketer out there wants to get more exposure and more sales. They’re the ultimate goals. But within sport, when you’re a representative of a club, you have to put the supporters first in everything you do. I think our supporters are our bread and butter. They make the club what it is, we’re there to serve them in a sense. So, where some brands will market at a target audience and there’s a 50/50 chance of them liking it or not, with football there’s a group of people that already like us and we’re under scrutiny from them. So, I think there is a balance. You obviously can’t do everything the supporters want, or completely ignore them. You have to fix yourself somewhere in the middle, but I think that’s the biggest difference is the audience that you’re having to speak to.

Apart from the the quick turnaround for Project Restart and going into a new league...What has it been like with the Covid interruptions in your role?

We started working from home when it was first advised. So probably like six, seven months ago now, and everything’s switched. We all took our laptops home and started working remotely as a lot of people did. I think we coped very well with it. At first, I had reservations about how we all going to work without being in the office, without that social interaction with each other. But everyone dealt with it very well. We’ve got a very good team at the club across all departments — everyone’s very friendly; it’s very family-orientated. We just got on with it as best we could.

In terms of what we did and how strategies changed, I think as with everything, a lot of stuff went digital. Football is one of those industries where a lot of stuff is very traditional. Everything revolves around a Match Day and so on. As much as we’ve tried to evolve with the digital age and then introduce that into our offering, the last six months sped that process up massively. We are focusing our attention on how we can serve people via social media. How can we put out stuff on our digital platforms? How can we even fulfil activations through digital as opposed to the traditional methods?

Some would say you're living the dream of many football fans, what would you say is the thing you love most about what you do?

I think day-to-day, I love seeing campaigns that work. Our kit campaign has gone down really well with supporters so far. Seeing the journey that the campaign has been on over the past few months with input from each department… it’s very pleasing. When you see a campaign come together like that, that’s probably what I enjoy most. Obviously, the overriding answer is seeing your team win on a Match Day. As much as we’re not hugely involved in the playing side, you feel that sense of community at the club. When we lose, it hits everyone. When we win, similarly, everyone gets excited and there’s a good buzz around the office the week after.

In Marketing within Sport, is there anything you have your eye on, or would love to pursue in the future?

In the marketing role that I have now, which I love, I love being creative. I love having the chance to solve problems through marketing. But I also have other interests in terms of commercial operations. There are so many avenues I’d like to explore. I’ve been given a little bit of that opportunity already because the departments or the clubs are all so close. But I think being 22 years old and having aspirations to move up is no bad thing.

I’d obviously like to become a manager, a director and eventually I’d love to be a CEO. To be in thr position to make decisions, to make change and to really steer an organization. From a Bournemouth perspective, I have regular contact with the chairman and CEO, and they are very approachable and encouraging. When you see those people around you every day, I think it gives you inspiration to get to that level.

What would you say are the first steps to take for someone considering a Career in Sport Marketing?

I’d say behind everything, a good education stands you in good stead. To get good A-levels, get a good degree, study hard… it’s a basis for everything. However, I don’t think it’s the be all and end all. You have to have the enthusiasm and to be keen to get experience. I think that was one thing for me — my journey before employment with the club started probably four years prior to that. Trying to speak to people, get a foot in the door, make those connections, and then prove myself at the same time. I think there’s a tendency for people to think that these jobs are just going to be out there. That, “Yes, there’s 20 Premier League clubs and they’ve all got a marketing department. So one of them will take me.” Which isn’t the case.

You have to show tenacity and that you really want it. Go out there you do something extra. I was putting together presentations to showcase activations that were never going to be used, but it shows a level of enthusiasm for what you’re doing. Young people can be coached to learn what works and what doesn’t. But if you don’t have the tenacity at the start, then you’re never going to get anywhere down the line.

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