|Ian Murray - Head of Sponsorship & Events, Aegon UK|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 01 September 2014 15:11
Ian Murray is currently the Head of Sponsorship and Events at Aegon Uk. He is a sports marketing and sponsorship senior executive with over 19 years industry experience gained from working across agency, rights holder and currently a major UK financial services brand.
He has extensive experience at a strategic level across marketing and sponsorship over the last eight years, establishing a financial services brand as a credible partner of British tennis and using the platform to drive brand awareness and engagement, and marketing strategy and brand management responsibility for a major European rugby property.
You have been in sports marketing and sponsorship for over 19 years, can you tell us about your past and how you got into this field?
I spent 14 years working in rugby union and the last five and a half years working in tennis, which happen to be my two favourite sports so I've been very lucky with how my career has progressed. In 1999 I joined Octagon where I was the account manager on Lloyds TSB's sponsorship of the Six Nations. At Octagon I progressed as Account Director, I worked on the Heineken Cup, delivering the commercial rights programme for four years before being recruited by my client ERC to go over to Dublin to be their marketing manager for two and a half seasons and from there I was recruited by Aegon at the start of 2009 to run the ground-breaking deal with the LTA and be the Head of Sponsorship and Events.
What have you learnt in this industry?
A lot, it's been interesting and a pleasure. I did marketing at university so it was nice to add the marketing bit with sports and that's the industry I find myself operating in. The key things I've learnt are to place a huge value in building strong relationships. It doesn't matter if you're acting on behalf of a sponsor, a rights holder or as an agency, the strength of your relationships go a long way to getting things done. I've also learnt that you have to remain focused on reaching your objectives and not lose sight of what it is you're trying to achieve, there are a lot of distractions. It's important to stay focused and make sure it ticks the box you need it to tick. I think it's important to remain open-minded and to also stay calm under pressure.
What attracted you to the job at Aegon?
It was my network; I wasn't really looking if I'm honest. I was working in Dublin as the marketing manager at ERC but somebody made me aware that something big was happening in tennis and I started to think that maybe experiencing another sport would be a good thing to do. Aegon didn't have the in-house capability to set up and run the partnership so they were looking to quickly draw up a shortlist of candidates and my name was thrown into the mix and one thing led to another and I landed the role. It was a step up and increased responsibility and it was exciting because it was a chance to transfer all my skills predominantly gained working in rugby, into a new sport and the fact it happened to be tennis, which is a real favourite sport of mine, was almost like a bonus.
What challenges have you faced in this role?
The original focus of the partnership with the LTA was to build brand awareness which we executed well, however we were trying to convey what Aegon stands for and that's been more challenging. When I joined Aegon it was very much a B2B business, and we didn't tend to have a direct relationship with our end customers, so to try to convey what we did as a business via sponsorship was very challenging. Since the start of this year we have launched what we call a director to consumer channel without a financial adviser, Retiready - which the sponsorship is now focusing on to support. With a direct to consumer channel it's much easier to activate around that.
We've also had changes to the way sponsorship is delivered. The Financial Conduct Authority, our regulator, has introduced rules which mean sponsors must be able to more comprehensively justify hospitality. As a result, we had to think carefully about the processes we put in place to ensure there is a good business case for everything we do.
The final challenge was when we started in tennis a lot of people raised eyebrows because at the time British tennis wasn't doing great and the media were putting the boot into the LTA on a regular basis about a lack of success so it's been encouraging to see that turn around. With the success of Andy Murray, Heather Watson and Laura Robson as well as the Aegon GB Davis Cup Team back in the World Group, there's a lot of positivity happening in British Tennis, it's great to be backing the sport that is definitely on the up.
Aegon is the title sponsor of the tennis championships at Queen's, how has this relationship worked for Aegon?
We're proud that we're the lead partner of British tennis and the Aegon Championship at the Queen's Club is our flagship event and whilst that might get the most exposure, we do a lot of other things. In the initial partnership which ran from 2009 to 2013, our key sponsorship objective was to build brand awareness which we did and we prompted awareness amongst UK adults which more than tripled and whilst we enjoyed huge amounts of coverage every June for two weeks, we were also in schools, parks and tennis clubs and we backed over 180 professional amateur tennis tournaments all around the country. We know from research that over the first five years of this partnership, it has made Aegon a very credible and genuine sponsor of British tennis. It's a really broad thing; it's not just that one week in early June at the Queen's Club.