|Richard Hills - Managing Director, Ryder Cup Europe|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 08 September 2014 09:42
Richard Hills, Managing Director of Ryder Cup Europe, began his career in 1972 with Barclays Bank, working in Retail Banking and Staff Training.
In 1978, he joined Leisure Sports, formerly the George Simms Organisation, working with blue-chip clients such as Sun Alliance, Uniroyal and Martini & Rossi, who later bought the company.
There, a new client came on board – the European Open, which offered Richard a first taste of the golf business. In 1983 he joined The European Tour as Event Co-ordinator/Staging when Tour Enterprises was formed under the stewardship of George O’Grady. Appointed Ryder Cup Director in 1993 Richard has overseen the last nine Matches between 1995 and 2012.
By Ismail Uddin
You have been the Ryder Cup Director for over 20 years. How has the job continued to entice you after so many years?
Because there is simply nothing to beat the thrill and enjoyment of being associated with one of the world’s great sporting contests. People have come up to me and said, ‘I’m not really a golf fan, but I always watch The Ryder Cup’ and I understand what they mean as it certainly has this unique appeal. I also have the privilege of dealing with a lot of wonderful people in the USA and across the UK and Europe – that continues to be a very enjoyable part of my job.
Since you have been in the role, what changes have you seen from the organisation in those 20 years?
I think the main thing is the sheer scale of The Ryder Cup nowadays – it really bears no resemblance whatsoever to my first Ryder Cup in 1985. It really is a vast entity across all sectors of the match nowadays; through television and media exposure, the growth of our partners and suppliers, the extent of our hospitality programme and all the promotional and PR work that goes around it. Look at the Year to Go celebration for example. That was a full-on three day event at locations and venues right across Scotland. When I started, there was no such thing.
The Ryder Cup is a major sporting competition and the 2014 event is only a few weeks away. What marketing initiatives will you employ for the tournament?
For us, The Ryder Cup captures the interest and imagination of golf fans and many other sports fans around the world. All of our marketing initiatives have been designed to maximise that consumer awareness and engagement in the event, across Europe. Nowhere is that better illustrated than the work we have undertaken with our broadcast partner Sky Sports in relation to SkyGo, Sky Now and Sky Sports itself, to enhance the spectator experience on course.
Additionally Sky have been of great assistance in developing our fan zones in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth which will help bring the unique Ryder Cup atmosphere to these city centres. A wide range of projects have been ongoing for more than two years and range from straightforward PR initiatives to assist drive elements of our commercial programme right the way through to three day events promoting “One Year to Go” back in September 2013. Throughout the programme, the team at Ryder Cup Europe have focused on increasing still further, the reach of this great event.
What social media initiatives do you have in place?
The 2014 Ryder Cup will be the most socially engaging match of all time and we have a number of initiatives to enhance the fan experience both on site and globally ranging from support and countdown campaigns on Twitter, a dedicated Ryder Cup YouTube channel, Facebook promotions including the Canon Panorama capturing fans around the first tee, and much more.
Spectators at Gleneagles will receive a special RFID Wristband, allowing them to take part in fun activities around the course and share their experiences instantly to social media while our dedicated team will provide unique insights and content from behind the scenes through our official social media channels. The fans, whether watching from their sofas or the stands, will be very much an integral part of the Ryder Cup story.
In regards to the region hosting the Ryder Cup, what are the economic benefits the hosts receive?
The economic benefits to hosting The Ryder Cup are huge and it has been estimated, for example, that Scotland’s economy will benefit to the tune of £100 million as a direct result of hosting this year’s match. It is not just the week itself of course and the thousands of people who come to the country to watch, it is the on-going benefits such as travel and tourism having had the exposure of being the host nation. Wales, for example, is still reaping the benefits of hosting the match in 2010 through their tourism numbers.
Additionally, we have worked through the last editions of the match to the net benefit in terms of legacy we have given a host country. For example, Wales in 2010 added the national curriculum involving the Ryder Cup in the educational process for primary schoolchildren. Scotland accepted this baton and expanded the educational resource to bring in secondary pupils, as well as adding a bursary programme for further education and the groundbreaking ClubGolf programme which ensured that every school child in Scotland would benefit from three free golf lessons by the age of nine.
We are anticipating that France will accept this baton in the transfer of knowledge and are adding their own flavour to it with the introduction of their Inner City Golf Development Programme which will see 100 short courses / driving ranges / pitch and putt courses built in French cities by the time the match tees off in Paris in 2018. These ingredients are an integral part of the bid process for 2022 which we launched recently.