|Karen Earl - Chairman, European Sponsorship Association / Synergy|
Monday, 25 April 2011 18:23
Earl began her working career in consumer and financial PR before moving into the sponsorship industry with West Nally. Her experience of the field is vast and she is currently Chairman to both Synergy and The European Sponsorship Association. She specialises in mentoring colleagues in sponsorship and similar industries having set up her own consultancy, one of the first in the UK, Synergy, originally named Karen Earl Sponsorship in 1984.
What inspired your decision to begin your career in sports sponsorship at the age of 22?
My first job was in consumer PR; the second in financial PR. I soon established the latter wasn’t for me, but I did like the PR world. As I am a sports enthusiast, I wanted a job which combined the two. At that time sports sponsorship was a relatively new concept. I had heard about sponsorship agency, West Nally, and it seemed ideal. So I set out to get a job there.
Do you believe it was more difficult to break into sports sponsorship, at the time a male dominated industry, when you began your career in 1973?
There’s a lot of talk about sports sponsorship being a male-dominated industry, especially in the early ‘70s. I’d say that expression could be levelled at a number of industries at that time. I really didn’t give much thought to being a woman in a man’s world; I gave much more thought to being good at the job.
When you began your own sponsorship consultancy the concept was fairly new, do you believe the industry is overloaded nowadays or is there always a niche market for new agencies?
The competition amongst agencies is far tougher than when I started my own in 1984. That’s a sign that there are more of them and that the industry has matured. I believe there’s room for specialism but, because the nature of sponsorship means that it works best when in harness with other marketing disciplines, agencies with access to those disciplines inevitably have the edge over those that practice in a niche area.
What was the thinking behind your decision to only work for companies sponsoring events rather than selling the sponsorships themselves?
I don’t believe you can do both – it causes a conflict of interests. I genuinely enjoy working with sponsors to ensure they achieve their objectives and maximise the opportunities available through sponsorship.
What do you believe are the most essential skills or characteristics to be successful in the sponsorship industry and can all of these be learned?
Different skills are relevant for different areas of the sponsorship industry. For example, a consultant needs very different skills to a salesperson – and both operate within the industry.
From my experience of heading up a sponsorship consultancy, I think the key characteristic is personability. Being someone with whom people want to do business is essential. Beyond that, the usual business competency skills apply. However, the only thing more valuable than experience is learning from that experience.
What influenced your decision for the name change of Karen Earl Sponsorship to Synergy?
We became Synergy because our business had evolved enormously, particularly in recent years, and our brand needed to evolve too. Synergy encapsulates both what we do and how we do it, which is to use sponsorship to create synergy between brands and consumers, between marketing disciplines, and between people, to create real brand and business value for our clients.