Brian Philpotts is Marketing Director of The Football League and is soon to take up a similar role at the FA Premier League.
Here he talks to David Hudson of De Montfort University about his role and the challenges he faced after joining The Football League from Newcastle United in 1999. He shares his experience and insights on the subject of sports marketing at both league and club level.
DH: Brian, what was it that led you to pursue a career in the marketing profession?
BP: I never really had a strategic plan to enter the marketing profession. I spent my early career in PLC Hotel Groups, having taken four years at Hotel Management School, and I took a sort of mainstream hotel management career path resulting in managing large resort hotels. I then moved on to take on a wider role within the group including resort hotels, golf complexes, theme parks, snooker halls etc. There was a real mix of activities from deluxe hotels through to mass catering down into niche marketing in quasar laser centres and things like that. I then took on the role of Group Marketing Director in addition to my operational role and then, as part of the hotels division we had, I sat on the board of a hotel consortium as Marketing Director so I really fell into marketing.
DH: You joined Newcastle United as Deputy Marketing Director. What were your motivations for moving into the football industry?
BP: Well it was several things really. If a job in football is offered to you at a sizeable club like Newcastle United and you look at that against other opportunities, something at the back of your mind says when I am 65 and retired I will always think back and think, maybe I should have taken the job. There is something very interesting about the industry that made me want to go and have a look. Again that was the heart element of the decision but then, when you analyse it, running licensed leisure is actually not that different to certain aspects of marketing in football. If you don't sell a seat at a ground by 3pm this Saturday you can never sell it again, it has perished; if you don't sell a hotel bedroom by midnight tonight it has perished. So there are quite a lot of aspects about the two businesses that are very similar, and I was able to bring a set of thinking that was similar because the product range was quite similar. In many ways selling corporate hospitality at a football ground is actually no different to selling conferences, weddings, or general meetings in a hotel business: there were lots of cross-overs. So when I looked at the areas where I thought it might be new for me and areas where my existing skill base would bring something to the party and contribute something straight away it was just something I couldn't not go and do.
DH: You spent two years at Newcastle United. What were your main responsibilities there?
BP: My time at Newcastle was a great experience. The club gave me the first opportunity to come into a football environment and I will always be very thankful to them for that. I had an interesting role at Newcastle: I was initially there as Deputy Director of Marketing, a title which I retained whilst also picking up the title of Director of Branded Products, and the position sort of evolved really because the club was embarking on the 43[pounds sterling] million expansion of the ground with all the corporate hospitality facilities that entailed. The Marketing Director, Alec King, concentrated on delivering that new facility and as Deputy Director of Marketing I picked up some of his existing responsibilities.
Alec and I had a working relationship that might not have worked for two other people. He concentrated on developing the new aspects to the stadium, I concentrated on branded products, new media and the traditional areas of the Commercial Department. We then evolved the role of Director of Branded Products which was …