An Interview with Paul Vaughan, Commercial Director, the Rugby Football Union (RFU), England

Article excerpt

Introduction

Within this interview, Paul Vaughan, Commercial Director of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), focuses on the challenges and opportunities that the sports industry faces from the transnational flow of capital, people, goods, services and images. Vaughan highlights the importance, even for an organisation keyed on the promotion, celebration and success of national identity, of engaging with and negotiating with the presence of transnational organisations, institutions and movements.

MS: Could we start off by talking a little bit about you in regard to your background, how you got to where you are now in the industry?

PV: I got into the business when I was working with Whitbread. I joined Whitbread in 1980 on the food and drinks side. I went there to open up the brewery as more of a commercial operation and as part of that we were trying to make the assets work a bit more in terms of the brewery itself.

The Stella Artois tennis tournament at Queen's, for instance, was one of the events that Whitbread were fairly new into at the time. So we approached them with a view to saying could we do all the catering at the Stella Artois, and so from there we started to build into all the stuff that Whitbread were doing using the same resources but equally giving us some revenue. That was where my relationship started and then in 1984 I was invited to become sponsorship manager for Whitbread and it developed from there, through sponsorship director and marketing operations director, before I left in 1996 and joined Alan Pascoe in what was then API. Alan then sold out to the Interpublic group and we became Octagon. I basically ran the consultancy division of Octagon until I left there at the beginning of this year.

MS: You have probably seen some major developments in the last 10 years or so with regard to transformations within the industry. I look at Octagon's Web-site and they talk about the sport industry having taken on a completely new shape within the last 10 years. Could you outline some of those major transformations that you have seen, and been involved with, in the sports industry?

PV: I think professionalism would be the first one and its recognition of the business of marketing within sport. I won't call it sports marketing. Marketing within sport has been a serious discipline in terms of a brand reaching a particular interest group of people within particular socio-economic parameters and geographies. I suppose that's the biggest shift. I think as a result of that, as a cause of it, prices have all gone up dramatically. So the cost of entry into the market now is far higher than it ever was when the approach was very much value-for-money, needing a big return in terms of media against investment. Now it is not necessarily about media value. Media value is only a part, so now if you are an advertiser or marketer you are looking at trying to do two things. You are trying to change consumer behaviour and you are trying to change consumer attitude. So read into those in either order anything from awareness down to consideration down to actual purchase. That's what you are actually trying to achieve. So it is not just about sticking your name on something, signing the cheque and hoping for the best, which is probably what it used to be in the main a long time ago. Having said that, some people still have the primary objective of awareness, particularly when you have bigger groups who have just changed name, or merged and adapted their name, and are looking at trying to make a statement about scale and just trying to get the recognition of the marketplace. AXA is probably a good example. Lloyds TSB when they came together as the two brands was another good example and I guess people like CGMU, or Norwich Union as it is now, are also now going though this whole sort of shift.

MS: So the move to the RFU, you are now the commercial director, could you just outline the main responsibilities involved in your role? …