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3 February 2014

Where are they now? Alex Howells, Senior Partnerships Manager, Sport England

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I’d always felt working in sport was for the fortunate few but managed to land a role at The Football Association after graduating. It was an unforgettable four years that gave me a ‘jack of all trades’ experience but I knew I needed to specialise. f1 really helped me to understand what it was I was looking for not just in my next role but over the long-term. That kind of candidate induction is a really positive experience and out of it came an opportunity to move to (then) FA Cup sponsors, E.ON. It was my first real step into sports marketing and activating such a high profile partnership was a fantastic introduction to sponsorship.

When E.ON withdrew from sponsorship three years later I spoke to f1 again, and eventually made the move towards grassroots sport with Sport England. At Sport England we’re responsible for getting more people in England playing sport. Sponsorship can play a big role in opening up sport to new audiences as well as driving revenue and so my time is split between managing our commercial partners and helping sports governing bodies in England to develop their own commercial activities.

I think the trend bearing down on all of us and especially sports right holders at the moment is the power of data. Many in sport are only just beginning to embrace the opportunities that owned and ‘social’ data offer and are just starting on the path to applying the principles that businesses in sectors like retail and travel have been using for some years. From a sports participation point of view, understanding data, turning it into actionable insights and putting the right processes in place to effectively engage the people who play and watch sport is a key part of helping us retain participants and attract new ones. More broadly, sponsors are increasingly looking beyond traditional rights packages and as that happens I think rights holders will find themselves compelled to provide partners with better access to and understanding of their data. It all points to a rise in the demand for data-specific skills and as that happens the onus will fall on sports marketers to keep their skill sets relevant.

f1 didn’t place me at Sport England but I’m still in touch and they, like Sport England, are a big supporter of the ESA Diploma. The diploma is the first formal qualification for the sponsorship industry and I can’t recommend it enough for those looking to enter the industry or fast-track their progress within it.

My tip for anyone looking to get into the sport sponsorship industry is: be proactive. Be clear on how your passion for sport translates into a profession. It’s fiercely competitive but opportunities are out there. Be tenacious and show willing. Read, broaden your network and ask – people are willing to help.