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Planning Meets Sports & Entertainment

“Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you” sang Crowded House.

They were a Kiwi-Australian band formed in the 1980s and named after a tiny recording studio in Hollywood. From this cramped space they then made their name in the southern hemisphere and gradually spread their influence globally.

I am partly the product of this brilliant little corner of the world… a Kiwi who married a Scotsman and settled in London. Both parents travelled extensively and lived in different countries. I have inherited their nomadic tendencies, both in where I’ve worked and in how my career has meandered. I’ve gone from B2B to digital to above the line to earned media and now into sports and entertainment.

Seeing the inner workings of these diverse environments has made me reflect on the mysterious quality I think ‘planning’ has in different parts of the industry, when you’re looking in from the outside.

When I started my career in B2B, I wondered what planning looked like in other types of agencies. Were they doing the same things? Above the line looked like great fun – with those big budget ads and appearing on the telly and things you could point at to friends or show your mum. ‘Digital’ agencies seemed futuristic and science-y, creating websites and apps and online games. Surely the planners at these places were doing it differently, presumably with techie wotzits and gadgets and tools beyond the imagination.

However, after a 14-year hitchhike through different types of agency, what I’ve found is this…

The large majority of the planning skills needed to do the job are the same.

Once you get your feet under the desk and start doing the job, the mystique fades away revealing the reality: Clients have problems. These problems require thought and diagnosis, and following that, the ability to gather the appropriate information and distill it down, making it useful. Then (hopefully) something arises in this direction of travel that could spark an interesting solution - and subsequently, more thought is required to assess where this solution should manifest in order to connect with people.

Faris Yakob probably summarised it better, during his interview on Fergus O’Carroll’s podcast:

“The skills of the strategic thought process… distilling everything that is known about a problem, thinking about it really hard, and maybe trying to find some interesting directions out of that research…this strikes me as a smart and sensible thing that people need…”

In no way am I saying domain or channel-specific knowledge and experience isn’t beneficial. I have met account managers, planners and creatives who are incredible at working in certain channels or particular parts of the marketing world. But from lived experience I can attest to the fact it is possible to hop from one type of environment to the next. Of course, the new environment, ways of working and tacit knowledge, all take a little time adjusting to – but if you’ve got your core planning skills in your armory, I believe you’ll be able to add value wherever you land.

Faris notes the many places that planners can take their skillsets:

“There are other things that could use insights and research to make other kinds of things… lots of planners working at Facebook and Google, lots of planners working inside of consultancies, lots of strategists working as business leaders… there’s a broad world of options for somebody with those sorts of skills…”

Last September I parachuted into sports and entertainment marketing. It’s a fascinating world. An interconnected web of properties, rights holders, title sponsors, team sponsors, broadcasters, OTT platforms, media platforms, massive stars with their own platforms, fans, and of course, political stakeholders as well. There’s a lot going on.

The industry media titles are a little different as well. I’ve had to add The Sports Business, Sports Pro Media and the Sports Business Journal to the regular fix of Campaign, AdAge and Marketing Week.

All this has taken a decent chunk of time to wrap one’s head around. But I’ve also found that core planning skills can be just as valuable here, particularly since Wasserman EMEA behaves just as much like a creative agency, as it does a consultancy. It’s a useful balance.

So just like Crowded House sang ‘Always take the weather with you’, I think you can always take your core planning skills with you, wherever you want your career to meander.

For any fellow planners and strategists out there working in sports and entertainment agencies, or planners that are just nuts about these things – I’ve been looking into initiating a ‘Sports Planner Group’ within the APG. I don’t know what it will look like yet – we’ll probably start with a meet-up to connect, share thinking and discuss this corner of the industry (and bang on about sport).

If you want to take part please email and cc


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