For some time I’ve been reflecting on the importance of planning for life after Rugby. I want to make sure that when I end my elite career I am prepared, and have clarity in terms of what I want to do next. But I was unsure about how I was going to make this happen.
During conversations with my club I was recommended Brand You: Sport, a company run by two ex Nike execs, who have built a business with the soul purpose of supporting elite athletes as they prepare for transition out of elite sport. I met with them a number of times and it soon became clear that working in sports for a sports brand potentially in a marketing based role was something I wanted to pursue.
Fast forward to today and I’m writing this journal on the eve of my first days work experience, I will be writing and recording my experience over the coming months. My hope is that by writing a blog about my experiences it will encourage other athletes to think about their long term future. Brand You: Sport matched me with OPRO, the leading custom fit gum shield specialists. I will be working one day a week at OPROs head office in Hemel Hempstead with the aim of working alongside their Sports Marketing Director, Daniel Lovat.
Although nervous, having been out of an office environment for about 7 years, I’m very excited and happy that a company this big is willing to take a chance on me and allow me to come in to learn about their business top to bottom.
I’m 31 years of age and know that my time as a rugby player is limited. I’ve seen a lot of boy’s transition out of rugby in different ways since being at London Irish. I feel the ones that took the time to set out what they wanted or the direction they want to go in (didn’t need to be a bullet proof plan) weren’t necessarily more successful, but were more confident and less stressed, and that has to be a plus. Hopefully it will also prove beneficial when the rugby contracts dry up!
A couple of months ago Ugo Monye came in to the club as a part of a group of players talking about their transition into life after rugby, there were a number of successful and not so successful stories. His was one of the more successful stories and it stuck with me, through networking and work experience, he had options available to him. Ugo was in a position that he had a Rugby contract offer and a job offer at the same time, what a great situation to be in, Ugo wasn’t forced or pushed out of a career that he loved. He had choices.
My main aim from this work experience is to learn as much about the company and help in anyway I can, and to up skill myself so that I’m not completely useless once I make the switch.
I have a couple years of experience from a PR agency when I graduated from University - A marketing degree from Manchester. This experience was good, but made me realise I didn’t want to stay in PR and I didn’t enjoy having to service numerous clients from different industries: travel, food, and engineering. Sports is the industry for me, I can’t imagine not being part of this fantastic industry, so as soon as this opportunity at OPRO came up I knew I had to go for it.
On the eve of my first day I read an article gaining an insight into a great leader of the rugby world, Paul O’Connell. His approach to rugby, life and business is a great lesson.
Got there way too early, not wanting to risk the lottery of the M25. Lia, Head of HR, had a full schedule laid out for me. This was perfect as I was very reluctant to interrupt anyone in the middle of working.
I was given a full tour of the OPRO site and introduced to everyone. Wayne was a first impression standout as I was informed he could drop you with the tip of his finger due to his 30 plus years training in various mixed martial arts. He gives lessons during lunch breaks; he can definitely help improve my rugby skills!
My first meeting was with Daniel, the head of sports marketing and the person I will spend most of my time with. He was heading to a meeting with the British Basketball Association. Immediately I was drawn in about the possibility of people that I would engage with through OPRO. They have 65 different sports associations they’re affiliated with.
The rest of the morning I was with Suly, the head technician in their lab. He gave me a complete run down on the process of making a custom fit mouthguard and I was able to get one made in my amateur colours, Wilmslow RUFC.
The afternoon comprised of meeting Sophie Lovat who took me through the Self-fit range available in retailers such as Sports Direct and online through Amazon. Its start at the bottom with the bronze mouthguard and builds up to their power-fit mouth guard (or hybrid), which launched last Friday. They have junior and orthodontic ranges available as well.
Finally I met Lisa, who took me through their swimwear range MARU which they acquired 4 years ago. She runs a small team and puts out 2 ranges a year with a wide range of designs.
What I thought was going to be a very daunting and nervous first day with no experience in business or marketing turned out to be a very informative and welcoming introduction from their founder Anthony Lovat, and his entire team.
Looking forward to getting stuck into more detail with Daniel Lovat, Anthony’s son, on the Sports Marketing side next week.