Another interview that’s been a long time coming, it’s great to get this one released in the run up to the Six Nations starting at the weekend. Jeremy Bone, Communications Manager at Glasgow Warriors, speaks to Sports Marketing Scotland.
Jeremy takes us through his highlights from his Warriors’ journey so far, takes us behind the scenes on the strategy for growth and gives his thoughts on what to do if you’re looking to break into the sports business industry.
Could you take a moment to introduce yourself, and take us through your current role at Glasgow Warriors?
My name is Jeremy Bone. I joined Glasgow Warriors from The Big Partnership in 2013 as Media Manager. After a couple of years in that role we restructured the department and my role changed to Communications Manager. This restructure was due to us starting to develop more in-house content and the significant growth of social media. I now oversee communications, marketing and ticketing. Glasgow Warriors are one of two professional rugby teams in Scotland, both of which are owned by Scottish Rugby. There is a Communications Team at BT Murrayfield which is headed up by Matt Horler and I work closely with Matt and his team to ensure our daily and wider strategic plans are delivered.
How did the move to working in the Scottish sport industry initially come about?
I was working at the BIG Partnership when I saw the job advertised. I applied and was successful. Being involved with the club at such an exciting time in its history has been great. I really enjoyed my time at The BIG Partnership working on a number of different accounts, but this was a “dream job”. It’s great to see a number of people who have worked at The BIG Partnership go on and work in the Scottish sport industry, such as George Francis at Partick Thistle, who I still keep in touch with.
Warriors have been on a tremendous growth journey during your time at the club. Can you share a few personal highlights from your time at the club?
I’ve loved my time at the club and with Scottish Rugby over the last five years. There have been many highlights on the pitch, winning the Guinness PRO12 (as it was in 2015) is clearly right up there. For the club to win a major trophy for the first time was very special and to win the final in Belfast so convincingly was unbelievable. It was important that we marked the occasion as best we could and we produced a lot of video content from the final and a commemorative book to celebrate the success. It was the first time a Scottish club had won a major trophy so we had nothing to compare ourselves to in terms of how we covered the final, the celebrations post-match and the few months which followed. We didn’t really get much of a summer holiday that year as we had to arrange an open-top bus through Glasgow and a trophy tour throughout Scotland, amongst other things, but nobody was complaining!
Off the pitch it’s great to see the growth of our own channels. A lot of people have contributed to this over a number of years and now there is a real focus on continuing to grow them. This month we hit one million views on YouTube, which is a fantastic milestone and shows how much video content is now at the core of everything we do. We have a full-time video producer in our team and produce a lot of video content to promote everything that is happening at the club. We now have more than 100 sponsors, partners and Business Club members and we produce a lot of video content for them too to promote their partnership with the club. We also have our own weekly magazine show called Warriors HQ which goes out every Thursday at 5pm on our YouTube channel. This is a round-up of everything that has been happening at the club that week, with some fun content from the players thrown in too. Our access to the players is excellent and this allows us to produce a lot of nice content.
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) January 9, 2018
In your opinion, what’s led to this growth, off the pitch specifically?
Success on the pitch has been key. Winning a major trophy and playing an attractive brand of rugby has really helped us grow our crowds to a point where we’re now attracting sell-out crowds of 7,351 at Scotstoun for all our home games. We have more than 5,000 Season Ticket Members and more than 1,000 Warrior Nation Members who get priority access to tickets, which are in massive demand. We have a large number of players who play for Scotland and other countries too, so the quality of the players on show at Scotstoun is very high. Gregor Townsend wanted us to play a fast, flowing game and our new Head Coach Dave Rennie has continued that style of play this season.
Tomorrow we welcome the 5️⃣0️⃣0️⃣,0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣th Warriors supporter to Scotstoun since moving here in 2012.
To celebrate, we will find the lucky ticket holder and invite them to deliver the matchball alongside former fan’s favourite @FavaroSimonehttps://t.co/c6ExX3MaNH pic.twitter.com/9WZ88g1Xy4
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) January 19, 2018
How vital are the Warriors’ communications channels to attracting and educating new potential fans?
The communications channels are really important and we’re always working to produce engaging content for our supporters, and to help attract new supporters too. We’ve seen a number of new supporters come on board over the last few years and it’s great that maybe some who didn’t know much about rugby have come along to Scotstoun to experience it for themselves. We have a really family-friendly atmosphere at Scotstoun and if you want to have a drink you can, which is obviously different to a lot of sports.
Can you give us any exclusives into an over-arching communications strategy at the club?
Content is key. The more content we can produce the better. All clubs are in the same boat and with the access we have to players there are no excuses. We have an excellent communications team at the club and we’re always looking at ways in which we can do things differently. Warriors HQ is our flagship show, but we’re also developing a lot of content to engage supporters and promote our sponsors.
How big is the challenge competing for fans attention and expenditure in Glasgow?
We really appreciate the support we get from thousands of supporters who come to Scotstoun for our home games and now a lot of supporters travel to our away games too. There is a real connection between the players and the supporters and the support we get makes a real difference to the players on the pitch. The people in Glasgow love their sport and even if they support a football team a lot will still come and support the Warriors. We also get supporters from other parts of Scotland too and we’ve taken pre-season games and our kids camps around Scotland to engage with supporters who don’t live in Glasgow.
One other market you’re competing on is for local sponsorship. What’s your role in ensuring Warriors differentiate themselves from your local competitors?
We have a large group of loyal sponsors and we’re bringing new companies on board every season. We have a core group of Glasgow companies and some national and international brands too. They enjoy the experience of attending games at Scotstoun and we’re also seeing more and more of them look for unique ways of engaging with our supporters. We’re creating more video content for our sponsors and this year we’ll be launching a series of videos for Glasgow-based RHA – who produce premium earphones. It shows that we can produce high-end content for our sponsors and for ourselves and this has been one of the biggest changes over the last few years.
How important is the role of the media in promoting both the Warriors and rugby in Scotland?
The media play a huge role in promoting both Glasgow Warriors and the game of rugby in Scotland. We have a good relationship with the media who regularly cover the Warriors and appreciate the coverage they give us. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them and it’s great to see the coverage rugby gets continue to increase.
Scottish rugby is in a good place right now, how can this positivity be capitalised on?
It’s great that there is so much positivity around Scottish rugby at the moment. The game is in a good place and it’s important that we continue to talk positively about it. [At the time of speaking] Scotland are fifth in the world, Glasgow Warriors are 15 points clear at the top of their Guinness PRO14 Conference and Edinburgh Rugby are in the Quarter-Finals of the European Challenge Cup. There is still a lot of work to be done both on and off the pitch but real progress is being made and long may that continue.
Are there any sports clubs or organisations in Scotland or abroad that impress you for what they’re doing off the pitch?
I like to keep a close eye on what the football clubs are doing. I have a good relationship with George at Partick Thistle and I like the subscription TV and radio service which they offer their supporters. There are always things you can pick up from clubs in Scotland and abroad, little snippets which could build into something bigger. I believe American teams are leading the way in terms of what they’re doing off the pitch and there is a lot we can learn from them. The Media Manager of the Australia hockey team came in and visited me when he was over for the Commonwealth Games and I managed to steal a few things that they were doing, which was really useful.
Is there something you’re aiming to do much more of in 2018 that you haven’t done in 2017?
We’re reviewing the way in which we cover games. Ideally we’d like to look at introducing a radio commentary of games and produce more live content. There are some challenges with TV rights etc, but the more content we can produce for our supporters the better.
From your own experience, what advice would you give to anyone looking to work in the Scottish sports industry?
Try and get some work experience or an internship somewhere. Send emails, make phone calls and pester people until you get an answer. We’ve had a number of interns who we’ve employed full-time, before they eventually moved on to join other sports organisations. We still have two or three who come in and help out and this is something we really encourage. It’s a great way for them to gain experience and it can be a big help to clubs who are looking for some support.
Thanks for reading and thanks to Jeremy for spending the time answering my questions. If you liked what you read, please consider sharing it.
If you’ve got any suggestions of someone else working in the Scottish sports industry, please get in touch. Also, guest posts are always welcome on Sports Marketing Scotland if you’ve got an opinion to share on the business or marketing of Scottish sport. The email address to get in touch with is firstname.lastname@example.org, or just Tweet @sportsmarketsco.
If you’re still reading, thanks, but also it might be time for you to listen to something instead? I was a guest talking about all things marketing in Scottish sport on the latest Supporters Direct Scotland Behind the Goals podcast, that you can have a listen to right here.