Synergy Spotlight

As a woman determined to make a difference, Chair of Women in Football and successful winner of our Pledge competition we are thrilled to have Anna Kessel in the December spotlight.

1. Your career in 1 sentence

Thirteen years as a sports journalist has made me passionate about pushing for equality in the sports industry.

2. What is the highlight of your career to date?

Writing Eat Sweat Play, a book that champions sport for women whatever their interest or ability. Almost everyday I receive messages from women, and men, who have read the book and feel inspired by it. I feel very proud to have been part of so many people reconnecting with sport in a positive way.

3. Describe yourself in 3 words.

Determined to make a difference (sorry that’s 5!)

4. What is the key to your success?

Not caring about ‘success’. Family and happiness comes first.

5. Who inspired you and why?

In the sports industry we are lucky to be surrounded by amazing role models. I’m just really pleased to see that so many more are now finally being recognised and championed for the heros and sheros that they are.

6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

"Use your voice" – Michelle Moore.

7. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid. Deep down inside everyone is bricking it.

Synergy Spotlight

"Dream bigger, be grateful for what you have & don't let failure hold you back" are the words of advice from Lynne Cameron, a freelance sports photojournalist, who has been in the photography industry for over 20 years. In a predominately male dominated industry she is certainly testament to the fact that hard work and persistence pays off. This is why we're proud to give her the Synergy Spotlight this month. Enjoy!

1. Your career in one paragraph?

Chief photographer at Rangers Football Club for 9 years then onto Scottish Rugby and PA. I went freelance last year to pursue my love of editorial and commercial sports photography.

2. What is the highlight of your career to date?

I am very privileged in that I have covered some amazing events but RWC 2011 and the Lions tour this year in New Zealand would be up there - the Kiwis love their rugby and its a beautiful country. Sports photographer of the year 2011 and of course official photographer for Rangers and Scottish Rugby were special times with great people. Possibly surviving in sports photography for 20 years!

Oh and the other thing I did which was great was when at Rangers I did work with the study support centre when I organised disposable cameras for the class and they went off and took pictures of their lives - really interesting and rewarding. It’s amazing to be able to share my passion of photography and show kids how much joy it can bring!

3. Describe yourself in 3 words

Photographer, Passionate, Tenacious

4. What is the key to your success?

Persistence, hard work and my love of photography even if the industry can be ugly.

5. Who inspired you and why?

Photography - Tom Main an amazing photographer who inspired and encouraged me when I first started working. His generosity of advice , support and friendship over the years has kept me semi sane.

Marc Aspland of The Times- you see his work and think 'I wish I had taken that' and he is one of the industry good guys. Sadly there were no female sports photographers that I knew of when I started - this is changing but its too slow.

Personally - my love of sport came from my grandfather we spent lots of happy time watching sport together.

6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Spend less time worrying about what other people think and believe in yourself and what you do

7. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Lots ! Dream bigger who says you can't have it all? Travel more, be grateful for what you have, surround yourself with good people and don't let failure hold you back. I always said to myself when I grow up I will get a 'real' job - still waiting for that to happen!

To view her work see here.

Synergy Spotlight

This month we welcome Accenture’s Head of Sponsorship, Julie Alexander, to the Spotlight. Julie is responsible for Accenture’s innovative sponsorship and hospitality portfolio working with partners such as British Triathlon and the National Theatre.


1. Your career in 1 sentence?

A varied career with roles both in-house and agency side in multiple disciplines, specialising in sponsorship.

2. What is the highlight of your career to date?
Jumping on a plane to Tokyo to sell in an idea to Sony HQ around the FIFA World Cup – what a city, what an experience!

3. Describe yourself in 3 words
Open-minded - I like to try new things and see where the road takes me; determined - I don't give up easily; fun - it's all about balance for me.

4. What is the key to your success?
A good mix of personal and professional experiences but ultimately focusing on what I enjoy - it's much easier to be good at something you like doing.

5. Who inspired you and why?
My 101 year old grandpa - he grafted all his life to build a successful business from the ground up with total humility and determination.

6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don't get too focused on what everyone else is doing, keep focus on you and your own personal development and goals.

7. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Learn from your mistakes - they'll help you more than your successes will!

Synergy Spotlight

Our next installment of Synergy Spotlight is here! We talk to Ruth Holdaway who leads the fantastic Women in Sport charity. Women in Sport are empowering women and girls through sport and transforming the sport sector; their vision is to create a society where gender equality exists in every sphere.

1. Your career in 1 paragraph?

Driving social change through great campaigns and communications. After some interesting internships with the likes of The World Health Organisation, the BBC (producing Newsnight) and in the U.S. Senate, I started out as an NHS manager, with operational, strategic planning and change management roles in hospitals, Health Authorities and latterly in a Cancer Network. I then moved to the voluntary sector where I found my home. I’ve had communications, campaigns, fundraising and service delivery leadership roles with Breakthrough Breast Cancer (now Breast Cancer Now), Prostate Cancer UK and Women’s Aid as well as doing some consultancy and voluntary work along the way, including being a Team Leader Games Maker at Wimbledon during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

2. What is the highlight of your career to date?

There are just too many to mention – I’ve been incredibly privileged! On a professional level I’m proud of things like having successfully lobbied for the 30% gender diversity target to be included in the Code for Sports Governance, rebranding WSFF as Women in Sport, increasing awareness of prostate cancer across the UK by 70%, and achieving a maximum two week wait for breast cancer patients enshrined in Government policy and delivered in all 5 of the hospitals I looked after. Personally, I’ve had some crazy moments of work madness: I sold raffle tickets for Breakthrough at the TV Quick Awards and danced with the cast of Coronation Street at the after show party, I’ve delivered presentations around the world, I did a day of radio interviews with Max Beesley’s Dad(!) I ran away from Joseph Fiennes when I was supposed to brief him on breast cancer complementary therapies because I was too shy to meet him, and I saw Andy Murray win the Gold medal at the London Olympics. Probably the biggest highlights in my current role have been cheering on England to win the Cricket World Cup at Lords this year, holding the Rugby World Cup with Clare Balding and Sarah Hunter in 2014, and meeting my hero, Judy Murray, which I’ve been lucky enough to now do several times.

3. Describe yourself in 3 words.

Focused, Energetic, and quite Grumpy first thing in the morning!

4. What is the key to your success?

What success?! I’ve worked hard, I’ve ‘leaned in’, I’ve made mistakes and learnt from them and I’ve been prepared to volunteer to take on more work than I can really manage in order to learn and to prove myself. Success is about hard graft and resilience I think – be positive, keep moving forward, put the time in and don’t give up.

5. Who inspired you and why?

My inspiration is my former boss at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Baroness Delyth Morgan. She’s AMAZING! She gave me my first role in a charity, for which I shall be forever grateful. She nurtured me and she’s one of the most effective leaders I have ever known. She has a blend of focus, toughness and kindness which I have found impossible to replicate but I continue to aspire to.

6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t take things personally.

7. What advice would you give to your younger self?

I think I’d just want to give myself more confidence – I’ve always struggled with this. And I’d definitely tell myself to eat healthy food and do more exercise!

The Rise of Women’s Rugby: The British & Irish Lionesses?

The dust is only just starting to settle following the thrilling Women’s World Cup final, and it seems that a significant legacy has already been left - a change in mindset and perception about Women’s rugby. No more is it the game it used to be, and popularity is soaring across the board. At the grassroots level, participation is thriving; there are more than 27,600 female players in England alone.

At International level, new stars are being born and records are being broken on and off the field; from performance statistics to live attendance figures, viewership and social engagement figures. 3.2 million people tuned into the France vs England World Cup semi-final. Days later, the final won a primetime spot on Britain’s most popular commercial channel, drawing an audience of 2.6 million people. The resounding opinion of fans, sponsors and the media from this year’s Women’s Rugby World cup is that we aren’t talking about women’s rugby anymore, we are just talking about great rugby. So where should the women’s game go from here?

Under Head Coach Warren Gatland, the British and Irish Lions brand remains alive and stronger than ever, following the thrilling 15-15 stalemate with the All Blacks. It has value and equity that seems to transcend how many points are scored on the pitch; the world’s most unsuccessful success story. With that foundation in place, a women’s side seems to be a no brainer – but should the women’s game settle with slotting into the legacy of the men’s Tour? As the World Cup has shown us, our Women are capable of making and breaking records and creating their own place in the history books.

So, what should be the starting point and focus for establishing this new instalment to rugby’s favourite franchise?

Firstly, the history, structure and dominance of women’s rugby must be considered. It makes sense for a joint men’s team from UK & Ireland to travel to play the dominant Southern Hemisphere rugby nations. But that isn’t the case with women’s rugby. Yes, New Zealand is still the powerhouse, but Australia and South Africa are significantly further down in the women’s world rankings. The Lionesses should focus on taking the game to emerging rugby nations, such as USA and Canada, both of whom sit in the top 5.

Secondly, the power that the tour could have on developing nations, in terms of raising standards and growing the game internationally, should be maximised. England Rugby were trailblazers in the build up to the World Cup in terms of their focus and financial commitment to the Red Roses. It seemed other Unions felt the pressure to follow suit - as no one wanted England to get too far ahead. The result – players across the board looked fitter and faster during this World Cup than ever before. The Lionesses can be used as international ambassadors to lift the game worldwide – showcasing the investment, coaching, and fitness standards of the Home Unions, to the rest of the world.

From a commercial perspective, the Lionesses need to be established as its own entity; as a rights holder, and as a commercial platform for brands. This means creating its own brand identity, and unique structure of rights that will allow it to attract its own set of sponsors; something that football did several years ago, but has only recently started to occur in the rugby landscape. Only this year did Six Nations Rugby Limited uncouple the women’s tournament from the men’s game. Rumour has it that the RFU are starting to consider unbundling the rights for the Red Roses; however, the impact of this is yet to be seen in terms of brands involved with the women’s team as the likes of O2 and Canterbury remain to have rights across both teams.

There are plenty of brands that have recognised the commercial benefit of women’s rugby, and are already reaping the rewards in terms of brand and economic impact. This Summer alone, Deloitte, EY and Tyrrells all announced deals across the women’s game; from the World Cup, to the Domestic League, and individual Club deals. As opposed to the cluttered field of the men’s game, women’s rugby is a relatively untapped space meaning brands have the power to shape it and establish unique ownership that drives business impact for them. Get the commercial structure right and the Lionesses have the power to stand alone and be a viable entity on their own – a ground breaking move for women’s sport.

Women’s rugby should be brave and make its own history, heritage and legacy. The British & Irish Lionesses is one powerful way they can do that. It isn’t about 1888, it’s about 2017, marking the dawn of the Lionesses, when women’s rugby put itself on the international map, and added strength, stature and equity to one of the most valuable brands in Rugby. We still have time to add one more record to the history books for this year.

Synergy Spotlight

As the Women’s Rugby World Cup kicks off today and the hype around the Red Roses ramp up, we’ve been talking to the RFU’s Director of Digital, Marketing and Communications – Joanna Manning-Cooper about her experience in the sports industry. Read August’s Spotlight is here.

1. Your career in a paragraph?

+20 years in front line communications and marketing roles in fmcg, media and sport

2. The highlight of your career to date?

Probably London 2012 – I was Head of Media and PR and it was a once in a lifetime project to be part of. But I’ve enjoyed all my roles.

3. Please describe yourself in 3 words.

Dreaming of sunshine

4. What is the key to your success?

You can’t achieve anything without hard work.

5. Who inspired you and why?

Marjorie Scardino (I was Director of Communications at the Financial Times when she ran Pearson). She was always brave, imaginative and decent.

6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t be afraid of what’s on the other side of the mountain. Something my wonderful Mum said many a time, and , as always, she was right.

7. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Enjoy this special time before real life responsibilities kick in.

Investigating the commercial landscape of women’s football and why it’s in better shape than ever

"There is a very strong brand and economic case for why a brand would sponsor women’s football. One in five women are the main breadwinners in the family. There is a fast growing female economy - women have increased financial stability and, huge buying power – and yet our research shows that women don’t believe they are being represented in brand marketing. Football in particular is a brilliant and powerful metaphor for what women can achieve.”

Read the full article here.

Synergy Spotlight

The 2017 ICC Women's World Cup, the oldest and most prestigious international women's cricket tournament, is back on home soil after 24 years and England have booked their place in the final at Lord’s on Sunday. They will be challenging for the trophy in front of a capacity crowd of more than 26,500, with the ICC having delivered on their bold commitment to achieve a sell-out.

At Synergy we recognise how important it is to not only hero the women on the pitch but also the women behind the scenes making it all happen.  So we are delighted that this month our spotlight is on Zarah Al-Kudcy, Head of Marketing for ICC Global Events.

1. Your career in 1 sentence/1 paragraph?

From communications in a sports agency (Fast Track), to communications and marketing at a governing body down under (Athletics Australia), to marketing in the world of broadcast (Sky Sports) to global event marketing (Rugby World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy and ICC Women’s World Cup).

2. What is the highlight of your career to date?

Being part of the team that delivered the most successful Rugby World Cup in history. And now being part of the team that sold-out Lord’s for the ICC Women’s World Cup Final!

4. Describe yourself in 3 words.

Motivated. Motivator. Sport.

5. What is the key to your success?

I’m obsessed with sport! We never stop learning from different sports, different markets and different people.

6. Who inspired you and why?

I can’t pick one person, partly because I’m indecisive but also because so many people have inspired me over the years. From my Mum who always told me I could do anything (even when I told her I was going to make Wenger sign me!) to the colleagues I’ve had over the years who are now great friends. And of course, some of the sportsmen and women I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

7. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

At risk of being a cliché, I have always been a sucker for a marketing campaign and when I was younger I was really struck by Nike’s ‘Make It Happen’ – it’ stuck with me ever since.

8. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Be patient and worry less! Everything happens for a reason.

Synergy Spotlight

1. Your career in one paragraph?

I have coached since I was 16 in Australia. After retiring I wanted to give back to the sport that gave me such amazing opportunities so I got involved with the GB U19 Programme in 2012. In 2013 I took over as Head Coach and in 2016 moved to the Women's team. This year I will lead both programmes.

2. Describe yourself in 3 words.

Committed, innovative and involving

3. What is the key to your success?

Having a great team around me who compliment my strengths and support my weaknesses. Together we are creating a positive culture that we believe to be successful.

4. Who inspired you?

My mum; a ball of endless energy and still playing softball every week at 67 years of age.

5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

'Pick your battles to win the war'

6. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Spend less time worrying about what other people think of you as you will never make everyone happy.

Inspiring the next generation

We believe Women’s Sport Week is more than just important.  It raises awareness of a key, rapidly growing, section of our industry.  It allows us to talk and debate key issues and helps make heroes of the athletes who train week in, week out and astound us with world class performances. 
 
We talk a lot about getting more women into the industry, more in leadership roles, more making a difference to the way our industry is run but change like this needs a longer term strategy.  It’s why, as a part of our 1+51 commitment, we want to inspire the next generation of young women – raising awareness of jobs which they may not even know exist. 

As a first step, we’ll be going back to school to talk about what we do and the amazing career opportunities plus the perks that only come with a job in sport.  Watch this space for our first back to school session.