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.

Synergy Launch “The Pledge”

We're offering three governing bodies the chance to receive £25,000 worth of creative time to promote their women’s game. 2017 sees a jam-packed year of women’s sport, with highlights such as the rugby and cricket World Cups, and the UEFA European Championships. As a progressive agency proud to work with some of the world’s most ambitious businesses, Women’s Sport Week 2017 is the perfect time to launch and celebrate the initiative.

If you are a governing body then you are in with a chance to win. All you have to do is fill out the entry form: http://bit.ly/WSWThePledge and tell Synergy about a Women’s Sport brief you need help with – from helping to get that new potential sponsor over the line, to encouraging an existing partner to renew or even creating a brand campaign to help raise awareness and grow your fan base. The prize includes a kick-off briefing session to agree objectives, three weeks of creative development time and an ideas presentation at Synergy HQ where we’ll pitch to you. Terms and Conditions apply.

1+51: A year-long commitment to women’s sport

Women’s Sport Week is all about raising awareness and increasing the profile of women’s sport. At Synergy we’re all in! From the record-breaking audiences for GB Women’s Hockey gold medal match to 35,000 fans at Wembley for the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final – both domestically and internationally women’s sport is unquestionably growing, but there is always more we can ALL do.At Synergy we are devoting resources to showcasing the best of women’s sport throughout the year. To kick off Women’s Sport Week 2017, we’re proud to launch 1+51: our commitment to women’s sport this week, and every week of the year.

And here’s how we plan to make this happen:

1. The Pledge – It’s Competition Time
We’ll be offering three governing bodies, committed to growing women’s sport, the chance to win up to £25,000 of Synergy creative development time. Entries are open from Tuesday 20th June until Friday 7th July. You can enter here.

2. Back to School: Synergy Women Inspire the Next Generation

We’re inspiring 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.

3. Spotlight: Raising the Profile of Women in Sport

We want to shout about the amazing women making such an impact in sport. So, each month we’ll profile a new inspirational woman…keep an eye on our website and social channels.

4. Feature: Day in the Life of the GB Softball Team

On Friday 23rd June, we’ll post our first live Instagram story live from the Women’s Softball European Championships in Italy. GB Softball player and Synergist, Chiya Louie, will be behind the scenes with the team in camp where the team will be aiming for qualification to the 2020 Olympic Games. Exciting stuff, we can’t wait.

5. Sports Kit Friday

We’ll be getting our kit on and raising funds for Women in Sport and our very own GB Athlete, Chiya Louie.

It’s going to be a jam-packed week, so watch this space for more detail on each of our five initiatives.