Lorraine Rooney, Head of Marketing, Harlequins FC
Head of Marketing – Harlequins FC
How did you become Head of Marketing with Harlequins?
On completion of my Business Degree at Portobello College I moved to London where I spent three years working with ITV in their Internal Sales business. My role at ITV gave me a great understanding of working for a large organisation across many different territories and also presented the opportunity to travel. After three years I felt I was ready for a change and decided to look at the world of sport which I was hugely passionate about.
My first sports role was working with Sportingclass, which was the event management arm for Harlequins Rugby Club. Sportingclass looked after an impressive portfolio of clients and specialised in the International rugby hospitality market.
Working with Sportingclass gave me an insight into the world of club rugby in the UK and soon the opportunities to commercialize and grow the Harlequins brand became apparent. At that time Harlequins didn’t have a Marketing department, so I took a proposal to Mark Evans, Harlequins former CEO and luckily for me, he agreed!
Did you always want to work in sports marketing?
Honestly no, but when I was working in sports marketing I knew it’s where I wanted to be. I absolutely love what I do, I’m lucky to be able to still say that three years into the role.
From the outside looking in, working with a Premiership team like Harlequins looks quite high octane, is it? What would a typical day be like for you?
Each day is different, exceptionally busy, challenging and exciting. In my role I get to work with every department in the organisation and have a fantastic team working on some innovative strategies. The key focus areas at the moment include developing the Harlequins brand, analysis of our digital offering and delivery of exciting content across our digital platforms. Another key area of focus is using insight from our fans to develop more targeted promotions and marketing campaigns, a startegy which is being fuelled by a ‘data intensive’ approach to marketing.
What makes Harlequins a strong brand?
The Harlequins brand is recognised primarily for it’s vibrant colours and exciting playing style. The tradition and heritage is another element which Harlequins is renowned for and provides a perfect platform for building a sustainable brand and engaging story. I am currently working on a brand positioning that inspires and guides actions that boost revenue, to help fuel further success on the pitch. In order to create a strong brand you first need to understand what it is your brand stands for, it needs to be true to itself and reflective of all stakeholders.
With so many sports competing for interest, from a marketing perspective what do you think is the greatest challenge facing rugby?
I think rugby is on the verge of some huge changes in terms of awareness of the game and it’s global reach. The 2015 Rugby World Cup will put Twickenham at the centre of an International audience and provide the UK with prime opportunities for commercial growth. The 2016 Olympics will also see rugby join the roster of sports, again putting more eyes on the game.
At club level, if your business isn’t in a position to capitalize on the commercial opportunies that both these events will produce you’ll be left behind. In my opinion the biggest challenge facing rugby from a marketing perspective is how clubs are growing their fanbases and the number of followers they have, and more importantly, are they actually in a position to do this. If your business doesn’t have the right sponsors, strategies and resources across the organisation, this can’t happen.
What are your views on social media’s role in sports marketing?
Social Media is the ultimate tool for instant fan engagement. At Harlequins we are currently overhauling our social media strategy in the coming months to boost short-term revenues and foster long-term relationships with its supporters. Facebook and Twitter fans will be offered incentives and exclusive club content for attending matches and purchasing products from the club’s commercial partners.
What do you find fulfilling about your role?
It has to be about watching first hand the direct impact sport can have on people’s lives. The passion and loyalty which is embedded in fans never ceases to amaze me. The Stoop is a place where it doesn’t matter which walk of life you come from – once you arrive everyone is there for the same reason, to be part of something truly exciting. We have many high profile supporters – CEO’s, celebrities and even Prince Harry can sometimes be found amongst the crowd but it’s not about status it’s about like minded people sharing a common passion.
Why would you recommend sports marketing as a career path?
Sports marketing is an industry where you can never stop learning. The opportunities are endless and in every sport there is room for growth and development. Every day I discover something new and feel that in my role I am making a difference and contributing to the game. When I stop learning or feel like I am not making an impact that’s when I will know my time is up.