Welcome to the the Sports Pundit Networking Series. The aim is to promote Sports Pundit readers and foster a greater community across the newsletter. For the latest edition, I caught up with Anna-Victoria Jones, Director at HERO Communications - helping break down barriers to sport.
When did your journey (in the sports industry) start? And how did you get to your current role?
My first role in the sports industry was straight out of university, at Sport England. I really wanted to get my foot in the door, but also make some money to go travelling a year later. I worked in an administrative role and on reception, which I loved. I was able to welcome sporting greats through the door, such as Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, and I took complete advantage of being able to network with as many people in the building as I possibly could.
I took a slight de-tour out of sport once I returned from traveling just to get experience in marketing and communications, but I kept my toe in the networking pool. With a bit of patience, a role presented itself at an advertising agency in Sao Paulo, Brazil, ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, working on football campaigns with adidas and Gatorade. Certainly a career highlight!
After two years, I returned to the UK where I started a PR/comms role in London at (what became) Mongoose Sports & Entertainment. It was a great introduction to the media side of sport, and I was fortunate to work on the launch of UEFA’s #WePlayStrong. But it was working with the Tennis Foundation (now an internal part of the LTA) and Paralympic wheelchair tennis players that really sparked my interest in helping break down barriers in sport. Here were some immensely talented athletes doing incredible things on court, yet they had such a small platform outside of a Paralympic year. I wanted to help change this.
Fast forward half a decade and a move to the West Country under my belt, I am nine months into my new business, HERO Communications – a sports PR and management company dedicated to helping break barriers in sport, and championing inclusivity, diversity, participation and enjoyment. It’s been a tough start (I would advise anyone thinking of starting up a sports business not to do so during a global pandemic…) but joking aside, it’s been one hell of a ride so far, and I love having the control of the direction and purpose in my day-to-day.
Who inspired this journey? And who continues to inspire you today? In all honesty, there wasn’t anyone in particular who inspired me to start the journey. I have always loved sports and knew I wanted to be involved in the industry. But along the way, I've met and listened to some incredible people who inspire me every single day. From the likes of Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewitt – those aforementioned wheelchair tennis players, to industry rock stars such as Sue Anstiss and Alex Scott.
Besides Sports Pundit, where do you look for insight? Great question! I wish I could reel off a list of podcast recommendations, but unless you’re asking for true crime suggestions, I can’t help there! That being said, I really enjoy getting my daily fix of newsletters such as Sport Industry, SportBusiness and Sports Pundit (of course). There’s a fairly new newsletter called SpoMa which gives great insights to global goings-on, and I follow Underdogs Sports Marketing on LinkedIn for their weekly round-up of sports insight and trends.
As a female in the sports industry, I am a member of the Women’s Sport Collective, which is an incredible community of women from all over the globe who share insight and news, as well as regular virtual meet-ups and webinars.
What trend in the industry most excites you for the future of sports? And why? I’m fascinated by how virtual reality sports has been creeping into mainstream over the past few years, and how “real-life” sport is slowly but surely adopting VI into their fold. It already has a huge presence in motor racing, and with the most recent announcement of the Olympic Virtual Series, I’m really interested to see where this will go across the sporting disciplines. I can’t argue that virtual reality sport is better than real-life (because, it just isn’t!) but it opens up so many doors for fan interaction and engagement. I think the sports that refuse to embrace VI in the future will be the ones losing out.
Photo Source: WattBike.com
Who do you think is best positioned to take advantage? I think Zwift are a great example. Conceived as a platform to make indoor cycling more interesting, the brand has been heavily involved in sporting competitions over the years such as Super League Triathlon’s Arena Games last year. With restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the bike and run legs of the real-life competitive racing took place on a Zwift set-up. So, the at-home fitness market could be huge winners here.
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