• Andy Marston

Networking with Rob Gevertz, Director of First Five Yards.

Welcome to the the Sports Pundit Networking Series. For the latest edition, I caught up with Rob Gevertz. Since moving on from City Football Group at the end of 2019, he realised his role didn’t really exist anywhere else so he'’d need to create it for himself, setting up First Five Yards Digital Marketing Consultancy.

When did your journey (in the sports industry) start? And how did you get to your current role?

Well my first ever job was technically in the sports industry….. When I was a teenager, I had a weekend and school holidays job at AE Sedgewicks Sports Shop in Walthamstow, East London. It was a proper sports shop, selling equipment rather than leisurewear and specialising on football boots and cricket bats. It’s where David Beckham bought his first ever pair of boots so one year Adidas launched the new Adidas Predator boots by having him delivering the first pair to the shop. This job really ignited my passion for the business side of sport, learning about brands and how the retail side of the industry worked.

Photo Source: Soccer Bible

More recently, my first formal role in the industry was heading up digital partnerships at Sky Sports. I’d spent the first 7 or 8 years of my career working in media sales/partnerships and so I jumped at the opportunity translate my skills into a sporting environment. After Sky, I moved to talkSPORT before spending 4 years at City Football Group (Man City FC). City continue to be at the forefront of commercial innovation and they realised a long time ago that they needed people with digital media experience to help enhance their commercial offering and so I was brought in to bridge the gap that most sports organisations have between their Partnerships Team and their Digital media departments.

Since moving on from City at the end of 2019, I realised that my role didn’t really exist anywhere else so I’d need to create it for myself. As a result, I set up my own consultancy called First Five Yards that offers to assist sports organisations in maximising the revenue opportunities from their digital platforms.

Who inspired this journey? And who continues to inspire you today?

I’ve been very fortunate to have a number of people along my journey who continue to inspire me. David Shore at Sky (Head of Sponsorship) was always very open to new ideas and new ways of working that helped drive the partnership offering away from the traditional TV sponsorship model. Michael Russell (Head of Content & Social Media) at Man City was supportive of me pushing the commercial narrative amongst his team, knowing that I understood that editorial integrity needed to be front of mind as well. Finally it’s been great to lean on people like Simon Dent (Founder of Dark Horses agency) for advice during the last 18 months of consultancy.

Photo Source: Michael Regan/Getty

Besides Sports Pundit, where do you look for insight?

Aside from Sports Pundit, I’m a big fan of Richard and Sean from Unofficial Partner. It’s been interesting to see how their content output has grown across multiple platforms and how much they’re embracing elements like OTT with the regular contribution from Yannick @ OneFootball. I also think that the team at Ampere Analysis (lead by Minal Modha) are putting out some great content as well.

What trend in the industry most excites you for the future of sports? And why?

I may seem a little biased, but I’m really excited to see how sponsorships evolve in the post Covid era. For years, sales teams were too focussed on “analogue” solutions, mainly down to a shortage of experience and skills in the digital space along with the high value placed on legacy assets. Covid eventually forced rights holders to innovate (some more than others!) and pivot to digital to find new ways to deliver value back to their partners. Whilst there’s still along way to go for European rights holders to match their US counterparts in digital execution, the mix of in-stadium and virtual engagement should be a valuable opportunity if correctly implemented.

Photo Source: First Five Yards

Who is an example of someone that is well positioned to take advantage of this trend?

It goes without saying that me and my consultancy are well placed to advise rights holders in this space. Alongside that, there are some amazing tech companies with products that can really enhance the fan experience as well as providing new ways to generate sponsorship value for brands. From virtual ad placements and live stream fan engagement tools, to the explosion in audio consumption and the new products the major social platforms are launching to capitalise on this new content opportunity. These are just a handful of the opportunities for rights holders to maximise the engagement and commercial opportunities that their audience provides.