Favourite to succeed at online gaming giant

Combining a passion for sports with a love of data adds up to a dream job at Betfair for Antony Lea. As David Reed discovers, enthusiasm may be essential in a fast-growing business, but so too is keeping a sense of perspective on life

If you have met Antony Lea or seen him give a presentation – for example, at last year’s Data Summit – then you will know just how enthusiastic and energetic he is. The spirit which is still keeping him playing Sunday League football (“always one more season, eh?” he admits) is the same one that saw him move to Betfair in 2007, where he is now senior marketing manager, global marketing services, after eight years at database bureau Alchemetrics.

The decision to move came during a onemonth sabbatical which he spent travelling America coast-to-coast with his partner. “During this trip we discussed future life plans, as you do, and agreed that a new challenge was needed in order to re-invigorate ourselves professionally,” he recalls.

Having left the bureau on Thursday, he promptly heard about a job opportunity as a campaign manager, interviewed on Friday and started work the following Monday. Nor was that the end of events during a headlong year. “After two months in the team, my then boss said he was planning to leave and would be recommending me for his role,” says Lea.

Leaving Alchemetrics was no easy decision the company has a good reputation in the data industry and is something of a training ground for data professionals. Joining Betfair was also a risk. After six years of rapid, but organic growth, the company had only just decided it needed a marketing function to sustain its position in the exploding online gaming sector.

As part of a team of six, answering to head of global marketing services James Moore, Lea’s group provides all the infrastructure required to carry out that marketing, from technology and data to skills and processes. “The challenges we face are, I am sure, the same as those faced by any organisation in trying to do one-to-one customer marketing by managing BAU v new system implementation while ensuring quality and throughput are unaffected. Sounds simple in black and white,” he says.

In fact, the team has a central role at Betfair. Asked who makes use of its skills, Lea says, “recently it feels like the whole business! On the back of our award successes and increases in throughput, we have also been dealing with finance for target setting, security for supplier set-up and management, fraud for our data cleansing, acquisition for our process, procedure and contact strategy, and the field education team looking at customer education opportunities,” he notes.

That requires a wide mix of skills, but Lea says “the team could not be better”. As guardians of all Betfair’s customer communications, the department has helped to drive the business onward, with over three million customer accounts and more than two billion transactions.

“That is a massive amount of data collateral upon which we can base our marketing. To ensure the department is datadriven, we have run a number of initiatives around data literacy, which included training, workshops, system changes and supplier management,” he points out.

This programme has empowered the 30 people within the global marketing services function to be 90 per cent self-sufficient. Says Lea: “The final 10 per cent should be addressed with the imminent implementation of our new e-mail broadcast tool early in 2010.”

Betfair’s data-rich, highly active marketing environment is a considerable way from the media productions course Lea graduated in at Surrey University. Although it was focused on programme production, he says it was a statistics module as part of a business studies stream that started his “love affair” with data. The glamour of TV production was not very obvious in his first graduate job monitoring advertising spend in regional newspapers at Media Monitoring Services. But through contacts there he was introduced to Alchemetrics, where he started as an account manager.

“I enjoyed seven or eight fantastic years there where I learned from some great people the key aspects of data-driven marketing. My final role was as the senior account manager,” he says.

Winning is behind the appeal of the Betfair brand and may explain why Lea supports Manchester United and Celtic, both regular champions. But despite having the “job from heaven”, he has not lost his perspective.

Says Lea: “Having grown up in Cornwall and with the pace of life down there, I am a firm believer in keeping work and home separate. So although days are often long at Betfair, I find it easy to leave it all behind on a Friday and totally forget about it until Monday.”

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