For grit and vision, Sky takes marketing gold

There could not be a more perfect week to feature cyclist Bradley Wiggins on our front cover. Not only did Wiggins become the first British winner of the Tour de France last month, but he also took home a gold medal in the Olympics time trial event only last week.

Ruth Mortimer

As well as being an extremely talented athlete, Wiggins is also part of Team Sky. The cycling team – whose rumoured £10m major sponsorship comes from broadcaster BSkyB – was created in 2009 and began competing in 2010. Its aim was to get a British cyclist to win the Tour de France within five years.

Team Sky has succeeded in its Tour-winning goal in only three years. And one of the most interesting stories behind the success is the close relationship between sponsor and team. In our exclusive profile on page 12, BSkyB’s managing director for sales and marketing, Stephen van Rooyen explains how the company and athletes have tried to redefine traditional sponsor/athlete relationships. He says that the internal Sky mantra ‘believe in better’ applies equally to the cycling team and the media business itself.

“What we have done with Team Sky is a microcosm of what we do at Sky. We focus on setting ourselves a challenge, finding the best people we can to help us achieve that, setting ourselves an incredible goal like winning the Tour de France in five years, then relentlessly pursuing it,” claims van Rooyen.

But while cycling gives van Rooyen some positive news to talk about, the media environment is not quite as rosy for BSkyB. It has to contend with flat advertising figures, slowing subscription rates and its association with stakeholder News Corp, which has been caught up for the past year in a phone hacking scandal.

Van Rooyen doesn’t shy away from the tough questions about Sky’s reputation or its relationship with News Corp. But he does defend the Murdoch family, despite questions over their roles in the phone hacking affair. He says: “They have made an incredible difference, that is the most important thing that can be measured in your career, whether you can make a positive difference.”

Whether or not you agree on the topic of the Murdochs, van Rooyen is certainly a marketer who has a lot of sway at the top of his business. He sits on the BSkyB executive team, alongside chief executive Jeremy Darroch.

For other marketers hoping one day to emulate van Rooyen and claim a spot at their own brand’s boardroom table or even moving into general management, it is vital that they are prepared to operate in today’s digital environment. This month’s Data Strategy section, page 29, explains why marketers must understand and participate in strategies such as online tagging, rather than outsourcing everything technical to the IT department.

By gaining hands-on experience, marketers will find they have the data to prove that their marketing is both effective and a necessary driver for the business. For those of us not blessed with the ability to achieve sports dominance on a global level like Wiggins, that seems a reasonable goal to aim for.

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