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Paul Poole

Paul Poole (PP), founder of ‘The Sponsorship Experts’, hit the scene 10 years ago to mixed reviews. He’s been accused of fostering the commercialisation of sporting events – an accusation that he’s proud to acknowledge is true. “That’s what we’re here for!” he says with his trademark knowing grin. Far from the early days (when many – particularly regatta organisers – viewed the man with deep, dark suspicion), PP is now firmly entwined in pretty much every significant sporting or lifestyle event in Thailand, from marathons and triathlons in Phuket, to football and motorsports in Buriram, to muay Thai and mixed martial arts in Bangkok, to boat shows and yacht races in Pattaya, to the recent 4th Asian Beach Games 2014. If there’s a whiff of sponsorship in the air, you can be sure PP will be in the middle of it. But who is PP…?

Where are you from and how long have you been living in Thailand?
I’m from the UK and have been living here for exactly 10 years.

Why did you decide to make your home, and base your business, in Thailand? Why Bangkok?
I fell in love and followed my then (Thai) wife, who I met in London in 2000 while she was completing her PhD. I’m a city boy and Bangkok is one of the ‘coolest’ cities in the world, alongside London and New York.

What was your last job before moving to Thailand?
Client side, from 1988-2000 I held senior (through the line) marketing positions at Wrangler, Levi Strauss, Polo Ralph Lauren and Diesel. Agency side from 2000-2002 I held Board Director positions at PR21 (Edelman) and Cohn & Wolfe (WPP), with a creative development brief for clients, including Orange, Coca Cola, Cadbury Trebor Bassett and Guinness UDV.

Since 2002, I consult for a number of the world’s leading brands, agencies and cultural organisations, focusing on North America (New York-based), Europe (London-based) and South East Asia (Bangkok-based). I’m also a founding member of the ‘Culturepreneur® Network’, an initiative designed to improve the dialogue between the arts and business, which was acquired by London-based Cult.Brand in 2012.

What influenced your decision to set up a sponsorship marketing business?
On arriving in Thailand in 2005 I saw that experiential marketing was the tool of choice for most marketers across the region. But I was surprised to see that – although the majority of experiential marketing was being implemented alongside events that were 100% reliant on sponsorship – there wasn’t an agency focusing in this area. So we filled the gap, specialising in commercial sponsorship and partnership marketing.

Explain briefly what sponsorship marketing is, how it works – and why there’s a need for companies like yours.
We act as a catalyst, bringing together rights holders and brands and maximising the relationship. For those taking a professional approach, sponsorship can help an organisation meet its marketing objectives. Managed correctly, sponsorship is one of the best ways to extend brand visibility and broaden awareness across a wide range of audiences, by a subtle and long-lasting reinforcement of the brand and its values.

The benefits of professionally-managed sponsorship include:

  • Driving awareness amongst primary and secondary audiences
  • Increasing sales
  • Supporting the brand, reinforcing its values and bolstering the company’s business
  • Building goodwill within the community
  • Creating customer loyalty
  • Increasing media exposure
  • Building long-term relationships
  • Developing business-to-business relationships
  • Enhancing employee relationships
  • Corporate social responsibility programmes – helping worthy causes
  • Delivering measurable results more efficiently than other marketing mix elements

We work with businesses and brands that are: considering, justifying, re-appraising, seeking, negotiating, implementing, exploiting and/or measuring sponsorship...

We’ve packaged, sold and managed sponsorship and partnership opportunities for a wide range of rights holders and worked with many of the world's leading brands to source and engage the right sponsorships and partnerships.

How big is your team?
We have a core team of 10 sponsorship onsultants and sales experts, all hand-picked.

Tell us something about your own role in the business?
As the lead sponsorship consultant / sales expert, I’m hands-on across the business, and close almost all deals personally.

Describe your leadership style.
Somewhere between Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven’s character in the television series ‘Entourage’) and Genghis Khan.

What’s your target market? Do you face much competition? How do you reach out to your target?
We focus on marketing to many different industries. We’re unique in Thailand so we have little or no local competition. We’re part of an independent international network of strategic alliances specialising in commercial sponsorship and partnership marketing and we’re a member of the Asian Sponsorship Association. We also subscribe to Asia Sponsorship News, the leading market intelligence service for the sponsorship industry in Asia, which provides us with unrivalled market intelligence, insight, reports, analysis and case studies.

Can you give us an overview of your ‘typical’ day at work?
That’s easy…

08:00-09:00 Breakfast meetings
09:00-13:00 Meetings/telephone calls
13:00-14:00 Lunch meetings
14:00-18:00 Meetings/telephone calls
18:00-20:00 Networking, either at one of my favourite whisky and cigar clubs or at one of the numerous social events in Bangkok

The rest of the time Emails/phone calls in the back of the car en route to/from meetings

What changes have you seen in the market in your business sector over the last 10 years? How have you responded to them?
There have been many changes but the main one is probably the global recession from 2008. This put brands in a very strong position as they could negotiate the price of sponsorship down and it made rights holders wake up to the fact that they needed to go the extra mile in delivering benefits to sponsors.

What do you think is your most significant personality trait that has contributed to your success?

What do you see as your three biggest successes to date?
Working with leading brands from Jaguar Land Rover to Pepsi-Co; working with government bodies such as SAT, TAT, TCEB; launching the Football Studio with our European partner, Purple Tangerine.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Sponsorship is like a marriage. We try our best to match the right brands with the right opportunities. I truly enjoy seeing it work for both because of our efforts.

And what do you like least…?
Clients who don’t pay! We’ve experienced this in the past, so now we have three rules:

  1. Get paid in advance
  2. Remember to get paid in advance
  3. Never forget to remember to get paid in advance

Former PP client, Grenville Fordham says…

“Paul and his team do more than look for sponsors.They advise on every aspect of sponsorship, they construct proposals, they identify targets, they sell the opportunities tenaciously, they coach the organiser and they battle to ensure the event delivers promised benefits. Under Paul’s guidance, you discover what it takes to keep sponsors happy – and as a bonus you'll learn to talk 'marketing-speak' like a professional.”

If you could change just one thing to make your business life easier, what would it be?
Speak, read and write Thai.

How do you see your business developing over the next five years?
We intend to double in size through acquisition and our own growth.

Are you involved in any CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives?
Yes we sponsor activity focused on the future / next generation of the areas we work in; Phuket Youth Sailing Club is a typical example. We also offer any non-profit enterprises our products / service at cost.

Knowing what you know now, and if you could turn the clock back, would you move to Thailand and set up a sponsorship marketing business here?
As the song goes, “Regrets I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention…”. In all seriousness, the only thing I’d change in a heartbeat is not letting the stress of moving to Thailand and starting a business here negatively impact my relationship with my then (Thai) wife.

Paul Poole – Founder, Managing Director & Chairman
Paul Poole (South East Asia) Company Limited
+66 2622 0605-7 +66 8 6563 3196