How to punch above your weight - David Thomas, Commercial Director, Southampton FC

I speak with the Commercial Director of Southampton FC (my boyhood club) about what it takes to run a football club, especially during the pandemic. Along with a few football discussions, we also take a dive into how the club bounced back from one of the worst defeats in PL history, why sports sponsorship needs to be turned on it's head and why Southampton are the prime example of a challenger brand.
Confession time. As a Saints fan, this is certainly a case of mixing business with pleasure. But bear with me for a moment. A year ago Saints suffered the worst defeat in premier league history going down 9-0 at home to Leicester. For most clubs this would have meant firing the manager and sparking an inevitable tumble into relegation and financial uncertainty. But not Southampton. They stuck by their man and a year later are challenging at the top of the Premier League briefly going top on the same day as this interview was recorded (obviously my motivational skills were critical ….). So what does this have to do with Marketing? Well, it turns out quite a lot! Most of us will have faced a giant setback at some point (if you haven’t then maybe you not trying hard enough!) and how you respond is one of the most important things you’ll ever do in your career. Understanding the importance of your belief and values, the role consistency plays, communicating much more than usual, learning to play as a team etc. In this episode, I meet David Thomas, Commercial Director to find out what has transformed Southampton as a Football Club and what you can learn from it.

Here's what we discussed:
  • How the greatest defeat in Premier League history led to Saints challenging the best
  • What Premier League managers and CMO’s have in common and the importance of consistency
  • The secret to why playing behind closed doors might be playing into Saints hands
  • The Southampton Way – the role of walking the talk in the transformation of the club
  • How a good strategy means you can handle a few knocks without losing your way
  • Why Saints chefs made over 1000 meals a week during lockdown 
  • How the sport sponsorship model had to be turned on its head and why it shouldn’t be called sponsorship
  • The need for accountability and ROI for any partnership to succeed
  • Why Saints have the ‘John Lewis’ of kit launches and the most engaged social media of any club
  • How values and belief are at the heart of any great Challenger brand
  • Why the club going into Administration led the foundations of success today
  • Turning potential into excellence and the importance of not punishing failure
  • Why one of the most capped England women chose to coach the Saints women in the 6th tier!
  • How Saints are tackling racism in football.
  • A top 6 finish versus an FA Cup appearance
How to punch above your weight - David Thomas, Commercial Director, Southampton FC
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