How Mark Thompson turned his passion for the sports industry into a thriving business

How Mark Thompson turned his passion for the sports industry into a thriving business
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Mark Thompson is a shining example of ACPE’s successful Alumni. Today we talk to him about how ACPE helped springboard his career. From providing the right connections that led to full time employment, to enabling a flexible study arrangement, so he could gain vital experience within the sporting industry. This experience led to Mark becoming an extremely successful entrepreneur, leading the world’s biggest sports management technology company. He shares his advice with prospective and current students studying a Bachelor of Sports Business at ACPE.

What did you study and what year did you complete your studies at ACPE?

I completed my Bachelor of Sports Studies, Business in 2002

How did studying at ACPE help you kick start your career?

The practical experience I gained allowed me to get a hands-on head-start into the workforce. I received a full-time offer of employment during my 2nd year of work placement, allowing me a 12-month advantage over my peers. I completed my final year studies via a flexible study arrangement.

We heard you are now the Head of International Business @KORE software and Founder & MD of SponServe. Tell us a bit about what Sponserve is and how you came up with the idea?

Working across many different organizations within sponsorship management roles and senior leadership roles (Running my first business which I sold in 2009, into Brumbies management and then as an Australian Sports Foundation executive) I was personally and seeing my peers, becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of governance, efficiency and applicability that excel spreadsheets and other antiquated programs provided those within our roles. After completing a world-wide search for a suitable solution, nothing existed. So rather than continuing to complain, I decided with a trusted friend to do something about it and as such SponServe was born.

In just 3 short years, SponServe became the world leader in sponsorship fulfillment software. We worked with 85% of all Australian teams and governing bodies, had the major market-share within the UK and had started our reach into the EU/USA markets.

In 2018, KORE Software, a global giant in the sports technology space, come knocking and the result was a full acquisition of SponServe. I have been retained to run the KORE Software business around the world for all markets except the USA and sit on the Global leadership executive for KORE Software. We provide the most comprehensive suite of sports technology products in the market, allowing our clients to think smarter, engage deeper and act faster than they have ever had the ability to do before.

With your experience, how do you think sponsorship in sport has evolved?

We investigate this on our monthly podcast “Inside Sponsorship”, which is the world’s most listened to sponsorship podcast, featuring insights from industry experts from all over the world.

Sponsorship, particularly in sport, has evolved a lot of the last 5 years. We have seen a very purposeful shift towards the concept of sponsorship as a strategy – which is the process of brands using sponsorship exclusively aligned to business objectives and only using and taking assets which have a defined objective from the outset. As a result, the best organizations are moving quickly away from selling sponsorship “packages” and instead selling partnerships, which have an aligned business purpose and the flexibility to alter those partnerships within an individual term if objectives change or certain assets aren’t helping to reach the audience as first thought.

Sponsorship is by far the best way for Brands to reach audiences in a more meaningful way then they otherwise can through traditional marketing, through a mutually trusted and loved property (their team or sport etc.). The flow-on effect of this is the integration of sponsorship programs and marketing campaigns, so rather than specific assets being linked to a defined individual delivery – sponsors are combining assets and employing a more marketing-minded approach to fulfillment, which is driving the concept of ROO (Return on Objectives) more so than ROI (Return on Investment).

What advice do you have for Sport Business Students looking to get into that industry?

There are so many different aspects of sports business. Including general management, legal, HR, PR/media, data, technology, marketing and sponsorship, which can all lead to great careers. There is also the split between Not-For-Profit organizations and Pro-Sport which present their own skills and career pathways.

My advice is to get exposure to as many different areas as possible and decide which ones ignite the passion inside you to make a difference to the industry we love. In choosing your path, try and find roles which don’t pigeonhole you to one specialty, however, strengthen you more widely in your early career.

Be patient and understand the concept that you don’t know what you don’t know so that you can continue to learn and grow into your career – evolving as the industry does will give you longevity.

When I started out selling hospitality and managing athletes, you couldn’t have told me that I would be leading the world’s biggest sports management technology company 18 years later, however listening, learning and following my passion has led me here. The reason for that drive sits in 2001, when ACPE allowed me to get that first set of hands-on experience and a jump start into my career.

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