Job title Commercial Director
Employer InSport Education
Qualifications BSc (Hons) Zoology/Animal Biology
The Commercial Director of InSport Education, Dan Parr, boasts an impressive CV spanning over 20 years working in the sports and entertainment marketing sector. During his career, he has built a wealth of experience working with international brands, professional sports teams, as well as spending more than a decade working in Hong Kong. Careers in Sport caught up with Dan last week, where he gave an insight into his role with InSport Education and his advice for prospective sports marketeers.
Article by William Ledbury (WilliamLedbury)
“In 2005, I was given the opportunity to move over to Hong Kong.”
Thank you for your time, Dan. Starting at the beginning, how did your career start out for you?
Like a lot of people, I’ve always had an interest and passion for playing sport. I was never the type of person who knew what I wanted to do as a career, but sport felt like an interesting place to be! I was fortunate enough to have some contacts at a small agency based in Surrey called Cragie Taylor. I managed to get some work experience with them, and away my career went I suppose!
I was at Edinburgh University, and the agency did a lot of work with the Scottish Rugby Union – particularly with Famous Grouse who were the sponsors of the Scotland Rugby Team. I mainly found myself working down at Murrayfield, which was brilliant as a student because I got to watch a lot of Rugby and earn some money at the same time.
I then worked in a joint venture with former Scotland Rugby internationals, Gavin and Scott Hastings, for a couple of years which was great fun. I was lucky enough to travel to New Zealand with the Scottish Rugby team in 2000 as a sponsor representative – which again was a brilliant experience! Shortly afterwards, I moved down from Edinburgh to work in Surrey.
In 2005, I was given the opportunity to move over to Hong Kong where I was tasked with the job of setting up the offices over there. My wife and I were keen to move abroad, and this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up on!
“You honestly felt the sports industry was evolving right in front of your eyes.”
You worked in Hong Kong for many years, how did you have to adapt to the lifestyle change and the culture?
It really is an amazing place to go and work. When I was out there, I was instantly attracted to the dynamism, vibrancy, and diversity of not just Hong Kong but the whole region. It was a breath of fresh air quite frankly! It was brilliant to travel to mainland China, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and all of the other extraordinary places where you honestly felt the sports industry was evolving right in front of your eyes.
I learnt a huge amount about the different cultures out there, the different ways of working and having to adapt to different approaches. You’ve got to be pretty flexible as there isn’t the same homogeneity that perhaps exists in Europe, that exists in Asia.
There’s this extraordinary culture of support. Every single ex-pat, at one time or another, have been new to Hong Kong – and when they arrived people were extremely helpful and supportive. And that culture carries through, as I found when I was there for 14 years. You become a veteran once you’ve lived and worked there for over a decade. I found myself then lending people a hand, and making the introductions. The cooperation in Hong Kong is phenomenal, and its what I think makes that place special.
“I believe now, and more than ever, that networking is fundamentally important to building a career.”
InSport Education provide bespoke learning programmes; What could you tell us about these courses, and what can they offer to prospective students and individuals?
Education as a sector is undergoing a massive change, and I think people are starting to question whether university and traditional routes into employment are the right way to go. A degree can take a lot of time, a lot of costs, and there isn’t necessarily a direct path into employment when you come out of it.
Our key approach to prospective students is real life, practical learning. There are lots of degree courses, masters, MBA’s, long-form, theoretical, and academic programming that can be done in sport. But there is not enough, in our view, real-world practical learning. All our learning is delivered by people working in the industry. Representatives of clubs, leagues, brands, federations all of which can bring their expertise and experience to the learning scenario. I think that makes learning infinitely more interesting and enjoyable.
If I want to learn about the financial side of football, why not have the former COO of Manchester United deliver a lesson about that subject? It’s instantly more credible, and all of that learning is peppered with anecdotes and references that are relevant to the people listening. It’s fascinating and people find it far more engaging.
These courses also drive employability; those that participate in the programming can see how this knowledge can be applied in the context of the sports industry. We also help students to build a strong network of contacts. I believe now, and more than ever, that networking is fundamentally important to building a career. We’re able to connect course participants with guest speakers, and that really is a great place to start.
If you want to learn more about the bespoke courses that InSport Education provide, you can head over to their designated page in our business directory.
Honoured to have Rick Parry, Chairman of the EFL (English Football League), on the panel for this Friday’s InSport Education webinar discussing the importance of getting fans back into live sports events. He will be joined by @botanosman, CEO of Restrata…https://t.co/RkEo6mTDRs
— Dan Parr (@danielparr) October 5, 2020
“That’s got to be the most satisfying highlight knowing that I took a bit of a risk back in 2005, and it worked out pretty well for me in the end.”
What would you say has been a particular highlight in your career so far?
I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to take part in some amazing events in my career. In 2000, I went to New Zealand with the Scotland Rugby Team as Famous Grouse’s sponsor representative. Having just left university, it was amazing to go on that tour and that journey with the team.
But fundamentally, the highlight for me was arriving in Hong Kong with a suitcase and a laptop – and then leaving 14 years later with lifelong friends, having developed two businesses, and a love for Hong Kong that I’ll have forever. That’s got to be the most satisfying highlight knowing that I took a bit of a risk back in 2005, and it worked out pretty well for me in the end.
“You have to be prepared to commit, and it’s not always great at times, but the rewards can be fantastic.”
And finally, what piece of advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in sports business or marketing?
You have to be willing to put in the hard yards, especially in a competitive industry such as sports. People want to start as an account director, working at the Olympics, and jetting off to amazing places around the world. Most people who work in the industry started at the bottom, and sometimes you have to roll your sleeves up get on with it. You have to be prepared to commit, and it’s not always great at times, but the rewards can be fantastic. Always try and be someone who is collaborative, open, and cooperative. I would also be prepared to take some risks along the way.
The sports industry is evolving so fast and is so much more sophisticated; the advancement and integration of technology, fan-engagement, customer acquisition, is such a huge part of the industry. So from that, I would encourage people to have a knowledge and understanding of technology, digital and social media content.
If you are looking to pursue a career in Sports Marketing similar to Dan’s, there is a multitude of voluntary and paid opportunities in our jobs section.
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