An interview with James Cook, Head of Sales UK at TGI Sport 2018 – 2021
1. You started with TGI in August 2018, what stands out in your mind as key learnings about TGI during your tenure?
When I joined TGI in August 2018 I had a perception that it was somewhat of a corporate beast. As we all know that is not the case…which was not an issue, quite the opposite. Having worked at the likes of IMG and Select Management I had already tasted the corporate world and it left me quite stale, what I actually found at TGI was a business that punches well above its weight, delivering the premium service in the LED market, plus the client list and projects were incredibly impressive!!
In three years, I’ve seen some incredibly good people who work VERY hard, this alone places TGI in the position it is in today, a business that works with some of the biggest sports brands in the world and in comparison to other companies, TGI hugely over delivers and that is simply because of the people!
I would add that the world of sport and technology becomes ever more challenging and in this digital age it requires all members of the team working towards the same goal. I have no doubt that TGI much like in the past, will continue to evolve and grow in such manner that the industry requires.
2. You’re leaving us for another tech? cutting-edge growth opportunity, would you care to elaborate on the journey to your decision and why?
I think having worked in sport for 14 years now my new opportunity more than anything presented something completely fresh for me. I started working with players and athletes on the pitch, I then worked with off the pitch commercial projects and continued that at TGI but with more of a focus on technology.
The world of sport and the world in general continues to move towards a more digitally consumed environment. Recast (the company I am joining) gives me the chance to learn something 100% new and quite alien to me. Whilst daunting, it is also exciting because I want to evolve and learn at the pace of the market. Of course, I am still working in sport and from a commercial perspective, but the digital world is one I need to embrace and Recast allows me to do that in a vastly new business area.
It was not an easy decision to come to and it is one that I have been considering for almost 12 months now. I am sad to be walking away from some of the amazing projects at TGI but I felt if I did not take the opportunity now I may not have a chance again to do so.
3. While at TGI, you interfaced with some of our most significant clients in the EPL/UK. What was a high-point or maybe a ‘ah-ha’ moment related to these global brands? Liverpool, ManU, ManCity, Tottenham, etc. Did you ever get to stand in the player tunnel when England walked out for a FWCQ match?
For me there is one stand out moment. As some of you know I am huge golf fan so when we managed to get the European Tour to agree to work with us on proving the PAD’s concept I was incredibly excited.
I will never forget standing on the first tee at Hillside and realising that we were about to showcase the new technology to a hugely impressive list of people…it was a bit of a pinch myself moment…TGI were working with the European Tour!
Tottenham are club that both me and my family were born near to. I am not a football fan but I can honestly say that I have become an admirer of Tottenham simply because of the way the staff have been to work with. Setting up the Red Bull tour and Quadrant PAD’s demo are just a couple of projects that I am not sure any other club would have been able to help us with. Some stand out moment for me were standing in the tunnel at Man UTD with the players, going to the first game at Tottenham’s new stadium and standing pitch side for the NFL fixtures at Wembley. I am an NFL fan so that was really cool to see the players up close
One thing is for sure…working with such huge global brands is ABSOLUTLEY not something that should be taken for granted. It is a privilege and something that many many people would love the opportunity to do.
4. You’ve focused on LED mostly in the UK your entire tenure at TGI and what it does for the clients, any take-aways you’d like to share?
LED is something that clients just have to have now. It’s important of course but they seem less focused on the output these days, its more about it being something that they just must deliver for commercial partners. So it’s important to see the change in the market and react to that. Higher resolution, better pricing and quick delivery are all key factors in rights holders’ decisions these days…no matter at what level.
5. You helped solidify first ever multi-year agreement with England FA for all games at Wembley, Men, Women, FA Cup, etc.. What stands out from that experience?
“The FA do not often work with new partners and you will have to earn our trust but once you are in…you are in for life”. These were the words I remember The FA saying to me when I first met them. To be honest they were right…it has been a long road with countless phone calls, emails, meeting and messages to get to where we are with The FA now.
These sorts or relationships do not just fall in your lap they take considerable work to just get the opportunity to deliver! I remember going to an England Game to just make sure everyone was happy with the LED. It was a late night finish and I had missed the last train home…the guys at The FA really wanted to have a few beers. I just wanted to go home but I knew I had to stay, so I ended up sitting in an empty Wembley stadium drinking with many of the staff until late into the night. It was a surreal experience but from that moment on we have gone from strength to strength with The FA. It just showed that you always have to go that extra step if you want to really be of true value to the client.
I am very proud to say that now all fixtures that happen at Wembley for all rights holders and events are supplied with TGI perimeter LED systems.
6. Look in your crystal ball, after five years, where do you see the marketplace and what TGI’s role will be?
For sure TGI will still be at the forefront of the LED business but I think with much more of a focus on the virtual delivery of it. This is clearly the direction the market is moving in but it’s very new for all parties involved. It takes time and many different business’ need to come together to deliver the overall project.
I also see TGI evolving into a more rounded sports agency. A focus on rights and helping deliver commercial returns on other digital platforms will only add to the longevity of the business. The LED in my eyes is the Trojan Horse that we should be plugging all the other offerings into.
7. Without COVID and you’d have the opportunity to have a send-off banquet with your colleagues, what message would you want to convey to your fellow TGIers?
First and foremost …THANK YOU. I have met some amazing people at TGI and made some lifelong friends. There have been some challenging times but that is because we are trying to do difficult things. I have learned a great deal and I will forever be grateful to have been given the opportunity to work at TGI.
I would like to say a personal thank you to Bo Stenberg. Thank you for everything Bo!
TGI is a fantastic place to work and certainly not a place that should be taken for granted. I can assure you there are not many companies that manage their employees like TGI do. Sport is hard…sports technology is even harder so I would say to everyone just remember how hard people work at TGI to keep everything going.
I guess a few things I would say I have learned in my last 14 years in sport would be as follows…
1. Sport is not a 9-5, 28 days holiday a year job it never has been, and it never will be. If you think it is or that’s what you expect then you should not be involved in it!
2. Work harder! There is always someone behind you who is trying to outwork you.
3. You make your friends on the way up so that they are there on the way down.
4. Always take the meeting!!
5. You are only as strong as the weakest member of your team…everyone has a role to play.
Best wishes! Sport is a very small world so I hope to see some of you soon.