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Getting to Know: Ant Garstang

The Managing Director of Flash Sponsorship was previously with Octagon, MTN and Coca-Cola, but has been out on his own for seven years now, since setting up his own shop and growing the Flash Sponsorship offering.

Q: How would you describe your job?
I am one of the lucky few who has never struggled to get up in the morning to go to work. I absolutely LOVE what I do! I am fortunate to have been in the business of sport for most of my career, which means no two days are the same. We have a few select clients who are giants in their own spaces and our mission is to find them the right commercial partners who share a similar vision and outlook.

Q: What was behind your decision to go out on your own in 2014?
I had the privilege to work with some industry legends over the years and experienced incredibly memorable sporting events on the world’s biggest stages, but with a young family I decided to take the plunge to start my own business and take control of my work-life balance. I initially tried to explore opportunities outside of the sports space when I left corporate, but that didn’t last long. When IRONMAN’s Keith Bowler presented me with the challenge to replace Specsavers with a new partner, I couldn’t resist. It is not easy starting something from scratch – you need the right people at the right time and a decent amount of luck along the way. I am blessed to have had some amazing people on my team over the years and I am very grateful for this. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.

Q: What’s the Flash ‘methodology’?
We have developed our own model to evaluate potential clients. Not only is this a good predictor for success, it allows us to objectively evaluate an opportunity whilst considering the chemistry and fit between us, which is equally as important. Once we make a decision to work with a new client, we follow a bespoke process of unpacking their organisation and the property – this we refer to as the ‘Flash Science’.  When this is done, we are in a position to hit the market for them. This we call our ‘art’.

Q: Do you believe the sponsor/rights-holder dynamic has changed in the wake of Covid-19?
It certainly has and not a minute too soon. For far too long rights-holders have remained rigid in their commercial outlook and approach to their partners. This doesn’t work for anyone, and the effects of Covid-19 has meant a fresh, new approach, and viewing brands as partners rather than sponsors. This has forced the industry to completely reinvent sponsorship packages to better align with our partners’ business strategies. Our business is all about understanding what brands are looking to achieve, matching this with the right property, and creating innovative solutions for them that work for all the parties involved.

Q: What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on your business?
It has forced us to re-evaluate all our plans and the norms that we worked to. We had to take a hard look at our entire business, re-strategise, and make changes to ensure that we were working with partners who could also adapt to survive. This meant that we had new deal flows starting while others dried up. In many ways, it has brought us closer to both our clients and their partners.

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Q: Do you believe sport will get back up and running fully, post-Covid-19, and if so, do you anticipate change, in terms of how it is run, consumed, commercialised etc?
Thankfully, this has already started happening. It will never quite be the same, but what it has shown is that proactive rights-holders, who painstakingly worked through multiple planning scenarios, were the best prepared for the changing lockdown levels and participation scenarios. Athletes have continued to train all the way through, so they are raring to go, and rights-holders are working hard to ensure their events happen, so that fans can enjoy a seamless journey back into stadium to watch their heroes play. It’s very exciting from a commercial perspective. The past 18 months have generated some inspired creative thinking, and rights-holders have innovated to make commercial opportunities more attractive for brands. We can no doubt expect some big moves in the industry next year, which we are all looking forward to.

Q: Which sports organisations – either local or international – do you believe are getting it right, in terms of marketing and commercialising their product, and why?
During lockdown, I believe that IRONMAN did a lot of amazing things to engage with their athletes across the globe by holding regular virtual races, which saw hundreds of thousands of people participate in their events during all levels of lockdown. They recently acquired FulGaz, which is an indication of their continued commitment to the virtual space. Hybrid training is going to be with us permanently moving forward. Locally, rugby has led the way, in my opinion, with the bubbles they set up, competitions they created, and how they have continued innovating. They used the enforced break to re-work their landscape and will see the benefits for years to come!

Q: Are you currently working from home or the office, and how have you adapted to the change in work routine?
We started working from home on the 16th of March last year. We kicked off each day with a “cabin fever coffee” session, which gave us a semblance of normality before spending the rest of the day on our clients. We have continued doing this and it has helped us all maintain perspective and keep our sense of humour, which has been critical! I currently navigate between both home and office. As much as we have adapted well to working virtually, meeting up with my team or clients in person has a whole different dynamic and energy that tends to get lost online. I missed that during Covid-19, which makes them even more energizing now. 

Q: What does your daily routine look like? Early mornings or late nights?
I am an early bird, so generally try and get some form of exercise in before I get my girls up for school. Once they are up, it is game on all day. I love the pace that we need to work at to keep ahead of things.

Q: How do you cope with stress and how do you unwind?
Two ways – I try get into the pool and out onto the road as often as possible. But equally so, I ensure I make the time to connect with family and friends. This is the work-life balance I envisioned when I started Flash.   

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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