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Getting to Know: Devian Nadasen

Octagon underwent a re-launch in the South African market two months ago, including absorbing Justin Sampson’s S-Factor agency, and here Devian Nadasen, Managing Director of Octagon Africa, explains why and how, as well as a little bit about himself.

Q: What was the primary reason behind Octagon and S-Factor coming together and the launch/relaunch of the ‘new’ Octagon divisions and different offering? 
A: The three companies are very much  “new” and “real” and have three different business objectives.

Octagon Africa:
Over the past two-and-a-half years I have focused my attention on developing two of Octagon’s major global clients, namely Mastercard and Standard Chartered Bank, throughout the African continent. Then in 2020 Mastercard also appointed Octagon Africa to manage their sponsorship leveraging work in the Middle East as well. 

Octagon Talent and Properties:
Franco Barocas initially focused on assisting me with this expansion, but since the beginning of 2020 has taken on a global position at Octagon within the Talent and Properties division, developing rugby and cricket as two new focus sports globally in the network. This is a further extension to our business. 

Octagon South Africa:
At the start of 2021 we realised that we had focused the majority of our business on entities outside of South Africa, due to our two areas of business focus. That’s when we decided we needed an experienced partner with the correct expertise and knowledge of the Octagon international family to join us, and with a more direct focus on South Africa. Justin Sampson had been employed by Franco Barocas in 2000 at the start of Octagon in South Africa and had gone on to establish some of SA’s top sponsorship companies after he left Octagon in 2002. He had all the right attributes and a company of his own. We believed it was a perfect match and set up Octagon South Africa, focused solely on South Africa, and we incorporated S-Factor clients into this entity, with Justin as the MD and a shareholder.

Q: In yourself, Franco Barocas and Justin Sampson you have three senior, experienced members of the SA sports marketing and sponsorship industry. How do you ensure the business gets the best out of all three?
A: Quite simple really. We have very different portfolios, so we are always learning something new from what we do ourselves, but also what our colleagues are doing globally in our 50 other offices, in our particular areas of focus. Then we make sure we communicate, so that each of us knows everything about what the other two are doing. The three of us meet regularly, as we also do with our regional head for APAC, particularly on big projects. Communication is the key and Covid has actually assisted with this considerably. 

Q: How has the sponsorship landscape changed, as a result of Covid-19?
A: It has hurt the hospitality, live events and physical eventing disciplines in our industry and all their associated suppliers and partners massively. Some may never recover. It has changed the focus of our industry to digital platforms in a way that could never have been imagined in 2019.

Q: What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on your business?
A: The pandemic has made us re-evaluate the traditional way of how we do business and in a way as it has become more the norm to communicate online (via Zoom, Teams etc). It has also allowed us to expand into new markets a lot quicker than we initially thought. Without having to put people ‘on the ground’ we can now reach out to more and more clients a lot easier and provide our services. It has made us relook and reinvent the way in which we consult to our existing clients and new clients. 

Q: How has Octagon responded and innovated?
A: This is in response to both the above questions. We have been fortunate because of the structure of our business and the non-reliance on South African clients. We have affiliates and associates across all the geographical areas which are our responsibility, which meant we could scale up or down in each territory as required. We were also really prepared on the digital side of things. So much so that we presented Mastercard with a digital concept in June 2020, which was well received and so successful that not only did they ask us to run it in Africa and the Middle East, but also across the world.

HAVE YOU READ?: Getting to Know: David van der Sandt

Q: Once sport in general is back up and running fully, post-Covid-19, do you anticipate change, in terms of how it is run, consumed, commercialised etc?
A: We believe there are two aspects to this. Firstly, how we run our businesses internally. We believe that business travel will be 25% of what it was previously, because people have learnt to use digital communication platforms and we have even participated in pitches on these platforms. We also think big offices and everyone working from an office will change. Offices may remain in some form, but the way we work will change forever, with many jobs that can be done from home continuing to be done from home, post-Covid. Secondly, the consumption of sport will change. While there may be a boom in live audiences once we can again go to view live events, this will dissipate and attracting live audiences may become even more difficult than before and people will consume sport on what has become a very broad variety of broadcast platforms, except for top events where there will be greater demand for live attendance and hospitality. People will become more discerning in how they spend their money and their time. Digital will become king – viewing whatever sport or entertainment you want, when you want and where you want will become the norm. This pandemic has made us move five years ahead digitally in less than two years. 

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? 
A: Other than fans not being allowed into stadiums, things are much the same. The people who have really innovated over this period are the broadcasters with additional sound effects and virtual imaging. They just need to be careful they don’t take things too far and lose the authentic feel of a live sports event. Of course, in the digital space (second screens) rights-holders continue to innovate and provide some pretty cool content, particularly sports who go behind the scenes and delivery more in-depth insights into their athletes and what happens behind the scenes. The NBA always stands out and during this difficult period (over the last year) they have recently reported record commercial deals, which is a credit to what they do on and off the court.

Q: Are you currently working from home or the office, and how have you adapted to the change in work routine?  
A: Home. Perfectly well, because we communicate with each other regularly and are always stimulated by the very varied information exchange we get from colleagues and clients across the world constantly over the working week, whereas before that was two to three times a month, pre-pandemic.

Q: What does your daily routine look like? Early mornings or late nights? 
A: Both. Working virtually has many advantages and disadvantages. We are probably more productive, because we don’t have to commute, but our time no longer starts and ends during “office hours”. Which is also not that good, as weekends are not respected as much anymore. By the same token, you can have weekends whenever you like.

Q: How do you cope with stress and how do you unwind?
A: Working remotely allows you to work from anywhere. Therefore, you could set up in a shack on the beach if you want – provided you have connectivity. This allows you to unwind by going for a walk, having a picnic or even playing chess or scrabble with friends who are all in different places. These are great ways to remove stress and do the things you want while working really productively. 

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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