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Getting to Know: Ray Langa

Levergy has a new Managing Director, with Ray Langa promoted from his position as Business Unit Director and co-founder and CEO Clint Paterson’s mandate shifting towards strategic growth in line with the M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment group strategy.

Q: What do you regard as your ‘big break’ in the sports industry?
A: I was very fortunate to play in various provincial cricket teams in my younger years, so sport has always been in my blood. The dream, like most youngsters, was to play for the Proteas, but any hope of that was shut down by a terrible back injury. So, on the back of that, I would say that my big break would be joining the Levergy team. After suffering through the depression of forced retirement from a sport that was my life, becoming a ‘Levergist’ was the best thing that could have happened to me. My journey became clear and I knew that Levergy was exactly where I needed to be to make the most amount of impact in our industry.

Q: As the new MD, what’s your vision for Levergy?
A: To be one of the biggest sports and entertainment agencies in the world. Us as Africans have always punched above our weight in the marketing industry and I believe that there is no better time to take more control of that, cement our place on the global scene, and show the world what we as Africans are capable of.

Q: How much more difficult is your job, considering the impact of Covid-19 on the sports industry?
A: Luckily for us at Levergy we have always made a concerted effort to be “ahead of the curve”, so we went into Covid-19 a bit more prepared than some of our competitors in the industry. What Covid-19 did do was test us on how ready we were to step up to a significant challenge. I believe the fact that we walked away as the Hollard Sport Industry Awards Agency Of the Year for the second year running is some evidence that we were up for everything that was thrown at us in 2020.

Q: How did your previous position as Business Unit Director prepare you for your new job?
A: As a BUD I had to manage a large team across various accounts, so I was working with an array of personalities from a client and colleague perspective. Managing people was always the toughest challenge, but what helped is that people interaction and motivation is my biggest strength. As a BUD you have to have a full understanding of the internal workings of the agency and in-depth knowledge of the client’s business to make sure you create success for both, all while delivering world-class work.

Q: Is the Nedbank #PlayYourPart campaign the 2020 work you’re most proud of? If so, why?
A: Without a doubt, it was one of my favourite campaigns I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. We were in the middle of a major pandemic and Africa’s most loved sport of football was about to return, with the Nedbank Cup being the first major sporting event to take place post the hard national lockdown. We had a duty to our people to deliver something with hope yet excitement. We understood that times were still tough, but the return of sport brought this sense of togetherness for the public. We took this opportunity to give South Africa the excitement they had so desperately been craving, while using their passion for football to inspire them to still play their part for their friends and loved ones. I still get goosebumps thinking about the day the campaign launched. The campaign achieved phenomenal business results for our client Nedbank, and to have it named Campaign of the Year at the Hollard Sport Industry Awards was the cherry on top.

Q: In your mind, what has been the biggest Covid-19-influenced change to the sports industry?
A: The lack of live events across the entire industry.

Q: How would you describe Levergy’s response to this change?
A: I have never witnessed a team effort like that. There were many late nights and early mornings and the work that we managed to produce for our clients was world-class. The biggest challenge was that we needed to change the way we operated nearly overnight. Our industry was hugely impacted, but we had to fight to keep the agency relevant. Not only to save our jobs, but more importantly to continue delivering a valuable service to all of our clients. We bound together and produced some of the best work the agency has ever produced. We had very brave clients that trusted that we could deliver and they gave us the opportunity to shine and express ourselves like never before.

Q: Give us a sense of the conversations you’ve been having with clients and sponsors of the events Levergy is involved in, over the past year?
A: It was unchartered territory at the start of lockdown and some of our clients were in two minds; should we try and be quiet and ride out the storm or do we keep going and be innovative in our approach? From the agency’s perspective, we had no choice but to keep going. We have always put an emphasis on growing our client relationships and have built a phenomenal rapport with all of them. I believe that with these strong relationships a lot of trust was formed which allowed our clients to be brave and trust that we have their brands’ best interests at heart in everything that we do.

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: I don’t anticipate too much change in our industry. In my opinion it will be a good opportunity for rights-holders to identify new ways of commercialising their properties. One thing I am sure is that brands will be a bit more strategic in how they leverage their sponsorships. We know that budgets will be tight for the foreseeable future, so it will be vital for us as agencies to ensure that in whatever we do in assisting our clients leverage their brands, it gets the maximum return on investment.

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: I believe three have done it very well. English Premier League, NBA and NFL. They understand the importance of creating value for all of their commercial partners and audiences across all touchpoints. They have identified the value of their brands and have not diluted them by having a sponsor pay for naming rights, and brands are desperate to be involved – they then work in total partnership with their sponsors to ensure maximum value for all parties. That is why they attract some of the biggest brands in the world.

Q: What, do you believe, the sports industry will look like in a year’s time?
A: Our world of sport is ever evolving, but I believe that we have missed out on a year of our biggest passion, so once the Covid-19 virus is under control, I think we will return to relative normality, but with the added benefits of the forced innovation to have come out of the challenges we currently face. Fans will be happy to be back in stadiums and the world of sport will open up again. My only hope is that our industry has taken all of the learnings that have been thrown at us during the pandemic and that we come out even stronger than we were before Covid-19 interrupted our world.

Sport Industry Group
Sport Industry Group

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