THE SPORTS ENTREPRENEURS
Talking Football & Esports
Damian Willoughby, turned his passion for football, playing in his youth in the UK, then NCAA football to spending his career across Rangers FC, Chelsea FC, Manchester City and the City Football Group till his current and most recent role at EA (Electronic Arts) in Esports. Listen and learn from his experiences at some of the biggest Football brands and now at EA.
- From playing youth Football in the UK, to NCAA “soccer” and getting his MBA at University of Liverpool in Football
- Leading to his first first role in Rangers FC, leading sponsorship programs
- Despite the huge rivalry between Rangers and Celtic (collectively called “The Old Firm”) on the pitch, both clubs cooperated on sponsorship deals to avoid brands having to split across the fan base. Very clever
- Talking numbers, front of shirt and other revenue streams for Rangers. Very competitive with the big UK clubs at the time due to passionate fan base, 50k fans in stadium, etc. The big Premier League Media income started to make the difference and swing power to English Clubs.
- Next stop Chelsea, Abramovich’s early era and success started to make a difference. Talking Samsung and leveraging the power of the Premier League globally. Discussing the “not invented here syndrome” of global brand sponsorships and how to deal with it. Singha Beer deal discussion.
- Moving into Player Management side with James Grant Sports Group for a couple of years to learn that part of the business, wasn’t his thing
- Manchester City, new Arab owners already in place and club on major trajectory – joining in global sponsorship sales role
- City Football Group (New York, Melbourne, Mumbai, Yokohama, etc) – 12 clubs now globally – (and Ferran Soriano’s role in it)
- How it works from a commercial point of view and creating synergies across the different clubs, leveraging the global power of Manchester City combined with the local strength of the various partner clubs
- Moving to Singapore running global business from there for six years, last few years also CEO of City Football India (Mumbai City FC), last few years during Covid
- How players move around the City Football Group ecosystem
- In the Middle of Covid, mid 2021, Gaming/Esports is booming, next move, VP Partnerships for EA Sports – huge company, US$ 7 billion in revenue, 13,000 people worldwide
- Talking Esports & EA properties, much more than FIFA, leader of sports simulation games (Madden NFL, F1, UFC, NHL, PGA Tour, etc) and other successful non-sports games (Apex Legend, Battlefield, The Sims) – difference between sports and non-sports games
- Huge player base and time spend in the game by Gamers, massive audiences and engagement levels – still lots of education to be done with brands on how to leverage it
- FIFA split, what he could share – big plans for EA Sports FC , nothing changes in the game, the teams and general feel of the game
- Stevenage FC and Burger King, how it went viral, creative thinking on how to leverage a game
A highly accomplished and respected global football executive with 20+ years experience in generating and managing over £1.3bn in revenues, motivating large (+65 staff) and globally diverse (13 offices) teams to achieve sporting and financial goals around performance, brand, revenue and fan growth for leading sports properties including City Football Group, Chelsea & Rangers FC.
Most recently CEO of City Football India following the strategic acquisition of a majority stake in Mumbai City FC, worked with CFG and Reliance as shareholders to develop the Club, Indian Super League and Indian football.
Currently VP, Partnerships at Electronic Arts, originally head hunted to develop the commercial strategy for Esports across key global EA franchises (FIFA, Madden & Apex) and now working in a small core executive team to shape the future of the company’s marquee football franchise.