Sponsoring Expert Philip Rouwenhorst: ‘I have knowledge of both data and research. And I know how sport sponsoring works. That is what I contribute to Blauw'.

Philip Rouwenhorst has been active as a Strategic Research Consultant for Sponsoring Insights since the start of December. Sport has played an important role in Philip's life for as long as he can remember. So it is as if this new role has been created especially for him combining, as it does, his expertise on market research and sport sponsoring. We talked to him about his work, the importance of sponsor research and professional football with Telstar.

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How would you introduce yourself?

I was born in Amstelveen and later studied in Amsterdam. I graduated in political science. And that really is one of my passions: international politics. Then there's my other passion, sport. I played football for Telstar until I was 21. I basically devoted all of my younger years to that.

Where did you get your passion for sport?

I don't know where it comes from; my family has no great sporting tradition. So you can't really say that I got it from my parents or my sister. As a young boy, I was just captivated by all aspects of football. I was always to be seen playing football on the street. In fact, I reckon that if I were a child these days, when I see all those kids on tablets and games consoles, I'd still choose to be outside, playing football. I think I was just born that way.

From a very early age I was aware that I really liked sport sponsoring, and was fascinated by brands. And that hasn't changed. I am a goalkeeper: my inspiration was Feyenoord's keeper at the time, Jerzy Dudek. That man is a legend. He always had Adidas gear. I did then, and I still do now. Andre Agassi was my favourite tennis player, and he only ever used Nike equipment. So when I play tennis or padel, I, too, use Nike equipment. Despite being acutely aware of how sport sponsoring works, it seems that I'm not immune to it either. That is the power of sport sponsoring.

What led you to Blauw?

At one point in my life I moved to Spain. I was already working in market research, and I found a company there that did research in the fields of politics and sport. That was a perfect match! Which is how I managed to get into this industry. When I returned to the Netherlands I went to work for Nielsen, in Amsterdam. I picked up where I'd left off with my work in data and sport sponsoring.

I wanted to go down a new path, but then the coronavirus changed everything. So I took into account that I might have to postpone my plan for a year. Then, while looking at LinkedIn, I saw that Blauw's Sponsoring & Sport team was looking to expand. I called Eva (Gerritse) to ask her opinion. Then I applied.

What sort of work do you do, exactly?

I am responsible for a certain number of accounts. My job involves for those accounts to understand what they want and what they need. I provide them with advice, tailored to their situation. It's my duty to flag up what clients want and need, sometimes even before they have a clear idea of that themselves. Other than that I try to help existing accounts, I am ultimately expected to acquire new clients. That is the commercial side.

Each project also has an individual research manager. I have a wealth of experience in market research, so I can help with that. And I also carry out some analyses myself, although I generally act in a coordinating and supporting capacity.

Why is it so important for organisations to carry out research into sponsorships?

A sponsorship is a marketing tool, it is a way for a company to make an investment and, ultimately, to improve its performance. What you used to see quite a lot, and still today in some cases, is that it's tied up with goodwill. Someone who has a lot of money is a fan of a particular sportsperson, club or sport, and wants to provide financial support. And, of course, they like the association with their logo. But it's not merely a transaction: 'Cool! We're going to have our logo on Ajax's kit!’ No, Ziggo really does want to get something in return, they want to reap the benefit. One way of looking at it: Last year I had 1 million subscribers. Now I have 1.1 million, so I'm doing something right. But it's important to understand what it is that you're doing right. By carrying out research with our team, you can quantify the impact of the sponsorship. Sponsoring is a significant investment, so you need to know whether or not it's viable. It is important for brands to a) be able to substantiate why they're spending so much money and b) to improve performance. We can identify whether the sponsorship is perhaps yet to have the desired effect among a specific target audience. Then we tell you how you can achieve that effect. It's like investing in your investment.

What sort of personal expertise can you offer clients to convince them that you can make the difference?

People in this line of work tend to fall into one of two groups: they're either researchers or people who know how the world of sport sponsoring operates. My background covers both those bases. I have some knowledge of both data and research, and also about how sport sponsoring works. That is what I contribute to Blauw and that is why I think I'm good at my job; I don't just know what's good for a sponsor: I do actually understand everything I say to justify that, because I've been doing that myself for years.

How does it feel for you to be starting a new job during the coronavirus pandemic?

There are two sides to it. On the one hand, it's not a problem because this has been my reality for the last ten months: working on similar projects from home. At the same time, it's really important to get to know everyone on the team well, and to get an idea of the company and its culture. Video conferencing is fun, and a good solution, it's just that you only get to know people when you meet them. But I was prepared for that. I think it's more serious when you start working somewhere and then, out of the blue, two months later you're forced to work from home. But there's light at the end of the tunnel. I hope I can stay with Blauw for many years, so I know that it'll all be alright in the end.

You mentioned just now that working from home has become your reality, but how do you strike a balance between work and private life?

It's extremely difficult, I have to say; after all, your living room is also your office. I have a clear rule for myself: once I shut my laptop on Friday, I put everything away. Then from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, at least, I'm not in an office environment all the time. Apart from that, and I think that is what I'm most proud of, since I've been working from home every day I always have a shower and get dressed before turning my computer on. I think that's what's most important. And I put my shoes on, too. You have to fool yourself a bit.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Under normal circumstances, I go down to the club on Saturdays to play football. The people there are all lads I've known all my life. Everyone who once moved around to another club seems to have gravitated back to the club in Amstelveen. That's special, one of the real highlights of the week! I miss that so much. And I play padel a lot, but I did that before, too. Sport is really what occupies most of my free time. I'm in a team with lots of friends, and I also play padel with friends, so that's my social life in a nutshell. There's a lot of overlap there, which is great.

At the start of the interview you talked about your time with Telstar. Do you still have the mentality of the elite, high-performance sportsperson that you had then?

Definitely! That's helped me a lot, both in my own personal development and in my work. If you play at that level and want to maintain that, you need to be incredibly disciplined and really go for it. That's helped me a lot in my work: never moan, just knuckle down and get on with it. The best thing about football in my opinion, and this has nothing to do with elite sport, is that it is a sport for everyone. You might be in the same team as the bank manager and the cleaner, but once you put your football shorts on, everyone is the same. Status and your position on the social ladder have no role to play, you're surrounded by all of society. Which is the situation you find yourself in with your work, too. You come into contact with so many different people. It makes my life a whole lot richer.

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