Samba Digital Meets: Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor recently joined Samba Digital, at the beginning of February, as UK Account Lead, having spent the last three years growing Everton’s global fanbase through strategic partnerships, brand and business development, international academies and overseas pre-season tours. He comes to the company with a wealth of experience in work and in his life, and we recently took the opportunity to get to know more:
Hi Matt, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today; it’s great to have you join the company. Can you start off by telling us a little bit about your background and how you got into working in sport?
I am from the Midlands in England; I grew up in between Birmingham and Coventry. I grew up playing football from a really young age, and literally football was the only thing I would do. I’m really thankful to my mom and dad, who took me all over the country to play and it’s still one of my hobbies now, I still play a little bit. Before attending University, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and then when I went to school, to Coventry University, where I did a degree in sport marketing.
It was a lot of fun, getting to know the business side of the sport, and football specifically. Then for post-grad, I studied strategy and applied management, with a focus on sports, and it was a thing where I had the opportunity to be at one of the best schools in the country in the field. We were able to take international and European trips while still in school; it was a great experience.
From there, I could have gone on to a doctorate, but I started at Birmingham City, doing an internship. It was an eye-opening experience; I was there for a 12-month period and they were a club that were in the second division but I got on well with my hiring manager and it was a good experience. My work was focused around ticketing but also broader marketing as well – it was a really wide brief.
Then I went on to West Bromwich Albion, who were at the time in the Premier League. It was a similar role, but it was a marketing team of two, and in the Premier League, that’s incredibly small. We did season tickets, kit launches, match-to-match ticket sales, as well as design. I also started to work in CRM there as well, it was a really great opportunity to see how important that is for clubs.
And then from there, you went on to Everton…
Yes, but not straight away. I spent about six months traveling after I’d left West Brom. I went to something like 15 countries, across southeast Asia, which is where I met my partner. That was something that really stirred my passion for understanding how passion for football manifests in different cultures which is super important for what we do here at Samba obviously. To see how obsessed people are there with sport compared to here was really remarkable. It really opened my eyes to see how things could be done differently.
Could you speak a bit more about that? We work with several clients in southeast Asia here and understanding that passion is important.
Yes, we work with a few clients there and what’s important to understanding this is that the way they digest football there, specifically Premier League football, is extremely different. It’s very much a bar and pub culture, focused on the Premier League and revenues are tied to broadcasts. The games are on late at night, and the fans know the full rosters, they can have multiple clubs that they support. Social media has a big role in this of course, along with going to bars — they’re just fanatical about anything football-related, and even more so with the Premier League.
For these fans, they don’t have the means to watch matches at home, or often to read about them, so socials become the most important link between the fans and the team. We see this a lot with Latin America, but one problem they’ve had there is that there’s not a link to top playing talent and they form really interesting attachments. Someone might have a player who they list as their favorite and it seems a surprise because it’s not Messi or Ronaldo, but someone they’ve seen a nice piece of social media content about.
So when I came back from there, I reconnected with a former boss who was then at Everton, and my work was things like ticketing and stadium tours. But that changed into having a focus on international growth, as the UK is such a saturated market for football. Looking at different markets was key, and obviously a big kickstarter for us was the signing of James Rodríguez, and it really moved things on and look at the importance of engaging globally. Towards the end of my time there, I actually helped lead that team at the club.
The unique thing was that because we were starting from scratch, there was no strategy or blueprint, so we came up with a strategy that covered everything from in-person activations to soccer schools, social media and more. James’ signing, in 2020, was really a catalyst for all of this; it really made us sit up and take notice of the potential of internationalization. This was a new way to connect with an audience that was essentially new to Everton. We were seeing engagement rates of 20-25%, which is literally unheard of on social media.
😍 EL ABRAZO DE TODA COLOMBIA 🇨🇴
James 💙 Yerry pic.twitter.com/dixdpXacjD
— Everton (@EvertonESP) April 5, 2021
We started with Spanish and Portuguese initially and then as time went on, we realized the natural connections to the US that existed, and worked there as well. We did on the ground events, activations with Premier League Live, preseason tours, it was a really big effort and one which Samba worked with extensively. It was a steep learning curve, but it was something that was key to my experience now, having been at the club for the best part of four years.
Turning to Samba, then, can you tell us more about your role here and how your experience client-side will inform it?
I started at the beginning of February, and my role is UK account lead. I’m helping manage client relations with our clients here in the UK. In addition to Everton, we work with Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Liverpool, Leeds United, Norwich City and Chelsea. It’s a really good set of clubs, and the work that Dan (McLaren, Head of UK and Europe) has been great. But at this volume we’ve reached a tipping point and this can really allow us to dominate the UK market, putting the focus on what we can do.
At the moment, people just see us as localization specialists, focusing on content and social. But we want to show what we can do with designs, and with support on the ground as well. We also want to raise awareness of our relationships with influencers and paid media, making our current and potential customers see what we’re capable of bringing to the table. It’s about medium to long-term planning and looking at how what we do today will affect us in the future.
Berita gembira. 😊 pic.twitter.com/Ue5vk0bzct
— Manchester United (@ManUtd_ID) March 20, 2023
We’re in quite a good position at the moment, though. Just this week we’ve started working with Manchester United in Indonesia and Malaysia, and we’re off to a strong start on those. These are the first Asian accounts for UK clubs, and hopefully that can be a big step forward for us, to show what we can do away from LATAM and Portuguese. We’re also hoping to have one or two more clients join us before the end of the season, which is quite exciting.
Finally, how does your perspective having worked client-side inform what you can bring to the role here?
I think from a professional perspective it’s really remarkable to see that the two things are different sides of the same coin. I think that client-side experience is really invaluable — there are a few of us who have that, along with Davide (Cappelli, English social media manager), Jean-Philippe (Dubois, Head of France, Benelux and North Africa) and Carolina (Tha, International Sales Manager).
We all have a different perspective on things, but I think what’s key to understand is that working with Premier League clubs, they’re incredibly aspirational. They want the absolute best in terms of the work that an agency can do, as they are some of the busiest businesses I have ever encountered. Getting time face to face or on a call can be really difficult, so understanding this and knowing the ins and outs has allowed me to change how we communicate with clients and how we operate from a strategic perspective.
Building relationships in this way and maintaining their longevity is really important to the way the agency can be successful. As a part of this, being based in the UK allows me to meet face-to-face with clients, both at their offices and at things like networking events. There’s one coming up in Dublin, for example — being available to amplify what Samba can produce for clients in this way is really crucial.