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Interviews

INTERVIEW: Looking forward to getting on board

5 June 2015

Sales and Marketing Director Phil King on taking up his new post

Carlisle United’s new Sales and Marketing Director Phil King spoke to the official website on Thursday afternoon about his delight at being able to take up a key role with the club ahead of the 2015/16 season. 

“This is a new challenge which I am very much looking forward to,” he told us. “I’m delighted that I’ll be part of the team which will be helping Carlisle United to grow and develop its commercial and marketing presence within the community.

“I’m coming into the club at the end of June and I know I’m going to have to hit the ground running. It’s one of the busiest periods in football for the operational and commercial side of the business, but that’s no bad thing. 

“I’ve been looking for a while now at where the club is with season ticket sales and with its commercial partnerships, sponsorship and advertising openings. It all looks positive, as things stand, and it will be a case of gearing up and pushing on towards the first home game and then on into the season ahead.”

On his background, he said: “I’ve been involved in football for well over five years now and I can honestly say there isn’t an industry like it. 

“I’ve worked at the Sunderland Football Club Foundation of Light and it has given me a very good and in-depth insight into the business. The Foundation is essentially the charity arm of the club and my role has very much been on the commercial side of it, particularly since we restructured the way we did things three years ago.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Sunderland, because I’ve been part of some great things over the last six years or so, but this is a good opportunity for me to come in and make a really positive impact. Hopefully I’ll be able to help what is a very good football club push forward.”

“The Foundation at Sunderland is probably the largest in the Premier League and it’s also one of the largest in the world in terms of football charities,” he explained. “It’s most definitely ahead of the game with the work it does and my role was very much centred on creating links with local and national businesses to maximise every aspect of what we were able to do.

“Hand-in-hand with that I had a role in liaising with the football club to keep them involved and included as much as possible. We were part of Sunderland AFC, but to all intents and purposes we were an independent organisation. It was therefore extremely important to build and maintain a strong link between the two organisations. 

“I was involved in a lot of working and strategy groups which dealt with commercial activity with the club, and it became a very positive and productive working atmosphere. It was a job I found to be both challenging and rewarding, to be honest. 

“It was a great organisation to work for, with fantastic colleagues doing some really good work, and we were able to utilise a lot of the good will and support we found in the area. I think there are lessons and practices learned from all of that which I can bring across to Carlisle, certainly in terms of working with local businesses and making the most of what we have. We can do that by engaging the local community, be that through business people or, just as importantly, with the fans.”

“The business arena has been difficult for everyone, with the economic situation we’ve faced over the last few years, and it has become even more important for everyone to maximise the impact of everything they do within their organisation,” he continued. “The commercial side of any business is tasked with generating income and it isn’t an area you can stand still with. 

“You can’t wait for people to come to you and you can’t rely on hand-outs all the time. At the Foundation in Sunderland we held events which were sponsored by local businesses and we had corporate events which were really well supported. We need to tap into that kind of good will over here.

“I do feel it’s a club which is punching below its weight on and off the pitch. Like I say, I’m looking forward to playing my part in helping all of that to grow. From the outside looking in at the position the club is in we can definitely say that things can be done better than what they are at the moment.

“That isn’t meant to be negative about anything, in any way, because it’s going to be a case of building on some of the good work that’s already been done so that we can all move forward over the next few years. It’s a big opportunity for me to come in and have an impact and to help the club grow its commercial presence.”

On taking the step down from the Premier League to League Two, he said: “I’ve been lucky enough to be with Sunderland when they’ve been in the Premier League and the fact that Carlisle are in League Two hasn’t factored into my thought process at all. 

“Things don’t change whatever level you’re at. All you can do is the best for the club, in your area of responsibility, and what happens on the pitch is then what happens on the pitch. If things are being done well within the commercial, marketing, hospitality and other areas of the club then I don’t think it really matters what level of the football pyramid you’re at. 

“If anything, the commercial activity becomes more apparent and more valuable as you move up. There’s definitely an opportunity for me to help to strengthen our position at Brunton Park because the foundations are already there.”

“There’s definitely a lot to learn and get to grips with about the club but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” he added. “I’ll very quickly set my priorities and goals once I’ve seen everything, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into.

“Without going into the finer details, I think I’ve already seen areas where we can improve. I came to a couple of games at the back end of last season, just to get a bit of a feel for the place, and that allowed me to take a look at the club from the perspective of being a fan and a customer.

“There were things I felt we could do to improve the match day experience and to make sure the fans are getting the level of service they expect and deserve. It all goes hand-in-hand because if we’re looking after our businesses, sponsors, partners and fans in the right way, with top quality service, then they are more likely to want to come back and support us again. 

“I know season ticket sales are better than they were last season and that’s something I want to see grow year on year and, as far as ticket sales are concerned, I would like that to increase match by match. Those are some of the main areas I’ll be focusing on.”

And on the approach he is going to take, he said: “I think fans are the same up and down the country. They want to know what’s going on at their football club and I think, coming from the north east, it’s fair to say that the clubs based across the north of the country - Carlisle United included - are right at the heart of their communities. 

“I don’t think you can always have an open book, but the communication lines should be open and we should be looking for opinions and comments from our fans on their experiences as much as possible. It’s always much more productive, in my opinion, if you have two-way conversations. Social media is central to that and for a football club it’s an easy and effective way of getting messages in and out. 

“Sunderland have just won an award as Facebook Football Club of the Year for the commercial campaigns they’ve been running on social media, and I see no harm in taking some of their best practices, along with some from other clubs, and putting them in place over here. All in all I’m just looking forward to getting on board and to getting on with the job.”

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