We chatted with Adrian Wells about the recent Cricket World Cup and how working on a major event with fixed deadlines is so different to anything he’d encountered before…
The key to a successful World Cup campaign is in the squad selection. Everyone has their part to play – whether that’s as the ever-present lock currently playing each and every minute in Japan or a third-choice goalkeeper heading to Qatar in three years’ time seemingly to just warm the bench – everyone commits to the cause with a common goal.
That’s not just the case on the pitch, however. In the lead up to the tournament, the host nation is tasked with building a team that is best suited to delivering a truly successful event. Each World Cup, regardless of sporting discipline, wants to be the biggest and best ever, and whether or not that is achieved comes down to those working tirelessly behind the scenes, who more often than not escape any kind of recognition.
For Adrian Wells, the Cricket World Cup 2019 was a completely new experience. Careers are made from jumping between events, but Adrian had previously only worked in permanent marketing departments at UEFA, the FA and Procter & Gamble – where he was part of the team that launched the memorable Pringoals! campaign. The idea of working to a deadline to deliver a one-off, show-stopping, global event and then move on to a different project was a new challenge.
"I'd never worked or been part of an experience where everybody is so united behind one goal, and it really drives an energy and a passion for the project."
“I’ve not worked on Olympics or FIFA World Cups, but I’ve worked on FA Cups, Champions League and UEFA European Championships – this felt really different,” Adrian explained. “Two years ago we started with a completely blank canvas and from a business development point of view, it’s a really unique position to be in.
“You have to hire brilliant people specifically for the business vision that you’ve built in order to set you up for success. All 120 of us then work to a multi-functional operational plan to get the Cricket World Cup up and running and deliver it. Time doesn’t pause for anybody, so it really brings everyone together.
“I’d never worked or been part of an experience where everybody is so united behind one goal, and it really drives an energy and a passion for the project. There are no promotions, no pay rises, everybody is there purely to make this the best World Cup ever – we went on a journey together for two years, building a team, developing the plan and executing it, and now we’re at the point where everyone leaves for their next role.”
Being so united behind a single goal makes for an interesting working environment towards the end of the project, however. The team Adrian had built, spent two years working to deliver the tournament and on 14th July 2019, when hosts England lifted the trophy in the most dramatic fashion at Lord’s, the closing curtain came down – there was no work left to do.
"We were really clear that getting the right people in would be the best investment of time and resources that we could ever put in."
Such is the nature of projects like these that conversation flows openly among the team about leaving the job at hand. Part of Adrian’s responsibility as Director of Marketing, Communications and Ticketing was to help members of his team move on to their next role – some are now working in Japan on the Rugby World Cup, for example. Tournaments come and go, and so do the people behind them.
We asked Adrian to look back on his career to date and pick his biggest achievement, and his answer came immediately – for him, it was all about the people. “Forming the team for the Cricket World Cup was a huge success. What took me by surprise was that there was very little template to go from, no team and no plan.
“Marketing is one of the things that comes into the process really early, because you need the brand in place to kickstart everything else. In two years, I built a team of 23 people in the marketing, communications and ticketing function, wrote strategy plans, ran agency pitches and built the framework – the first six to nine months in particular were absolutely 24/7.
“We were really clear that getting the right people in would be the best investment of time and resources that we could ever put in. A few times we went back to square one in the recruitment process because we hadn’t found quite the right person. We were under extreme timeline pressure but putting so much focus on hiring really paid off.
“There were three skillsets we outlined, and it went from there. The first was obviously experience of big sporting events, but the second and third were a little more left field. We looked at people with a proven track record in fast-moving consumer goods – that’s my background and it creates a really strategic outlook on things – and those with a great understanding of data. We had a limited marketing budget, so hiring people who could help us maximise it was vital.”
"Most global events create a surge in awareness and engagement before things drop off, but we were desperate to create a platform for growth for the ECB to build on."
Another way in which this project was different, both to what Adrian had experienced and what many others in the sporting world continuously work towards, was that the team were not focusing on building a sporting legacy. The team were a local organising committee that was appointed by the English and Welsh Cricket Board, whose only goal was to deliver the world’s greatest cricket celebration. Everything post-event was the ECB’s responsibility.
They weren't content, though. “We wanted to work collaboratively with the ECB to make sure we were maximising the impact of the tournament. One of the things we’re quite proud of is having set a target of getting one million kids into cricket – we’ve just closed the books with a total of 1.3 million.
“Most global events create a surge in awareness and engagement before things drop off, but we were desperate to create a platform for growth for the ECB to build on. I’m seeing cricket everywhere now – there’s a park opposite my house and I’ve started seeing so many families out there with bats and balls. We were lucky with the Ashes following on, with some pretty epic action there, so cricket is in a really good place.”
I thought recruitment agencies were all the same but The Executives In Sport Group proved me wrong. They are warm, professional and genuine. They really cared about my needs and what I was looking for. I’m over the moon with my new role.