Interviews

Daniel Macaulay: "We all grew up in the sector that we are working in"

8 min read

21 June 2013

Brandwave works with leading athletes and brands in the sports market. Founder Daniel Macaulay shares some of the agency's big plans.

Name:

Daniel Macaulay

Role and Company:

I run a specialist sports marketing creative agency called Brandwave.

I’m founder, director and proud member of the target market!

Employee numbers:

Currently we have ten full time staff and three part time staff. Collectively, we draw on over 60 years of combined industry experience. The in-house expertise that we have developed means that we can offer a full creative and strategic service to all the brands we work with. From enthusiastic amateurs to Olympic athletes, everyone who works for us comes from a dedicated sports background. This means that we genuinely understand our client’s target market because we are their target market.

Growth forecast for next three years:

We’re aiming to be just over three times our current size in three years’ time. It’s a pretty ambitious growth plan, given the current state of the retail market but we’ve invested heavily in broadening our skills and services over the past few years and we’ve become widely respected as an industry leader within our sector.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive?

Our IP is our USP… There are plenty of creative agencies around but what makes us really distinctive is that we all grew up in the sector that we are working in and we live and breathe it every day. We’re not on the outside looking in as so many of our competitors are.

What’s the big vision for your business?

Currently we work with many of the leading global brands, athletes, and associations in the sports market. We’ve gained the respect of these clients by really understanding their products and the mindset of their target markets. Moving forward, we would like to work with more mainstream car, drinks, cosmetics, and electronics brands. A lot of these sectors are currently targeting the sports markets but many of them get it all wrong. With our core market IP, I believe that these are the types of brands where we will be able to demonstrate the most value to in the future and also where the most growth will come from.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

Currently, about 50 per cent of our clients are based outside the UK, mainly in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland. A lot of sports brands have global head quarters in the US and this is where we will need to go in order to become a truly global agency.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

Probably my biggest set back was not getting paid for three global campaigns a few years ago… It was a client that we liked and trusted at the time and it really shocked me how quickly someone can turn to save their own skin. Thankfully, we did manage to get paid in the end but it took over a year and luckily, we were liquid enough to survive it. The whole experience made us a lot more careful with our credit terms, we now get a lot more in writing, and pay more attention to the warning signs. It was definitely a career setback but we learned from it and ultimately, it made us stronger.

What makes you mad in business today?

Lack of a clear direction and good leadership in businesses. A bad decision is better than indecision. The most successful clients that we work with know exactly where they want to go and how they’re going to get there. When they brief us as their agency, it’s always a clear and concise brief and the feedback is always logical and constructive. 

When a company doesn’t have a clear direction, it’s like a cancer that affects everyone who works for them. They generally don’t know who they are, what their USP is, and who their target market is. They will never be happy with any creative that any agency provides for them because at the most basic level, they don’t know what they want. 

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

There are a lot of more niche sports that have become mainstream over the past year and I think that they will continue to grow over the next three years due to their high level of accessibility. In particular, sports such as road biking, running, and triathlon and seen huge growth levels. 

The participants in these sports are generally a little bit older, more educated, and have higher levels of income. The new consumers are also a lot more savvy and educated about the products that they are buying. They read the reviews and the blogs and they’re a lot less likely to be swayed by “marketing bullshit”. 

We’ve already seen a lot of the more superficial “pseudo sports brands” suffer in the past twelve months and I think that this will continue to be the case. Having a decent quality product and a clear USP is now more important than ever.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance that they need? If not, what can be done to improve things?

A lot of the businesses in our sector have grown organically and have sustainable business models. The difficulty for most creative agencies at the moment is regular work and long-term commitment from clients. If you can’t demonstrate exactly where new business is going to come from, it is a lot more difficult to access finance.

How would others describe your leadership style?

Relaxed, empowering, and progressive.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

Haha… surfboards and surf trips to warmer waters, no question about it!

You have got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to make the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper.

I’d tell him about “the aggregation of marginal gains” it was a management philosophy used by Sir David Brailsford when he coached the British Cycling Team for the London 2012 Olympics. It basically means that instead of trying to make a large improvement to any one element, you make lots of small improvements to lots of different elements and the overall improvement will be massive… Instead of continually inventing new initiatives and broad sweeping changes to get votes, concentrate on improving the details. It’s a damn good philosophy for any individual, company or government!