PROFILE: Steve Martin, Ketchum Life: Adidas PR man joins new sports division - Steve Martin has a 'clean sheet' creating a specialist arm at Ketchum Life

To any sports fan, by leaving his post as global PR manager at sportswear goliath Adidas, Steve Martin appears to be saying goodbye to a dream job.

To any sports fan, by leaving his post as global PR manager at sportswear goliath Adidas, Steve Martin appears to be saying goodbye to a dream job.

Yet despite turning his back on one of the world's biggest brands, the football and rugby-loving PRO is staying in sports marketing, launching a specialist division at Ketchum Life.

For a man barely 30 and with just eight years of PR experience behind him, it has been a meteoric rise to the UK board of the Top 15 PR firm. And yet meteoric rises are the mark of Martin's career. As a business student at Manchester Polytechnic a decade ago, he spent a year on secondment to Adidas's UK HQ in its PR department. The 19-year-old impressed staff there so much that he returned as head of UK PR four years later.

The man who recruited him highlights Martin's love of sport as the driver behind his career successes. 'He's a larger than life character, knows the media very well and it is sport that makes him tick. That allows him to be hugely creative in PR solutions for sports clients,' says Adidas UK PR head Robin Money.

Ketchum already has work in this area.

It handles PR for Carlsberg's sponsorship of Liverpool Football Club - by happy coincidence Belfast-born Martin's favourite team.

It also works for the Boat Race and for various sponsorship briefs through MG Rover and Burton Menswear. As a man who has grown used to attending every major sporting event of the last five years, Martin is not going to want for live action in the years to come.

If his sporting obsession is innate, his confidence in the media world is instilled. His family have all been active in the Northern Ireland news media and he was around journalists and PR people from an early age. Martin's sister works for BBC Northern Ireland and his father was a presenter on local BBC radio. While still at primary school, he was told by BBC Ulster head of sport that he was a natural for PR.

That seems to have been born out by his career path to date.

Upon finishing his degree, Martin worked briefly for Hill & Knowlton in Manchester on the 1991 Rugby World Cup. This led to him being offered a spot on the Adidas client team for H&K in London. His boss from that stint, agency director Mary Lee Sachs, says: 'He has a good way of building relationships with clients.

It's one of the reasons he's excelled on the client side.'

There can be little doubt he has excelled. Through proving to sceptical managers at Adidas that there was great value in good PR, he has presided over a ten-fold increase in the company's PR budget. Whereas Adidas was prepared to spend only pounds 50,000 in 1994, the figure nowadays is more like pounds 500,000. In addition to helping boost PR spend, Martin claims the launch of the Predator football boot in 1994 as his greatest success to date. The boots sold out within days of hitting the shops, before the high-profile endorsement ads had even aired.

Martin denies he has become stale by staying in the same company for so long, but he insists it is time to move on: 'I think you can get complacent. In the last three to six months I've felt like I'm in the comfort zone, looking for a new challenge to attack,' he says.

He has found one. He is to launch a sports offering under the expert eye of John Higgins, Ketchum's new UK CEO, who joins from the San Francisco office next month having made his name in exactly that field. 'I was attracted by the 'clean sheet' feel of it.

I'm not filling anyone's shoes. If it goes well it will be down to me - and if it goes wrong I will take responsibility,' he says.

Unusually for someone making the switch from in-house to agency life, the work is likely to be less physically demanding. For the last couple of years, Martin has travelled overseas at least once a week. Although he envisages working hard in the new role, he is also looking forward to getting a part of his life back.

Working with the likes of David Beckham, Tim Henman, Denise Lewis or the All Blacks rugby team means the job at Adidas had a certain glamour associated with it. And yet this does not seem to be his motivation. Martin is a typical PRO with atypical talents. He loves getting his clients coverage and seems to be very good at it.

He has on his desk a pile of newspapers with a Mirror front page among them, the splash being a picture of Beckham filming the new Adidas advert. Martin was instrumental in this PR coup. This is the talent that Ketchum has to look forward to.



HIGHLIGHTS

1992

Account manager, Hill & Knowlton

1996

UK PR manager, Adidas

1999

Global PR manager , Adidas

2001

Director, Ketchum Life.



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