The success of Two Circles is an example of how the evolving world of professional services is breaking down the barriers between industries. Our management consultancy columnist Mick James interviews CEO and co-founder Matt Rogan.

The relationship between sport and business has traditionally been a bit one-sided. Businessmen are always willing to sit at the feet of sports people to learn about things like leadership, performance and goal setting. But sport does not always return the compliment: it’s an area where decision making is often swayed by strong emotions, and commercial success is in many ways only a means to an end.

Can sport raise its game in this digital era? Chief executive and co-founder of award winning agency Two Circles, Matt Rogan, believes it can. Originally a strategy consultant, he moved into sport after completing a project with Newcastle United and finding he “didn’t have the heart to go back”. This led him to become commercial director of Olympic athlete Adrian Moorhouse’s consultancy Lane4, which inspired him to create his own business.

“I thought it would be incredible to do something like that,” he says. “Lane4 was about taking the best of sport and applying it to business. I set up Two Circles to bring the best of business into sport, to bring some rigour around data and decision making into sport."

Data is the key to Two Circles’ approach, which is essentially about using the data sports organisations hold on their customers to drive decisions across all the various revenue streams they have. Rogan characterises the business as combining elements of strategy consultancy, data analysis and direct marketing.

“That’s quite powerful as we can act as an outsourced member of the direct marketing team,” says Rogan. “The average football club, for instance, has FTSE levels of data but has the revenues and marketing and commercial teams of an SME.”

A football club will also in effect be several different businesses, combining revenue from such diverse areas as ticketing, sponsorship, TV rights and catering.

“They’ve never pulled that data together, never genuinely understood what that customer base looks like, “ says Rogan. “Just by pulling that information together and having all that accumulation of knowledge can fundamentally change the way we deal with you as a fan.”

By combining transactional and attitudinal data, sports organisations can begin to fine tune their customer base, understanding the importance, for instance, of having season ticket holders with the need to allow the maximum number of people to be exposed to the sport.

One important result of this is that it allows sports clubs to have much more sophisticated conversations with sponsors in terms of what their respective customer bases are really like.

Rogan says the big chance in UK sports marketing came from the 2012 Olympics.
“The Olympics is quite a unique beast: there are no adverts around the venues or on terrestrial TV,” he says. “At the same time London 2012 were looking for £80m sponsorship deals. The message from the chairman and CEOs was that they could spend £80m on this or make an acquisition so they needed to make smart business decisions.”

The work Two Circles is doing is an extension of the sort of business modelling that can underpin those decisions. As a result, he says, “traditional sports marketing is being blown apart – there’s a real shakeout in the traditional bastions of sports marketing”.

Two Circles’ three-pronged approach sets it apart both from traditional agencies but also from the IT world, where Rogan believes the big systems integrators will struggle to understand the nuances of sport. While the firm depends very heavily on technical skills, Rogan says it is hard to find people who can understand the nuances of the sporting world.
“100% of the people who apply can do the job but only 15% have the emotional intelligence to work in an environment that is deeply resistant to change,” he says.

Recruitment and retention is therefore central to Two Circles’ own success and Rogan and his co-founders have been keen to avoid the pitfalls that small consultancies and agencies often encounter. “We wanted this to be a start-up that was run like a £10 million business,” he says. A key early decision was for Rogan himself to step back from client work and concentrate on running and growing the business. Two Circles now has 45 full-time staff and Rogan believes the firm can triple in size in the next three years.

Two Circles is an interesting example of the way that the evolving world of professional services is breaking down the barriers between industries: each of the elements of its proposition, strategic thinking, data analytics, direct marketing delivery and deep subject matter expertise reinforces the other, yet would normally be sealed off from each other in silos. What other opportunities are out there for people who are willing to expand their thinking?


All views expressed in this article are those of Mick James and do not necessarily reflect the views of and

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