Profile: Nike head of experiential marketing

Sarah Jeffery of Nike finds the biggest challenges most exciting.

Sarah Jeffery
Sarah Jeffery

It is difficult to know what to expect from the head of experiential marketing for a global sports brand such as Nike, but when Sarah Jeffery breezes into the room dressed in a hoodie, blue jeans and Nike trainers, it makes perfect sense. She may have followed a somewhat unconventional path into events - having worked both in retail and theme park management before joining Nike in 2000 - but Jeffery couldn't be a better advocate for the brand.

How many events do you organise each year? Usually about ten. The best way to explain it is that they fall under different tiers. We tend to do one or two big tier-one campaigns, a few tier-two events such as the Here I Am event we produced to empower women, and several tier-three events, which we call our seeding events. These include store openings and shopping centre events.

What type of events do you organise? For the past ten months I've been heading up the world's largest running event, Nike Plus Human Race. The 2008 event saw up to one million people race on the same day in 25 cities and featured a big, show-based production. I've also managed Run London for the past six years, which allows participants to embrace the city in a way they wouldn't usually.

How many people are in your team? We're actually one of the only sports brands to have its own in-house events team. There are two permanent members of staff including myself, and one additional member who's been helping us out this year. We also have the opportunity to call on the experience of our three main event agencies, which gives us a virtual team of ten to 12 people.

How often do you outsource events? Whenever we do events of any size or scale we call on that virtual team. We have three main agencies we have worked with for the past six to eight years: Slice takes care of the show production side for events such as the Human Race; Limelight deals with the logistics of mass participation events such as Run London; and we have worked with CPM on a lot of our football and early Run London events.

What is your biggest challenge in producing events? If you're an event manager in London, the biggest struggle is with the amount of events going on. Your main aspiration is to find the next big thing, the best venue or the latest route, and that can be a challenge.

How do you see the credit crunch affecting your events? We have to ask ourselves what are the things we need to keep doing to make sure that when the situation turns around we're in a great position. Of course, we are watching that bottom line, but there are two massive tier-one campaigns that I'm already working on for next year.

What was the most hostile audience you have faced and how did you counter it? I must say I've never been faced with a hostile audience. Anyone who takes part in a Nike event does so because they believe in what they're involved with, they know what to expect. When Nike says it's going to deliver an event you know it will be bells and whistles; we leave nothing to chance.

What is the best event you have organised? Sadistically, the harder the challenge the more excitement I have, so it would have to be Nike Run London 2005. It was the first-ever night-running event incorporating iconic London landmarks to be held in the capital, and we managed to get Tower Bridge closed. It took us 16 months to procure the route alone. That for me was a very exciting challenge.

1990: Management, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures
1993: Manager, Disney and Gap
2000: Store manager, Nike Retail
2002: Head of experiential marketing, Nike, UK and Ireland

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