‘The Engine Room’ aims to build the profile of Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) staff members and provide interesting insights into what it is like to be part of the team working on two iconic international events, the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Phillip Island.
Arthur Gillion - General Manager, Marketing
1. You haven’t always worked in major events; how did you get to where you are today?
I have had an interesting journey that is for sure. One of my earliest jobs was a perfume guy at Harrods department store in London. Picture Joey from Friends as the Hombre guy, that was me. Following that, I had five years at Powerboat P1, marketing a powerboat championship across Europe, and then launching a new Powerboat series called ‘SuperStock’ in the UK and USA. Then I made the move to Australia after falling in love with an Aussie who wanted to return home. Turned out to be one of my greatest moves! After three months of networking like crazy, I was lucky enough to land a role as Marketing Manager of Melbourne Victory Football Club, a powerhouse club in the A-League, and now General Manager – Marketing at the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. I am very grateful for all the jobs I have had, the people I have met, and the skills I learnt from everyone along the journey. A few things that stick out at each role:
Perfume Guy at Harrods – all about the customer! I learnt the importance of customer service, going the extra mile and the power of the in-store experience as one of the most important brand touchpoints. At Harrods, it didn’t matter where you worked in the store, you were the face of Harrods and there was a brand standard you had to uphold, plus everyone was considered an information desk, so even though I may have been trying to sell you Princess by Vera Wang I could tell you where to get the best bacon and cheese roll, or how to buy an elephant or a hovercraft. No, seriously!
Marketing Executive at Powerboat P1 – I learnt the importance of brand consistency and the importance of being able to adapt campaigns in a local market. From Tunisia, to Italy, to Malta, to Spain, to Portugal and to Sweden, there were different audiences, expectations and target segments to attract fans to watch what we liked to call ‘The Formula 1 of the Sea’. Fast forward ten years, this came in handy!
Marketing Manager at Melbourne Victory – a fond time in my career working for the biggest club in the A-League, which was going through a growth phase from participation to gate attendance to membership. It was here where I learnt and applied the importance of data and understanding your fans, to not only understand how to improve their experience year-on-year and retain them but also to understand what it took to turn one interaction and experience into long-term loyalty.
Now in my current role, I am continuing to refine my skills in leadership, strategy, stakeholder management and alignment to the global ambitions of F1® and MotoGP™, Government, Visit Victoria and many other important partners. Now more than ever has been the time to collaborate and strive for a common goal to get the major events industry back, boost the economy, help define the narrative of Melbourne and Victoria and give people some joy, entertainment and one hell of an experience, that makes Melbourne such a unique and enviable city!
Some of the things that I always try and achieve in a job:
• Make meaningful connections and build solid relationships both internally and externally. Networking is key to making it in your chosen industry. It is a small world, so never burn bridges.
• Always leave the place better than you find it. Push to leave a legacy or something to be remembered by.
• Whilst you’re in a job, always ask yourself: “if I was to leave this year, what are the things I wish I had learned or done?”, and try your hardest to achieve them.
• Be nice, be kind, be empathetic. I never believed in ‘nice guys finish last’.
• Get to know yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses, and surround yourself with people that can help your weaknesses and harness your strengths.
• Do not be a micro-manager. Set direction and let your team free!
2. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated unprecedented change among many industries, tell us your experience working in Marketing during this time.
This has no doubt been the most challenging time to be in marketing, especially after two cancelled events and planning for an environment that is continuously changing. However, I have enjoyed the challenge.
One thing we wanted to focus on, was getting our house in order, looking at some of the processes and systems we could improve and our ways of working. We were able to use this time to do a full website redesign for both our F1® and MotoGP™ event websites and the UX is incredible (If you’re reading this, you are experiencing it).
After the cancelled events and time with no F1® or MotoGP™ racing, the team were focused on keeping the brand lights on and continuing to engage with our fans and develop new and innovative ways to do this. From various social media initiatives and new video content, to the new podcast series ‘In the Fast Lane’, to ‘AusGP Beats’ (a new music playlist series), to some of the crucial behind-the-scenes work, such as strengthening the quality of our database and creating new revenue-generating opportunities, the team smashed this one out of the park and a lot of our digital numbers were higher than when we had racing…a great achievement.
Then we look to 2021 in an ever-changing environment. The focus was on strategy and like always starting with research, insights, our brand positioning, segmentation and exploring tactics to achieve business objectives. But instead of planning for one event scenario, we were planning for three in varying COVID-19 scenarios, and still are. Our fans, both core and growth, have been at the heart of all decisions, from the campaign, to the event experience, content served to them and the development of new and innovative products fans can expect in March, all aligning to the global brand of F1®, but telling our local story, celebrating Melbourne and Victoria, and collaborating with partners to bring the event to life.
I am really proud of the team and how they have risen to the challenge and we are excited to deliver an exceptional fan experience at the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix in March and the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in October.
3. Has the period of uncertainty throughout the COVID-19 pandemic changed your leadership style?
My leadership style has not changed too much, but I have dialled up areas that suit this environment. A few areas that stand out to me:
• Humour. Using humour and having a positive mindset. This can be hard at times, and there is of course a time and place when humour is not appropriate, but to create a fun environment in the workplace and make sure your team are supported is so important. I have never been afraid to embarrass myself, so delivering virtual staff meetings as Ron Burgundy (Anchorman) and David Attenborough was just another day in the office for me, but I hope it lifted people’s spirits.
• Safety. Always being open, honest, empathetic, and transparent, which has been important during uncertain times. Creating a safe environment for the team, building a sense of togetherness, and understanding that we will get through it – it’s going to be tough, but we will get through it – was important.
• Listen. Paying attention to the personalities and profiles of my team and adapting communication styles and ways of working to suit them. Some have thrived in the working-from-home environment, some need more clarity and direction, and some just need a good chat and a laugh to lift their spirits. Every leader must adapt to get the best out of their staff and really listen.
• Clarity. A focus on clear direction and the deliverables of each member of the team, which is challenging in this ever-evolving environment, but sometimes you have to break it down to smaller tasks that lead to the bigger picture.
• Connections. Talking to different people in different organisations to share knowledge and learn from each other. This has been a consistent theme through COVID-19 and the industry has really come together to help Melbourne and Victoria bounce back, stimulate the economy and provide some amazing experiences for fans.
4. Being a dad and working in a senior role in a high-pressure environment, how do you achieve work-life balance?
I think the role of dad has changed over the past five years, and the areas I try to focus on is being present when I am at home – focusing on work when it’s work time and being a dad when its home time – and not trying to do the two at the same time, which was incredibly challenging during lockdown. Also finding time to focus on yourself is really important, a better you is better for them!
This balance was challenged significantly during lockdown. There were times when I failed miserably and times where I felt that I was on a roll. As work life merged with home life for almost 10 weeks, one of the things I tried to do was involve my daughter Isla in my work. This included things like letting her join some of my virtual meetings with my team, and we even made some of her play about F1® and MotoGP™. One day we created the ultimate event circuit (through the eyes of Isla), so of course there was a lot of pink and a music stage on the lake with people watching music on inflatable flamingos (which I thought was awesome actually), and watched some of the MotoGP™ and F1® races (replays) with her, win-win right? She likes to yell “Avocado” (Ricciardo) when she sees Dan, loves Lewis, and the name Bottas and she yells “Go Jack and Cal!” (she is Australian and English after all).
Self-care is important too. I get up early every morning at about 5.30am. I either run, do weights in my garage or do an F45 class, followed by walking the dog listening to a podcast. This gets me into the right frame of mind to attack my day. It’s remarkable the difference it makes when I do not exercise or get out of the house in the morning.
5. What or who has been your greatest influence in your career and why?
My mum and dad, hands down. My dad is a vicar, now Bishop, and my mum was a teacher and now works with my dad. They have had an incredible life, full of adventure which has always been about helping others. From their prison ministry in Hong Kong, to founding intermission Youth Theatre in London, which used the church as a safe place for kids at risk of offending to learn drama - mainly Shakespeare - to have a positive impact on their lives, to their five-year adventure in Narrandera, Australia, where they travelled around the vast Riverina Diocese connecting the outback communities. There was a consistent theme to their journey, they always had a vision, they knew what they stood for, they knew who they were trying to help and they knew what they needed to do to make people’s lives better. Pretty much what most marketers are trying to achieve. I always joked with my dad, that essentially, we had the same job, but with some very, very different objectives.
From a professional influence, Mark Ritson, one of the greatest marketers, with a no bullsh*t approach and one of the most inspiring people to listen and learn from. He is a genius, and one I could listen to all day. If you haven’t checked him out…do, he will make you a better marketer.
6. What advice do you have for any young marketers wanting to work in motorsport and/or major events?
Establish some clear goals for yourself that include personal, professional development and career goals to establish what Simon Sinek would call your ‘Major Definitive Purpose’.
Something I did when I got to Melbourne, not knowing a single soul, was network like crazy. I made a list of all the organisations I wanted to work for and one by one I started reaching out to them all, meeting for coffees, chatting on LinkedIn and with each interaction I tried to demonstrate what I stood for, my skills and my ambitions. I am still in contact with many of the people I reached out to almost 10 years ago.
Do internships, do anything to get your foot in the door. I started off as an intern at Powerboat P1 and became a Marketing Manager in two years, and it all came from that first opportunity. If you want to chat to me, I am always happy to meet up and help young people trying to break into the industry. I also love learning from younger often smarter people. There is no age limit when it comes to learning, I am learning every day from the youngest members of my team! They rock.
Keep learning – enrol in online courses, read, watch, and listen, soak up knowledge from people in the industry, whose content is easy to find.
Last one, I know this sounds cliché, but you can achieve your goals, if you set them, put your mind to it and work as hard as you can to achieve them. Keep fighting for what you really want – life is too short! I was always an underdog when it came to getting my jobs, and each organisation I have worked with took a risk with me, and I hope they feel the risk paid off. There will always be someone out there with more experience than you, but work out your point of difference, learn as much as you can about your craft and the industries you want to work in, network and refine your interview skills. This will give you a good shot at that dream job!