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Simplicity is best, Northern Ireland boss of top ad agency tells pupils

By Rachel Martin

Published 19/02/2016

Steve Martin and Michael Lowry
Steve Martin and Michael Lowry
Steve Martin playing for Inst prep school in 1981.

The Belfast-born boss of one of the world's biggest advertising agencies has said marketing should be "brutally simple".

Former Royal Belfast Academical Institution pupil Steve Martin returned to the school yesterday to award his company's first Elite Sports Scholarship.

Mr Martin, from south Belfast, is chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, and in his career has counted Coca-Cola, Adidas, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and the All Blacks among his clients.

He joined sportswear brand Adidas in the 1990s, fresh out of Manchester University and was involved in the signing of David Beckham to the brand.

He said the footballer was an "incredible" person and added: "He's humble - confident but never arrogant."

Mr Martin said he believed it was important to foster those same qualities in young people.

In 1995, he became Adidas UK's head of public relations, and two years later he was made senior global public relations manager.

Mr Martin joined M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment in 2004 as CEO.

Despite living in England for 27 years, Mr Martin said he was proud to be Northern Irish and had fond memories of playing outhalf for the Inst rugby team - the same position as Michael Lowry, the first winner of the scholarship.

Mr Martin said: "I want to build more confidence in young people. We get the idea that outside of here is this big bad world, but it's sometimes the other way round. We need to encourage them while they are young."

As part of the scholarship award, Michael Lowry will spend the summer working with M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment in London.

Mr Martin said: "There is nothing like working in an industry where you have got passion.

"Sports branding is interesting as it has to talk to such a big audience. Sports fans have a wide range of interests that transcend sports, such as food and diets - and as a marketer that's good to tap into.

"Social media has changed the whole game. It used to be that I was always looking to get coverage in the newspapers, now the brand itself has to be also putting things out there."

And his overall message was that marketing should be simple.

"It needs to be the simplest it can be," Mr Martin told the school meeting. "It needs to catch people's attention and engage with them."

Brands need to be able to engage with people, he added.

Belfast Telegraph

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