From advertising agency to sports marketing
In 1986 I had just received my Rota qualification and was about to leave for New York for a three-month secondment to DDB, when I got a phone call from Maarten de Vos, Inter Football’s managing director. Maarten, a creative visionary, asking me to work for Inter Football doing the sport marketing. It was the first time (but certainly not the last) that I felt the emotional appeal of sport, so I followed my heart and not my head. Back then, I couldn’t have guessed that I still would be ‘alive and kicking’ in the world of sport 30 years later. And let me be clear about it: we did have some setbacks, but no regrets!
JM Smulders BV
I soon realised that Maarten was way ahead of his time, and we came to the conclusion that we had a long road ahead of us. I started with Ajax as my account and was able to develop a lot of new ideas. Other clubs, such as FC Groningen, FC Utrecht, Vitesse, and Feyenoord, followed, as did the KNVB. Maarten had another hobby apart from marketing: coaching football players. This created negative effects on some of the marketing activities, which he decided to accept. Opposing views between Maarten and me on how to continue working together, made it necessary to end our collaboration. After 4 years, and by then manager of an organisation with almost 50 employees, I had to leave Inter Football. In 1990 I started JM Smulders BV (really creative, isn’t it?), and initiated many fantastic sport projects and organisations. (see the cases).
During all those years, I had the honour of working with the greatest sports coaches of our country: Johan Cruijff (the only football visionary the world has known; a great guy), Louis van Gaal (one of a kind, and an example for others socially), Joop Alberda (the sports professor who can at times make his unique knowledge too complex, so people drop out), Toon Gerbrands (someone who brings people together; because of his calmness people want to do him a favour, something he would never take advantage of), Bert Goedkoop (the volleyball pioneer from day one). I would have loved to include Ton Boot in this list: delightfully controversial and headstrong, but he twice refused to accept the challenge of becoming the national basketball coach. Of course, I have also met many managers. Some of them became more than business contacts, in particular Uri Colonel, who died before his time, and Hein Bloks.
The new generation
I always like to collaborate with young people who have the right attitude: who are willing to learn, but who also contribute fresh points of view; in short: who are able to surprise me. Think of the great impact that social media have on sport, and of which young people try to keep me informed (with reasonable success). At SportVibes in The Hague, with which I work in close collaboration, I am surrounded by young people. It helps you stay young at heart and you pick up new ideas. During the coming years, I’d like to help young people in particular, to further their careers and to make them realize what a great job they have. In this way, I hope to add a few interesting projects to my own list as well.