Ben finally reviews his experiences in America, where he worked as the Marketing Director for FanTravel
Ok, so this is a bit late; I returned from Seattle a month ago now. In my defence, I’d like to point out how much fun I had during my last 6 weeks in Seattle and how much effort it takes to relocate back to the UK, move to Brighton, start a new job at TUI Travel House and have a fantastic holiday in Greece!
However, I’m now back in the office and feeling settled enough to start getting on with my grad “chores”… i.e. this blog and the numerous HR forms/reviews that I keep forgetting to complete (sorry Jen!). As most of the HR forms are now up to date, I thought I’d better update this blog before I finish another placement.
FanTravel, the TUI North American Division and Seattle together made a great placement. I was warmly welcomed from the start, nicknamed “Trey”, as I was the 3rd British Ben on the grad scheme to work in Seattle in a row! (Tre = 3 in Italian), and even ended up taking my boss’ 6 and 9 yr old boys skiing! The Americans truly are a friendly bunch and I was amazed at their hospitality. So if any of you are reading this, thank you.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, at FanTravel I was responsible for the Marketing. Although most of the TUI North American employees thought I was an intern, I’d like to confirm that I’m a full time TUI employee and actually had a huge amount of responsibility at FanTravel. In 3 short months, this is what I did:
- Created a Marketing Strategy for FanTravel (including: Brand guide, Style guide, Marketing plan/schedule and Budget).
- Designed and produced marketing materials (FanTravel T-shirts, and team specific Bottle Openers and Flyers)
- Sourced licence free imagery for the website
- Created a social media campaign (Facebook page, Facebook competition and Facebook ad campaign)
- Coordinated the Spring Game Road Trip and launched FanTravel across America
The highlight of the placement was the Spring Game Road Trip, during which Brian (Co-founder) and I visited 8 different universities (“colleges” in American) across the Western States, namely: Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and USC (see http://blog.fantravel.com for the full story!). The aim of the trip was to build relationships with key contacts and launch the brand at 8 of our 12 target universities in a month. It was a monumental task, during which we worked almost 7am – 10pm every day, moved to a new town every 3 days and spent almost every minute together.
Brian and I would eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together, share a hotel room, attend meetings together, travel together and socialise together every day for a month! Fortunately Brian is an easy going guy and we got on well the whole time. In fact, by the end of the trip I began referring to him as my “life partner”… We had a fantastic time, working hard and playing hard at every opportunity. This helped to develop our own team dynamic, led to the generation of more ideas for the business and enabled us to gain valuable insights into each destination.
The overall experience taught me huge amounts about the importance of building personal relationships in order to forge business partnerships, developed my ability to align my sales pitch to whoever I was talking to and also how to succeed in a completely different cultural environment.
Initially the FanTravel project was very tough. I was tasked with creating and implementing a marketing strategy for a company that I didn’t know, about a sport I didn’t know, marketing to a culture that I didn’t know. It was like an American coming to the UK and being tasked with marketing a new university rugby travel company to the Brits… after only 1 day in the country, before ever seeing a rugby match! Furthermore, I had no idea what a marketing plan/strategy looked like. It was a challenge to say the least.
However, after 3 months there I was very proud of what I had achieved. I have left a solid marketing plan in place, successfully launched the brand and have high hopes for the future of FanTravel. The road trip provided a great opportunity for me to really get to know the American college football culture and I left wishing I could stay longer as I now have a clear vision of how FanTravel will work (and who they’ll be selling to!).
Alas, I was unable to extend the placement any longer (unlike this blog post – don’t worry it’s almost over) and returned to the UK with very mixed feelings. I was extremely sad to have left the great friends that I made in Seattle and to have to drop the FanTravel project when we were on such a roll. However, it was also a great feeling to return home. Life in America was a lot of fun, but it was also stressful. The 8 hour time difference made communicating with anyone in the UK difficult, the culture is completely different, the supermarkets are weird and the job was a challenge. So it was nice to finally relax when I got back to the UK, even though I long to go back.
Below is a photographic record of some of the highlights of the placement.