We took 5 minutes to catch up with our Commercial Operations Director Jayne Carmichael, on how she’s finding the Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa, her trip highlights and where we can find her when she’s not working.

Describe your career in 5 words

Entertaining. Global. Diverse. Challenging. Stimulating.

You are currently Commercial Operations Director for the Castle Lager Lions Series. Can you tell us a bit about what your role entails and what CSM is delivering on the ground for the tour in South Africa?

Commercial Operations for the Castle Lager Lions Series has substantially differed since we first started working on the Tour pre-COVID.

What would have had a large focus on commercial ticketing, hospitality and match day activation quickly developed into finding ways to deliver added value for Partners through supplementary branding and virtual experiences.

From navigating countless COVID protocols, writing RFP’s, supplier management, organising the Lions Player Admin Day, leading the commercial operations for the Lions Home Match at Murrayfield Stadium, to implementing virtual in-bowl branding for the first time on a Lions Tour, no day has been the same in this role.

Branding forms a large part of the day-to-day delivery including everything from training ground branding and equipment, broadcast interviews, perimeter boards, LED’s, team changing rooms, coaches boxes, pitch kits, team buses to match balls.

With 26 commercial Partners sitting across the Series, the team are continuing to excel in Partner management and delivery of commercial rights. Due to all Partner access to team bubbles being restricted, we’ve delivered over 100 commercial virtual events, player and staff appearances for both Lions and Springboks since the start of the Tour period.

Jonny and Jamie are engrained in the Lions team camp, whilst Alice, Charlotte F and I are in the SA Rugby Event Services operations camp. Tom Wom, Charlotte P and Charlie are holding the fort back in the UK assisting with all things Partner management.

Jayne Carmichael

The Lions Tour is one of the most prestigious sporting events. How has your experience been in South Africa so far? What have been your highlights?

Whilst the experience in South Africa has certainly been different from our usual international ventures, we’ve been able to make the most of the opportunity and adapt to the ever-changing challenges the pandemic is bringing.

I feel incredibly lucky to be one of a small number of people able to experience the Series in person. Whilst it’s gutting not to hear the spine-tingling chants from the Lions sea of red in the stadium or the army of green supporters, the behind closed doors scenario is bringing a new perspective to watching rugby. From hearing every momentous hit on the pitch, to feeling the tension boiling over on the subs bench, it’s been a unique experience that won’t be forgotten.

Getting to know a new country, language, people and culture for each international event is what I love most about this job. We’ve been in a locked down bubble for the majority of time in South Africa, but we’ve been able to brush up on our Afrikaans, sample lots of braais and South African wine (in between national alcohol bans) and enjoy some of the vistas of Cape Town.

Being part of a remarkable team of people from CSM, SARES and the Lions who have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to get this point has been a huge highlight. Organising a Lions Tour in a global pandemic is no mean feat and something everyone involved should be very proud of. And we have an incredible finale in store. With everything to play for this weekend, the deciding Test is set to be a thriller!

Jayne Carmichael

You have worked at many global sporting events during your time at CSM. How does the Lions Tour compare to other events you’ve worked on?

One of the most gratifying aspects of the industry we work in is that every event is so vastly different.
This Tour may not be the same traditional Lions Tour that I experienced working on the previous Lions Tour to New Zealand in 2017, but it’s special in its own way and the underpinning history is still carried through.

Whilst there’s lots of similarities working across two Lions Tours and two Rugby World Cups, the unity of a Lions Tour is what sets it apart. The unity of the players and fans of four home nations coming together as one, the unity of the event itself being focussed on one match and location at any one time and the unity of the host country welcoming the Lions every 12 years.

Having worked brand side for the last eight years at CSM, moving to rightsholder side for two of world rugby’s biggest brands has been a rewarding new experience. The commercial structure of the Lions has remained the same since 1997, until an innovative joint venture was put in place for the 2021 Series.

The collaborative approach has allowed broadcasters, Partners and licensees the opportunity to fully leverage and activate around a centralised programme across both rightsholders for the first time in the Tour’s history.

Jayne Carmichael

When not at work, what would we find you doing?

Frequenting the beer gardens and running routes in South West London or spending time with friends and family in the homeland of Scotland.

The last few years at CSM has allowed me to travel to some amazing places and the travel bug definitely isn’t going to stop anytime soon. You’ll find me wherever the sun is shining, rosé in hand and always partial to a bit of DJ-ing….