What’s your name and position within the organisation?
Daniel Lovat – Sports Marketing Director
As a fresh faced graduate, having finished my Masters in Business Management, I started life in the professional world at Deloitte, working in the Corporate Tax group. With my ACA accountancy qualification in hand, I moved across to OPRO, which is my family business and have held different roles across the organisation.
With over 85 partnerships across the sporting world, I stepped into the Sports Marketing world a few years ago and have learnt an enormous amount, whist loving every minute of it!
Give us an overview of OPRO as a company in general and your approach to sponsorship and partnerships specifically?
OPRO is the world’s leading and most technically advanced mouthguard brand. The Company started over 20 years ago. My father, a dentist at the time, had lots of children coming into his dental practice with injuries to their teeth. He set about rectifying this and started the business, with my Mum, from the dining room table.
Fast forward to today and we provide over 1,000 dental impression visits each year to schools and clubs across the UK, making the custom-fit mouthguards in our lab. Our patented retail, self-fit products are also made in the UK and sold around the world in retailers such as Sports Direct, Dicks Sporting Goods and Rebel.
Innovation drives everything we do and, as a product focused business, we’ve twice won the Queen’s Award for Innovation recognising our ground-breaking work in protecting children and professional athletes.
Sponsorship works really well for us. Having the very best protection for your teeth is of paramount importance to professional athletes in contact sports such as rugby, hockey, American football and martial arts.
We’ve longstanding partnerships with a whole host of organisations, first and foremost ensuring the players are protected. The rights we receive in return reflect this and are used to best promote our role in enhancing player welfare.
What approach makes OPRO unique? What is your USP/differentiator?
It’s by far the most important competency we have in the Company and throughout our staff. It drives our incessant focus on product quality and development and is reflected in the patents we have, our UK production line, the number of customers we serve and the professional athletes we support.
As all our products are made in the UK and custom mouthguards made in our manufacturing facility, we offer a top service – often re-making and supplying mouthguards to players who’ve lost theirs at extremely short notice to ensure they’re covered for the weekend’s game.
We’ve also been involved in the world of tech for almost 8 years working with Stanford University who provide us sensors to embed within our OPRO+ mouthguards. The tech has been used to monitor and measure head impacts in their ongoing research into concussion in American football.
Today we work with a few tech partners, most notably PROTECHT, and are beginning to introduce the OPRO+ mouthguards embedded with their cutting-edge technology into the work we’re doing with our professional teams.
For example, we’ve just announced that Harlequins and Leicester Tigers will be using our OPRO+ mouthguards incorporating PROTECHT’s system to identify and report all head impacts. This will assist them with their Return to Play training sessions ahead of the season restarting. Using PROTECHT’s state of the technology, they will be able to safely simulate the loads and intensity of collisions and progressively increase these as they move towards match demands.
What sporting teams and organisations does OPRO partner with, and how do you go about deciding where to direct your sponsorships?
We look at the contact sport landscape through 3 key categories: Ball sports, such as rugby and American Football. Stick sports, such as hockey and lacrosse. Combat sports such as taekwondo and MMA.
Our current partners fit into these categories and are spread across the world to support both the brand and our sales network.
Examples of the partners we have include England Rugby, New Zealand Rugby, the UFC, Wallabies, GB Hockey, GB Taekwondo, Hockey Ireland, the GAA and USA Wrestling.
We also have a few brand ambassadors who are the face of key partnerships and support a whole host of professional athletes with product to help keep them safe.
The sponsorship decision is very much tailored around whether the club/association has a need for our mouthguards to help keep the players safe. If so, then we engage with partners who can help enhance the value of our brand and support sales of our products in the territory they are based in.
How do you activate these partnerships? Has the emphasis of your activations changed in recent times?
As an SME we have to operate nimbly and innovatively when it comes to activations, reflecting both our resources and the number of top partners we have.
For us, the most effective activations are through the use of our digital rights at selected times where they would most resonate with our customers and elevate the brand.
Mouthguards are quite seasonal in nature, where, in the UK for example, demand is highest at the start of the school year. We’ve tailored activations around this, for example ‘Mouthguard Day’ where partners post content we provide and this has helped provide over 10 million impressions and incredible engagement for a brand of our size during a key selling period.
How have you adapted to COVID-19 – have you launched any new products or initiatives to navigate this period?
Like most in the sporting goods trade, COVID-19 hit us hard. Contact sport pretty much ceased at all levels with very little certainty about the timing of its return – understandably we’ve all been concerned first and foremost about keeping safe and looking after our families, friends and colleagues.
As the Pandemic spread we heard about the widespread shortage of PPE in the UK & Ireland, and witnessed first-hand ‘fake’ surgical face masks in circulation, missing the important antibacterial filter layer.
We’re fortunate that, as a Company, we’ve a deep knowledge of PPE, which is what mouthguards essentially are. Recognising the importance of healthcare workers, businesses and the public having access to certified face masks, made and tested in the UK, we quickly adapted our manufacturing facility in Hertfordshire to produce Type II and Type IIR masks.
Fast forward 3 months and with 500,000 face masks already made and the ability to produce hundreds of thousands each week we’re doing our bit to contribute to the supply chain and ensure there is access to high quality, UK made and tested PPE face protection. Visit www.opro-tec.com to learn more
How do you measure marketing effectiveness? What metrics do you use – and how is your approach to this evolving?
It’s not a science, as much as I’d love it to be. Like in most things we are very focused on what we do and ensure we measure the return via traditional analytics that we have available.
I’m keen to see how additional marketing tools will become available, making use of the vast amount of data that exist to help companies of our size measure returns from sponsorship.