Brand Manager Worldwide at Gilbert Rugby, Andrew Challis speaks about his time as team manager at Harlequins during the armature era and then as a Business Director at Fast Track Sales Limited and how those experiences influenced his desire to be involved in Rugby and the marketing side of the sport. Andy mentions the moment he knew he needed a change in career direction in the sports field and how that led him to Gilbert in 2008 and what his responsibilities are now as the company’s worldwide Brand Manager.
During his nearly 10 years at Gilbert, Andy discusses how the deals that have been done with World Rugby and seeing the Gilbert Rugby ball used at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games are some of his proudest moments whilst he has been at the company. Andy talks about what makes a Gilbert Rugby ball so unique in comparison to its rival manufacturers and how the company forms relationships with Rugby clubs and other Rugby businesses. Andy does not shy away when asked how Gilbert responds to criticism from coaches and players, who voice their concerns with a particular ball – which occurred in the lead up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup – and the process that is followed when a ball is developed and then tested. Not becoming complacent is the challenge Andy reveals he strives to maintain and that preserving relationships is also important in his role.
Gilbert was bought by sporting goods manufacturing company, Grays in 2002 and Andy highlights how the two companies work together and the brands that have been established and kept separate, with Grays focusing on sports such as Cricket, Hockey and Netball. Andy discusses how Gilbert maintains the values and the ethos of the brand created over a century ago, while touching on some of the innovations the company is currently working on in the build up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.