A Brand Chat with Geoff Quinlan, Racing Queensland CCO.

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Geoff Quinlan in previous roles as Tournament Director, Brisbane International 2017 with Sieger Grigor Dimitrov and Finalist Kei Nishikori – Pat Rafter Arena – Brisbane – QLD – Australia – 8 January 2017. © Juergen Hasenkopf

The one thing I’ve learned about branding is… be absolutely clear about your purpose.

Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to work with a whole host of inspiring business founders and leaders. A learning for me was regardless of some similarities, they each had their own take on brand with unique nuances of how they viewed and managed the brands for their organisations. In a series of interviews starting today, we’ve asked a number of these brand leaders to provide us an insight into the way they see the world of brand. The first of these interviews is with Geoff Quinlan, Chief Commercial Officer of Racing Queensland.


Who or what shaped your vision for your brand?

A fellow by the name of Digby Nancarrow was the Chief Marketing Officer (or similar) for Tennis Australia at a time we (Tennis) transitioned from the green Rebound Ace courts to the ‘True Blue’ of the Plexi-Cushion courts we see today. He was maniacal about protecting the brand of tennis and the blue courts were symbolic of this.

At the time it frustrated me and I thought he was a bit too full on and inflexible but on hindsight it was exactly what was needed as we (Tennis) moved from a volunteer, country club, well-meaning amateur organisation to a truly professional organisation. The ‘sunsetting’ of the Serving Man logo to the much more modern and versatile AO logo that is now featured (on the broadcast, on site, digitally, etc.) was another example of the AO maturing. At the time, there was criticism that the change was an over correction and that Tennis Australia was trying to be a Fortune 500 Company under the stewardship of Steve Wood but I feel it was exactly what was required. It changed the way we (internally) and our partners and stakeholders (externally) viewed the Australian Open, moving from a brand that was a major Australian sporting event to a truly global event that launched the sporting calendar year…and global sponsors came on board.

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What’s been your biggest brand mistake and what did you learn from it?

When branding ‘Tennis Time’ I probably tried to be all things to all people. Although I had a strategy, purpose, vision and values I wasn’t disciplined enough and when opportunities presented to do additional things and position the business to take advantage of them I got a little muddled as to what the brand of Tennis Time was.

These lessons assisted me in my roles as GM of the Hopman Cup and Tournament Director of the Brisbane International. I was far more disciplined and strategic in the branding of those events and the marketing of them as a result of my Tennis Time experience.


In the year ahead, what do you see as your brand’s greatest challenge?

This year we are looking to position the brand of Racing Queensland, not as the industry’s governing body (people don’t care), rather as Racing in Queensland that champions great racing and events which connects Queensland communities. So, the challenge in the year ahead is to position the brand beyond the ‘racing tragic’; pale, stale and male. Further, the immediate challenge is to authentically promote our sport and enhance welfare outcomes for racing animals after the heinous acts of cruelty shown and depicted at the Caboolture abattoirs.

The social license of racing is being seriously threatened and requires genuine (non-spin) action. Challenge exists to launch Queensland racing as the home of racing under lights – leveraging our weather to create a unique platform with SEQ tracks under lights positioned as an international destination.

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Do you have a go-to branding book you recommend?

Some of these are probably not typical brand books but they’re my ‘go-to’s’:

Pop – Sam Horn

Start with Why – Simon Sinek (yep, off the back of the TED talk)

Contagious: Why Some things catch on – Jonah Berger

The Hard Thing about Hard Things – Ben Horowitz

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell


What brand are you loving right now and why?

A bit of a left field one here but being in major events and major events are held in facilities – I’m into Populous at the moment and the innovative work they’re doing at stadiums around the globe and the innovation that brings about a great fan experience. From tennis stadiums to US Sports stadiums to eSports stadia.

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium by Populous.


The one thing I’ve learned about branding is…

Be absolutely clear about your purpose, although the work being done by organisations on their purpose is almost a cliché now, it wasn’t that long ago (our working lifetime) that organisations would not have invested resources in the Company’s brand, let alone individual’s personal brand.


Geoff Quinlan, Chief Commercial Officer – Racing Queensland

As Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Quinlan is responsible for establishing the strategic direction of Racing Queensland including the formulation of commercial strategies and implementing targeted strategies to promote and grow the racing industry.

As CCO Quinlan has primary responsibilities for the commercial, wagering, financial, media and analytical objectives and outcomes of the organisation. Critical to success is his deep understanding of key market dynamics, industry and customer trends and the ability to build effective relationships and negotiate desired outcomes to achieve the strategic goals of Racing Queensland.

The Queensland racing industry generates $1.5b in economic value within Queensland with over 40,000 individuals employed or engaged within the industry. The racing industry is made up of about 130 Racing clubs with over 850,000 attending race meetings.

Quinlan belives; “Critical to success is a high performance culture in the Commercial team and across the business, demonstrating operational excellence to deliver on the vision of Racing Queensland: To become the number one sporting industry in the Sunshine State.”

My skills and experiences are broad across leadership, commercial, relationships, strategy, teamwork, communication, marketing, sponsorship, coaching, public speaking, media and high-performance.


Racing Pics; Racing Queensland

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