Former marketer for Wrangler, Levi's, Polo Jeans and Diesel, talks about his life as an independent consultant in Bangkok
Nickname PP (sometimes Boss).
Born Cornwall, UK.
Age : 51
Education I left school without waiting to see my exam results, but I recognise I am privileged to have worked alongside some of the most creative and positive influences. They educated me and enhanced my journey to become a successful business owner.
Where do you live? Bangkok’s historic old town quarter.
What is your profession? Marketer, business owner.
What is your present position? Founder, Managing Director and Chairman of the sponsorship consultancy that takes my name.
What does Paul Poole (South East Asia) Co., Ltd. do? We are an independent marketing consultancy specialising in commercial sponsorship and partnership marketing. We act as a catalyst by bringing rights holders and brands together to maximise the relationship.
Any other business interests? Once a year, we run training workshops to help rights holders and brands understand and practice all aspects of commercial sponsorship and partnership marketing. As a company, we also offer Marketplace, a platform for rights holders to promote their commercial sponsorship and partnership opportunities in a forum frequented by decision-makers and influencers in sponsorship.
Under the umbrella of The Sponsorship Experts, we also sell limited edition “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” tees, hoodies, caps, and coolers inspired by the cult classic Jerry Maguire (still one of my all-time favourites!). All proceeds from the sale of these are donated to non-profit organisations focusing on youth development in Thailand.
The move to Brighton paid off. Not only did I blow off steam and satiate my need to party, but I was also noticed by one regular party-goer who worked for Wrangler. She convinced me a ‘daytime job’ should be my next career choice. And at age 18, I joined the team at Wrangler.
Early influences? I refer to my days at Wrangler as my sixth form education and my days at Levi’s as my college years. Both companies were infinitely more influential than my time in school. I am a ‘people person’ because of the positive mentors in my life. They taught me that relationships, business and personal, will make or break you. You must work at them, and you must show respect and earn respect.
How long have you lived in Thailand? I moved here in 2004, and although I travel to London, New York, and my family home in Cornwall regularly, Thailand is the place I think of as home.
Where did you
work before Thailand? At age 22, Levi Strauss & Co. convinced me the denim was bluer on the other side! So, I left Wrangler, where, for almost five years, I had learned valuable marketing skills and worked on some influential ad campaigns for the brand: one of which had the tag line ’Be more than just a number’. It was a direct reference to Levi’s 501’s dominance in the jeans market. I like to think it was that cheeky dig that got me noticed by the Levi’s team. They decided it might be better to have me working for them than against.
I became their UK Marketing Manager, overseeing some exciting and iconic ad campaigns. It was one of those that perhaps led to my interest in the then untapped potential of sponsorship. I brokered a deal to buy the rights to one of DJ Norman Cook’s (aka Fat Boy Slim) Freak Power tunes “Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out” for Levi’s “Taxi” ad.
"I refer to my days at Wrangler as my sixth form education and my days at Levi’s as my college years. Both companies were infinitely more influential than my time in school. They taught me that relationships, business and personal, will make or break you."
At Levi’s, I was incredibly fortunate to work with some of the most creative people in what was then referred to as ‘Cool Britannia’. A few of these could easily have been the answer to the ‘most interesting person you’ve met’ and ‘early influences’ questions because photographers Nick Knight and Glen Luchford and art directors Stephen Male and Phil Bicker had such an impact on my creativity.
After four years at Levi’s, I was approached by American fashion icon Ralph Lauren to help them launch their new brand, Polo Jeans, throughout Europe and the Middle East. Two years later, at age 28, I was headhunted by the (some say irreverent) Italian jeans brand Diesel. During that time, I worked closely with the owner Renzo Rosso, known throughout the fashion world as the “The Jeans Genius”, and together, using a combination of controversial ad and sponsorship campaigns, such as the Gumball3000 Rally, we made Diesel a brand people noticed, whatever the reason!
Looking back, it was a crazy time, but each year and each project added to my knowledge and expertise in marketing and sponsorship. Projects like joining my close friend Scott King (former art director for i-D magazine) to stage a self-funded art exhibition - ‘CRASH’. At the time, the critics called us Culturalpreneurs. We embraced this title, setting up an initiative we called the “Culturalpreneurs Network”: designed to improve the dialogue between the arts and business. Years later, in 2012, we sold it to London based Cult.Brand.
I then spent a couple of years as a board member for PR21, then Cohn & Wolf, but was ready to set up my own business. I remained a consultant to both companies but focussed my attention on three core markets: North America, Europe, and South-East Asia.
What brought you here? I fell in love with Toeingam, my Thai (then) wife, and when she brought me here, I fell in love with Thailand too.
How did your career progress? When arriving in Thailand initially (in 2004), I saw it as an ideal location for my marketing consultancy business, along with London and New York. But later, I recognised the need for an agency that could specialise in providing sponsorship opportunities for the already popular experiential approach to marketing throughout the region.
As I had already been visiting Samui for at least ten years previously, I was delighted when Marc Ribail, then a member of the Samui Regatta organising committee, approached me. In 2005 the Samui Regatta became the first official client of The Sponsorship Experts. We now have over 50.
Any major setbacks or disappointments in your life or career? If I could express one regret, I allowed my move to Thailand and the setting up of my business here to impact my relationship with my (then) wife, which sadly led to our divorce.
How good is your address book? Ah, well, it has a few A-listers in there as my career has enabled me to mix in such circles. But I make sure those who remain in my address book can also be called friends, not just names to drop into conversations. Most of my work comes from referrals, and that’s made possible by building meaningful relationships with people I meet.
What’s your favourite restaurant in Bangkok? For fine dining, I recommend everyone tries Le Normandie; the food is incredible. And for street food, it has to be the incomparable Jay Fai.
Any other favourite hangout places? I’m partial to good cigars and whisky, so the obvious place is Whisgars. You’ll find me there several evenings a week, meeting friends and winding down after a long day.
"At Wrangler, I worked on some influential ad campaigns, one of which had the tag line ’Be more than just a number’. It was a direct reference to Levi’s 501’s dominance in the jeans market. I like to think it was that cheeky dig that got me noticed by the Levi’s team. They decided it might be better to have me working for them than against."
"After four years at Levi’s, I was approached by American fashion icon Ralph Lauren to help them launch their new brand, Polo Jeans, throughout Europe and the Middle East. Two years later, at age 28, I was headhunted by the Italian jeans brand Diesel, where I worked closely with the owner Renzo Rosso, known throughout the fashion world as the ‘The Jeans Genius’."
Favourite weekend destination? If I’m in Thailand, then it’s Phuket, preferably on a yacht. If I’m back in the UK, it’s visiting friends in Cornwall (my home county). They have a farmhouse on Bodmin Moor, and it’s the perfect place to relax – nothing to see but moors, sheep and ponies, so you have no choice but to empty your mind of anything work-related. When you add in the good company, food, and wine, it’s the ideal retreat. It is a stark contrast to Thailand, but I’m a big fan of mixing it up and embracing opposing environments to invigorate and refresh the mind.
Is Bangkok a better place to live and visit today than when you first arrived? It is. I’m a city boy at heart, so I was hooked from day one of arriving in Thailand. In my opinion, it’s growing into a destination that’s comparable to places like London and New York.
Your best ever work assignment? The honest answer is that I’ve loved every moment of my career. It’s almost impossible to single out a defining moment. But because it led to setting up my own consultancy, which led me to meet my ex-wife and to Thailand, I would have to say joining the board of PR21, an Edelman company. That, in turn, opened the opportunity for a position on the board of Cohn & Wolf, a WPP company where I helped develop the creative briefs for clients such as Orange, Coca Cola, Cadbury Trebor Bassett and Guinness UDV.
Apart from your business, what else keeps you here? I’ve established a life I love and one that suits me. The Thai people reflect my values as a human being, which is probably why it feels more like home to me than the UK now. I’ve made friends for life. Of course, the climate here wins hands down over London, New York – and even Cornwall!
Who’s the most interesting person you’ve ever met? It has to be Malcolm McLaren. Yes, he appeared controversial and headline seeking (not least of all when I helped him campaign for the role of Mayor of London), but beneath that, he was extraordinarily creative, interesting, funny and generous to a fault.
Do you keep up with the political situation in Thailand, and if so, how? My business depends on being politically and socially aware, so it’s necessary to keep up to date with what’s happening in Thailand. Especially any government decisions around sports tourism and sports legislation, even more so since the pandemic.
Most of my friends and associates over here are in business, so conversations inevitably lead to politics: sharing our opinions and knowledge.
Will Thailand’s event industry bounce back after COVID-19, and when is that likely to happen? I’m certain it will. The industry will be different in many ways but provided the priority is always around the safety of an event, rights holders and brands will find ways to adapt and develop to fit this new normal. I would go as far as to say, some of the necessary changes will lead to growth in the industry because different opportunities are manifesting – for example,
"If I could express one regret, I allowed my move to Thailand and the setting up of my business here to impact my relationship with my (then) wife, which sadly led to our divorce"
What could Bangkok do better? I believe there is a pressing need to address air pollution in the city. It’s a complicated topic; I understand that. I can only hope the reduced PM readings we’ve witnessed during the pandemic (through the enforced closure of various high emitting sources) will have demonstrated to the decision-makers that it is possible to change the situation.
Biggest myth/rumour about Bangkok/Thailand? People assume, somehow, that it’s a cheap place to live. It is not!
Can you imagine living anywhere else? When I retire (although that’s a life I couldn’t feel further from right now!), I would probably split my time between Cornwall or Phuket.
What’s next for you? Personally, I’m looking forward to resuming travel when COVID-19 restrictions allow. And as a business: we intend to continue our pre-pandemic trajectory to double in size through acquisition and our own growth