Dan Underwood

‎Brand Manager - Sponsorships and Partnerships at Vodafone

Ben Somerset-How

Client Director Creativebrief


creativebrief: How has your career path led you to marketing at Vodafone?

Dan Underwood: I left university knowing that I wanted to go into something both creative and commercial and landed in advertising and marketing. My first job was in a media agency working on PepsiCo’s portfolio of brands, which was a fantastic experience and this then took me to a role in a sponsorship and events agency, where I worked on sport and music projects for Vodafone and McDonalds, amongst others. Next, I finally moved client side to Vodafone, where now I lead sponsorships and partnerships for the brand.

creativebrief: Why did you choose a career in marketing?

Dan Underwood: I’ve always been interested in brands and their influence on society, but principally their power to tell stories. Brands are part of our everyday lives and I was attracted to the social and material impact you can have in marketing. As well as the creativity that comes with it, you can get real satisfaction from being part of a process that works with so many different people to bring something to market from scratch and see how it performs. The diversity in the industry is enormous and with an ever changing media landscape it is a job that means no day is the same.

creativebrief: What do you think makes a successful career in marketing?

Dan Underwood: It’s a career that demands you to almost be a jack of all trades, as you work across multiple business units, and deal with people from a range of skillsets and backgrounds. So, you need to be a leader to drive forward your vision and own it. So, for me ultimately a successful career is about having a vision, being brave with it and having the resilience to push it through - even when those around you doubt your ideas.

creativebrief: And who is a great example of this?

Dan Underwood: Steve Jobs (Apple) is the best example, as is Phil Knight (Nike) or Elon Musk (PayPal/ Tesla)

creativebrief: What do you think are the main challenges facing marketers today?

Dan Underwood: For me it would be the proliferation of media channels and the movement towards anti-ads online. Brands need to anticipate needs and be where their audiences are before they even get there, so it is a huge challenge to keep up, remain relevant and stand out.

creativebrief: Can you tell us about your affiliation with music? Particularly your sponsorship of the Capital Summertime Ball and the charts?

Dan Underwood: Vodafone has a long standing legacy in music through festivals and live event sponsorship. We continue this with our existing partnership with Global Radio through three properties: The Vodafone Big Top 40, Capital’s Summertime Ball with Vodafone and our new Halloween events; The Monster Mash Ups with Vodafone. These are three great platforms to engage audiences and reward our customers. We do this with exclusive ticket sale windows, give-aways and on-site activations. We also run a programme called Vodafone Future Breakers, which is set up to help up and coming UK artists break into the music industry. Last year our first ever Future Breaker, Ryan Lawrie, got to play at Capital’s Summertime Ball in Wembley Stadium and he went on to get to the X-Factor Live shows – an amazing achievement. Therefore, music has always been important to our brand.

creativebrief: How does this impact your relationship with agencies?

Dan Underwood: We have a really strong set of partners and agencies that help us to deliver these set of fantastic events each year.

creativebrief: How do you know if you're getting the best from your agencies?

Dan Underwood: Through results and collaboration, it all comes down to building the best team to help realise your vision.

creativebrief: Of your recent work, what makes you particularly proud and why?

Dan Underwood: It would have to be launching the brand new Monster Mash Up set of events, we have never done anything like these before and so, we had to behave differently. It was a creative challenge and executed brilliantly. The feedback was amazing and we had another success story as our Vodafone Future Breaker DJ had his track signed afterwards – a proud moment for us all.

creativebrief: Do you see yourself as a generalist or a specialist, does it matter?

Dan Underwood: I think it is beginning to matter less and less, but I would see myself as a specialist within the sponsorship, partnership, experiential and events space. This is certainly an area that is growing as more and more brands are leading through experiences vs. traditional advertising channels.