Career Profile: Tabcorp’s general manager of marketing, David Ginnane

When Marketing got in touch with David Ginnane around August last year, he was keen to take part in this profile, but hinted that with Tabcorp in the middle of some ‘material changes’ it would be better to wait until footy finals and the Spring Racing Carnival were out of the way.

Adding to the fun, Ginnane had also just started in his current role – executive general manager, marketing – a role he moved up to from a group general manager role, heading products and customer experience.

Last year’s promotion came eight years into Ginnane’s time at Tabcorp, during which he has held a number of managerial roles across operations, products development and marketing. In that time, especially over the last four or five years, he says, the wagering category “has become increasingly competitive with a lot of, what we call, ‘corporate bookmakers’ coming into the market”. That means the likes of Tom Waterhouse, Bet365, Sportingbet and Sportsbet, companies accessing the market, by and large, through big investments in a single channel: digital.

Overseeing a brand portfolio that includes TAB,, Keno and Trackside, Ginnane is responsible for a wide range of marketing elements – advertising, promotions, sponsorship of broadcast and sporting codes, digital marketing, trade marketing, product development and market intelligence. Further, one of the changes he hinted at earlier is CRM (customer relationship management), an aspect of the business Ginnane describes as “burgeoning”.

Marketing: Would you consider your career to be a ‘marketing career’, or did you get into this role in a different way?

Probably the latter. I guess I’m not a marketer by trade. I did, in terms of education, a bachelor of business with an economics and finance major. But I very quickly realised that the practical application of that was pretty limited, and then streamed as quickly as I could into marketing.

[I studied] a good mix of initial marketing, and then went into NAB’s graduate program. The graduate program was a rotation through the broader organisa- tion, but I spent six months of that first year in the head office marketing function, which was fantastic. It was a grounding in financial services, but also marketing, which I loved.

I spent the next nine years working at GM in the financial services business – effectively, commercial and retail finance to consumers and automotive dealerships. The last four or five years that I had at GM was in the Asia Pacific regional office. All of Asia was run out of Melbourne, and I spent that time in a corporate strategy role, effectively spending as much time in Asia as here. It was business development, mergers and acquisitions, going into countries after the manufacturer had set up operations.

Can that economics and finance education be applied to the role of a modern marketer?

I think it can, and for me it does in probably two ways. One is marketing, across any category, has probably been its own worst enemy when it is perceived as being – what I’ve heard coined as – the ‘colouring-in’ department, the team that just punches out the occasional TVC and then can’t draw any line between cause and effect. I’ve had three or four marketing roles at Tabcorp, and I’ve treated each one of them as being a commercial business, and being absolutely embedded in commercial disciplines.

That doesn’t mean that’s at the expense of the creative side of marketing. Provided we’ve got the strength in creative marketing in the team, for me, I’ve been very focused on making sure those commercial disciplines are in place.

For example, if we’re going to enter into a multi- million-dollar sponsorship with a sporting code, what are we trying to achieve? Who is the customer we’re targeting? How are we going to monitor performance and assess the success or otherwise of that investment, and then loop those learnings back into subsequent investments? There’s real discipline in what I call ‘book- ending’ the initiative with commercial disciplines.

On the subject of sponsorship, to pose a topical question around controversy in sport, how does a sponsor react when bad things happens?

Talking from the TAB experience, whether it’s in racing or in other major sporting codes, all of our sponsorship agreements have been quite long-term.

We’ve built up very strong relationships with the executive of the different sporting and racing codes.

When something goes bad in a sport or in a racing code, I think we’ve been well-established to manage that through our relationships. What has really worked well is we’re never been taken by sur- prise. I can’t think of the last time something has hit the media without us knowing about it first.

So there is good communication?

Very good communication. We also work with the sporting partner or the racing partner, and there has been a very high level of honesty. We’re never led down a garden path – they always tell us what the state of play is, and then we work with them and we say, ‘OK, to avoid any negative brand rub with regards to our sponsorship, we think together we should be doing XYZ’ and, inevitably, that will happen because of that respect between the two parties.

What would you say would be a highlight throughout your career, if you had to pick something?

Probably because it’s fresh in the mind, the rebranding of our TAB business. It’s not just because of how the new brand has been represented in a creative sense, but it was that process in the lead-up to relaunching a brand in a business where the brand in New South Wales hadn’t been touched for close to 55 years. And the legacy brand was creatively different in New South Wales than it was in Victoria. We had a TAB brand in New South Wales, and there was a [different] TAB brand in Victoria. We had an overarching TAB Sportsbet brand, which was a national brand and that had a different creative representation.

But those legacy brands had an awareness of 95 percent or more, which most organisations would kill for. To take that leap of faith and say it’s time to change is a pretty gutsy move.

So the identity between the states has been merged?

Yeah, correct. We’ve got an almost identical brand between New South Wales and Victoria, only the colour palette is different, and we’ve got a national

brand, which is our URL, It’s hard to explain without seeing it visually, but it’s very, very clean.

You will see in our advertising of the new TAB brand, we don’t mention price or product at all. We’ve taken the emotional territory, which is designed to leverage our multi-channel business, which is around our bricks-and-mortar retail network, as well as the online experience. For us, what is it about the TAB brand? These are the three pillars of the brand: it’s about the high drama, the experience with us; it’s about the recognition, of when you have a win; and it’s about the mateship, and that means it’s about the sociability of the experience you have with us, par- ticularly in a TAB agency or a pub or a club that’s got a TAB within it. Very deliberately, we don’t talk about product or price, because that’s just taken as a given. They’re almost hygiene factors, and that’s the battle- ground with the rest of the category. We’ve taken a unique positioning around the emotional connection of the brand.

As part of your remit, CRM must only be getting more and more important. How is it evolving?

Within the heartland of the strategy, it’s all about being customer led and market driven, and particularly the TAB business, the wagering part of our business, historically has been very transactional. We have a mountain of transactional data that sloshes around within our different data warehouses and technology infrastructure, and that’s things like the code that someone is betting on, whether it’s racing or sport, or the bet types.

Why is CRM important? I’ll be overly simplistic here, but we’ve got transactional data in one part of our world, and we’ve got customer data in another part of our world. The power comes from being able to connect both of those.

As an organisation, five years ago we would have been able to cut and dice our transactional data to look at all the different operational metrics like aver- age bet, the skew towards different bet types and the mix of bets among sporting codes versus racing. [The evolution is] then moving beyond that to saying, let’s connect that with an individual so we know that, for example, he bets on sport only, he doesn’t bet on racing, and in sport he bets on AFL, and he bets on his mobile device, not his desktop. And we know that his bet of choice is a head-to-head bet, and he doesn’t usually bet on first goal scorer.

From a CRM perspective, that makes it incredibly powerful to us because we’ve got a very, very large cus- tomer base, and it gets back to the core of the strategy. It allows us to put the right offer to the right customer over the right channel.

So the end result of building that customer profile is personalisation?

Absolutely. And that becomes complementary to what we still do across our mainstream advertising, which is our TVCs, our press, our digital placements. All of the traditional one-to-many communication. And we now have been, over the last 12 months in particular, upgrading what we do on a one-to-one basis.

We’ve been talking around the office about how much of the responsibility for identifying and developing new markets should fall to marketers. What’s your take on that? Is it a core part of the marketing role?

I think it absolutely is. Otherwise, marketing turns into day-to-day, week-to-week execution. New market development needs to be customer led. There is a range, particularly when you go into new international markets, of other factors that need to be considered around the legal environment, the political environment, the social environment, and culturally at the same time as well. In its purest form, that’s the heart- land of what marketing is about, understanding the environment that you’re going into.

Jumping back on to your career path, how did you come to be at Tabcorp from GM?

At GM, for years I’d been angling for an international role, and they finally offered me that. But I was about to get married and, with GM International, when you go international, they don’t send you to the nice parts of the world. I’ve seen a lot of couples go over and come back single. So I thought, ‘This is a good time for me to rethink things.’ I always said if I got out of the auto category, I’d do something totally different, and I jumped at the opportunity to come to Tabcorp in a business development role within the marketing team. Since then – that was in 2004 – I’ve had four general management roles in marketing and one in operations.


Was that stint in operations an anomaly in your career path?

Not an anomaly. It was different in the sense that I was, prior, in the general manager role of a start-up within the business, like an in-house start-up, and I moved out of that into a general manager of opera- tions role for the gaming division. I then moved back from operations into a general manager of marketing role for the gaming division, and then moved into a group marketing general manager role, for about six months until I picked up the current job.

It’s interesting you mention being part of a start-up within the business. Is that the way a company like Tabcorp goes about innovation?

Yeah, it does, and we’ve got a great example of a start-up business at the moment, which is outside of my remit, but it’s a very good example. It’s called TGS, Tabcorp Gaming Solutions, and that was a start-up business that in its first year of operation, which we’re currently in now, I think it’s at around $55 million in EBIT (earnings before interest, taxes) data.

In terms of how Tabcorp operates when commer- cialising new business, we had a lot of conversations with the executive team at Qantas and Jetstar about their experience with Jetstar during the early days, and we applied a lot of those learnings for TGS.

There’s been a campaign recently for another wagering brand, set in a branch of some unnamed betting establishment, which is basically, to put it bluntly, full of freaks. Do you have a reaction to that campaign?

Not really. It’s a backhanded compliment. That par- ticular advertisement was by Sportsbet, a subsidiary of a UK betting company called Paddy Power, and that for them is on brand. They’re highly irreverent and quite alpha male in their targeting, so it’s on brand, and they were having a dig at us because we were the incumbent and the market leader. So did we lose sleep over it? No.

So if you’re being attacked, it means you’re doing something right?

Absolutely. And our retail channel is one of our key competitive strengths, and we stand behind that all day, every day. It’s something the other competitors don’t have.

What’s next for you?

We’ll continue to grow our market-leadership position in TAB. The competitiveness of the category, you just wouldn’t miss that for quids. I love it, and it’s almost like if you go back, whether it’s our industry or other industries that have been protected with monopolies, duopolies, government-enforced pricing, whatever it is, you can develop leadership positions in those frameworks, but, ultimately, if you’re not exposed to competition, mediocrity will creep in. I think my view is that the level of competition we’re seeing in the category is fantastic.

It allows us to, and personally as well, back yourself and have belief in your brand and what it represents and how that’s going to engage. It drives a real culture of being entrepreneurial and being innovative, because you have to be, by necessity.

In terms of what’s next for me, it’s to really continue to bring all those moving parts together, and grow that leadership position, and really leave a legacy.