Meet the team | Kate Cuppage
What is your role at IMG and how long have you been at the company?
I’m a VP of Rugby in the Events division and have been at the company for 21.5 years.
What does your role entail?
I work fairly exclusively on Rugby World Cup managing our day-to-day relationship with this key client across all our areas of responsibility. I manage an incredible team of people who work tirelessly on behalf of our client every day.
What drew you to work at IMG and specifically on the Rugby World Cup?
Having completed a Spanish and Business university degree, which included a year working for a licensing agency in Barcelona, I applied to licensing agencies in London and only one asked me for an interview – IMG. Whilst no jobs were available at the time, I got a call a few months later to take a 6 month contract to work on The Open Championship, Ryder Cup and Rugby World Cup 2003 – 21 years later I’m still here. Prior to joining the Rugby Events business full-time, I worked in both the Licensing and Events divisions, where I was lucky enough to work on Fashion Fringe, across Action Sports for the Snickers Bowl at the Download Music Festival – where we worked closely with the team in LA to engage athletes to compete at a ‘Soul Bowl’ we built and staged for them at the Festival; and the O2 Scrum in the Park event which celebrated the Rugby World Cup 2003 winning team. In 2005, I was asked to join the Rugby World Cup team and have never looked back. France 2023 was the 6th edition of this amazing tournament that I am incredibly fortunate to have worked on.
Has your/our role in the event changed in the years since you’ve worked at the company and if so, how?
When I initially joined the Rugby Events team, I worked in sponsorship managing the rights of brands such as Heineken, Emirates and Visa. With my experience gained in Licensing, I also had some involvement with the retail operation we were tasked with delivering at RWC 2007. I moved to New Zealand for a couple of years with other key members of the team, where I had to procure office space, manage the budget, establish the systems and recruit the local team of 20+ who worked on RWC 2011. I also took on the management of the teams responsible for sponsor account management, creation and delivery of sponsor hospitality, licensing & retail, brand and approvals, and rights protection programme. I carried out a similar role for RWC 2015 and RWC 2019, with the addition of also overseeing commercial ticketing and commercial operations. This year, for RWC 2023 we continued to deliver contractual commercial deliverables in all venues, stadium signage programmes, licensing & retail and brand & approvals.
How does your approach differ depending on which country or region the Rugby World Cup is being hosted in? Any fun anecdotes from the different RWCs you’ve worked on and how they compare – have you had a favourite?
One of the reasons why I believe I have stayed in the company for so long and on the same project is that every host country has its own set of challenges and opportunities. This makes it easy to want to improve what’s gone before. Working across different languages will always be challenging and the cultural ways of working need to be learnt and understood. Each RWC has been completely different, but the core IMG team has been the same for nearly 4 editions of the tournament and that’s what makes it so special. To pick a favourite would be like asking me to choose between that team, but if you twisted my arm, I would say RWC 2011 in New Zealand. That country put on an incredible tournament: there was a huge collaboration amongst all the Stakeholders who just wanted to make rugby the winner – and the fact that the All Blacks won on their own turf just made it extra special.
What have you found most different and special about this year’s RWC and your time working on it?
Back in Paris for RWC 2023 having moved there to help deliver the tournament in 2007; there’s no doubt that rugby, and especially Rugby World Cup, has the ability to bring people together and embrace the spirit in which the sport is played; to play as hard as possible on the field and to enjoy a drink together afterwards. All over France, people were coming together to celebrate this incredible sport. What the last 7 weeks has once again proven to me is that we hire incredible people, who consistently go above and beyond (and then above again) to deliver work to an exceptionally high standard, whilst always keeping the client at the forefront of their minds. It’s quite a feat when you consider the impact we have when we play our part in delivering these spectacular events, and one I have reflected on these past 7 weeks.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement at IMG?
I have had a few ‘pinch me’ moments over the past 22 years: assisting in the retail delivery at the postponed 2001 Ryder Cup at the Belfry; moving tonnes of earth to sink the Soul Bowl into the ground for the 2003 Download Music Festival, enabling spectators to watch these incredible BMX and Skateboard tricks at head height; re-seeding an area of Regent’s Park to enable the England Rugby team to host a training session there; managing to build a fashion catwalk in less than 12 hours in a car park in central London; being tasked with organising, staging and providing sustenance for a party for 1,000 of London’s fashion elite on an exceedingly tight budget; and hiring over 100 incredible people over the stretch of my rugby career in France, New Zealand, UK and Japan – all of whom remain good friends today.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Always work in something you love. I remember a conversation with a banker friend of mine when I was deciding what to do when my initial temporary contract with IMG was coming to an end. He said to me that in work, three things should be considered; you should love what you do; love the team of people that you work with and that you are fairly compensated for the work that you do. If you have 2 out of 3 then you’re lucky and if you have 3 out of 3 then you’ve hit the work jackpot….
What song do you have on repeat? Happy Together – The Turtles
What’s your favourite sporting event in the calendar? Ryder Cup and Rugby World Cup
Favourite movie? The Breakfast Club