Inspirational Woman: Iember Gordon | Head of Marketing, American Golf

Iember Gordon I’m a passionate marketeer with over 20 years’ international sports retail experience. I believe I learnt the best way, by getting to know all facets of retail, from the ground up, before heading into the marketing office.

At the previous retailer I worked for I experienced working on the shop floor, as well as managing an actual store myself, before spending some time as a visual merchandising manager – I was also lucky enough to enjoy some international travel, pre-pandemic of course. All of this experience has been invaluable, I wouldn’t be able to impart best marketing advice without having the insight into how all aspects of sports retail works.

My role now at American Golf is all-encompassing. The business is on a fast growth trajectory which involves diversifying into new areas, such as golf course ownership. This means that as well as overseeing all bricks and mortar and online retail marketing activity, our marketing team is also supporting our own golf ranges. The ranges and stores are a great opportunity to appeal to women and children, as well as men, with female-focussed events and Junior Golf Academies. We’ve also opened eight new or revamped sites in the last six months, so we’re keeping busy!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I can’t say I planned as such, but I’ve always been passionate about retail. I’ve loved getting involved in shop fits, using the layout to appeal to a more inclusive audience. Despite not planning a career, I have definitely seized opportunities to get where I am now, opportunities present themselves for a reason.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Life would be boring without challenges! Yes, there have been some. One of my biggest was  coming back to work after maternity leave. A colleague I had trained up was now at the same level and I felt like I had to justify how I good I was. In hindsight, I probably put too much pressure on myself, embarking on some training before I even came back to work properly and attending as many networking events as I could.

Just because you have children doesn’t mean you can’t have a career, but it can mean you feel added pressure to prove yourself and your capabilities. .

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Definitely stepping away from my previous employment at JD Sports after 20 years. It was a big deal as my entire career to that point had been there. I loved the brand and knew the business inside out. It’s where I learnt so much and grew.

As mentioned, opportunities present themselves for a reason, so when the American Golf position came up, I decided to take a huge leap of faith and go for it. I was out of my comfort zone, but not for long. It’s my belief that taking on new challenges is incredibly important in allowing you to grow and develop so I’m so glad that I went for it – it was 100% the right move for me

Golf is a growing industry and I knew this was an exciting opportunity to widen the appeal of the sport among women and young people, as well as generally those who had never played before. Since starting here, I haven’t looked back. We’ve set up some amazing partnerships to champion inclusivity in golf such as being the exclusive retail partner for the ISPS Handa World Invitational, the only golf event where men and women compete for an equal prize fund. We also support the Rose Ladies Series and have a partnership with world top five disability golfer, Brendan Lawlor.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

My belief system, this has played a massive part and I have my mum to thank for that. She brought five of us up as a Christian family on her own, while working as a maths teacher. She worked hard to provide and in turn instilled a hardworking ethos in each of us. She strived for us all to do well and gave us the confidence to belief we can achieve. I want to do her proud.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I haven’t officially mentored anyone but I’m passionate about young people coming through. I love to support children who have an interest and regularly spend time doing talks and activities at the local church.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

In the world of golf, it would be for all gender prize pots to be equal. We shouldn’t need to herald one tournament that’s doing it right.

In retail, I think we’re there, sports fashion is a very gender-balanced industry.

And for my children, I hope I’m bringing them up to look at men and women in the same light for every circumstance.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

To know that whatever you may get nervous about it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be. I used to get quite nervous before meetings and then afterwards, I’d reflect and think it really wasn’t worth getting worked up about. I quickly learnt that planning and preparation is key – if you’re equipped for the job in hand that will enable you to approach the task with confidence.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Ah there are so many exciting challenges ahead. In the short term, it has to be the successful roll out of new American Golf stores and ranges. I’m looking forward to seeing whole families enjoying our new ranges together – adventure golf, shopping, food & drink and tuition.

For the long term, I’m looking forward to more people accepting golf as a sport for all, no matter what age, gender, ability or ethnicity.

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