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Why I'm more than aap-y with my Saints sponsorship deal
IT’S been a just over a year since Rod Jackson’s company signed up as Saints official club sponsor, writes Matt Smith.
And for a firm he once described as “one of the best-kept business secrets in the region”, a season of Premiership exposure is set to give aap3’s profile a rocket boost.
Sitting in his sporting |memorabilia-adorned office in Chilworth – not far from the homes of several of Saints star players – Rod uses words like “ecstatic” and “fairytale” to describe three-year deal he signed with the Southampton club.
In monetary terms last year’s Championship promotion campaign was worth around £3.5m to aap3 in worldwide PR coverage, according to estimates.
And this year’s Premiership campaign will see the company’s name emblazoned across Saints shirts as their games are beamed to nearly four billion Premiership viewers around the world.
The association between aap3 and Saints began four years ago, when the company started supporting the club’s charitable arm, the Saints Foundation.
Talks started about the possibility of a sponsorship deal as part of aap3’s marketing strategy when Saints were flying high and eyeing promotion from League One and had no shirt sponsor for the club’s 125th anniversary.
Rod said he was attracted by the club’s “positive outlook” and “ambition”, and its plan to run the club as a business.
“It was clear they had the potential to do a lot more,” Rod recalls.
The relationship is even more special for footballer Rod, who as a boy from Farnworth had trials with Manchester United as a goal keeper. Although he is a Liverpool supporter at heart he became something of a Saints fan since moving to the south. The performances of Saints goalkeeper Kelvin Davies earned him aap3’s player of the year award.
Rod enthuses about the “fantastic job” manager Nigel Adkins has done, his positivity and the way he has created a hard working team ethic without any super-star egos – evening tipping Saints with a “great chance” of a top half finish.
That team ethos somewhat mirrors aap3’s approach of put ting people at the heart of the business – hence the name of the company which stands for All About People, Process and Productivity.
And Rod, 54, a married father-of-three, is now proud to see aap3 join an elite club of businesses.
“There is a certain amount of pride to seeing fans with my company name on their shirts,” he says. “It’s a really positive thing to see.”
“There are only 20 Premier league football clubs in the world and we are one of the few companies sponsoring them.”
The sponsorship has brought what Rod calls, in football parlance, a significant number of “assists” to generating business, and is looking forward to even bigger boost to the company’s brand and recognition of what it does.
The company started back in 1998 as an IT recruitment agency called Preferred International, in a modest one-room operation in Warsash.
Over the years the business expanded into managed services – advising customers on e-marketing, business and IT strategies, implementing technology projects and programmes and managing complete IT portfolios.
In 2004 the board, with Rod then as non-executive chairman, decided to split the business into two separate companies and aap3, the baby of the two, started out life on its own with five people in a small incubator office at Southampton Science Park. In seven years it has enjoyed rapid growth.
However with Rod taking the helm as chief executive officer in 2008 he moved to reunite the companies and bought back the recruitment firm Preferred IT in a reverse takeover. The combined company, rebranded as aap3, now provides advice and systems for its customers as well as finding them the right people to work for them in house.
Rod, a former operations director at Intel and president of IT at Cisco, has seen the turnover of the company quadruple in the past four years from £7m to more than £27m, with around a third of revenue coming from recruitment business.
Its current corporate headquarters are at Benham Campus on Southampton University ’s Science Park in Chilworth. Innovative water leakage company i2O is a next door neighbour.
Aap3’s clients now include global multinationals and blue chip companies such as Cisco, IBM, Orange and Avis alongside smaller local and regional businesses.
It employs 500 people around the world. The acquisition of a US company has given aap3 better access to the US market, and it also has a presence across Europe in Holland, Germany, France and Italy.