Mr. Valentin Popescu is the Director of Sports Marketing for the Alexandrion Group. He is one of Romania's leading professionals in the Sports Marketing field, someone who in 2019 was voted Best Sports Marketing specialist by the advertising agency Clubul Media Business and Sports Business Academy. Ramy James Salameh put some questions to him to find our more about his role, the Alexandrion Group and the power of sport.
Mr. Valentin Popescu is the Director of Sports Marketing for the Alexandrion Group. Alexandrion is a global producer of Spirits & Wines, with divisions and investments in the renewable energy, agricultural, tourism and real estate sectors. Under the stewardship of the Founder & President Mr Nawaf Salameh and his philanthropic pursuits, the company inaugurated the Alexandrion Foundation in 2003 which supports the Cultural, Creative and Sporting endeavours of Romanian nationals. Three major gala events have evolved under the patronage of the foundation: the ‘Constantin Brâncoveanu Awards Gala’, the ‘Matei Brâncoveanu Awards Gala’ and the ‘Alexandrion Trophies Awards Gala’. The latter supports and rewards sporting achievement at the highest level. Ramy James Salameh puts some questions to Romania’s foremost Sports Marketer, someone who in 2019 was voted Best Sports Marketing specialist by the advertising agency Clubul Media Business and Sports Business Academy.
Please briefly introduce the relationship between the Alexandrion Group and the Alexandrion Foundation?
The Alexandrion Foundation was established as a result of the numerous socially responsible activities carried out by the companies within the Alexandrion Group. Thus, the company's social responsibility projects have been carried out under the umbrella of the Alexandrion Foundation for over 20 years. The Alexandrion Foundation actively supports cultural performance through the ‘Constantin Brâncoveanu Awards’, from 2014, ‘Constantin Brâncoveanu Diaspora Awards’ and the ‘Constantin Brâncoveanu International Awards’. Through the Matei Brâncoveanu Awards, the Alexandrion Foundation rewards the development potential of those who prove social involvement, through actions, research, and exceptional achievements in their field of activity.
Over time, the Foundation has made its mark in supporting the performance of Romanian sports. The ‘Alexandrion Trophies Gala’ event, held its 6th edition in February 2021 and honours the international performance of Romanian athletes. The foundation was close to the Romanian Olympic and Sports Committee at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, in 2008 in Beijing and in 2012 in London. The support given, resulted in the creation of high-level training conditions that would allow young athletes to achieve their best possible results. At the same time, a healthy lifestyle was promoted, in which sport, as you know, occupies an important place.
Sport creates a ‘universal language’, one which is able to reach mass audiences, is this why the Alexandrion Group brought you on-board as the Director of Sports Marketing & Communications?
Sport creates communities, sport educates and sport creates performance and value, but this is not an exclusive reason to create a sports marketing department in a company. My role in the Alexandrion Group is to bring quality and joy closer to consumers in their daily lives. I am proud to have the opportunity within the Alexandrion Group to coordinate large campaigns, which reach numerous segments of the population, carrying the message of performance in each product we have and in each action we create.
Alexandrion must be one of Romania's most proactive supporters and sponsors of Sports events, athletes and federations in the country, what are the key benefits of this investment?
Alexandrion Group is guided by moral values, such as ‘family’ and ‘high performance’ at every level and uses this ‘soft power’ as a guiding light. From our point of view, it is a normal attitude to have a hands-on approach in all situations, to get really involved in bringing longevity to the attributes that transform us, that challenge us to become better, more efficient, true champions. Of course, the key benefits come in the image-building area of the company, which manages to reach a lot of people and translate complex messages through football, Olympic sports, and physical activity.
You have already mentioned in a previous interview that ‘Sports Marketing’ is still in its infancy in Romania, what do you see as the barriers and opportunities of that?
New beginnings, including in sports marketing, are challenging and may seem difficult at first glance, but they open a door to many possibilities. I consider it is a matter of creativity, receptivity and, last but not least, the willingness to find niches of opportunity for developing successful models in this field, and new ideas with potential. We, at the Alexandrion Group, use these guiding principles throughout the entire company.
Does the Alexandrion Group use sports marketing and sponsorship purely as a brand awareness tool or is there a deeper corporate social responsibility strategy that stems from Mr. Nawaf Salameh's humanitarian ethos?
I really believe that successful projects are those based on passion, emotions and reality. Sport requires a lot of discipline, a great deal of time and dedication before it ever offers satisfaction and the best results. You cannot really call yourself a sportsman, without true ‘passion’ together with ‘strong emotions’, which enables you overcome any obstacle. Mr. Nawaf Salameh, is first and foremost, a leader in performance, which is so clear and evident throughout every level of the company’s output and through the quality of all the Alexandrion Group’s products and services. He and the company provides a network of support, as we navigate a competitive market place which requires constant innovation married with product innovation. Such forward-thinking and support allows the group to overcome any problems in a fast, dynamic and constantly changing global environment. It is a symbol of great moral quality, to feel responsibility for the evolution of all the ‘Alexandrion’ communities in which we work. We all try and act in a grateful and generous manner in all we do, but always working with clear determination.
Do you believe that your Founder & President Mr Nawaf Salameh is a ‘visionary’ by placing much emphasis on 'Soft Power' i.e., Culture, Creativity, Sport, as an important way to market the Alexandrion brands?
Certainly. Alexandrion Group is a global business, using our market experience which spans more than a quarter of a century, we have seen enormous successes. He and the Alexandrion Group is a pioneer in several fields of business and philanthropy. All these results cannot be achieved in the absence of visionaries. That's why Alexandrion Group continues to be so strong and healthy, because it constantly adapts to the vision of the Chairman Mr. Nawaf Salameh, whilst adapting to the current market. He is a person who understands more than numbers and the business market, he understands people. This is surely the true meaning of ‘Visionary’.
Please tell us more about the impact of the ‘Alexandrion Trophies Gala Event’, especially holding the status as the only private sector ‘Sports Gala Event’ of its type in Romania?
The impact of the ‘Alexandrion Trophies Gala’ is huge and we are really happy about that. The many performers within the world of Romanian sports, wait in anticipation for our annual event in February. It is a chance to meet, socialise, recognise and reward. Sport requires immense dedication and as a consequence, it limits interdisciplinary communication amongst the athletes and the wider world, thus the ‘Alexandrion Trophies Gala’ allows this to happen. We are also very proud of the major names in Romanian sport, who attend and support this event; we remain very grateful to these personalities, for their involvement with the ‘Alexandrion Foundation’ and ‘Alexandrion Group’, and the role we play in the sports sector. I am very proud I can help put together and be a part of these historic sporting events and be part of the sports industry.
We have opened a way of communication between fields/ sectors, between different people/ communities, but all with one thing in common, they strive to do beautiful, great things and want to break down barriers whilst overcoming their personal limits and constantly working for better results. It is worth mentioning that the prizes from the ‘Alexandrion Trophies’ event are of a financial nature, and are received by each nominee, even if the nomination is addressed to an entire team, each member of that team will receive the prize. The ‘Alexandrion Trophies Gala’ is the best expression of my work in sports marketing at Alexandrion Group and I hope to take this project to the next level at every edition.
As a global company with continued growth, will your strategy align to support events in the markets and territories you operate in or is that already happening?
As Mr. Nawaf Salameh said, whichever direction the Group moves towards, the Alexandrion Foundation will following that path. We held a series of events in Europe, together with the Romanian diaspora, for example Madrid, Turin, etc., because we believe very much in families, in unity and in discovering authenticity. Certainly, our global position and status, affirms and challenges me to think of more international projects. My continuous aims are to bring real value to the company, using the vehicle of sport and its impact on our lives to help the Alexandrion Group reach new peaks.
How inventive and innovative can you be when thinking up sports related projects; do you have any examples?
I consider myself a creative person, but I don't believe in quantifying this aspect, especially since it depends on many factors. In order to enhance my creativity and power to innovate, I expose myself to many challenges, I don't take no for an answer, I cultivate my network and audiences and I read a lot about marketing and sports. Unfortunately, the literature related to sports marketing is not rich, there are big gaps that young professionals can cover only through concrete experience. Using innovation and creativity, I make an annual goal; every year I want to come up with something new, something surprising, and I use this as my personal challenge to improve myself and those around me.
You have had a long career in sports marketing and sports media although you remain relatively young; what advice would you give to graduates looking to pursue such a career?
For those at the beginning of their professional career, I recommend them to learn a lot, both theoretically and practically. Because knowledge gives freedom and challenges you to evolve. In an area that is still insufficiently fruitful, but with a lot of potential, you need to be prepared, disciplined and rigorous. I recommend embracing the adventure in this field, which offers great satisfaction and which keeps valuable people inside the system.
Because I care a lot about the education of the new generations, I am a lecturer in a sports marketing course held by Sports Business Academy, where I teach my knowledge and experience to interested students. I invite young people to embark on this path of sports marketing, together we can manage to create great things!