As a sports influencer, we get to meet and work with many sporting brands on a regular basis. Just like our website many of these brands are powered by people behind the scenes that make the athletes look good and perform at their optimum best whenever they are out there doing their best for their teams and countries.
We recently spent time with one of these “behind the scenes” kind of people and first up was PUMA Rugby Relationship Manager, Gys van Zyl.
There aren’t many in the sporting world that does not know who Gys van Zyl is, except perhaps the broader public. Well, we had the time to ask him a couple of questions and get to know who this sport loving, brand driven, crazy guys is and this is what went down…
Who is Gys van Zyl and what do you do at PUMA?
Your average guy but just a bit more special! I’m the Rugby Relationship Manager for PUMA SA.
Can you explain what a Rugby Relationship Manager is exactly?
In short, I basically manage all the rugby relationships with PUMA’s sponsored teams ie. The Vodacom Blue Bulls, the Vodacom Bulls & Toyota Cheetahs. I am also responsible for the contracting of our rugby assets (sponsored athletes).
How did you get into this line of work?
I studied marketing after I matriculated & found myself in PUMA’s sales department in Johannesburg from 2012 until the end of 2014. The Rugby Relationship Manager position became vacant & I just knew I had to give it a go.
What sport other than rugby do you enjoy and do you participate in any sport yourself?
I really love cricket! I had the opportunity to play abroad in 2010 and played club cricket in the Boland for a few years. Apart from the occasional gym session or 2km run let’s just say I talk more sport these days then actually participating…
What has been your greatest moment working for PUMA?
It’s difficult to really point out one particular moment. For me personally the most fulfilling feeling is when our athletes succeed while wearing the PUMA brand – from a schoolboy scoring a try to lifting the rugby world cup in 2007.
Meeting and working with world-class sports stars on a daily basis must be amazing, which has been the most memorable athlete of all and why?
I have been really fortunate to shake the hand or have a beer with some legends of sport. The likes of Schalk Burger, AB de Villiers, Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez jumps to mind – I guess just because they have achieved so much, some of them literally changed the game single-handedly, but yet they are so humble.
Most memorable athlete? In 2015 we had the opportunity to travel to London to visit Arsenal FC. We attended the home game at Emirates Stadium versus Sunderland FC. Hector Bellerin, the Arsenal & Spanish right back had the opportunity to meet me in person and apparently he is still bragging about this amongst his Arsenal teammates! (hahaha…)
What do you love most about your job?
The fact that it never feels like work! I guess the saying of “you’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do” is true after all…
Does your job require you to travel and if so where have you been?
It does, every 2nd /3rd day to Loftus & back! (‘’,) Most recently also to Germany where PUMA headquarters are located as well as the UK.
We heard that you travelled abroad recently to represent the rugby side of PUMA at a global conference, where was this and what was it all about?
Myself & my colleague, Tshepo Mashishi who is the Football Relationship Manager for PUMA SA attended an international sports marketing meeting in Herzogenaurach, Germany where we had a look at trends in other markets of the world, the everyday challenges the sports industry faces, the opportunities & what type of strategies we need to follow to achieve our goal of becoming the fastest sports brand in the world.
Is it true that the Vodacom Bulls are PUMA’s flagship rugby entity and what does this exactly mean for PUMA and how are you involved with this?
We have just announced that we have extended the relationship to well beyond 2020. The Vodacom Blue Bulls & the Vodacom Bulls has been a powerhouse in SA rugby over decades. It’s pretty simple, we as a brand will always affiliate ourselves with an entity which shares the same values as we do & that is being Brave, Confident, Determined & Joyful.
I’m responsible for the delivering of all marketing rights, ensuring all teams & players receive seasonal & annual product on time & within the allocated budget, gameday activations, team & player appearances for PUMA SA just to name a few.
If you could do anything else in life what would it be and why?
An International DJ! Music + People = Fun! Although the closest I’m to becoming one is when I’m at Loftus in the PUMA suite playing music over the surround sound via my Iphone.
Getting to know what some of these people do behind the scenes are sometimes even more inspiring that what we usually get to see on the tracks and fields of sport around the world and we will be bringing more of these interviews in the coming future with other brands and people so keep TheYellowcap.com on your list of bookmarks for more.