BEYOND THE BANNERS
Amy Johnson, Chief Development Officer for The Look Company’s Middle East operations, explains how the work they do is bigger than banners, flags and signs; it’s definitive of the look and feel of the event.
Amy Johnson, Chief Development Officer for The Look Company's Middle East operations, explains how the work they do is bigger than banners, flags and signs; it's definitive of the look and feel of the event.
Sports is in Amy Johnson's blood; or rather, the business of sports. Even before the Toronto-based family business was reinvented around the turn of the millennium to become what is now The Look Company, she would travel with her father and grandfather to sporting events across North America that they were working on and soak it all up. “Before I knew it, I was breaking down the bill of quantities on a product,” she laughs. It was only natural that she join the company right out of university and help develop it in its new avatar.
“Our focus, the ‘Look of the Game', wasn't a widely used term in the late 90s and 2000s. People were still talking in terms of banners and flags and branding but we wanted to define this concept at the company, develop and expand on it,” she says. They must have done it right because 15 years later the two-person company has grown to employ over 300 people across two continents.
What is remarkable about the young company is not just its journey to Qatar but what led it to put down its roots here. Starting with the 2001 Edmonton Track and Field Games, which was the first event she got to properly sink her teeth into, Johnson handled several high-profile events during her first few years in the company that took her to Manchester (Commonwealth Games, 2002 ), Dublin (Special Olympics, 2003) and finally to Qatar in 2005 for the West Asian Games. “This business is about peaks and valleys,” Johnson says. “You go
to a city, set up shop, finish the event and come back home. Which is what we did for five years.”
However, Doha, the future site of their first international long-term office, was obviously different. But why?
In 2005, Qatar was still a few years away from winning the hosting rights for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and its sporting ambitions were still a bit of a secret. “When we were in Doha we gathered from the higher powers that sports was set to become an important platform for the country. Most of our competitions opted for Dubai because it seemed like the natural thing to do but we had a real interest in building something in Qatar. People outside think that Qatar won the FIFA World Cup out of nowhere, but few people in the international community remember just how many world-class sporting events were already happening here before that. That's what attracted us to Qatar; we stayed and government has kept its promise to bring more and better sporting events to the country. For us it has been a great experience to work on so many great venues in the city and experiment with a lot of interesting ideas,” she says.
Most recently the company was involved in the Men's Handball Championship. “It was a very large event for us primarily because of the brand-new stadiums which no one had worked on before. There was no pre-existing database and we had to hire extra staff and start from scratch,” Johnson recalls.
Giving back to the country
Over the decade The Look Company's biggest investment in Qatar, Johnson feels, is intellectual property. “We have helped set the standard for sporting events held in Qatar,” she says. Memories Of Games (MOG) is an initiative that the company is particularly proud of. “We were keen on taking care of the environmental aspect of our work; we were considering repurposing the branding materials into accessories like bags so that they all don't end up in the landfill.” Qatar was the first place where MOG was implemented in a serious way. Looking back she remembers just how much work it was to convince the sporting market and corporates to abandon plastic in favour of fabric. “It required a total change in the mentality of how people print,” she says. But it all paid off when the Qatar Olympic Committee decided to pick up and expand on it. “Now they are taking it international for us, with us. Whenever a delegation from the committee goes abroad, they take these products to show other federations the benefit of this programme and how they can be involved,” Johnson says.
Outdoing the last event
While The Look Company provides turnkey solutions from consultancy and design to installation, and finding and activating corporate sponsorship, their strength lies in tailoring their solutions as per the client's needs and working with local advertising and PR companies to help take the spirit of the games across to fans. Their USP is the nuanced understanding of the little details that only years of sporting experience can provide, Johnson feels. But they can also be big-picture people when needed. “My dream event would be to work for any federation that has a grand ambition and is open to thinking outside
A sample of The Look Company's work in the region over the years