A passionate sportsman and enthusiastic marketer. A person who builds platforms and grows networks. Above all, a leader who empowers people and seems to have invented that old cliché “work hard, play hard”. Meet Olivier Smit.
Business in the blood
Olivier was born and raised in a small village in the northern Dutch province of Drenthe, by a father who managed to turn a local sports center into a successful caterers’ network. “I come from a family of entrepreneurs. Hospitality and putting customers first is just something I’ve been brought up with, it’s in my blood. Just like being into sports. I was crazy about them even as a child.”
After leaving school, Olivier started his training at the Hoge Hotelschool college in 1997, following in his father’s footsteps. In his spare time, he also works as a snowboarding and tennis coach, so he still gets his sports fix. At college, he laid the foundations for his further career. “This phase in my life had a particularly long-lasting effect on me. I learned to do something I still like doing to this day: fun things with fun people. Hard work is great, and you can get a lot out of it, but it means nothing without the fun.”
And this is why Olivier is a great fit for MMMatter. He was at the cutting edge of e-commerce and digital content as early as the year 2000. “After graduating, I started working at the Hilton headquarters in Beverly Hills. At that time, only 5% of people booked a room online. I had the unenviable task of winning over potential Hilton customers through what we called destination content. I was already involved in customer journeys and content marketing more than 22 years ago.”
Two years later, he returned to the Netherlands with his wife Marieke to go solo. As an independent marketing consultant, he advised various companies on their long-term SEO and SEA. “I soon found I still had a lot to learn.” So, Olivier went back to working in-house, this time for ABN AMRO. After a management traineeship there, he got to work marketing mobile banking and rolling out mainly online propositions. Eventually, he was asked to lead sports sponsorship at the bank using content on a platform.
Dreams do come true
From football and hockey in the Netherlands to the Volvo Ocean Race and Chicago Marathon, Olivier was right there – based in Amsterdam at first before working and living in America again. “That’s where everything came together for me: sports, CSR, and marketing. So wonderfully beautiful. After that, I worked as a liaison between ABN Amsterdam’s headquarters and LaSalle Bank’s office in Chicago for another two years. Only when ABN AMRO was acquired in 2008 did I really learn what building is all about: what happens when a new organization is created, when things are so fundamentally different. In other words, I’ve learned that change can be very good for a company’s growth. If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”
Networks of agencies
After a short sabbatical, Olivier headed back to the Netherlands again, still with Marieke by his side. At UNICEF, he found the challenge he was looking for. “UNICEF is driven by social interests, but it’s still a commercial organization at the end of the day. I worked hard in various roles maintaining partnerships with Pampers, Philips, ING, and IKEA. And together with these brands and an array of affiliated content marketing agencies, we created influential campaigns.”
While at UNICEF, Olivier also sat on the head jury of the Esprix Awards for several years. But after five years, the wind of change was blowing. He left UNICEF and found a home at Wunderman Thompson (then J. WT) as Deputy Managing Director before taking up the position of CCO at KNSB. “Back to a sports role. But also back to working with networks of agencies. Each sports club is essentially like a content organization. You have live events, such as the World Cup, European Championships, World Championships, and Olympic Games. But you still need to connect with your fans outside these events. And you do that using digital platforms, through good online propositions, backed up by data. Ice skating is the most watched sport on TV after soccer. I developed models to bring the likes of marathon skating and Short track speed skating closer to skating enthusiasts.”
And that’s exactly what Olivier did in his next role at Dutch soccer club Vitesse Arnhem. As CCO, he turned this classic football organization into a lifestyle and content organization in the space of three years. “It starts with finding out what your fans are into. Then you produce content based on those interests. It’s all about engaging fans, enriching data, building strong propositions, and connecting partners of interest. Think of brands like Nike and BMW, which also produce and put out content to their ideal target group. The richer your data, the better your propositions. And I was working closely with agencies again to do that.” So, we come back to why Olivier is such a great fit for MMMatter.
Even though Olivier’s extensive CV showed off a wealth of interesting experience before this interview, it’s suddenly become more than clear why this man is now at the helm of MMMatter. Someone who lives and breathes content marketing, a top sports mentality, but also his relaxed attitude – feet up, can of cola in hand – and his genuine smile when I ask him what his plans are. “MMMatter has so much potential. I look forward to working with all the brands and all my colleagues and get the energy flowing. And really harness all the potential I see. In the first 100 days, I will do nothing but observe, talk, and plan. And start building a vision.”
Part of Olivier’s job is to empower his colleagues. “I want to encourage anyone who is or becomes part of MMMatter to take the initiative. I want to create a sense of togetherness, teambuilding, fun. A culture that makes us all want to come into the office every day. I’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm I already feel in the workplace. A great base to build on. I want to carry on doing what I started out doing years ago: fun things with fun people.