After four years sharing the mad, inspired world of Kelvin
MacKenzie, Tim Bleakley has landed on his feet in the slightly more
stable environs of Emap Advertising.
Bleakley, who left his role as the managing director of Impact Sales,
talkSPORT's sales house, little more than a month ago, is taking the
role of head of broadcast sales at Emap Advertising. He will report to
Dave King, who was recently promoted from that post to the managing
director role at Emap Advertising.
The exit from talkSPORT was swift but Bleakley denies rumours of a rift
with MacKenzie, saying: "There was absolutely no fallout. We did have
our differences at one point but we parted on very good terms."
Bleakley says the decision to leave Impact was taken after "an honest
conversation" with Mac-Kenzie, after which he decided to "take a
It seems that the rollercoaster ride had come to an end: "When I took
the job it was about riding the crest of a wave and constructing as much
as I could and learning from an incredibly fast-moving and high-octane
guy. Kelvin was very supportive and backed me to do pioneering things
but there is only so long you can work with Kelvin."
For a while it looked like Bleakley's fortunes would mirror those of his
beloved Manchester United, but any chance of a downward spiral has been
ended by Emap, which was waiting in the wings. The decision to leave
Impact might be seen as something of a risk, as was Bleakley's decision
to leave TV sales when he was an account director at the ITV sales house
TSMS four years earlier.
"There is method in my madness," Bleakley says. "There is an element of
the risk taker in me. I don't try to be unconventional but there always
comes a time when I won't run with the pack."
Bleakley's latest role is a challenging one for which the charismatic
Lancastrian is well suited. His radio sales experience is undoubted.
Although talkSPORT has found recent times tough, Bleakley presided over
a much-heralded, and awarded, sales team and developed big sponsorship
deals with the likes of John Smith's, as well as working on tasks such
as the marketing of talkSPORT's live football broadcasts.
Emap's nascent TV brands will prove more of a challenge. He says: "The
strength of Emap's brands and the way they are developing is exciting.
For some it's in the early stages and that's what I find most
Bleakley has a reputation as an ideas man and is relishing getting stuck
into ways of cross-selling Emap's brands. Although he is passionate
about radio, he grew frustrated at talkSPORT because often radio was
just one part of a marketing strategy. Bleakley describes radio as a
"support medium" or the "medium of multimedia" - unthreatening to other
media because of its small share and flexible enough to fit into any
marketing mix. In light of this the Emap offer is enticing as it fuses
the radio brands with other properties.
So what can Emap Advertising expect when Bleakley arrives on 14
"I like to create an environment in which people are comfortable with
the brand. I like to create a good argument with passion and energy. ITV
always used to lead with the deal and still does. This is not what I
Bleakley's creative and bombastic approach could be a valuable asset to
Emap. There are signs that Emap Advertising is building momentum after a
slow start and Bleakley's double act with King will be vital to its
Jerry Hill, the chief executive of Initiative Media, ran TSMS while
Bleakley was there. He says: "He's what I'd call an individual and was
always going to go on and do something more entrepreneurial. Of all
people at his level he was the most challenging. If I'd had 200 people
like that then I'd have been delighted."
Mark Palmer, a managing partner at OMD UK, says: "Tim is a brilliant
salesman. Lots of people are negotiators but he would always sell the
medium. I first encountered Tim when he was at Ulster and he was a rare
thing - he did it intelligently, and always talked to planners. He has
the imagination to do the Emap job."
In the meantime Bleakley is planning a holiday with his family - he has
two children with his partner Clare Durwood, the marketing director at
J. Walter Thompson, and another on the way. He is passionate and
knowledgeable about sport and as well as following Manchester United, he
has been to all of England's home football matches since 1996.
There is something of the maverick in Bleakley that made the blend with
MacKenzie a successful cocktail (six sales directors had bitten the dust
before he arrived) and agencies will continue to find him a challenging
THE BLEAKLEY FILE
1989: Ulster Television, group head
1992: TSMS, account manager to account director
1997: Talk Radio, sales controller
1998: Talk Radio, sales director
2000: Impact, managing director
2002: Emap Advertising, head of broadcast sales