Forget ‘come say G’day’! Meet the former footballers reinventing Australia’s tourism industry with pandemic proof PR campaigns
- Two footballers launched global social marketing agency with friends
- They now have three international offices and more than 20 employees
- Komodo works with some of the biggest fast fashion brands in the world
- They take the influencers on free trips around the world to promote brands
- The influencers share pictures to social media and make lasting career choices
- Had to rearrange their priorities during coronavirus crisis as industry grounded
- Are now looking to promote Australia and reignite tourism industry post-COVID
From the jungles of Africa to mojitos in the Maldives, these boys have seen it all.
But for footballers turned marketing aficionados Nick Seymour and Joe Ellyatt, Australia will always be the destination to beat.
The former international rugby players, along with co-founders Freddie Strange and Andy Ryan, run Komodo, a global influencer and social marketing agency putting Australia on the map for some of the biggest global fast fashion companies.
With links to brands like Pretty Little Thing and Missguided, the agency is hoping to lure tourists back to Australia as soon as the COVID crisis is over – and they’re using creative photo shoots and Australian models to do it.
When COVID hit Australian shores, the Komodo team were in Thailand for their annual global conference.
They’d only recently opened an office in Los Angeles, and had big plans in motion for the future of the brand just three years after launching.
‘Just in time for COVID to hit,’ Head of Business Development in Australia, Jody Acheson, told Daily Mail Australia.
For Nick Seymour and Joe Ellyatt (pictured together while playing football professionally), what started as a backyard idea over a couple of beers just three years ago has become an international business dealing with some of the biggest fashion brands in the world
With links to global fast fashion companies like Pretty Little Thing and Missguided, the team is hoping to lure tourists back to Australia as soon as the COVID crisis is over – and they’re using creative photoshoots and Australian models to do it
Jody had a flight booked to Mauritius for more business and they were in the process of developing future international travel campaigns.
Suddenly, it seemed like their entire business model came to a crushing halt, as Australia urged citizens to come home immediately and then slammed international borders closed.
Rather than dwell on what they’d lost, they focused on what they could potentially gain.
‘For the girls, it gave them an opportunity to fall back in love with the fashion that they love to post,’ Nick explained.
‘They do so much brand work – often it’s what the brand wants them to post. This gave them a chance to relax a little bit and focus on what they love to create.’
The team were also forced to spend a lot more time in Australia than they usually would – particularly during winter.
Komodo quickly realised the potential of the nation’s hidden gems, and realised they were sitting on mountains of untapped potential.
‘We want to focus a lot of our stuff on domestic tourism,’ Nick said of the future.
Rather than getting up-close with a photographer, models were shot with the use of a drone in a COVID secure way in order to adhere to the social distancing guidelines (Pictured: Ashleigh Menin in the campaign)
Joe and Nick initially began selling inflatable pool toys before branching out into marketing and management
‘Australia is beautiful. We want to showcase that to our international audience and brands. Show everyone in the UK how amazing Western Australia is… and the wine region and pink lake of South Australia. These are opportunities that we want to take advantage of,’ Jody added.
‘We’d also like to help local Australian brands get back on their feet. We think Australia is one of the most beautiful places on earth, so why are these big brands choosing Los Angeles and other locations, we just really want to try to bring more stuff to home soil.
‘It doubles as a great tourism advertisement for Australia too.’
And they’re keeping true to their word.
Already this year, the Komodo team has been praised for an innovative campaign they created for fast fashion label, Pretty Little Thing.
As coronavirus sent entire nations into lockdown and the phrase ‘social distancing’ became part of the everyday lexicon, the Komodo team quickly realised their business model wouldn’t return to a pre-COVID normal any time soon.
Nick was discussing the impact of the pandemic with his mum, who was ‘super stressed’ that the company they created may crumble without travel, when she had a ‘stroke of genius’.
Already this year, the Komodo team has been praised for an innovative campaign they created for fast fashion label, Pretty Little Thing. Pictured: Co founders, Freddie Strange, Andy Ryan, Nick Seymour and Joe Ellyatt
‘She said ”can’t you just shoot something from one of those flying things”,’ Nick told Daily Mail Australia.
He pitched the idea to his team, and Jody – who normally plays the ‘bad cop’ and has to reject some of Nick’s more outlandish ideas – was first on board.
‘We’re very fortunate the CEO of Pretty Little Thing, Umar Kamani, is a risk taker,’ Nick said.
‘We lined it up for the sand dunes of Stockton Beach [NSW]. It was the middle of winter, and we had all these girls in bikinis, but it was epic.’
Kamani said: ‘In light of the Covid crisis we as a brand have had to adapt to new ways of working and for myself and our team to be the first fast fashion retailer to shoot solely on a drone proves why PrettyLittleThing are always at the forefront of the industry.’
The campaign also received global praise for using diverse bodies for the shoot.
Jody said the team was ‘really dedicated’ to bringing women from all walks of life, all shapes, sizes and colours, to the forefront of the industry and to ensuring all women felt represented in their campaigns.
Pictured: Some of the models featured on a recent campaign for Boohoo, when they were able to fly in a helicopter for work
Nick and his partner Joe first dreamt up Komodo following an initial foray into business ownership in the form of an inflatable pool toys business
Nick and his partner Joe first dreamt up Komodo over a few beers following an initial foray into business ownership in the form of an inflatable pool toys business.
They were working in France as professional rugby players at the time, but were beginning to look more toward their futures.
‘I was fortunate enough to play professionally from the time I was 20 until I was 28,’ Nick told Daily Mail Australia.
It’d been a long time coming. He first started training at just four years old, and always knew he wanted to make a career out of it.
‘But it was starting to get a bit scary. I was thinking ”what do I do after this, when I’m 35, when I’m 40”,’ he explained.
First, he and Joe tried selling inflatable pool toys. They were doing quite well for themselves, using just the power of Instagram and online marketing to attract buyers.
‘From there, we just started incorporating travel to shoot our content, and then a lot of brands started reaching out. It made us think, why don’t we do this for other brands? Why are we still playing rugby?’
From the jungles of Africa to mojitos in the Maldives and hitting the slopes, the team have seen it all
Pictured: Models recently featured on a Boohoo campaign Komodo organised
‘So we just dived in and started doing it for other brands… That was three years ago now. Its been crazy. But when you’re working with people with such a huge following, things just grow. It really is the best form of marketing.’
But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. For starters, Nick had to convince his mum that it was a smart career move.
‘It took a while to convince mum that this was an actual industry,’ he laughed. ‘A while to tell her that what I do is a real job.’
‘We were very lucky, we found a niche industry and a gap in the market. Basically it got to the point where I could say ”I was lucky enough to play this sport for eight years and do what I love, but now I’m going to star what will hopefully be a lifelong business”,’ he said.
‘Landing these big deals and campaigns is the same feeling I felt when I was running out onto a field. A lot of people never get that. I’ve found that passion twice.’
The boys work hard to make the campaigns look effortless. The goal is for their clients to have the ‘time of their lives’ – because they know that’s what sells products.
‘Unfortunately, that means not a lot of sleep for us,’ Nick said. ‘We’re the first ones to wake up and the last ones to go to sleep.’
In just three years, the business has expanded and there are now offices in Sydney, Los Angeles and London
Generally, a typical campaign shoot will last six days. Three of those days will consist of ‘strong shooting’ while the other three are usually downtime for the influencers, where they’re able to mingle with the locals and participate in cultural activities
During the international trips, the Komodo team have a duty of care for the influencers they choose to take with them.
Generally, a typical campaign shoot will last six days. Three of those days will consist of ‘strong shooting’ while the other three are usually downtime for the influencers, where they’re able to mingle with the locals and participate in cultural activities.
During the most recent trip to Bali, the group took the opportunity to participate in a beach clean up, and Nick explained that these are the days when the girls have the most fun.
The team use a discovery tool to help collate data about influencers when they’re creating a campaign to decide who would be the best fit.
‘Someone could have a million followers, but if 90 per cent are male, we’re never going to get them for a woman’s fashion brand,’ Jody explained.
‘From start to finish, we come up with what the campaign looks like. We try to fit the destination to the brand and then to the influencers and to the campaign.’
After three years in the industry and 70 huge campaigns, destinations are now starting to approach Komodo to offer their services.
‘Jamaica said they wanted to host a campaign and asked us to bring a brand to them. The obvious match is Jamaica, sun, swimwear… A lot of destinations are now saying ”what can you bring here, what would fit” which is really cool.’
How to turn Instagram into a lifelong career
‘Let’s not beat around the bush, they’ve got it good,’ Jody said.
The influencers that the Komodo team work around the clock on their brand and image, and once they’ve built a name for themselves, they make top dollar doing it.
‘They can earn a lot more than us, that’s for sure,’ he added.
But the influencers – and their managers – are well aware that this career mightn’t last forever.
While it has certainly been legitimised in the last few years, there is no roadmap for success as they forge their own careers, and Komodo is determined to ensure their clients have systems in place should the industry crumble.
Jody said: ‘I’m the boring one telling them how much to put away to save, and for the tax man. For an 18-year-old with half a million followers, nobody is telling them what to do with that money and its certainly a wake up call.
‘We’ve got systems in place for if they do take a downturn. We want them to buy their own houses, start their own businesses, really look to their futures.’
The Komodo team said their clients deserve every cent they earn – despite naysayers who think Instagram can’t be a job.
‘It is so frustrating hearing people say ”oh that just take a picture”, when they have got to wake up every day and take a better picture than yesterday,’ Nick explained.
‘And then they post it and have half a million people judging everything they do. These girls are incredibly thick skinned. They’re switched on and their businesswomen.
‘Sometimes they’ll show us the comments they get and, I’ve got a sister that’s 22, and I just think if that was my sister receiving those comments… its horrifying. They’ve got to be incredibly thick skinned.’
‘Brands had less spending money, so I was happy to adjust my rates,’ influencer Madison Woolley said. ‘I’ve developed good relationships with the brands I’ve work with over the years, so I wanted to be able to show my support for them during this challenging time’
Madison Woolley, who boasts more than half a million followers at just 22 and is represented by Komodo, told Daily Mail Australia the pandemic had forced her to reassess her goals.
But overall, she never once felt unsafe in her career or worried about her income stream, as so many other Australians did – particularly at the height of the pandemic.
‘Obviously this industry is always changing… but I feel safe in my field.
‘The trick is being able to adapt and evolve… As a lifestyle influencer, I’m able to still work primarily from home,’ she explained.
Ms Woolley normally shoots her content on international getaways, in cafes, restaurants and venues – so she learned very early on in the lockdown that her feed would look different during the pandemic.
All of the latest content on Ms Woolley’s social media channels was shot at her apartment.
For many of her favourite brands, Ms Woolley said she was just excited to be in a position to support them throughout the pandemic.
‘Brands had less spending money, so I was happy to adjust my rates,’ she said.
‘I’ve developed good relationships with the brands I’ve work with over the years, so I wanted to be able to show my support for them during this challenging time.’
Madison Woolley, who boasts more than half a million followers at just 22, told Daily Mail Australia the pandemic had forced her to reassess her impact on the industry