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What has football and Digital Asset Management (DAM) got in common? Danny Karbassiyoon - that’s who! Danny may now be Co-Founder of the DAM consulting service, Stacks but his background is firmly rooted in football. And somehow the sporting and DAM world cross over nicely, with there being plenty of need in sport for the speedy organisation that digital asset managers bring to the table.

Growing up playing soccer in the US, Danny moved to the UK at 17 when he was signed for Arsenal. His career in professional football was sadly cut short at 22 due to knee injuries but he continued to work in the industry by becoming a scout for Arsenal in North and Central America. Following this time Danny began his foray into start-ups before the opportunity came to join Stacks.

We quiz Danny on what it's like to be the only American in the football team, whether it's all just champagne and social media and how he manages to keep a foot in the game through Stacks.

Podcast produced by Let’s Talk Video Production.

We mentioned in the introduction that injury took you away from the football pitch into the techie world of Digital Asset Management, and I'm guessing this world is slightly less glamorous - or are you still quaffing champagne every night?!

I don't think I was ever drinking champagne on a nightly basis even when I was playing football! I think at times the press makes out as if a lot of footballers are just a bunch of party animals but it's definitely a very disciplined world. There are obviously some people that like to go out and enjoy themselves probably a little bit more than clubs would like them to but I like to think that I celebrate wins in a different way now - when we get new clients and are doing new challenges, so I still celebrate but just for different reasons!

My friend Steve is a massive Arsenal fan, I sent him a picture of you and he knew who you were straight away - I was so impressed because it was quite a while back that you were playing for the club.

I guess I'm very niche, I mean there's not many Americans who have played for the club and then if you go even further niche my mom is Italian and my Dad's Iranian so Iranians will claim me as being like the first Iranian to play for the club and then obviously the Americans claim I'm the first American player so yeah a bit of a mix! I'm actually the second American to play for Arsenal - I was the first American to score and I think there's been three of us total now to play for Arsenal which is pretty cool.

Is football massively different to soccer?

No it's exact same thing!

You just call it the wrong word...

Okay this is the thing, I live in London and I can't win - when people say 'oh what are you doing here as an American?' I say I used to play football, they say 'my football or your football?' and then I say 'well I said football so I blend in to the culture here' as if I say soccer they think you mean American football! It's actually the English who created the word soccer and then they make fun of us for actually using it!

Danny Karbassiyoon Arsenal Team Shot Football
Credit: Arsenal Football Club

I love that - it's the perfect comeback because we actually developed the word! So as fellow DAM professional for Stacks you're on a similar mission to us at Bright by helping others locate their digital assets and files seamlessly so tell us a bit about your current role...

My entry into DAM was very very unorthodox really. Two of my good friends that i've known since i was about three or four years old are internationally renowned corporate photographers. They've gone around the world taking photos for some amazing brands and whenever they deliver their stuff it's always been just remarkably organised - file names and metadata have always been airtight and brands began noticing that.

They ended up saying, 'we've hired a couple of contractors over the past to take photos for us and freelancers but we can always find yours work because of how much effort you guys put into organising things and making sure we can find it'. That then turned into some brands asking them to come look at their DAMS and help organise things and then suddenly they realised those there was a pretty interesting opportunity on the horizon - not in the technology side but on the kind of professional services consulting side. I'd been working in the startup space and then ended up joining Stacks to lead growth and then also to manage a little bit of strategy as well.

Danny Karbassiyoon Stacks team

Danny and the Stacks team - Brett Lemon (far left), Robert Boag (second to left), Danny, Casey Templeton (far right) 

Bringing it back to football before we go deep into DAM... we've mentioned you played for Arsenal before retiring from the game in 2006. At the time social media wasn't around so how did you get hold of professional shots and was that even something that you actually considered as a player?

It wasn't really - it's changed dramatically and for footballers now, they are really celebrities as well as athletes that rise to fame quite quickly and then have to deal and cope with the social following that comes with it. Many footballers debut when they're 17 or 18 years old and have a thousand Twitter followers or a couple of thousand Instagram followers and then suddenly you're just thrust onto the world stage and you have you know half a million followers overnight which is pretty wild. None of that existed when i was playing. When I left Arsenal the photographer actually just gave me a cd and said here you go! In the future they began emailing them and whatnot as well but now I've obviously uploaded them to my computer and then they're backed up on Google Drive etc.

There wasn't a real need I suppose to get the content out because for the most part when people wanted to get information on what had happened in a match they would just go to Sky Sports or BBC to read the match reports. Whereas now people jump on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to quickly get recaps of the matches.

In terms of social media, are you glad that when you were playing professionally it didn't exist? Do you think that would have affected you as a player?

It's definitely an interesting psychological component to the game now, especially if you know everybody is on these platforms. If you're growing a social following in parallel to your football career then you're more valuable as the agent can go to brands and say 'hey look my player has a million followers on Instagram' so I think people see it as a huge opportunity. But with that opportunity also comes the fact that when you're in the spotlight - in professional sports in particular it's very public. A player will have a bad game and then you just don't want to sign into Twitter.

One of the benefits of a DAM is that it allows photographers to upload and share images quickly. You still have plenty of contacts within the football world, so do you believe that it's an important piece of MarTech for sports clubs to have set up and do you actively seek sports clubs as clients?

I think it is really important, the way people watch sport now has changed dramatically from 10 years ago. Most people are watching a football match play out on the television while looking at their phone or having some form of second screen solution happening. It also means that it's the clubs generally generating this content so it's important to be first to market when it comes to publishing photos of great moments in a game. For example, if an Arsenal player scores, Arsenal would love to own that moment and put that image out first as will be highly engaged with and goes straight to the top of the social networking algorithm.

It enables the clubs be  more in control of the narrative of the game then?

For sure, it's really powerful to own those images and release them first. With that comes all the workflow and processes - things that you have to think about in order to organise your images. We've worked with a variety of NFL teams at this point now and it's interesting for us to approach teams as a lot of them face the same problems. They might be hiring out a team of freelancers on any given match to take the photos so they need to have a process for ensuring the right photos and the best shots are reaching the editor or DAM manager quickly.

Danny Karbassiyoon Goal celeb team

Credit: Arsenal Football Club

During a game, photographers are just beaming photos up as they're taking them - basically if a goal is scored for example they hit Twitter within a minute of the goal happening so there's a lot of workflows and processes that are in place. After the game there's that cool-down period where we have a lot of assets and they're going into the archive but they need to be tagged appropriately. There needs to be a bunch of metadata applied to them to ensure that we can find them at a later time, so the next time we play this tape it's easy for us to find the appropriate photos to build up this game.

With any large corporation, including sports teams there's always a risk of copyrighted images being used without consent especially by the press and over social media. How do you think this affects the footballing world and do you think that's something that could be better managed by using a DAM?

I guess there's different workflows - some clubs will just upload immediately for example to Getty press and the media can go directly to Getty and then buy the images off there. From our experience and working with DAMs, the the benefit of working with the DAM is being able to set copyright expiries and different permissions that only certain people can access. This just immediately streamlines everything to ensure that people aren't using stuff that they shouldn't be using. 

We did some research in January where we asked different marketers whether they ever used copyrighted images without license. And the numbers doing it were pretty high - around 50% said yes! I'm assuming with big clubs like Arsenal, if you use their images in the wrong way you're really setting yourself up for a massive fine...

Absolutely. There's so many kind of sponsorship deals at different levels to think about as well. So if you're an NBA team and you're sponsored by Gatorade, you don't want to post a photo of one of your players drinking Lucozade! So you can get in trouble like from sponsors as well, because they're paying good money to have your players drink Gatorade. We're working with several big clients now where the copyright stuff is so in your face and the emails to let you know the assets that you can't use anymore basically are so in your face which makes sense because I imagine they've gotten in trouble at some point.

Do you feel like one day there's going be an AI function so that a DAM can recognise the Gatorade and flag it?

I mean, there's technology out there already that's doing brand detection and things like that. And if you train a program well enough to say look for this in any asset, and if it pops up you can just put it into a folder that says don't let people share this. It might not get it right all the time but at least you'd rather be safe than sorry especially in these situations, where as you mentioned, the fines can be absolutely enormous. 

A BIG Bright thank you to Danny for taking the time to chat to us about all things sport and DAM! If you'd like to find out more about Stacks, head over to their website, or you can find Danny on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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