My Event World - Rory Steel of Steely Fox

Rory Steel is the director of Steely Fox, an agency that specialises in the drinks industry
Rory Steel is the director of Steely Fox, an agency that specialises in the drinks industry

Rory Steel, the director of agency Steely Fox, spoke to Event about his encounter with Justin Timberlake, work on an interestingly titled internet campaign in 1999, and desire to work on the F1 circuit.

I got into the event industry because there is no greater satisfaction than seeing the desired responses on the faces of people who attended one of your events. It trumps the pleasure from soaring digital figures or a front-page splash every time. 

I have worked here since the agency was founded in 2008. We have an office in Edinburgh and one in Shoreditch, and I yoyo between the two.

I was attracted to this particular role because it didn’t involve commuting on the Northern Line. The agency was established after I felt the yearning to move back to the motherland (Scotland) following 14 years in London.  

Not many people know that Justin Timberlake had to borrow my trainers for a photo shoot at a kids’ football coaching session we had organised for a client. Kenny Dalglish has also had to borrow a pair of shoes off me once. Not sure what it is with me and shoes...

The best event I’ve been involved was... Resisting the temptation to nominate a Steely Fox production, I’d say ‘Four Naked People Locked Alone in a Room with the Internet’ back in 1999. Internet shopping was only just beginning and reality television had yet to become the genre it is today, so this was truly groundbreaking work with a live, interactive event at the heart of it. 

The agency, The Red Consultancy, scooped all the top prizes with the campaign during that year’s awards season. Intoxicating stuff for a wee account executive, although the campaign title just seems so wrong now.

If I could do it all over again I would spend some time working abroad. I turned down the opportunity of going to work in Silicon Valley during the boom of the early 2000’s and sometimes look back and wonder. Having said that, the work we do now is definitely the perfect fit for me.   

The one thing I can’t stand is land grabbing. Successes in our game are a team effort. 

Outside of work I spend my time... As I get older and with a couple of kids, I feel I’m turning into my old man! I’ve got two vintage cars, I go shooting and fishing and get the odd round of golf in. 

What sound like pretty mundane and unexciting pastimes are, in fact, the perfect antidote to the fast-paced world of running an agency and sampling awesome cocktails in fantastic bars as part of the job. More than anything, I just like hanging out with friends and family.

If money were no object I would start a professional rugby team in the Scottish Borders, where I live. I would use it to inspire youngsters to embrace the sport and to help them understand what great teamwork can achieve. If [French rugby union club] Toulon can do what they did when money is no object then…

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be Bernie Ecclestone, or anyone organising the F1 circuit. Who wouldn’t want to do that for at least a year?

If I ruled the event industry I would give everybody in the industry a day spa voucher for Christmas. 

More: My Event World - Guy Horner

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