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Hammer Live Brands: Howard Simms

Events company with strategic edge finds success with big-name clients

Juliet Pitman



Howard Simma of Hammer Live Brands

“More than ever before, people attending brand events are looking for an authentic experience, a personification of what the brand is about. When it comes to events, people have seen and experienced everything; they’re jaded so you constantly have to come up with new ways of doing things.” These are the words of Howard Simms, managing director of Hammer Live Brands, the events arm of King James Advertising. The company lists Johnnie Walker, Adidas, Levi’s and Red Bull among clients for whom it has held world-class events.

And yet, as Simms is quick to point out, Hammer Live Brands is different from your average run-of-the-mill events company. “We masquerade as an events company although we hate being called one because it’s such an abused term and people have very preconceived ideas about what events companies do,” he says, explaining that an important part of the company’s offering to clients includes a strong strategic element. “Instead of simply executing an event according to a brief from a client, we work strategically with them and develop an understanding of what the brand needs to achieve in the short-, medium- and long-term.”

It’s a smart approach. In the past too many companies, eager to get their brand out there, attached themselves to sponsored events that had nothing to do with the brand, its identity or its goals. Instead of strengthening the brand, these activities only served to dilute it and complicate the message it was communicating. “Branding and events have changed and companies realise that they have to attach themselves far more carefully to activities these days,” says Simms.

“It’s incredibly important to control the experience that people have when interacting with your brand through an activity or event. You need to achieve the same feeling here as you do with all the other messages you put out about the brand. There has to be congruence and a really strong through-line across all the marketing disciplines.

Achieving this in the jaded market he describes is not easy. “A lot of it is about the bravery of the client and the risks they are willing to take. Sometimes it hinges on the budget you have – not always but often. But from our side the important thing is to stay as connected as possible to everything that’s going on in popular culture and various sub-cultures,” Simms says. With a professional background in the theatre industry, he is well equipped.

He came, quite fortuitously, to meet Alistair King and James Barty, founders of King James Advertising, and the meeting gave birth to Hammer Live Events. “We didn’t need to go out and canvas clients because I had three existing contracts in place, which helped the company to pay its overheads in a year,” says Simms of the early days when he and a production manager did all the work, keeping things streamlined and only bringing in extra hands as and when they were needed.

This helped them overcome the challenges presented by cash flow. “We were incredibly careful,” says Simms. “The best advice I can give someone starting a business is that you can’t get ahead of yourself. At no point can you relax and think you’re coasting.” He lists another challenge as being able to interface with a large company such as King James and its existing infrastructure. Working within a big organisation has its benefits – but there are obstacles as well. “It was challenging trying to forge individual relationships with clients being brought to us by our parent company. We worked hard to show we had our own identity and own way of working,” Simms remembers.

It’s just one of the many things that Hammer Live Brands has managed to achieve successfully. The company has a strong sense of individuality and this has stood it in good stead when it comes to developing unique concepts for clients. In a world where almost nothing is new, retaining uniqueness in all aspects of their business is a real differentiator.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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