Fresh off the release of a video for Red Bull and with a new film for cycling stunt genius Danny MacAskill coming later this month, Cut Media’s Stu Thomson believes there’s everything to play for in the booming market for sports content.

The Glasgow-based studio has bounced back solidly from the opening round of the pandemic in 2020, with revenues of £2.3 million in its latest financial year as major brands pour increasing amounts of money into video content campaigns. Such is his confidence that Mr Thomson and his business partner, head of creative Scott Marshall, have bought a new and larger studio in Woodside Place that will replace their current rented accommodation by the end of this year.

“This year we’ve really invested in the company,” he said. “We feel like we’re in a position of amazing opportunity.

“The world of sports content is exploding – brands are looking to work more and more with talented athletes.”

Now working with organisations such as Eurosport, Adidas, Sky, VisitScotland and others, Cut Media grew out of Mr Thomson’s previous career as a mountain bike athlete competing on the world circuit. When an injury in 2006 brought his professional career to an end, he picked up a camera and started filming at mountain biking events.

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He initially created videos for his own website, then gradually began picking up video and advertising work for small UK-based cycling companies.

He started operating under the name of Cut Media in 2011, around the same time as he was directing Danny MacAskill’s Industrial Revolutions for the Channel 4 documentary Concrete Circus.

“I met Danny about 2007, I think it would be,” he recalls. “I was obviously just beginning to get into filmmaking at that point, and we just became very good friends.

“We rode bikes together a lot. As much as I wasn’t competing, I was still doing a lot of mountain biking.”

Growing up in the village of Dollar to the east of Stirling, the young Mr Thomson was introduced to the world of two-wheeled sport at an early age by his father who competed in motorbike trials. From the age of four he was regularly attending events with his father.

“Obviously I was too young to ride a motorbike so I was always going about pedalling on my bicycle,” he said. “I did kind of dabble in motorbikes when I got a bit older, but I quickly moved into just preferring mountain biking.”

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By the time he was as school at Alva Academy in the 1990s, the sport was “exploding”. He entered his first competitive race in 1996, and by the age of 17 he became a British junior champion.

“My dad stopped his motorbike riding and ended up coming to mountain bike races with me, and we used to travel about when I was in school doing competitions around the UK, and then gradually more international competitions as well,” he said.

Mr Thomson continued competing while studying for a joint degree in marketing and sport studies at the University of Stirling, hitting a peak in 2003 when he made it on to the podium at the DHWorld Cup round in Grouse Mountain, Canada.

Three years later he damaged the ligaments in his ankle while playing basketball, which led to a cellulitis infection and three skin grafts. After a month in hospital he returned to competitive racing for further year, but he didn’t feel he could quite compete to the same level as he had previously.

“I probably didn’t get to the level that I dreamed of as a kid,” he said. “I had one podium at a World Cup event, some British Championship medals, but the injury made me reconsider things a little bit.

“I had always been into film and photography, and I kind of picked up a camera at that point.”

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Among other Cut Media productions with Danny MacAskill are Imaginate and The Ridge. The latter, in which the Scot returned to his home in Skye to take on the Cuillin Ridge on a full-suspension bike, has racked up more than 77 million views on YouTube since it was released seven years ago.

The newest film, Do A Wheelie, premiers tomorrow on Danny MacAskill’s YouTube channel and was filmed in conjunction with Adidas.

While much of Cut Media’s work focuses on mountain biking and cycling, its staff of 23 have also worked in a variety of other areas such as climbing, trail running, snowboarding, Formula One and UFC. The company also made a video for Real Madrid FC celebrating the connection between the club and its fans.

Wholly owned by Mr Thomson and Mr Marshall, Cut Media expects to do more broadcasting work in the future and is also building a digital strategy angle into its offering.

“We are probably going to move a little into the broadcast space, but mostly we’re continuing to grow our portfolio of global brands,” Mr Thomson said.

“Working with some of the energy drink brands or Strava or Adidas, the difference for us in growth is that the level and scale of the client is much bigger. We are also working with them on more of a strategic level, rather than an individual project level, because they are now trying to plan out video content over the course of their year.”

Q&A

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

I love being in the mountains, it’s where I’m happiest and most relaxed, so my trips to the French Alps, Italian Dolomites and the Andes and Chile have been some of the biggest highlights.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

All I wanted was to be a professional athlete. Most specifically racing my bike as a career, it’s what I loved to do, I had a talent for it and I knew it would let me travel which is something I was very passionate about.

What was your biggest break in business?

It sounds strange but my biggest break in business was when I sustained an injury which ended my career as an athlete. I spent a month in hospital and I had no choice but to switch direction in my life goals. It made me re-focus, explore an interest both filmmaking and sports marketing and ultimately begin the journey that has led to where I’m at today. Without that injury I would never have founded Cut Media and then followed a path to grow the business which is something I’m hugely proud of.

What was your worst moment in business?

The first few weeks of the Covid pandemic were probably the hardest. We’re a small company based in Scotland running projects and a client base all around the world. When the pandemic hit and everything stopped it was probably the most challenging time. I felt such a responsibility to our team and, for a short while, it felt like everything we’d worked towards could evaporate within just a few months.

Who do you most admire and why?

I probably most admire my dad, the example he set me in self-employment, his advice and the direction he set me on in life gave me so much. It’s something I’m very thankful for.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?

I’ve just finished Billy Connoly’s ‘Windswept and Interesting’ audiobook and podcast-wise I’m always listening to a lot of sport and business-related pieces. I’m hugely passionate about athletes, what they can achieve after their sports careers, and also what businesses and leaders can learn from sport. That is certainly reflected in my listening. Music is very eclectic as I love a wide range of genres, although my Spotify most played is probably a Pixar or Lego movie soundtrack from my two kids (ages five and seven) who have them on non-stop!