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In memoriam: Rod Kohler (1969 - 2018)

Friday, 16 February 2018
In memoriam


Tributes have been paid from around the world to Rod Kohler, joint Managing Director of Revolution Sports + Entertainment, an international sports PR and sponsorship agency based in London.

Kohler (pictured), who was 48, had been fighting pancreatic cancer and passed away last week.

A hugely popular and respected professional in the sports marketing industry, Kohler began his career over 20 years ago at the then sports agency Orbit International working on the Stella Artois sponsorship of the tennis championships at The Queen’s Club. Before helping co-found Revolution Sports in 2005, he worked at international PR agency Hill & Knowlton where he was part of the communications team behind the successful Athens 2004 Olympic Bid. Whilst at H&K, he also worked on the Football World Cup in France, Formula 1 with the sponsors of three different teams and the Cricket World Cup. Kohler also worked at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment working on numerous high-profile accounts including in Formula 1 and international cricket with Travelex, where he twice toured with the Australian cricket team to India.

In the equestrian world, for the past 10 years Kohler has worked extensively on the biggest events around the globe, including on behalf of Rolex at five FEI World Cup Finals, two FEI European Championships, and saw the launch of the innovative Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2013, where he witnessed the historic first win of the global prize by GB’s Scott Brash in Spruce Meadows, Calgary in 2015.

Elsewhere in the sport, amongst other accomplishments, he helped lead the launch and activation of the Furusiyya sponsorship of the FEI Nations Cup and was especially proud of his role as the Press Attaché to the Saudi Equestrian show jumping team’s historic bronze medal achievement at the London 2012 Olympic Games.  In 2016, Kohler led the team managing the PR for the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which also staged the Bafta award-winning Her Majesty the Queen's 90th Birthday Celebration at the Show.

In 2017, Kohler was proud to have been part of the winning team appointed to manage the Press Operations for the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, USA.

Nigel Currie, former Chairman of the European Sponsorship Association, “Rod was one of the nicest people in the sponsorship business. He was a highly respected and dedicated professional with great knowledge and insight across a wide range of matters. He brought terrific enthusiasm and energy to everything he did and this contributed hugely to his success in business. He was also an excellent spokesman and outstanding ambassador for the industry and had matured into one of the leading executives in the sponsorship world who had so much more to offer. "

Andrew Baldock, Chairman of British Equestrian Writers’ Association, Press Association Sport Rugby Union correspondent and equestrian writer, “I got to know Rod well through the equestrian world, and I immediately warmed to a lovely man, a total professional and someone who always had the time of day for you."

“During my time covering the sport, we shared many a conversation – often over a glass or two – and he was the most wonderful company. Engaging, thoughtful and supremely-talented. That was Rod.  We also had a time together as non-executive directors on the Board of British Showjumping, and his contribution to that organisation was a considerable one. I loved his refreshing approach, his pure zest for everything he did.  I feel privileged to have known Rod. He truly was one of the very best.”

Revolution Sports is fundraising for Pancreatic Cancer UK, please read more about it here.


Photo (c) Starting Gate Communications Rod Kohler together with Jennifer Ward and Anthony Schaub. Photo (c) Starting Gate Communications.

Alban Poudret, Editor of Le Cavalier Romand and Sport Director of CHI Geneva:

"We will miss Rod very much. It is a huge loss for his family, but also all around the world, as he had so many friends. Rod was a true gentleman, always elegant and nice, always friendly and helpful. He was very professional, but also immensely brilliant in the evening, at a nice dinner or rebuilding the world with a good glass of wine. Rod had such a great sense of humor. When enjoying life with him, it finished sometimes with a 5* dance-display or by jumping chairs and sofas of restaurants, as in the Olympia’s or Geneva's Six Bars. The day after, at 6 in the morning he was already up and running, but there we were not! Rod, you were a marvelous companion."

Rupert Bell, British equestrian journalist:

"When Merrick told me Rod was diagnosed with cancer at last year’s Open Golf Championship, it hit me hard like so many and when the news came through that Rod’s battle with the disease was over it left all of us who were blessed to know him dumbstruck. Cancer is cruel with perhaps pancreatic cancer the cruellest. Rod however had remained positive throughout. But that was him in a nutshell. Life was to be lived and enjoyed whatever the circumstances. And boy did he enjoy himself. It was coupled however with a supreme work ethic that endeared him to everyone.

I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Rod  “on tour” and the tone was set by him right from the first time and on the first night. It was Las Vegas 2009 for the World Cup finals and that evening turned into a very long one with too much red wine taken. But the next morning who was first on call impeccably turned out yes, it was Rod.

After one particularly late night at the Barcelona Nations Cup final 3 years back I asked him how he managed to look so undamaged from the night before. His reply, some eye drops, a shave and some smart clothes and keep smiling. It worked.

He had an infectious charm which left us all feeling much better about ourselves. His enthusiasm for whatever event he was at swept you along and made you want to work that little bit harder. The equestrian world can be a complicated one but he had the ability to smooth ruffled feathers. Hence the reason so many organisations wanted his time and energy. I know how proud he was that his team at Revolution had won the contract for this year’s World Equestrian Games. His presence will be much missed.

For many of us from the equestrian world in whatever sphere this year’s gathering in Tryon will be a sadder one. No chance to see that beaming smile, the ability to unite and have a night which sees Rod display his significant Dad Dancing Skills.

Rod’s loss i know will be devastating to his family and for all at Revolution who worked with and for him, but I know I will and many others will gather in September determined to ensure Rod’s legacy will not be forgotten. His approach at all times was perfect, work hard, play hard and don’t waste a second. Thank you Rod for just being so bloody good at Life."

Jennifer Ward, Starting Gate Communications:

"Class. Efficiency. Empathy. All these words can be used to describe Rod’s character, but none give a true description of Rod. He was a person that was easy to work alongside, due to his professionalism, organizational skills, and ability to adjust and ‘go with the flow’ when need be. He was also a person you were just as comfortable sharing a drink or a meal with, as there was never a shortage of interesting conversation. Regardless of which role he was playing, colleague or friend, Rod could be counted on for sound guidance, a joke at the right time, and an innate understanding of what every situation required.

Even when his diagnosis looked less than promising, Rod maintained his optimism, and his will to fight. He did not seek sympathy, but instead thrived on support.

With his passing, we truly lost ‘one of the good ones’. A special person whose presence enriched our lives."

Pamela Young, former Editor-in-Chief of Horse International and L'Annee Hippique​:

"Since Rod's untimely death from pancreatic cancer, one week before today, Valentine's Day, I have read many lovely tributes and sentiments expressed on social media, posted by his friends, of which there are many. He was, in their words: "kind, funny, trustworthy, fair, always positive, gentle, warm, welcoming and a super nice person to work with. He was a true gentleman."

To my mind, one of Rod's most endearing attributes was his innate charm. Sure, it was his job to win us over but it wasn't a chore for him. It came naturally to Rod and we embraced his relaxed but credible commitment to personal and public relations. He was, really and truly, a good guy and he was taken, by this most stealthy of killers, before we were able to tell him how much we appreciated him.

The last time I saw my friend was on the golf course. It was the day before my birthday and his wedding anniversary. The tragedy is that there will be no more birthdays or anniversaries or Valentines Days to celebrate with Rod. Not in this world anyway. 

I look forward to seeing him in the next life, but not too soon; a life where there is never a missed putt, nor a shank shot, nor a pole down. A life where we can often celebrate with a bottle of divine champagne won in a heavenly Rolex draw."



In Rod's memory, donations can be made to Pancreatic Cancer Action via this link

The team at Revolution Sports + Entertainment is fundraising for Pancreatic Cancer UK – read more about it here and please support if you can. 


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