FBWW Exclusive: İpek Ustaoğlu Interview Part OneInterview • Author: Nathan Redd • Friday, April 18, 2008
I technically interviewed İpek Ustaoğlu last week, but our interview really began last October. I was in Türkiye then to attend my first Fenerbahçe match and meet with some representatives in the sport management industry when I met İpek. I have a good friend named Kıvanç Özkök who is a host for Fenerbahçe TV, and he asked me to come by the studios when I arrived to hang out and be a guest on the show "Countdown." I met Kıvanç last summer and had seen his show "Maç Kaç Kaç" but I had never actually seen Countdown.
When I arrived at the stadium, getting through security to proceed to the television studios was a little like trying to get into the NASA Space Headquarters, only the Fenerbahçe people had a better idea of what they were doing. When I finally got in to see Kıvanç, he was preparing for that evening's program and he introduced me to his co-host for Countdown, İpek Ustaoğlu. The best way to describe İpek is "bubbly." She's the same friendly girl with the big smile you see on TV, but it's even more sincere in person. I said "Memnun oldum, İpek" in my best Turkish and although I'd like to thing that she smiled in awe of Turkish-speaking skills, she was likely restraining herself from laughing at this American guy with the bad accent. İpek was immediately full of questions, which was surprisingly appreciated. She wanted to know my story, how FBWW began, etc. I, İpek, and Kıvanç walked upstairs to the cafeteria to eat lunch and talk a bit more about why I was there, why FBWW began, etc. İpek was wonderfully inquisitive the entire time and the way she carries herself is even more comfortable in person. Within five minutes, I felt like I had known her for years. As we ate, she asked me question after question until Volkan Ballı walked over. The Fener Director of Futbol Operations introduced himself to me (as if he needed to do so) and we talked briefly about FBWW and how he and President Aziz Yıldırım enjoyed the site. He knew that I was coming to watch the team train later that weekend, so our initial conversation was brief. As I returned to my lunch, İpek's questions picked up right where she left off.
Sometimes you meet someone and the friendship begins immediately. That happens to me a lot with Fener fans, which tells you a little about the hospitality of the Fenerbahçe Republic. It also happened with both Kıvanç and İpek. Certainly there is a more professional vibe on camera from both of them, but the same sincerity is evident when the cameras aren't rolling. If it seems that they are talking to you personally when they are on TV, it's probably because they are.
When I'm not writing for FBWW, I'm studying the science behind the marketing of sport organizations. Just as a successful product on the pitch is essential to a club, the faces of the club are equally as important. For Fenerbahçe, the faces of the club are the FB TV personalities like İpek. Few fans will get to meet the players, but they will watch the TV personalities every day. Kıvanç, İpek, and the other FB TV personalities have the exclusive ability of being able to influence a fan's perception of the club. In that sense, they are successful marketing products for Fener. Having İpek Ustaoğlu on camera is arguably as important as any marketing decision the club could make.
İpek currently has two different programs on FB TV. In addition to co-hosting Countdown, the popular viewer call-in and e-mail show, she hosts her own show called "Genç Çizgi" - a program dedicated to the latest in the Istanbul arts, entertainment, and fashion scene. She's also developed a big following of her own. While some of that is certainly due to her good looks, there is no lack of talent or depth there. She can talk to you about the latest music or Claudio Maldonado's recent form in the midfield. She's also equally accomplished in conversing with you in English, Turkish, and Spanish. While some will see her as simply a TV personality on the club's network, Fenerbahçe sees her as something much more valuable; a vital piece of the club's worldwide success and acquisition of new fans. I'm extremely fortunate to count İpek as a very good friend of mine, but I also realize how valuable she is to the club. Over the course of our many conversations, I've learned exactly why Fenerbahçe wants her in front of the camera talking to fans. So, who is İpek Ustaoğlu?
FBWW: Tell us a little about yourself - where were you born? Where did you grow up?
IU: I'm the kid and the granddaughter of the family - I was born in Istanbul in 1984 to a family that certainly valued girls, so I was very spoiled but also very disciplined. I didn't get everything I wanted, but anytime I needed attention there was always someone there for me. I'm definitely a lucky girl.....I have a little sister who is five years younger than me, but to be honest, she looks and acts a bit older than me.
FBWW: Were you always a Fener fan?
IU: Yeah, ofcourse! My father and grandfather were both huge Fener fans...in fact, my whole family. You could say I was born to be a Fener fan.
FBWW: Where did you go to university? Did you study journalism?
IU: I graduated from Istanbul Bilgi University, where I studied media and communication systems. While I was there I learned everything about journalism, from how to use a camera to how to write news pieces, etc.
FBWW: Did you want to work in television when you were young?
IU: Absolutely! My grandfather is Turkish writer and journalist Sadun Tanju. When I was young, he was always writing books; always on his typewriter. When I was a kid, I loved playing with his typewriter and pretending. I would write letters to him, you know, just playing around and having fun. It honestly made me realize, however, than I wanted to be just like him. Actually, I still want to be like him - he is my idol. This desire to be like him makes me work harder - read more, learn more, etc. I still envy his knowledge and his attitude. I'm still young, so in the future...who knows...
FBWW: How did you begin working for FB TV? Was it your first media job?
IU: FB TV isn't my first job. During my freshman year (the first year) of university, I was working for CNN Turk at the international desk. I was studying and working at the same time. Later I went on to work for several more networks while I was studying at the university. I love working in television - it's a different and fun world to be in.
(Part Two of FBWW's exclusive interview with Ipek coming soon...)