Our latest Industry Insider works for one of the biggest football clubs in Portugal. We had a chat with Gonçalo Ferreira about his role as Social Media Manager at Sporting Clube de Portugal…
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Gonçalo Ferreira, I’m 26 years old and I live in Lisbon, Portugal. I currently work at Sporting Clube de Portugal’s (not Sporting Lisbon, as many people think) Digital Marketing team as a Social Media Manager, a role that I’ve been playing for over four years.
Initially, my area of expertise was very different since I graduated in architecture, but my passion for the digital world and sports made me change to Digital Marketing, where I studied at Universidade Lusófona, in Lisbon.
I started my path in Digital Marketing as a volunteer by managing a page related to Sporting CP and later managing the social networks of professional athletes. Then, I arrived at Sporting CP, where I remain to date.
What do you do in your current role?
As a Social Media Manager at Sporting CP, my colleagues and I manage all the Club’s Social Media pages: the main one, the women’s football, the museum, the foundation, the esports, the mascot and the one dedicated to all the other sports.
My role is to plan and create daily content strategies for our social networks, with the aim of interacting and bringing together a community with over four million fans and followers. In terms of planning, what we try to do on a daily basis is to understand what type of content works best on each platform and adapt the strategy to what the public asks for, always keeping an eye out for current trends.
Besides planning, a large portion of our work also is producing content with designers, videographers and partner brands, in order to deliver relevant and impactful content that entertains our fans and makes them feel part of the Club’s life.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
Correct. In sports, every day is different and it all depends on what’s going on around us at the moment and on what the public wants to see.
At the beginning of each week, my colleagues and I schedule the content for the week and discuss new ideas. The communication during the week is very focused on what the match day will be like, which is the main attraction, so the content is almost fully dedicated to that.
Match day is the most important and stressful day of the week, as we follow everything that goes on at the stadium in loco. Both at home and away, we follow the team wherever they play with the main goal of providing behind-the-scenes content that fans normally don’t have access to.
The following days, we manage our content taking in consideration what happened during the match and we try to come up with creative and interesting ways to talk about it.
The good thing about working in sports, essentially in football, is that there is no monotony and we end up playing different roles in the team. During the same week, I could be travelling with various teams to the matches, filming some training at our club Academy, creating content in a merchandising photoshoot or even in the office analyzing the weekly results of our strategies. Everything is important, it’s all part of our work and, at the end of the day, it’s all worth it when we see the positive engagement from the fans and supporters!
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
Since I was a little boy I remember watching football games alongside my father. He never misses a Sporting CP game or even the big La Liga and Premier League matches, so due to that influence I started doing the same. As I grew up I became even more interested with the sports world and with the club I support, Sporting CP. At the age of 14, I created a page on social media to support my club, which only started as a joke but quickly became something serious.
On that page, I followed everything about Sporting CP, basically doing the work of a real Social Media Manager but in an unofficial way. Here, I combined my passion for sports and the interest that was beginning to emerge in the field of Digital Marketing.
A few years later, the page became a relevant project in the club’s online community. As the page grew, the club noticed my work and invited me to work for them as a Social Media Manager, an offer that I gladly accepted.
Fortunately, today I can say that I manage to combine my passion for sports with the professional interest of working in Digital Marketing!
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
The main objective in my line of work is that those who follow us, our supporters, see themselves in the content that is published and interact with it as well.
Sports clubs are essentially love brands and our goal as content managers is that the fans feel part of the family and proud to support the club. We try to instil the mindset that they should share their support every day, whoever they are and wherever they are in the world.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
Whenever somebody talks about mistakes, I always remember Michael Jordan’s quote: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Mistakes happen every day and that’s human. I think my biggest failure at the beginning of my career was precisely not allowing myself to make mistakes.
Mistakes in posts, tweets, Instagram stories and many others will always happen no matter how much you see and review a post before publishing it. I’ve made some mistakes in posts, mainly spelling or sentence construction, often due to the pressure of meeting schedules. But making those mistakes when tenths of millions of eyes are watching is often fatal and painful. However, over time I learned to deal with it better and I realised that a good strategy might even be to play with the situation and deconstruct the error in front of whoever is reading it.
The important thing is to know how to learn and draw lessons from your mistakes and never stop taking risks and trying to do things differently. One should understand that improvements do not come without failure.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I think there are many possibilities emerging in the sports industry and many of them excite me.
On one hand, I believe that fans are trying to get to know the person behind the player and to understand what is going on in the backstage and that is why the content tends to be more personal, rawer and closer. In my opinion, this is the way to go and the clubs will work more to bring fans even closer to the action.
On the other hand, there are always new platforms and technologies emerging and our job as Social Media Managers is to understand how these tools can be useful. At this moment, for example, we see a growth in the use of AI in various fields and it is crucial to understand how this technology will evolve and how it can favor our job.
Basically, the challenge is to always be up-to-date to new trends emerging in the industry, which can help bringing fans closer to the club and gaining bigger engagement.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
I would change the perception and respect that people in general have towards the Social Media workers. There are many brands and brand leaders who still think that the work of a Social Media Manager is reduced to making a few posts and Instagram stories, with no knowledge at all about the amount of work, responsibility and wisdom that is required to work in this area.
When you work with something that anyone can access and see, you are subjected to easy and bitter judgment. As people have active accounts on social networks, they always have opinions to give about our work since they believe to have enough knowledge about the area. It would be good to see these professionals more valued, appreciated and respected.
From another perspective, I have to mention the amount of abuse and violence that exists in this industry. Nowadays we still see a lot of abusive, racist and discriminatory comments towards various athletes and professionals. I believe this has to change quickly and firmly. Something has to be done in this direction, where Leagues and clubs must have an active role.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
In terms of productivity and creativity, it is always important to know how to switch off and take advantage of our time to do other things. At the end of each week I simply turn off email notifications and all the workgroups so I can disconnect and know how to create the barrier between professional and personal life.
In my free time, I try to spend time with my family, friends and girlfriend. I really like music, traveling, playing padel and watching other sports excluding football, such as tennis.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Be resilient! Be proactive, build your network of contacts and be open to learn from others. If this is your passion, your opportunity will come. However, be aware that sports is an industry that works 24/7, it is very competitive so you have to be ready for that.
Once you get there, have fun! Think outside of the box, be creative, confident and never let yourself be affected by something that doesn’t go as you expected. You will never always get it right, nor will you always fail, the important thing is to keep trying and learn from the mistakes.
At the end of the day, all the effort pays off. I promise!
How to connect with Gonçalo Ferreira…
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Thanks for reading our chat with Gonçalo Ferreira! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.