Welcome back to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is social media lead for ESPN in Australia and New Zealand, Jamie Van Leeuwen!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m a social media content specialist, creating videos, designing graphics and producing live shows for a digital audience. I specialise in sport, having previously worked with a number of clubs and leagues (Millwall FC, AFL, Essendon, Australian Socceroos, A-League and Matildas)
My current role is managing the ESPN social media accounts and engaging with our fanbase in Australia and New Zealand.
What do you do in your current role?
It’s my responsibility to create a wide range of content for our channels from Facebook to TikTok and to implement a strategy that best promotes the ESPN brand in Australia & New Zealand.
I believe the key to engaging with your audience is to create clean, relevant content paired with strong, clear messaging.
What does a normal week look like for you?
I wear a number of different hats in my role and am involved in the entire paddock-to-plate process when it comes to our social media output.
Often, this means picking up my camera and interviewing athletes ranging from football and basketball stars, to UFC champions and Olympians. We serve a wide audience base and that allows me to cover a number of different local and international sports. Once I have filmed an interview with an athlete, I’ll head back to the office and edit it together before sharing it across our social channels, repurposing it for different accounts as I go.
I also work closely with the marketing department and find ways we can monetise our content. When I’m doing my job well and growing and engaging with our fanbase, it makes it easier to get sponsors onboard with some of the projects we’re working on.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
Sport was my passion growing up and I always knew I wanted to work in the media industry. It made sense to combine the two.
I studied at the University of Canberra and the University of North West Switzerland before landing a job as a TV reporter. I spent a number of years travelling up the east coast of Australia as a sports journalist. This gave me great experience as a storyteller – something that translates well in my current role.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?
My favourite part of the job is the breadth of different sports I’m able to focus on. There aren’t many sports I haven’t been able to write about or cover over the last ten years.
Another big positive working in sports is usually the people you’re interviewing are nice to deal with as you’re talking about their successes and goals. This isn’t the case with other areas of journalism.
In terms of accolades, it’s been a big past year for me. I was a finalist at the Australian Sports Media Awards for Best Digital Producer and was also named Best Australian Documentary Photographer at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival.
What do you think is next for your industry?
The sports media landscape is always changing, that’s why it’s important to keep on top of current trends and technologies. The next thing I’m looking forward to is more AR and VR becoming more geared towards sports fans. In the next five years or so there will be a big shift in the way we consume sport.
In your opinion, where’s the opportunity to land grab in social media at the minute? What’s giving the best ROI?
Everyone is looking at TikTok for quick growth and to appeal to younger audiences.
If I was looking further ahead I would say social networks like Clubhouse – a new platform based on voice recordings where people from around the world come together to talk and listen to each other in real-time, similar to a two-way podcast I suppose. I expect this to be a huge hit with like-minded sports fans.
What are some of the main things you focus on when it comes to social media for ESPN?
The main thing I focus on when creating content is: will this content resonate? If the answer is no, then you’re wasting your time.
It’s important to understand your audience and the brand you’re representing. It’s no use jumping on TikTok and using the same content strategies as you would for YouTube or even Facebook. Nail content that is relevant to your audience and you’re halfway there – that always takes priority over flashy, highly-produced videos that will inevitably miss the mark if you haven’t considered the specific needs of your followers.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Keep learning. Plenty of leaders in the social media space don’t have formal qualifications – you don’t need formal qualifications in 2021 when you have access to YouTube tutorials. There’s so many interesting, practical things to learn from filmmaking to photography and graphic design. Don’t wait to land your first job to start learning these skills.
That way you can build up a portfolio of work that will separate yourself from the crowds when there’s a job opening.
How to follow Jamie Van Leeuwen on social media…
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