We head to the West Midlands for the latest instalment of Industry Insider. Jon Sidaway, Senior Video Producer at Championship side West Bromwich Albion talks to us about his role, career so far, his number one focus and much more!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Jon Sidaway and I am currently the Senior Video Producer at West Bromwich Albion Football Club.
I’ve always been an outgoing and active person, English and P.E. were my favourite subjects at school so it was only natural that I gravitated towards a career within the sports media industry.
After graduating from university I enjoyed several work placements at local radio stations (Free Radio in the West Midlands) and football clubs (Walsall and Watford respectively) primarily helping out with interviews, match reports and live commentary before gaining my first full-time role as Club Journalist at Stoke City Football Club for seven years, managing the club’s digital output and social media platforms.
What do you do in your current role?
As Senior Video Producer, my main objective is to produce feature heavy visual and audio content for the club’s media platforms including its premium video channel and social channels.
On occasion, I also create video content for marketing purposes, such as kit launches, and community packages for The Albion Foundation and other charity/commercial partners.
I work closely with our Digital Content Manager to create video packages that both engages and entertains our fanbase as well as enticing our next generation of supporter. I also work closely with our Social Media Officer to keep up to date with current trends and testing the waters with fresh content ideas.
For the most part, I film and edit our premium content, such as club podcasts and career re-watches with club legends as well as regularly filming and editing first team training sessions, pitch side angles at matches and other ‘behind the scenes’ content with the senior squad – including those quirky transfer announcements.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
The content we publish is fully dependent on the mood of our fanbase and, inevitably, results on the pitch.
Typically, at the start of each month, alongside our Digital Content Manager, we plan what non-time sensitive content needs filming and producing as this form of video content can be published days, weeks or even months after it’s completed.
For example, we like to film 2-3 podcasts, long form features including ‘A Trip Down Halfords Lane’ – where we show a club icon clips of their career – and lifestyle pieces with current players as this gives us a bundle of content that can be slowly released at quiet times like international breaks and summer months.
It also allows us to be ahead of ourselves and concentrate on time sensitive content like filming training sessions and social media content on a weekly basis.
I regularly film training and try to be a fly on the wall around our first team in order to deliver content that people wouldn’t typically see and in turn, help build a deeper connection between the club and our fanbase, which we believe is very important.
I also film every first team game from pitchside, doing so enables us to gain an alternative angle and publish easy content that always goes down well with our audience.
We are a small, yet dedicated, team who are permanently based at the training ground and build strong, trusting relationships with players and staff which enables us to get the best visual output possible.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
Ironically, I knew I wanted to work in sport after completing a compulsory work placement at West Bromwich Albion when I was still at secondary school.
From that moment, I explored my options at college and university – graduating with a BA Honors degree in Broadcast Journalism – whilst also volunteering at a number of organisations including hospital radio and non-league football clubs.
During this time, I actually gained my first work placement at a professional football club, Watford, whilst working behind a hotel bar. To cut a long story short, I turned down a tip from then manager Malky Mackay and asked for a media contact, a few weeks later I was helping the media department at Vicarage Road.
Networking is key in this industry and because of the people I met, I was incredibly fortunate to become Walsall’s matchday commentator and media officer for three seasons before joining Stoke City where I worked with the likes of Peter Crouch, Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan to name a few.
Seven years later I joined the media team at West Brom, where I have been since 2021.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
I think it’s important to stay on trend with how video content is continuously evolving. Although it’s pivotal to keep up the pace, I believe it’s equally imperative to stick with my own individual style in order to keep my work unique and interesting.
That said, as I’ve got older, my focus has shifted and I believe it’s more important that I enjoy myself and the work that I am producing.
The moment I don’t enjoy myself is when a piece of content I’m creating could potentially suffer.
It’s essential that I deliver to the best of my ability and take on feedback from my colleagues as we all want to deliver the best possible output, staying on trend but also looking visually different to other clubs.
I take great pride in creating fresh, engaging and unique video content, learning new skills and breaking my comfort zone.
It’s a great feeling when a piece of content really hits and captures the attention of our audience, it’s something that spurs me on and definitely helps maintain my enjoyment in whatever content I am working on.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
We’ve all made mistakes and the key is to stand up and be honest about them, rather than hiding and pointing blame.
I’ve had to think on my feet with minor issues, from the weather causing an issue when filming and quickly re-arranging location to working with uncooperative equipment that I’ve had back-ups and solutions for.
Recently, during a mid-season training camp in Spain, I slipped and fell flat on my face trying to control a ball in front of our senior players – and of course it was caught on camera by our Head Analyst.
It would have been easy to be embarrassed and moody, but it was important to take it on the chin (pun not intended), not take it seriously and own the moment.
I laughed at myself and have since had a running joke with the players and staff which, actually, has helped grow a number of relationships with the group because it was an opportunity to show my personality.
It’s funny how such a small, clumsy moment helped gain respect and build little bonds purely because of my reaction.
In this industry, you can’t take things too seriously because it’s a completely different environment to your ‘typical 9-5’ job.
Safe to say, I’ve learned not to show off in front of professional footballers!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
When I started my career, video was seen as a luxury form of media whereas now it’s one of the first elements that brands crave in this fast paced, ever changing era of new media.
I’m constantly impressed with a lot of visual output other clubs, brands and creatives make. It’s incredible how fast video production has grown in the last decade and is/will continue to do so in the future.
There are so many talented creatives within this sector of the media industry, I’m excited to see what fresh, future content comes to light.
I love seeing others succeed with their work and it really drives me to keep up the pace. So much thought and detail goes into each project, which every creative will fully appreciate whether it be short or long form content, and it’s incredible how different elements – such as animation, after effects and video production – link up to deliver a single piece of content.
It’s already proven that video is a powerful tool and it will only continue to progress in years to come as the next generation of creative break into the industry and unleash their vision to their audience.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
It’s not really an industry change but more of a culture shift here in the UK.
I see a lot of official club content coming out of America, whether it’s in the MLS, NFL or NBA, and the access internal media teams get is phenomenal. I’d go as far as saying that clubs – and even brands – in America are the best in the world when it comes to digital output.
It’s engaging, it’s unique, it delivers personality and most importantly it gives an insight into an area that fans would never get to see. It’s the perfect way to gain a connection with your fanbase.
Don’t get me wrong, many media teams have fantastic access to their players and behind the scenes content already but, in my experience, there have been occasions where we’ve not overstepped our boundaries or have been told to only capture specific content.
I would love to see clubs adopting an American approach. For instance, many clubs wouldn’t dream of filming inside a changing room like they do so extensively in the US. At West Brom, we’ve slowly started making our way into the changing room but we’re still very cautious of being inside such a sensitive area.
That’s something we’re working hard on as a six-person media team at WBA, we are very lucky to have built trust and friendships with players and management, meaning we’re able to get greater access and create unique content but there are still many clubs in the UK who don’t allow extensive access, which is such a shame.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Working at a football club means you have to mentally deal with unsociable hours, that can really take its toll on your well-being and it’s pivotal to manage your time effectively, especially when building relationships away from work.
I’m very lucky that my wife-to-be is very understanding of my career, so I switch off by spending a lot of time with her.
I rarely watch any football outside of work and as I’ve got older, I’ve started to appreciate what the world has to offer a lot more. Together, with my partner, we enjoy travelling and exploring new places both here in the UK and abroad.
I also have a passion for photography and that really helps take my mind off things.
I’m quite a simple person and like most, I take time to relax by binging whatever I can find on Netflix. Equally, I’m also someone who likes to stay active, whether it be at the gym, enjoying meals with family or having a pint with friends.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
There’s so much advice I could give following my experiences in the industry over the last decade. I’ll try my best to keep it short and productive.
Firstly, be willing to learn whilst doing. So many people can be set in their ways but media is so fast paced and ever changing that it’s important that you are willing to break your comfort zone and try new things. Doing so will not only broaden your skill set and knowledge, it will also get you noticed as it shows how determined you are to succeed and grow.
Secondly, don’t be disheartened by rejection. The industry is continuously growing and is so competitive that it’s very likely that you will receive knockbacks for jobs and at times, work placements. Believe in your ability, your ideas and use any setback as a motivation to improve.
It’s important you have a strong support network around you. Our industry is relentless and it’s possible that you could be working six-day weeks, travelling all over the country and spending a lot of time on your own. Having the right people around you and building positive relationships will benefit your mental well-being and also help you become a stronger person both professionally and personally.
Also, content creation isn’t all roses, there is a lot of ‘unglamorous’ work behind-the-scenes that doesn’t get seen in the public domain. Be ready to get involved in order to work your way up to do the fancier things – it’s true that work ethic is greater than talent alone.
Lastly, enjoy the ride and never forget why you’re so passionate about breaking into the industry.
Best of luck!
How to connect with Jon Sidaway…
Personally, it’s @jonsidaway on Twitter and Instagram. I’m also on LinkedIn.
Professionally, our work can be seen by searching for West Bromwich Albion on Facebook and @WBA on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.
Thanks for reading our chat with Jon Sidaway! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.