In our latest Industry Insider, we sit down with Josh Sampson, who leads content marketing and social strategy for Two Circles in North America!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Josh Sampson and I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, TX until I was 18, when I then moved to NYC for college in pursuit of a career in Sports Broadcasting. Shortly after moving to NYC, I learned that broadcasting wasn’t really what I wanted to do – I just wanted to work in sports. After dabbling in sports journalism while in college, I found a passion in running social media accounts as I could let my creativity run free and push myself in a new age of marketing. I’ve now been working in social for over 6 years, making stops at DAZN, Bayern Munich, the New York Red Bulls before joining Two Circles in Fall 2021 where I head up content marketing and social strategy for an array of clients.
What do you do in your current role?
I currently work for Two Circles, a data-driven sports agency, where I lead content marketing and social strategy for a variety of clients across multiple sports. It is a unique opportunity which allows me to have an influence in multiple funnels, from social, to PR, to creative, to even how the platform itself looks and is laid out.
I consult on a variety of other Two Circles’ clients from a social perspective as Two Circles continues to build out their content side of the business. Every week is different, and I enjoy that mixture as I can find myself working with FIFA one day, clients in the NFL the next, and Wimbledon the following day.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
Every Monday when I wake up and log on for the week, I never quite know what to expect, especially working across a variety of clients – most of which are across the Atlantic. Given the time difference that comes with my work, the first half of my day is often stacked with catching up on emails, messages, and making the most of the ‘overlap zone’ between the East Coast of the US and Europe. After that, I try – keyword ‘try’ – to take some down time for lunch and some exercise. After that, I put my head down and try to crank through whatever projects are ahead of me.
Some weeks are more even keeled than others, but throughout the week I’ve become accustomed to consulting in short spurts with clients and often am surprised what area of sport I’m getting to work in – it’s exciting!
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
Ha, honestly a miracle!
My mother was born and raised in Germany and growing up I was exposed to football (soccer) and Formula 1 all year round. We’d watch every race and every Bayern Munich or German National Team match we could, which often proved to be quite difficult when growing up in Texas. Ever since I saw my first sporting event on TV, sport consumed my life from the clothes I wore to what I wanted to do growing up. I could not get enough of it.
Working in sport was never a given. I grew up in a single-income family, with my mother often working 80+ hour work weeks just to get us by. Nobody in my family had ever gone to college before, and if I were to break that trend, I would have to do it on my own financial accord. Thankfully in the end, I was able to make it work. I worked my way through college by working 30 hours a week on top of a full course load, and then finding opportunities to network or learn more about the industry in my spare time. I had my doubts along the way, but by the grace of God it all came together, and I was able to break into the industry.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
It has changed over the years, but I would say now, without a doubt, it is looking out for my mental health.
Early on in my career, I viewed whatever I did at work as my identity, and everything had to be perfect. With that short-sighted perspective, my mental health and therefore health in general took a tumble as I overworked myself and put myself in a situation I could not sustain. I struggled with heavy amounts of anxiety, depression, and constant physical illnesses that stemmed from my poor mental health. Over the last year or so, I have put a focus on improving my mental health, realizing my identity is not in my work, and finding a good work/life balance. While I still struggle with anxiety and depression now, I’m grateful to say I’ve significantly reduced the impact it has had on my life and the effects my work has had on it. Without doing so, I cannot imagine where I would be today, and I’d doubt it would be that great.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
Humorously, the moment that stands out the most was actually the first sporting event I ever covered back when I started out in the industry as a journalist.
I was 20 years-old and I was covering an MLS match that featured Kaká, one of my all-time favorite footballers. After the conclusion of the match, I went down to the locker room in hopes of finding Kaká and getting a selfie with him (yes, I was young). I knew nothing about protocol or how to act around players as this was my first time working an event, and just decided to ask for permission and see what happened. I eventually ran into Kaká in the tunnel, asked him for a photo, and he kindly smiled and took one with me. Best first day ever, right?
Next morning, I woke up to an email from my then boss and the home MLS team saying that my media credential was revoked indefinitely for breaking media protocol. I was devastated, demoralized and distraught thinking I just blew my chance to make it into the sports industry. Of course, that is thankfully not how my career turned out, and I was able to learn that while I love sports and the players I work around, this is a job and I need to act professionally. I couldn’t have asked for a better learning experience at the start of my career!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
Seeing people quit jobs that they weren’t happy at and moving to places that treat them well, enabling them to best achieve a good work/life balance. My LinkedIn feed is constantly full of people announcing new jobs, which is a great sight considering how tough times have been the last few years, and still are today in many ways. I’m excited to see who else makes a move next!
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
Better awareness and respect from people in leadership positions on the amount of work and expertise it takes to operate social media channels.
Unlike most jobs, when you work in digital almost all of your work is public facing. Anybody can see your work, and as a result you’ll often encounter situations where someone above you questions your work because they think they are an expert because they have an Instagram account. These situations are draining and discouraging, especially after being online around the clock to stay on the pulse for your job. Better respect, treatment, and appreciation is needed for those working in digital – plain and simple.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
On a simple level, I delete my email and messaging apps at the end of every week so that I don’t check my work during the weekends so I can have a good shutoff and focus on my personal time. I’ve started doing that over the last six months or so and it’s been an easy step to take to help create the boundary between work and personal life.
On a bigger level, I’ve found running to be quite a therapeutic hobby and a nice way to get outside and get some fresh air while working from home. I love running in nature, and exploring cities and sites while getting some exercise.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Focus equally on what you need from a job as to what you want from a job. Oftentimes the company/team name, the title of the role, and the salary is all what people look at when searching for a job. Why those are most certainly important, it’s equally important to figure out what you need to be successful in a job. Structure, flexibility, growth opportunities, culture, and work/life balance abilities are all super important things to analyze when looking to break into the industry. Sport is 24/7, so if you don’t prioritize your needs in the workplace, it can be a difficult undertaking to bear.
How to follow Josh Sampson…
You can follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.
Thanks for reading our chat with Josh Sampson! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.