Our latest Industry Insider works in the world of freelancing! We spoke to Michael Bochel, a freelance Sports Marketing Consultant about his career so far…
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I am Michael Bochel, and I am now a Freelance Sports Marketing Consultant. Prior to this, I was Head of Digital at the Scottish FA for 5 years and have worked in digital marketing agencies in both Scotland and Australia.
What do you do in your current role?
Being a freelance consultant, I work on a variety of different clients and projects. I only started doing my own thing in January and so far, I have completed a digital and content review and strategy for a Scottish Premiership side as well as work with a major governing body on a couple of their major competitions. In addition, there have been some small bits of work for various teams and technology providers.
In short it has been a mix of being an extension of their teams, providing insight, analysis and strategy and plugging staffing gaps.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
It has been quite a change from working and managing teams to working for myself. 90% of it has been working from home, which has been something I have had to get used to as I am definitely one of those people that prefer being in the thick of the action.
An average week for me now is a mix of assigning certain days to certain clients. The client work is quite varied but there is a lot of research and analysis plus a lot of video calls.
On top of that, I am very conscious I need to keep raising my own profile and networking so I can keep a pipeline of clients going. Since going freelance, I have started my own sports marketing newsletter that I send out every two weeks. I put time aside to keep up with latest news and trends. I also try to consume as much sport marketing content as I can.
I have also found myself publishing some research pieces on Twitter and LinkedIn. These have included looks at club newsletters and what clubs have been up to on the likes of LinkedIn and TikTok. It has been encouraging to receive positive feedback on both the newsletter and threads but the constant thought in the back of my head is how do I turn this into more clients.
After all that, I try to find some time for my hometown club, Nairn County. I was invited onto their management committee when I left the Scottish FA and we have some grand plans despite being a non-league club run by volunteers.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
When I was at university, I was adamant I would end up in an advertising agency, with the eventual hope of working in sport or at the very least working on sport clients. Football has always been something I have been obsessive over and the one sport I really wanted to work in.
I never did end up in an advertising agency once I finished uni. I began my career in a digital marketing agency as a Junior Account Manager specialising in SEO. I wasn’t even fully sure I knew what SEO was when I went for the job, I was just desperate to get my career started.
I am getting towards the latter end of my 30s now and social media and digital marketing in sport was a whole different world when I graduated. Most of the sport marketing jobs were of an old school marketing focus and I had just ended up in digital marketing.
I spent three years in Australia and came back to Scotland and the landscape had changed massively in terms of the variety of roles now available in sport. After a brief stint as Digital Marketing Manager at a leisure company that had numerous gyms and venues and a spell as in-house Marketing Manager at a PR agency, I finally got my break in football at the Scottish FA, the best part of 10 years after I had begun my career.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Always think about your audience and what you are trying to achieve. It is very easy to fall into the trap of doing stuff that is fun to do and you can put all the effort into something, only for it to not to perform with your audience.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
Where do I begin… been a few things we have tried that didn’t work and one or two things posted on social media that shouldn’t have been.
The first thing I have learned from these experiences has been don’t be scared to try. There are plenty of armchair critics, but you only learn by actually doing.
The second has been always, always review before you post and if it is a graphic or video with lots going on in it – get a second pair of eyes on it.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
The beauty of sports marketing especially when you have been involved in the digital aspect of it, is that is forever evolving.
If I had to pin it down, I am excited about the shift to constantly improving the fan experience in the UK. I think there has always been a default that improving fan experience means making it more American, who take it very seriously but that isn’t necessarily the case. In sport we have the constant battle to attract new fans. While your hardcore fan base isn’t that interested what you try to do from a fan experience point of view, it goes a long way with the likes of families, kids, those with accessibility requirements and casual fans.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
Speaking purely from a football perspective, I would love to see leagues and governing bodies listen to their fans more. Some clubs do it well and there are other clubs that are not so great, but I think leagues and governing bodies could take fan opinion more seriously rather than constantly chasing where they can get more money.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
I have a two-year-old daughter that certainly helps take my mind off things. If I can find the time, I enjoy a social game of golf with my mates.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Volunteer and get experience. It is not always easy working for free, but you gain valuable experience and can make some good contacts. I never did it when I had the chance, and it took me a long time to eventually get to where I wanted to be.
Also practice creating something. Start a website, a podcast, a TikTok account, anything that allows you to learn and build your knowledge. The more you can showcase your knowledge in different ways especially if you don’t have the opportunity to volunteer, the more helpful it will be for you in building connections and opening the doors to other opportunities.
How to connect with Michael Bochel…
You can also check out some of my previous work here: https://www.michaelbochel.co.uk/ I am always open to chat about potential work opportunities.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Michael Bochel! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.