Our latest guest on Industry Insider works for award winning sports media agency Curveball Digital. We had a chat with Paddy Sloane all his career to date, what he would like to change about the industry and much more. Enjoy!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hello I’m Paddy Sloane and I’m one of the directors at Curveball Digital, which is an award-winning, sports creative content and social media agency.
I’ve been working in sports digital for 11 years now – which is worryingly longer than social video has really existed… I started out at in the production team at Perform Group (which has now become DAZN), then tried a bit of agency life before moving to BT Sport where I worked from 2015-2020.
At BT I led on digital video, covering most sports and launching shows like No Filter UCL. I later ran the boxing team, covering all elements of promotion for some of the biggest PPV fights in the world.
Towards the end of 2019, I had been working more and more closely with Kev Blundell, who was the social media manager at BT and the best operator I had ever worked with anywhere in the industry. After a lot of discussions about sports media and what we thought we could offer that was different to what was out there at the time, we decided to join forces and launch a new company that could take our great work and social-first strategies from BT to a wider client base.
What do you do in your current role?
Curveball are still quite a small company so really I do a bit of everything. My main role is looking after the business side of things – speaking to potential new clients, setting budgets, trying to grow our in-house team and working with our current clients on how we can improve their offering.
I come from a production background though, so still enjoy directing shoots and overseeing final edits when I get the chance.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
More than ever in my career there is no normal week at the moment… The last 12 months involved a lot of travel as we were creating shows and covering events that were largely based abroad, but in the last few months I’ve been able to spend more time in London.
A normal week now is a lot of meetings, with a lot of time spent pulling together proposals and working out the best social/content strategies for potential clients. There’s usually a shoot here or there that I sneak along to as well.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I never really had much of a career plan to be honest. I studied chemistry at uni, but left wanting to do anything else… I tried a few internships etc. then met with some of the team at Perform and I was offered a couple of months work logging some old football matches.
It was an incredible group of young people there at the time and they were giving everyone opportunities to produce, edit and film sports content – so I was hooked and everything has just flowed from there.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Right now, it’s all about growing Curveball to be the number 1 sports digital agency. I’m pretty competitive and I just want us to be seen as the best at what we do. Fortunately, Kev and the entire team we’ve built here have a similar attitude, so when we get projects in we do whatever it takes to make them as brilliant as possible.
In the long term there is a wider plan for growth and expansion, but right now we’re just focussed on making cool content and campaigns – and trying to build the Curveball name.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
There’s challenges every day, but feel like any success is built on a lot of failures. I learnt more in the first month of Curveball than I had in the entirety of my career beforehand.
Working at a big broadcaster like BT Sport, you can sometimes feel too comfortable in what you’re doing – and when you’re working across so many of the biggest events, it’s a lot easier to shout about the wins and ignore anything that didn’t work out.
There are times where I feel up against things but honestly, I think you need that sometimes. It can be hard to challenge self doubt and make yourself think objectively, but I’ve learned to step back and take myself outside of my comfort zone in order to move things forward.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
Looking at the way broadcast revenues are heading, smaller sports are going to have to rethink how they reach their audiences, grow their fanbases and monetise their events. I think we’re therefore going to see some really cool innovations from some of them – whether that’s in content, fan engagement or marketing campaigns. Everyone now has to act like a challenger brand, it’s going to be great to see what’s next.
I don’t want to make this question about Curveball – but we just won ‘Best Social Media Campaign’ at the Broadcast Sport Awards for our work on the Women’s Hockey World Cup, beating work from the Paralympics, Winter Olympics and Women’s Euros. I think that shows more than anything that smaller sports can make a real splash – and increasingly they will all need to if they want to get eyes on their sport and start attracting new audiences.
I think as that happens, we’ll also see the big sports investing even more in social and content to stay ahead of the curve.
What a night at the @broadcast_sport awards 😃
Buzzing to get nominated for Inside E1 in the Best Original Content category and to win the Best Social Media campaign for our work on the FIH Women’s World Cup 🏆 pic.twitter.com/a4ZehntKf5
— Curveball Digital (@CurveballDGT) November 2, 2022
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
Sport can be a difficult world to work in, especially for women. My wife and sister both work in sport media and if you speak to any of your female colleagues they will all have a hundred stories that frankly would have made me quit on the spot.
It should also be a relatively easy industry to get into at the ground level, so big companies need to do more in reaching out to a diversity of communities. I lucked my way into a logging job to kick off my career, and the reality is that could have gone to anyone. So we should all be more active in offering these kinds of roles to people who would not usually get the opportunity.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Mainly play sport or watch sport if I’m being honest. I have a one-year-old that takes up most of my weekends, but I also love food and drink so spend what time I can around London trying out spots.
I probably spend too much time on social media, but it’s good to keep track of what everyone is doing across the various platforms.
When you launch a new business it can be hard to find time to switch off – especially in a 24/7 world like sport, so this year I’m going to try and turn my phone off from time to time and spend some better quality time with family and friends
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
It depends on which area of the industry you are looking at, but the majority of people we hire at the moment are content creators, so the best advice I could give is to create content. If you want to go into graphic design for example, create some cool designs in your spare time and get an Instagram account going. There’s a brilliant community of young creators out there who all share each other’s work and it’s really easy for companies to see what you can do.
More broadly I would say it’s about talking to people. Not everyone you come across is going to have roles or advice, but if you start reaching out to people you never know where it will end up. Try to get freelance roles as runners, loggers etc. and keep in contact with the people you meet.
How to connect with Curveball Digital…
Follow us @curveballdigital on Instagram and @curveballDGT on Twitter and add my personal account on LinkedIn – I’m always up for meeting new people and having a chat!
Thanks for reading our chat with Paddy Sloane! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.