Industry Insider is back once again with another fantastic guest providing incredible insight into who they are and what they do! We were very fortunate to be able to sit down with Roc Nation Sports newly appointed Director of Social & Digital, Sam Bailey to learn more about what he does!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role? And what roles have you done previously?
My name is Sam Bailey, and currently I’m the Director of Social & Digital for Roc Nation Sports international working out of our London-based office.
I’ve been at Roc Nation for around seven months now. Prior to that, I worked for the agency of Raheem Sterling (Colossal Sports Management), Reading Football Club in charge of their Social Media and then Derby County – where I started my career.
In total, I’ve been working in the sports industry since I was 17 for over six years now.
What does a normal week look like for you?
I’m sorry to use the cliché here, but there really is no such thing in the sports industry! It’s so fast-paced and even more so when you go from a club/sports organisation to agency side.
My main responsibilities involve strategising, planning and executing social & digital strategies for our athlete, club and sporting-body clients. As well as this, I also work on Roc Nation’s internally operated social channels and on the channels of our Senior Management team.
However, the common misconception that people make is that this is just a fancy way of saying ‘I post on behalf of people.’
To be able to do my job as efficiently and effectively as possible, it’s critical that I have strong relationships with the social platforms themselves, the different social channels such as your LadBibles/433s and also the Media.
Social Media is its own ecosystem and these relationships allow greater progress to be made for some of the highest-profile Roc Nation personalities in sports and entertainment.
Is that what makes it interesting, though? When you come to work each day, you don’t necessarily know what is going to be there waiting for you when you get in?
It never gets lost on me that I’m in a very privileged position. Yes, I’ve worked extremely hard to get to where I am and sacrificed a lot – but to be able to work with some incredibly talented and inspiring human beings makes it all worth it.
Because of the type of incredible clients that I work with at Roc, it makes it possible to play your part and actually make a difference – not just on the field, but off it as well.
We’re are now in an era where athletes are taking that brave step in using their platform for good. Marcus Rashford is a shining example of that.
When it comes to your work, what is your number one focus?
For me this question is two-fold. I think when you work for an agency, the number one focus is and always will be to do what’s best for your client. That ‘win at all costs’ mentality is instilled from day one at Roc Nation and resonates with me perfectly on a personal level.
But the second part of my answer here is for me to always make sure that I am at my best and challenging what’s expected of me. Just because I hit my targets one month (for example in social growth) I always challenge myself to push even further.
I’ve had this mentality since my days as an apprentice at Derby County. Once I’d finished one task, I was asking for another straight away.
I actually used to ask my boss about nine or 10 times a day for more work and on a couple of occasions I’d be sent home early as there wasn’t anything left to do and I think I was annoying him haha!
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports? I’m sure there are a few…
I’ve had a couple really. My first was just getting the job as a Media Apprentice at Derby County. Being a Derby lad and having been a season ticket holder since the age of six, to be offered the singular role when over 100 people had applied was really special.
I remember turning up to the stadium on my first day and was quickly rushed off to the training ground within the space of an hour. It was the day Derby were signing Darren Bent permanently and I got to meet him less than two hours after I started.
I think the other was actually when I was working for Raheem Sterling’s agency. I’d just joined from Reading and a day or two into the new role, I was sent to Google’s HQ for a meeting about relaunching his YouTube channel.
I remember coming out of Kings Cross station for the first time, looking up at my surroundings and thinking ‘how has a lad from Derby ended up here?’
What do you think is next for your industry?
The Digital landscape is changing fast and very drastically.
Across Social Media platforms, we are seeing a real shift (particularly on channels like Instagram & TikTok) where creators are central to their strategy.
With this, creators are really beginning to see the scale and impact of their platforms and realise just how much change they can make.
I also think those that are most open to the ever-changing landscape of Digital will reap the most rewards.
Things like NFT’s have been a huge head-turner in the US and so many high-profile athletes and organisations are already getting involved. Whereas, over in the UK there seems a real hesitancy to move away from tradition and be more disruptive.
What is something you feel most people don’t talk about enough or focus on enough?
This one is easy. Quality over quantity.
In Social Media particularly, there is so much focus on job justification and posting for the sake of it. I noticed this a lot in my club days and this was part of the reason that encouraged me to move agency side.
At both Derby and Reading, social media was growing extremely fast and there was an unintentional negligence for the channels. It was often an after-thought and because of this there was no strategy.
My approach to this was to analyse what performed and what didn’t in terms of engagement. Then it was about cutting out the posts that didn’t perform and replacing it with stuff that fans really engaged with, even if it meant significantly cutting down quantity.
It sounds like a really simple solution, but culturally it took a lot of persistence and consistency to really reap the rewards.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
I would like to answer this question in two-parts with the first section of the answer being: if you want a 9-5 job with no weekend work, this industry really isn’t for you.
I’ve jumped on calls at 1:30am in the morning and am available for any of my clients and colleagues 24/7. I don’t say this to sound arrogant or blow my own trumpet, but that really is what it takes.
If you’re not willing to do this, you are guaranteed to miss things that other social media channels/accounts will pick up on and so you need to be committed.
The second part of my answer is that there is no such thing as a bad job in sport and if you are too selective about your first role, then you might miss your golden opportunity.
I was lucky in the fact that my first role was my boyhood dream, but that didn’t stop me from throwing myself 100% into the parts of the job that I wasn’t interested in.
I did the tea-run daily, I dropped my boss off at events and I did the admin-bits that no one else wanted to do. I also worked pretty much every weekend for the first three-years of my career.
But if you can get through all of that and still have that passion for what you do, the results really are worth every hard step you take.
How to connect with Sam Bailey on social media…
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Sam Bailey! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.