Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is PR and Marketing Coordinator at Swansea City, Sophie Davis!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Sophie Davis, I’m 22 and I am currently working as a PR and Marketing Coordinator at Swansea City Football Club which sees me working between the media and marketing departments at the club.
Before working with the men’s team I was the media officer for Swansea City Ladies Football Club which involved me covering the team across Wales as well as pre-season tours in New York and the UEFA Women’s Champions League in Romania.
Last December, I graduated from a Masters degree in Communication, Media and Public Relations at Swansea University. Alongside my Masters degree I worked part-time with Swansea City and also undertook a marketing internship with Ospreys Rugby Club where I was tasked with promoting the rugby team to university students.
What do you do in your current role?
I split my time between the marketing department in the Liberty Stadium, the media department based in the team’s training ground and in between I’m at various locations across South Wales.
As part of the marketing side of things, I organise and attend all player appearances with first-team players and our club ambassador, Lee Trundle. This means I can often be found at places like charity events, schools and hospitals covering the appearances for social media, for the club website or matchday programmes.
On matchdays, I take care of Instagram stories and Snapchat stories, distribute team sheets to external media and interview players following the match. Matchdays are always the most exciting part of the week and nothing compares to the matchday atmosphere, it’s impossible to get to sleep after an evening match!
As well as writing football based content for the website and programmes, I also write the commercial content including stories on retail, season tickets and hospitality. I am also tasked with coordinating the club’s ‘Junior Jacks’ initiative for young fans which has been a little different over lockdown. Instead of arranging events such as signing sessions I have been running weekly challenges and regular activities that young fans can enjoy at home.
Sponsors have become an increasingly important part of football which has meant that each club sponsor has an allocation of signed shirts or balls as part of their contract agreement. This sees me spending an afternoon a week pestering the first-team players at the training ground to sign the mound of merchandise.
I also work on all photo shoots over the season and help with things like kit launch, which are always exciting moments in the calendar.
What does a normal week look like for you?
One thing is for sure, there are never two days the same! My working week really depends on what matches are on that week or what player appearances I have in my diary. I could be attending a player’s former school with them in the morning, writing website content at the stadium in the afternoon and then covering an under-23s match in the evening, it’s always different.
If we have a home game on a Saturday, the start of my week is usually spent writing pages for the matchday programme in readiness for printing.
On a matchday I will arrive at the ground three hours before kick-off to start the pre-match coverage on Instagram and Snapchat. Around 90 minutes before kick-off the teams arrive at the ground so I cover that for social media before getting the team sheet from the opposition’s assistant manager so I can begin to print and distribute the team sheets for external media at the ground. I then cover the warm-up before taking my seat in the East Stand of the ground where I continue the match updates on Instagram and Snapchat from my phone. I’m still a fan at heart so I prefer to sit in with the fans in my season ticket seat next to my dad rather than the press seats. After the match I will head back to the tunnel to interview players after the match.
Since lockdown started work has looked a lot different and I have been doing work that I wouldn’t have done in ‘normal’ times. For example, I have been interviewing current and ex-players on Zoom and doing features that I would not necessarily usually write including pieces on the club’s famous fans and the last time football was suspended in World War II. Due to the lack of football news over lockdown we did fun features with players instead, with features such as their dream XI, their favourite game they have ever played and quickfire question videos.
In recent weeks I have been able to attend home matches and it is a real privilege to be one of the few individuals allowed in the stadium on a matchday.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I have been passionate about football since a child and my desire to work in the industry was sparked when I was in comprehensive school. I first started on a week’s work experience in the media department at the age of 16 and stayed in touch by regularly writing short articles for the club’s website.
From the moment I first stepped into a press room aged 16, I knew that this was the industry for me so enrolled on a BA in Media and Communication at Swansea University. At a similar time, I received a call off the club explaining that there was a voluntary role coming up as the media officer for Swansea City Ladies and I jumped at the opportunity. I ended up working with the ladies team for 3 years and had some incredible experiences along the way including covering the team’s UEFA Women’s Champions League journey in Romania and a pre-season tour in New York.
One of the course modules in my final year of my undergraduate degree was an internship module so I contacted Swansea City to ask whether I could undertake the placement within the media department which then led to paid part-time work alongside my Masters degree and a full-time role upon graduating. I felt incredibly fortunate to be working for the club I have supported all my life at such a young age.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way we work but has surprisingly presented some opportunities. Zoom interviews have become the norm and something I now experience regularly despite only hearing about the platform in March of this year. Fans now recognise Zoom interviews or video calls as regular content which will make it easier to conduct video interviews with ex-players or individuals who are based around the world. In a pre-Coronavirus world, I would have called an ex-player by telephone to interview them but now we have the opportunity to provide video content for supporters too.
It is also an exciting time to be a female working in the football media industry as the industry is gradually moving towards a meritocracy where individuals are given roles in the industry based on their ability rather than gender. Females are now more accepted in football media roles and trailblazers such as Laura Woods, Jacqui Oatley and Alex Scott have certainly paved the way for the next generation of female football media professionals. It is still rare to see large numbers of females working in press rooms on matchdays but the industry is definitely heading down the right track.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
It is a hugely competitive industry and volunteering can give you a considerable edge over others. It is all about getting your foot in the door and there is no better way to do that than initially working voluntarily to establish yourself. It won’t always be easy and it can be difficult volunteering at times but be patient and the hard work will pay off eventually. Volunteer with grassroots clubs or ask to shadow media professionals in professional clubs and remember to document everything you do so you have a portfolio to present to potential employers.
It is crucial to show willing during placements or work experience. During my internship with the club, Swansea were due to play Manchester United in the League Cup and the social media manager was away on holiday. I explained that I believed that I could be of assistance and offered to help out with the Instagram and Snapchat on the evening. The media team were happy with my work and I have done that role every home match since that evening in October 2017. Connecting with likeminded individuals is also key and social media platforms including Twitter and LinkedIn are ideal for cultivating networks.
Ultimately, it is important to be passionate about your work and the industry in which you work. If you enjoy what you do and work hard then the rest will take care of itself.
How to follow Sophie Davis on social media…
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider feature with PR and Marketing Coordinator at Swansea City Football Club, Sophie Davis!