It was a memorable season back in the Premier League for Sheffield United, and not just because of the football shutdown. A top half finish and flowing football earnt Chris Wilder’s men acclaim from far and wide, and more will be expected from the Yorkshire outfit again next season.

Someone who had a front seat throughout the season was UCFB graduate Jake Rodgers. A BA (Hons) Football Business & Media student during his time at UCFB, Jake is now employed as a Marketing Assistant at the Premier League club. Here, he tells us about the Blades’ first season back in the top flight, and the role he played in it…

Tell us more about your role at the Blades and what it involves? 

My current role is Marketing Assistant at Sheffield United, with my work mainly focusing on creating and distributing content across our social and digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube. My main focus is to ensure the channels are always engaging and that our feeds are full of high quality, well produced content, making sure everything we post is in-line with our tone and voice, and that the content is best suited to that platform’s algorithm and its audience. 

The type of content varies a lot around what we have going on at that particular time; pre-season, upcoming games, new signings, kit launches or other marketing campaigns. It can vary from working on large scale production projects and assisting in the filming and editing of features for YouTube, to more quick-turnaround, reactive content. Working with the rest of the marketing team to produce hype videos for games, and supplementary content for events such as signings. There’s a lot of variation and no two days are the same. I also work on social on match days themselves, both at home and away. This includes working on everything from capturing pre-game video and photo content inside the stadium, in-game graphics, post-match interviews and ensuring that our channels are filled with engaging match day content.

It was a great first season for Sheffield United back in the Premier League. What were some of the highlights for you at the club? 

It has been a dream first season back for us. Going into the season we were a bit unsure on what to expect, but everyone has taken the challenge head on. Our job is made easier with some of the on-field results and the attention that we were getting for our unique style of play, which fans of the Premier League across the world had never seen before. In football terms, there have been memorable moments throughout. The first few games of the season, Billy Sharp’s late equaliser at Bournemouth, our first Premier League home game against Palace were huge, huge moments for the club. The comeback at Stamford Bridge, beating Arsenal under the lights at the Lane, sitting 5th at Christmas… too many to name! We’ve tried to bring our fans as close to these moments as possible. 

Off the field, our digital audience has gone from 400k to 1.6 million since we were promoted to the Premier League, and we were nominated for Best Football Club in the Premier League category of the 2020 Football Content Awards. We also finished top of the Pulsar PL Fan Engagement standings for both Twitter and Facebook for the whole of the 2019/20 season. It’s great to see people engaging so much with our content, and we’re only looking to improve on this during the upcoming season. 

How have you managed the coronavirus and no football situation in your role at the Blades? 

Lockdown took a little bit of adjusting to, going from working as part of a team in an office who are constantly bouncing ideas off each other, to working at home in isolation. Luckily I had plenty to keep me occupied, especially in the early stages as people were craving content. With the lack of matches, we relied quite heavily on archive footage and content players were able to generate themselves, as nearly every team did, classic matches, player Q&A’s etc. We tried to fill a void in a lot of people’s lives as best as we could. We also used this time to be a bit more experimental with content. During lockdown we saw a lot of growth on our TikTok channel, where we try to upload at least once a day. In March, Sheffield United had the sixth most interactions on the platform out of every sports team in the world, and the third most of any football team in the world behind Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. 

When the league did restart the games came thick and fast and of course there were plenty of new procedures we had to adhere to. More than ever it was about trying to provide content that would make fans feel as close to the players as possible without being permitted into the stadium. Hopefully fans will be back sooner rather than later, but until then we’ll do the best that we can to make sure they still feel connected.

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Jake filming Blades' manager Chris Wilder following their FA Cup win over Millwall.

What aspects of your Football Business & Media degree have you been able to take into the working world? 

I would say the main one for me is understanding how to best communicate with different stakeholders and the types of fan. Being in the Premier League brings with it a level of global exposure that Sheffield United have never known before, and having an existing understanding of the consumer landscape has helped me to ensure I’m always thinking about the audience we have and whether the content is suitable. My role varies between content creation, copywriting, communications, PR and journalism, so I’m happy I did a degree that gave me an understanding of all of these different aspects. 

What are your hopes for the Blades next season now they’re an established top flight team? 

We’re just enjoying everything that the Premier League throws at us, and obviously we’d love to be in the top flight for as long as possible. Hopefully we can build on a fantastic first season, and we can look to build on what we’ve done over the past 12 months from a social and content point of view, also. There’s been a lot of change over the past few years, not just on the pitch, but off the pitch also. We need to make sure our presence is of a Premier League quality online, as much as it is off it. 

For any prospective students looking to study a degree at UCFB, what advice can you offer them? 

The one bit of advice I would give is to say yes to every opportunity and make your own luck. You never know what putting yourself out there might lead to, even if it’s way outside of your comfort zone. I actually got into my role now through saying yes to a coaching opportunity in America. If I didn’t take that leap, I wouldn’t be in my role now. Besides all of the incredibly important life skills you pick up from taking on something like that, you never know who you might meet or where it could take you. 

The other bit of advice I would give is not to panic if you don’t know exactly what job you want, even whilst you’re studying. I didn’t know I wanted to work in digital marketing and content until I tried it on an internship with FilmMyMatch. Again, that was something I’d never really done before, but trying your hands at different things can only help you when shaping your future career. Even if you think it’s a skill you won’t end up using, it’s always another string to add to your bow and it’s something you can speak about at any interview.