Kilmarnock have had a phenomenal season on the pitch, but the club has been brilliant to follow off the pitch too. Ever since Scott McClymont made the move from STV to the position of Media and Communications Officer at Rugby Park last September he’s been on my list of people to interview for the website. Read on for Scott’s thoughts on the differences between his most recent roles, an insight into Killie’s comms strategy plus the usual advice for budding sports marketeers.
Can you take a moment to introduce yourself and tell us about your current role?
I’m Scott McClymont and I’m Marketing and Communications Officer for Kilmarnock FC. I’ve been in the role for seven months now and it’s a job which has a number of different elements.
I’m in charge of the club’s social media material, so creating and driving content around all areas of the club including our First Team, community department, Fitness Centre and other associated partners. I’m the first point of contact for members of the media and carry out all the regular press officer duties and then I’m tasked with working as part of the commercial team to grow and maximise our revenue streams.
How did you initially start your career in sport?
My career in journalism started at Forth Independent Newspapers in Alloa, where we produced four weekly newspapers every week with a paid title in Alloa and free sheets covering Stirling, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan and finally southern Perthshire.
I became Head of Sport at the age of 22 for all four titles during an interesting period in the region. Stirling Albion became the first senior Scottish side to be owned by their fans, Alloa were planting the seeds for their wonderful period under Mike Mulraney’s guidance and Paul Hartley’s management as well as Andy Murray becoming a global superstar. In addition to all the other great community stories you get to cover at a local level, it was a fantastic grounding.
Before we get on to Kilmarnock, you spent over six years at STV reporting on sport. Obviously a lot happened over that period of time. Can you pick out a couple of highlights for us, and why they stick out for you?
That’s definitely fair to say. My time at STV was brilliant and I will always owe Grant Russell and Andy Coyle a huge debt of gratitude for picking up the phone and asking me to come on board.
There are so many highlights of my time there but our Premiership Pilgrimage project in 2016, where we travelled around all 12 Premiership clubs and got fans to tell their stories from their communities, was a piece of work which stands out. It was logistically challenging but incredibly rewarding and I was extremely proud of the finished product.
— STV Sport (@STVSport) August 3, 2016
In Scotland we were pioneering in our content, writing, producing and editing online shows such as Sports Daily, Premiership Plus as well as our Transfer Deadline Day specials, a few of which were done on Facebook Live before many in Britain were using that platform.
Explainer articles, trying to drill down into work permit regulations, disciplinary rules or UEFA’s annual benchmarking reports were what we became known for but on a day-to day basis, we always tried to provide depth to stories and have fun at the same time.
Our Football Manager simulation of the SPL’s 12-12-18 reconstruction model and the SFL’s 16-10-16 were great to work on. Sadly STV’s archive isn’t fantastic but I promise it was a thing.
How have you found the transition from journalist to in-house club media? What similarities and differences have you found?
I find I write slams, blasts and hit out a lot less. On a serious note it’s been a great learning curve and I’ve definitely gained a greater appreciation for all the mechanics of a football club that I perhaps hadn’t fully recognised before.
In terms of interviews and content, access is obviously easier now but so many of the same principles still apply. Thankfully things have gone well for us this season but you still have to ask the key questions because those are the answers the fans want.
There’s more freedom in this job to highlight elements, which for various reasons don’t always feature so prominently in the mainstream news cycle, such as the wonderful work carried out by our community team across Ayrshire and I get a great deal of satisfaction from that.
Can you give us an insight into the comms strategy at the club, and one or two things you’ve introduced since you came on board?
For too long we weren’t engaging and telling our story to our fans and the wider Scottish football community. In the minds of too many we were seen as quite a boring and stale club, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Our strategy is based around celebrating our history and tradition as Scotland’s oldest professional football club married with the passion, evolution and ambition of the club in the present day.
Kilmarnock is one of this country’s grand clubs and we’ve experienced a great revival both on and off the park in the past few months and that will be key theme for us in the next few months.
I simply couldn’t do this job without the fantastic help I’ve had from my colleague Chris Kyle, who has been critical to the production of our media content. Chris is also the club’s video analyst and he deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the quality of his work as well as his dedication to all things Killie.
One project has been re-establishing weekly contact with supporters through our revamped newsletter. It’s such a crucial tool to help build that sense of community for fans at home or further afield and I’m glad it has been so well received.
One of the simple things I’ve tried to do rebuild that connection between the fans and the team through our social content. Whether it’s behind the scenes access like Steve Clarke’s first day or some fun material like our Teammates series or our Battle of the Bards contest, it’s about trying to let people in rather than turning our backs and sadly that hasn’t always been the case in the past 10 years.
How do you measure whether the content you mentioned there performed as expected?
We measure it through regular social media analytics, direct feedback from supporters through forums and test it with those who are football fans as well as those who aren’t.
Some content will deliberately be more niche in its nature but we want other projects to have a broad appeal outside of football and feel part of the community as a whole.
Battle of the Bards in particular was designed to appeal to a wider audience than say Teammates because of the significance of Robert Burns’ work in Scottish society and internationally. A video of our visit to The Cook School where many of our young players or those who were staying away from home for the first time learned practical cooking skills resonated with a lot of people. That’s because both the task and situation proved relatable to so many people and that shone through when measuring the scale and type of reaction we got to that content.
I see great benefits from this and there have been strong-performing projects which I would perhaps alter while there are others which were perhaps less widely seen but proved to be much loved by those who engaged with it.
You never stop learning in this job and fresh eyes can make the world of difference.
Promoting the players as personalities themselves seems to be a trend right now across football. What would you say is the thinking behind that? What benefits could it bring?
On the overall trend I guess the reason is to try and make players seem relatable and that’s increasingly important for the top clubs whose stars seem to be kept at arm’s length from the fans. I’ve found the personal promotion on Moussa Dembele’s social channels and the reactions to it really interesting to watch.
We’re extremely lucky to have such a fantastic bunch of guys at the club just now, who the fans have really taken to. Jordan Jones, Greg Taylor, Rory McKenzie and Stephen O’Donnell are a dream for someone like me because they are happy to take roll with any ideas and they are simply fantastic when interacting with supporters at matches, events or around the town.
Eamonn Brophy’s Wolf nickname and celebration have gone down a storm and helped to elevate him as one of our most popular squad members.
Take advantage of our early bird offer on 2018/19 Season Tickets.
— Kilmarnock FC (@OfficialKillie) April 26, 2018
On a basic level it helps drive interest and engagement but also it presents commercial opportunities for us. As a whole I think there’s real potential to grow that area of Scottish football where our heroes are far more accessible in comparison with some of Europe’s bigger leagues. A lot of play has been made about brands needing to have an authentic quality in 2018 and I think that’s something our game has in spades.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about how little clubs engage with fans individually on social media? How important would you rate that and why don’t you think more clubs do it?
I do think it’s important and I try to set aside some time to go through our channels and try and interact with fans and answer any questions, queries or comments.
Generally, a mixture of time and volume may be reasons why it doesn’t happen more often but there’s definitely value to it. Part of the beauty of social media is that it’s not a one-way conversation and so it makes sense to try and spend time and get back in touch with people.
What’s the biggest challenge facing the club off the pitch right now?
Well with our season ticket campaign just launched, we as a club have to try and take advantage of the fantastic period we’re experiencing at Kilmarnock right now and get as many fans coming to matches and feeling part of our community in any way possible.
Next year will be huge for us as we celebrate the club’s 150th anniversary throughout 2019 and I see it as our duty and responsibility to retell our great stories to audiences both young and old. We’re the club who became Scottish champions on goal average on the last day of the season, we’re the club who came back from 4-0 down to beat Eintracht Frankfurt 5-4, we’ve gone toe-to-toe with Real Madrid and we’re one of the few Scottish provincial sides to have won all three major trophies.
It’s an extremely exciting time to be at the club as we look to secure our own training ground and marrying that celebration of the past and building excitement over our future is something I’m really looking forward to.
The club has been performing brilliantly since Steve Clarke arrived. Does success on the pitch necessarily always mean success off it?
There’s no doubt it helps massively but a club like ours has to be about so much more than just what happens over 90 minutes every week.
When we talk about being at the heart of the community then I like to think we practice what we preach. Our pitch is much maligned but it allows us to have local children playing on it every single night as part of our community programme and our stadium fitness centre helps people get active alongside our first team squad.
Another big ambition was to improve the matchday experience for supporters and we’ve only just started making positive strides in that area. We want to make Rugby Park feel like a happy and enjoyable place to come again.
Gavin Wallace’s return as stadium announcer has been great and his We Are Killie battle cry has really caught on inside Rugby Park. The introduction of Band Zone and our Community Hero projects hopefully show that we value and want to include those who help make Ayrshire such a special place.
Next up for us is the introduction of our Fan Zone around the Moffat Stand, which will be an area based around fun, football, family and music. As well as hopefully being great for us and the fans, I hope it will give more exposure to local groups.
What other clubs at home or abroad, or any other sport, would you call out as being good at what they’re producing right now?
I’ve been a long time admirer of Motherwell’s content and I promise I’m not just saying that because one of my best friends has joined them. They’ve got such a great variety of skills in their media team and I think it really shows in their material.
⚽ | It’s matchday! @OfficialKillie are this afternoon’s opponents at Fir Park, with both sides sitting on the same points in the battle for a top six spot. Kick-off is 3pm. COYW! pic.twitter.com/qQW98gZpPA
— Motherwell FC (@MotherwellFC) February 17, 2018
As well as playing amazing football, Manchester City are brilliant across so many platforms and I was lucky enough to watch their team work while covering Celtic in the Champions League last season.
I’m also really into American Football so although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are my team, I think some of the stuff the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots produce is excellent.
What’s one thing you’d do to improve Scottish football?
It’s certainly not the most important aspect that requires changing and I’m aware of that but I long for the introduction of Fantasy Football for the SPFL.
It’s a project we looked during my time at STV as a passionate side project for so many of us but sadly we didn’t quite get the support for up above as we wanted and needed to get it off the ground.
I’ve played the EPL Fantasy Football game and it keeps me interested in that league at a time where my desire to watch live English matches has waned for a number of factors. I have no reason to doubt the game would prove to be a similar tool for our league.
It would be a great and low-cost way to engage the casual or fanatical Scottish football supporter, it would give added significance to some matches which may be ordinarily billed as low-key and would provide amazing, fresh content ideas for media organisations.
EPL FF has its own site, app and internet show based around it and has become a key component in coverage of the league. It’s such a big deal in North America and I really hope we see it here soon.
What is 2018 going to be the breakout year for in marketing terms? And what are you looking to do more of for the club?
As anyone who followed my pre-season predictions would testify, I’m usually rubbish with them but I am interested to see how clubs and brands handle the increasing fusion of sport and lifestyle.
At Killie we’re looking to expand our behind the scenes content and provide more of a service to our fans abroad. Just because they may be based further afield doesn’t mean they are any less passionate than those who come along to Rugby Park every second week and I want them to retain a strong connection with the club.
What would be your one piece of advice to someone looking to work in the sports industry?
You will learn something from any opportunity or experience. That can be one that you create for yourself through the range of platforms available to people now or it can be one that you earn.
If you’re already passionate about something then great, go do it and show people what you’ve done. If you’re not sure exactly the path you want to take then take some steps and you’ll soon gain a better idea of what you enjoy or don’t.
Social media has made people more accessible than ever so you can interact directly with so many industry leaders and it’d be a little foolish not to take advantage of that. I got my break at STV because Grant and Andy liked the material I was producing at a local level and I’m sure that’s true of many other people in our industry.
Always try to remember the value of kindness. Like most industries, making connections is really important and you never know the role someone you run into even briefly could play in your story. That perhaps sounds slightly deeper than intended but I tend to believe good things happen to good people.
Thanks for reading and thanks to Scott for spending the time answering my questions. If you liked what you read, how about sharing it? It’d be much appreciated.
If you’ve got any suggestions of someone else working in the Scottish sports industry, please get in touch. Also, guest posts are always welcome on Sports Marketing Scotland if you’ve got an opinion to share on the business or marketing of Scottish sport. The email address to get in touch with is firstname.lastname@example.org, or just Tweet @sportsmarketsco.