Subbed On

Soccer Storytelling: The By Association Podcast

Editor’s Note: The world of soccer has no shortage of stories that we, Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing, want to tell through a brand marketing lens. Our day-to-day work will always focus on our clients first, but we want to continue to expand our writing capabilities and showcase additional thought leadership in the editorial aspect of soccer marketing. That’s why we’re starting a new series called “Subbed On” to showcase writing by outside contributors, who have a strong knowledge of various aspects of the soccer marketing world. In soccer, substitutes have the ability to change the game and we’re excited for our bench to make worthwhile contributions to our team. – The GESM team

It’s no secret that soccer truly is the world’s game. In fact, there are 209 nations in FIFA, compared to only 193 members of the United Nations. Through in tens of thousands of club teams, hundreds of thousands (or more) amateur clubs, and billions of people who have played the game in some capacity throughout history, there is a countless amount of stories to be told.

With the digitally-connected world we live in, it’s never been easier to consume media. From text articles, to photos, to video, fans around the world have access to more information than ever before, with more information being added to the web every single second of every single day. Back in January, we wrote about the opportunities for brands and storytellers in soccer podcasting, with podcasting starting to develop more from a niche medium to a prominent way to tell stories. Brands will always have a place in the modern soccer era – it’s unavoidable as the game has grown from small, local teams to global powerhouses. They too have stories to tell – whether it’s their own or if they sponsor a relevant podcast (or other piece of content) – that work in harmony with one another.

At the start of this year, I discovered a new soccer podcast called By Association through people sharing the inaugural episode on Twitter. I was never a big podcast person before, unable to get used to someone reading/talking to me in a pair of headphones. After seeing all of the praise, I decided to give their first episode a listen. I’m not an Arsenal fan, but I have a soft spot for Theirry Henry and historic stadiums, so I gave Episode 1 – about an Australian Arsenal fan’s travel to London for the last match at Highbury a listen. I was immediately hooked and after the 12 minute story finished, I was instantly craving more and looking forward to episode 2 the following month.

We’ve previously featured interviews with creative artists, who have an easier and more natural fit for weaving brands into their art. With authenticity playing such a major role for storytellers, we reached out to James Parkinson, host and producer of By Association to learn a little more about what goes into creating a podcast and the storytelling process.

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How did ‘By Association’ get started and where did the name ‘By Association’ come from?

I think Dan had an idea for a 3nil podcast sometime in early 2014 and kind of ran it by me. Being a total podcast nerd I thought it was a great idea. We kind of knew what we wanted the show to be but it took a lot of research and planning on my part. Production-wise I knew what I was doing but audio storytelling was something that was very new to me, at least as a producer. I’ve listened to several storytelling podcasts for years but now I began listening more intently.

I also started reading, watching and listening to any resources I could find about narrative audio and what it takes to craft a story for the ear. There is quite a lot involved but I took all of it on board when production started for ‘By Association.’ And I’m still learning today and trying to find my own style. The show isn’t perfect but I’m happy with how it’s going so far and trying to improve my craft with each new episode.

As for the name, we did a lot of brainstorming. I initially thought of just ‘Association’, with the word derived from Association Football and the idea that fans all around the world are part of a collective or an “association” in that we’re all connected by our love for the game. Then Dan suggested ‘By Association’ and it seemed to tie into that idea even more and we thought it had a nice ring to it. I then came up with the tag line ‘A show about football and the connection we all share with the beautiful game.’ to emphasize that even more. I’ve since told non soccer fans about the show and even they seemed to get it, so I think it works well.

So far you’ve included stories from England, the United States, the Champions League, and Australia/Asia. How do you decide which stories to tell?

Well, we’re open to stories from all over the world and showing the diversity of football is certainly at the forefront. Finding good stories is the hardest part but we look for narratives that have a real hook to them or something really surprising or unexpected. You want listeners to be intrigued from the start but the stories also have to be relatable. Whether your favorite team is featured in an episode or not, as a football fan you should be able to connect with the story in some way, which is the core idea of the show.

The Champions League anthem is the perfect example of this cultural thing that all (or most) football fans love. A lot of people may already know the story behind it but in the episode we wanted to tap into that feeling that fans get when we hear that iconic music. Also, we want stories that have some sort of bigger message or idea that demonstrates why this game is so special to so many people.

The world of soccer has countless stories. What’s the planning process like for future episodes?

I’m constantly trying to work ahead. I currently have around three or four episodes in various stages of production. Sometimes I’ll come across a story online or sometimes it’s a story I already know of. We also take pitches from listeners, whether that be their own personal story or something else.

We purposely made this a monthly show to allow enough time for production. Although the episodes are relatively short, each one literally takes hours to produce. Once you have a story you often need to find the right people to tell it. Then there’s recording interviews, researching, editing, transcribing, writing and scripting, narration tracking and then the final mix. And each story may go through several changes throughout the process. It can be a lot of work.

Brands play a large role in soccer. Do you have any plans to tell their stories in an authentic way?

Not at this stage but I wouldn’t rule anything out. As long as there’s a strong narrative that ties into the core message of the show, it’s certainly possible. I would never do anything just for the sake of it. You’re right with the use of ‘authentic’. I think that’s the key here, with respect to our audience.

Do you have any information on where your listeners come from? Is there a large American listener base?

There is certainly a presence in North America, and not just for the podcast but for 3nil as a whole. The soccer fan base in America is always growing, as you know, so that’s no big surprise. Being a new podcast, the majority of our audience is still within Australia but there are listeners spread out around the US, UK, Europe and elsewhere. 3nil FC reaches fans all around the world so I’m confident that in time, the podcast will too.

How has reception to the first four episodes been?

Fantastic. The feedback we’ve received has been humbling. Listeners are really enjoying the variety of stories and they understand what we’re trying to achieve. Many are even saying they can’t wait for more episodes which is a great sign. I have to thank everyone who has listened so far and anyone that has reached out to Dan and I on Twitter with their kind words. Every message means so much. It tells me that I’m doing something right and gives me the inspiration to make this show even better.

Be sure to check out all episodes on iTunes or visit for the latest.

Header Image from A Football Report feature on By Association

Categories: Digital Content, Editorial, Featured, Podcasting, Thought Leadership