Jason Auld is an action sports athlete and a fitness content creator who hasn’t been afraid to push boundaries and achieve his sports career success on his terms. Jason’s work has seen him deliver live-action sports entertainment at the Formula 1 Grand Prix, London Olympic Games, the Tour de France and the Qatar World Road Cycling Championships. Away from action sports, he’s been an integral asset to devising marketing campaigns for global brands such as Pepsi, Converse, McDonalds and Samsung. This weeks interview will see Jason discuss how these experiences came about, where his passion for sport began alongside the feeling of setting a Guinness World Record.
Q1) Jason, it’s a pleasure to chat with you. Could you ignite this conversation off with how your career in sport began?
Hi Ashwyn. First of all, thanks for the opportunity to chat about my career and experience. As much as I love talking about myself to anyone who’ll listen, I think it’s important to share what we’ve learned in life, through practice, success and failure, to help those who might decide to take a similar path.
That ethos is particularly important to me because I never had a real blueprint for my career.
I got my first paid work as an Extreme Unicyclist in 2008, providing entertainment at a fresher’s week event for students in my hometown. I got handed a £50 cheque, which I’ve romanticised in my memory as one of those massive novelty cheques you get for winning the lottery. It was one of the turning points in my life, an epiphany that I could make a living from my passion.
I should probably rewind for context. Extreme Unicycling is a fringe sport which I often compare to BMXing or Skating but on one wheel. It’s comprised of performing tricks in urban environments, much like all urban sports.
I was still working as a gym instructor at this point but aged 20; I was allowed to be a part of an Edinburgh Fringe festival Extreme Sports show. The most famous of my co-stars were Danny Macaskill, who you may have seen in Red Bull video. After that 30 day run, I made a Batman-style oath to myself, that I would never work a real job again, and it set me on my path to being a professional athlete/performer.
What exactly is a professional Extreme Unicyclist? I didn’t know either. My career became primarily events based, providing entertainment, at small local fairs to the athlete village at the London 2012 Olympics.
Since the emergence and growth of social media and content advertising, my role switched more to creating content for brands, which led me to explore new disciplines like Ninja Warrior and Free Running and of course, learning how to film and edit video and pictures.
Q2) I’d love to re-visit your role as Head of Global Sales at The Freestylers Limited. This role led you to be affiliated with some of sports most significant events including the UEFA Champions League, the FIFA World Cup, Formula 1 Grand Prix and more. What involvement did you have throughout these occasions, and what was the most exciting experience you took away from it?
Working for “The Freestylers” came about due to my experience working at events. I had the pleasure of performing alongside some very talented Freestylers. Due to my desire to be involved in creation, choreography, marketing and athlete management, I was given a chance to work with “The Freestylers” and then on to work with their sister company, Viral Media House.
It was the first step that led me away from my “oath” as it was essentially an office job, but it did give me the chance to sit in meetings with colossal ad agencies and brands, devise concepts for commercials, and it taught me a vast amount about sales and connecting with both potential clients and their target demographics.
I think the most exciting and valuable experience I had working with this team was the chance to create and star in a commercial for Pepsi Max. I came up with the concept; I helped choreograph and direct the shoot plus I performed in the piece. It was a great thing to put on my CV. Still, it also filled me with confidence, knowing that despite my lack of formal education, my experience, my creativity, and my willingness to learn was enough to make me prosper in this industry.
I think that’s important to underline, especially in the current environment. It’s cliche to say “you can do anything you put your mind to” and that’s not to say you should quit your stable 9-5 and follow your dreams blindly. However, fear of failure, fear of inadequacy or impostor syndrome should never be obstacles in the way of achieving your goals. You have to love what you do, you have to work hard and be hungry to improve, but you should never think something is unattainable merely because you lack qualifications or experience.
Q3) What I find exciting is your diverse set of experience across sport. You’ve worked throughout sales, consultancy, coaching and social media marketing. What impact has each of these roles had on your sports career portfolio?
Haha, yes, it really has been a Forrest Gump style journey, with a little bit of every role thrown in for good measure. I think that’s partly due to my passion for sports, the arts and telling their stories through online content. It’s also partly due to my inexperience in one specific field. It’s meant I’ve had to be proficient in whatever role I’ve been handed.
You hear it all the time, but I believe it to be true; if you can learn to sell, you can be valuable to any team. Selling often gets a bad name, like it’s somehow forcing people to buy your product or service against their will. Real selling is empathy and communication. You should be able to identify the needs of your client and find a way to fulfil them authentically.
A previous guest on your blog, Preeti Shetty, who I had the pleasure of working with in the past and I’m still friends with, once said to me “No one is buying your Unicycling, they’re buying you”. That unlocked something for me. It helped me realise, there are millions of professionals with the skills to do this job, some perhaps more skilled or better qualified but there’s only one you. You have to bring something that is uniquely your own if you wish to do meaningful work and to be genuinely valued by your audience or customers.
If we use “sales” as a synonym for “communication”, that experience has helped me in every scenario across my career. Most obviously in marketing but also when managing talent, working with events organisers, promoting my own brand and even in my actual performances.
Being able to communicate and being confident in my abilities has landed me opportunities like breaking a Guinness World Record at the Olympic Stadium in London. I’ve debated experts on Sky News and travelled the world. That’s not bragging or arrogance because I don’t think I’m special. If you can learn how to communicate, to sell if you will, you can do it too.
Q4) Focusing on your current role as a Social Media Manager at Primal Gym Ltd. What has been the most important lessons you’ve learnt to be a successful content creator in the sport & fitness industry?
Health & Fitness has two camps; those who want to be impressed by your content and those who want to relate with it. Of course, there is overlap. Unfortunately, it can be quite a toxic environment for most people. At Primal Gym, we try and showcase the unique disciplines we teach; Gymnastics, Ninja Warrior, Calisthenics and more. It provides us with visually stimulating content and often helps us stand out in a market full of people lifting weights.
One of my most enriching interactions was with a man named Craig Kirby, founder of the non-profit “My Future, My Game” in Washington DC, which used golf to engage minorities and marginalised groups in society to help them progress in business. He said the phrase “if you can touch it, you can be it”. What he meant was, if you see someone who looks, sounds and lives like you, achieve the goals you want in life, it unlocks that potential in you. Since that meeting, I’ve realised the importance of displaying all kinds of people in our content. That obviously includes demographics like women, minorities and older people but also people of all shapes and sizes. If I want to be motivated to go to engage in Fitness but I don’t look like Dwayne Johnson, I have to know that this facility welcomes people who look, move and act like me. It goes back to that idea of communication. A young, muscular white man is not the best person to connect with an old, overweight Asian woman. That’s not to say they can’t, but it’s always going to be harder and content, especially in the age of 15 second Instagram stories, is all about efficiency and effectiveness.
Q5) As well as a content creator, you’re also an action sports athlete who’s performed for millions. It would be great to hear about the other fantastic experiences your athletic career has led you towards, and, how has your career as an athlete influenced the way you produce content?
I’ve been very lucky with the opportunities I’ve had in my career, especially when you consider I set out to be an Extreme Unicyclist with no expectations of what that actually was.
As I mentioned, I set a Guinness World Record with my previous team at the English Institute of Sport. Olympian Jessica Ennis was training right next to us at the time, which really heightened the honour. We then went on to break that record in front of a live crowd.
I performed for Prince Charles at a charity event. I also met my wife there, so I suppose I have Unicycling to thank for that too.
I’m incredibly grateful that my work has allowed me to travel to countries I would never have normally visited. I performed at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the WEC in Bahrain, the UCI road cycling championships in Qatar, and I even appeared on TV in Lebanon. I think spending time in the Middle East, meeting incredible people there, some of the kindest, warmest personalities I’ve met have really shaped my outlook on life and reinforce my belief that regardless of culture, the same things touch us, move us and motivate us all.
What has influenced the way I produce content the most? I was invited to a US embassy sponsored tour of America last year, which saw ten influencers from the UK taking part in a project entitled “Exploring America Values”. It sounds glamorous when you mention the word “influencer”, and it was fantastic. Still, the most powerful experiences there that will stay with me forever was meeting people who run charities and non-profits designed to help those disenfranchised in society.
We visited a place called “Inner City Arts” in Los Angeles that provides free programmes in the arts for kids from incredibly underprivileged backgrounds. We have all gifted a piece of art made by the children, and to this day, I have this cool little 3D printed robot created by a child that reminds me of the power that art can have.
I came away from that trip with a fantastic sense of guilt that I wasn’t doing enough to give back to others and to use my work to benefit my community. That was when I realised, just because you’re a creator, artist or athlete, doesn’t mean your work is meaningless or useless. You don’t have to be a doctor or a politician to make a positive impact in the lives of others, and we all have a responsibility to do so.
Q6) Sport and social media is a continuously evolving landscape, what methods have you adopted to keep yourself ahead of the curve? Plus, do you have any prediction on how content creation in sport will change in the future?
I try and consume a variety of sports and content in general. There are some videos and podcasts I will purposefully seek out for that variety, but mostly, I’ve always been interested in diverse subjects. I think that helps you see patterns that work well across all platforms and genres. It also allows you to integrate things into your content that perhaps aren’t being utilised in your current field.
The legendary Japanese philosopher and warrior Miyamoto Musashi said “know the way and see it in all things” meaning, mastery and understanding of one field begets excellence across the board. Athletes who can take inspiration from musicians, artists, philosophers, entrepreneurs etc. are the ones who end up transcending the fields they operate in.
My prediction for the future? There’s no reason why you can’t be an independent creator now who connects with an audience and generates income solely on your own. You don’t need agents, managers, teams or sponsors to make a living anymore. You don’t need qualifications, badges or belts to learn and gain experience. The internet and social media have given us the resources to learn on our own and to communicate without a middle man. Because of this, we’ll likely see an end to traditional media, with everything shifting to on-demand and interactive.
Q7) Jason, reflecting throughout your sports career, what advice could you provide to the readers who may be inspired to follow in your footsteps?
I always hate giving advice as it somehow suggests your example is one to be followed, however, since you asked, haha.
My friend once said to me that my overall quality was that I “always bet on myself”. That’s not necessarily what I would have chosen, but when I thought about it, it’s likely been the quality that has fuelled my success. My advice to everyone, regardless of what you do or the situation you are in, is to always bet on yourself. Don’t confuse that with hubris as you must work hard for that bet to pay off but never limit your ambition based on what has happened before or the low expectations of others. It’s never too late to try, and if you’re young, you have so much time to fail and learn than you truly realise.
Try and get 1% better every day but don’t get disheartened if progress slows, as it accelerates just as suddenly. Keep moving forward and have faith in your process.
Say “yes” to as many experiences as possible. Try something new as often as you can.
Commit yourself to discipline, immerse yourself in a practise because the process of getting better at something, the ability to express yourself skillfully and honestly through your work is the closest thing to peak experience you’ll find.
Be nice to other people and not because they deserve it but because it’s the right thing to do.
Have fun because you should never take life too seriously.
Now that’s what I call a sports industry inspiration! I hope you found that as powerful as I did. Many things fascinated me about Jason, primarily how he spoke about not letting his lack of skills and experiences deprive him away from his passion. On that note, life is what you make of it, let this principle apply for your sports industry passion.