Painting Without Paint: My year as the Athletics Union Media Executive

  • Daiki Shinomiya

A year of struggles, friendships, and terabytes of videos. With the University of Exeter being one of the best institutions for sport in the country, it was a surprise to see how little media coverage there was for this. I decided to take it into my own hands to capture our athletes' stories. How did one student undertake all sports media production at his university? Read on to find out.

I could start to feel my heartbeat slowly accelerate towards anxiety as my hands clenched my notebook. The doubtful voice of our dear friend imposter syndrome whispering in my head, determined to make me fail. There I was, Daiki Shinomiya: a 19-year-old marketing hobbyist with a love for art, in a room surrounded by top athletes at the university, veteran club captains, and intimidating Sports Administration. And there I was, a silly fresher, attempting to gain the trust of the most respected sporting personalities on campus. Not to mention how I've actually never set foot in a gym before, much less bought a membership to one.

Fifty spears of judgement impaled my self-confidence as I made my way to the podium. I knew very well that this was not a position intended for younger students like me. To everyone in the room, I was just a fresher. Inexperienced, young, and most definitely not an athlete – look at his figure and subpar posture.
Five minutes later, I left the room known as an experienced, ambitious and tenacious creative. And oh yeah, the next elected Athletics Union Media Executive.

Painting without Brushes

My excitement from being elected as the Media Executive to represent one of the best sports universities in the UK was short-lived when I realised I would be the only person working on media to represent the university. As well as being the only person to manage the social media platforms, create professional content, and plan marketing strategies, but I was also to do this without pay or budget. The Athletics Union simply did not have the necessary funding to hire someone to work on marketing and social media.

Given a blank canvas, I realised that before I could come up with a social media and marketing strategy, I needed to figure out how to get content in the first place. There were no incentives for creatives to produce content, no opportunities for students to get involved with sports media, and no resources to create media in the first place – how can you paint on the canvas without any paint or brushes?

The Athletics Union Media Team

After singlehandedly covering as many sports as humanely possible in Freshers' Week and producing the week’s recap video for sports, I formed the Athletics Union Media Team with some other content creators I met along the week.

This was a group that aimed to streamline media requests for sports clubs. Previously, clubs had nowhere to go when they needed photography, videography, or other media content. The group served as a centralised location for any and all media requests. Even in just its first year, the group allowed sports clubs with previously no media attention or coverage to get high-quality photos for their social media. We were slowly building up a backlog of media content to later be used on social media.

Unfortunately, the University of Exeter is not the best place when it comes to finding student creatives. Due to a lack of photographers and videographers to cover events, most of my time outside my degree was spent producing video content for sports societies. However, over the course of the year, The Athletics Union Media Team started to cultivate a small, yet dedicated group of talented photographers and videographers. It was a great pleasure to work alongside many different sports clubs and fellow creatives on a wide variety of video projects, ranging from emotional interviews to high-octane promotional content – all of which strengthened the Athletics Union Media Team's reputation.
Some of my favourite projects were the Movember Recap Video for the Football Club and the Mo-Varsity Recap Video for the Basketball Club.
There's nothing that can beat seeing hundreds of students come together for a common cause. It was an honour to be able to capture their efforts and emotions through video and photo.

Painting Blindfolded

Another struggle during my time as the Media Executive were the communication issues with the Sports Administration. Without a staff member in charge of social media and marketing, it was difficult to get ideas approved and figure out when fixtures would be held.

In early 2020, I was fortunate to be invited along by Exeter Alumni Oli Pestell to help him film the BUCS Nationals for BUCS as a client. BUCS Nationals is a big deal, especially for the athletes competing. It is a chance to demonstrate your own, and your university's, skill and mastery of the sports being represented at the event. It is the event where records are set, friendships are made, and adversity is overcome.
The University of Exeter has never had any full media coverage of this event before, so I decided to try to film as many of the Exeter events as possible while on duty for BUCS and Oli. Receiving little to no information about the Exeter athletes from the Student Sports Administration, I took it upon myself to find out and contact every sport that could be at the event to identify when and where I should try to be for maximum media coverage. After being notified by the Administration that we would only have the Fencing and Karate clubs compete at the Nationals, I was extremely surprised and delighted to see our athletes also compete in Athletics, Badminton, Climbing and Swimming as well.

Despite all of these obstacles, I managed to successfully cover almost half of the Exeter events. The silver lining of having to personally contact all the sports teams individually was that I got to know the athletes on a much more personal level.

I still remember gripping my camera so tightly that my knuckles started to go white as an Exeter pole vaulter started sprinting on their last sprint. The struggle to capture the moment on camera while trying to experience it with my own eyes. And the overwhelming sense of dismay when their leg caught on the pole, almost four meters above the ground, followed by pride: pride for what they had accomplished, and for what the University of Exeter stood for.
They ended up finishing third, standing on the podium alongside a British Olympic medalist and national record holder. Seeing this amazing achievement in person, and knowing that no one else would have captured the fine moments if I was not there, convinced me that my efforts so far as the Media Executive were not in vain.

Painting My Own Way

A week later came the highlight of any Exeter student's career: the annual Rugby Varsity event against Loughborough. I knew that this was my chance to demonstrate my videography and event coverage ability, and the potential of the Athletics Union Media Team. Despite being one of the largest events of the year, Exeter has never had full media coverage from a student team. Partnering with my friend and fellow member Alex Giles, we set off to cover the event to the best of our abilities.

Having to also fulfil my duties as the Media Executive and be present in the VIP rooms to network with important staff and Rugby Administration, I was seen by the audience as the strange person running around the rugby field, full suit and tie, wielding a massive camera. Doesn't matter that I was wearing Nike shoes with a suit, I was filming a cool video.

I could write about the video, or you could watch it here instead

Painting a Painting

Despite all these roadblocks and challenges, I feel like I've had a satisfying year as the Media Executive. The lack of administrative support and guidance has forced me to approach projects with an open mind, and in the process, develop great friendships.

I have grown so much over the last year as both a student and a creative, and have gained the reputation to take my Athletics Union Media Team one step further to become the Student Media Team (more about this coming soon!).

Getting to know the many different Exeter Athletes has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I am extremely proud to have made a positive impact on so many individuals over the last year.