The Premier League is arguably the biggest and most famous football league in the world with all clubs boasting millions of fans worldwide. However, to build up such a large fan base, teams must reach out and interact with fans on social media and online platforms such as Twitter and YouTube, as well as their own media channels such as MUTV and Arsenal Player. Someone who plays a part in this with Arsenal Football Club is Nicole Holliday. Hosting live Q&As and pre-match build-up online, she plays an important part in the club’s fan engagement, so I spoke to her about her role and also her work in entertainment TV.
Nicole’s route to broadcasting is an unusual one, having not studied or even been interested in journalism before. “I actually studied musical theatre at the BRIT school, but also knew I wanted to be in entertainment,” she explained. “I’ve always loved meeting new people and finding out about them, and when I graduated, I realised musical theatre wasn’t really for me. I’d always toyed with the idea of presenting in my mind but wasn’t sure how to go about it.” After not knowing how to pursue her interest, Holliday’s first job in the industry came through a friend she made whilst working to support her studies.
Amazingly, Nicole’s first role was at Sky, which really threw her in at the deep end. “My first job was for What’s Up TV on Sky1, although at the time It was on Pick TV,” she said. Whilst studying at the BRIT school, she had been working part-time at Topshop and become friends with another woman who went on to work for a production company. They always kept in contact and after Holliday expressed an interest in becoming a runner in order to make contacts in TV, her friend got in touch. “She said there may be a runner job there and spoke to her director who actually said they were looking for a new presenter and would I like to be screen tested. I still work for them now! It was a great first opportunity,” Nicole described.
However, she was then offered an opportunity to start working in sport. “I’d always been into football but hadn’t really thought of it as a career option,” she said, adding: “I now do both entertainment and sport which I love as every day is different.” Nicole had started making YouTube videos about Arsenal and post-match reactions expecting no-one to see them and confessing she was getting “barely any views”. Yet, a producer at the football club saw them and got in contact with her, asking her to come in for a chat. “I felt a bit awkward putting myself out there, but I thought why not? It’s quite a niche as a female too, as the industry is so male dominated. I think it’s so important to put yourself out there, especially in this day and age. There are so many opportunities with social media now,” Holliday explained.
Arsenal offered her some online work presenting videos and live build-up, despite never having done any live work before. “They took quite a gamble on me. I remember the first day at the Emirates Stadium. I was so nervous when they were counting me in to start the Facebook Live video. I love the buzz of being live, but it is much more difficult than pre-recording. Anything can go wrong and you just have to style it out!” Nicole told me. She admits that it was difficult to start with, but her experience on live TV has actually improved her pre-recorded work and made her more relaxed when doing it, as well as getting used to the unpredictability of not knowing what to expect.
Working with both Arsenal and What’s Up TV, Nicole has had the opportunity to interview a wide range of people from many different backgrounds, but it’s talking to some of the biggest names that she enjoys the most. “I’ve interviewed quite a lot of cool people! It was amazing to interview Tony Adams as he is such a legend for me, that was a really cool moment. Ex Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was hilarious to interview. He had so many funny stories,” Holliday told me, adding that her ultimate pinch-yourself moment was interviewing Fergie, the singer not the football manager. “I was so nervous because I grew up singing her songs,” she said, “she was so beautiful I felt so intimidated! She was really lovely and down to earth though.”
Although she can sometimes be intimidated by those she admires, Nicole is often taken aback when others want to meet her, saying: “I also find it quite crazy when an Arsenal fan sees me and asks for a photo. It’s so nice but also quite weird as I’m really not used to it. I always end up asking them for a photo too because I get really excited!” It’s clear that no-one can accuse her of not having her feet on the ground, though having people ask for photos with her might be something she’ll have to get more used to.
Social Media has been a useful tool for Holliday and is now something she uses to share another of her interests: Fitness. Speaking of the videos she uploads, she said: “I started that quite recently because I’m quite into fitness but also eat pretty badly. I love chocolate and pizza and will never give it up. I think it’s important to show that you can do both!” However, she was keen to add that she has no plans to become a personal trainer anytime soon, joking: “I’m enjoying filming my workout videos so will keep it up…. for now!”
With her first TV job being on-screen, it may sound like it’s all been easy for Nicole, but this is not the case. “It can be really hard to stay positive,” she explained. “It’s also very easy in a world of social media to compare yourself to others, it can be really toxic. I try really hard not to do it, but sometimes you can’t help it. This is also a tough industry I’ve chosen, and especially as a freelancer you can worry a lot about the amount of work coming in, and stress about money. I try to stay focused and positive because I am lucky to have a job that I love.” Although what she does may seem glamourous and exciting, which it can be, it can also be difficult, especially in the age of social media.
Nicole Holliday is only at the beginning of her career but has already experienced a lot of success. Her 2 roles working in entertainment and sport combine 2 of her passions, having been born into a family of passionate Arsenal fans. Her advice for those wanting to follow in her footsteps would be: “just go for it! You have to be really dedicated and determined because it isn’t the easiest of industries to crack, but it’s very rewarding! Make as many contacts along the way and be nice to everyone as you never know who you may work with in the future!”
Having made contacts in football and constantly learning, we can expect to see more of her in sport. Whereas interviewing such high-profile celebrities for What’s Up TV, will almost certainly keep her earning opportunities to speak to bigger and more interesting people. Nicole is becoming established with her new and growing fanbase, and if you can keep football fans on your side, you’re definitely doing something right.
(all photo credits: Nicole Holliday)