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INTERVIEW: Dan McLaren tells all about his work behind the scenes as Samba Digital’s Client Director


With Samba’s success this season and remarkable achievements, it was an ideal time to learn more about the individuals behind the company and its varied consumer base. This is the fourth post in a series in which we interview a member of the Samba Digital team and showcase their unique insights. This series of articles will address some of the most often asked topics regarding working with major customers, as well as some of their most compelling case studies.

In this edition of the series, we’ll meet Daniel McLaren, Samba Digital’s Client Director.

What is your role at Samba?

I joined Samba in September 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic and at a time when we didn’t know how the industry, or our clients, were going to react. Their faith in us and the confidence shown gave me a great early insight into how valued Samba was, and still is, to them. 

My role is that of Client Director and I look after the relationships with our sports clients outside of France. They include UK clients such as Spurs, Everton, Liverpool and Leeds as well as the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany, Juventus and Napoli in Italy, and in the US we have NBA team Orlando Magic and Soccer United Marketing (SUM).

This means I work closely with our Social Media Managers, providing them with everything they need to do the amazing jobs they do, our PR managers, creative team, and management team. And with Samba still being a young and growing agency, there are many other projects I am involved in including the recent partnership with The Football Business Academy. The first of hopefully several links with education establishments around the world.

Click here to learn more about this exciting new cooperation with The Football Business Academy.

What is your vision?

My principal aim here at Samba is to help grow the agency into being the best in the world, and that is something I genuinely think we can achieve in the coming years. There is a lot of hard work that will need to be done to get there, but I believe we are putting the right pieces into place to get there.

I’m also a big believer in getting the culture right, enabling people to do their best work with us and more importantly to enjoy the time they spend at work. Not having a physical office does mean that we face some unique challenges, but it also allows us to do things differently and build relationships in other ways. 

And to build on the last point, I also believe in helping people be the best they can be. Not just in their work but also in their lives. Ensuring they have the right support, the right tools and the confidence to achieve what they want from life. For some this may be developing them to become future leaders within Samba, or their future may lie away from the agency, and we’re happy with that and will do what we can to help them achieve that aim. 

We want people to enjoy their time here, no matter how long or short it may be. We will never be a true family (most of us may never meet in person!), but we have each other’s backs and will do what we can to help others succeed.

What are your best case studies?

Most of my work is behind the scenes rather than running the activations themselves, but there has been so much that I’ve been proud of the team for making happen. They include for example; the Leo Messi transfer to PSG – and the Ibai interview in particular – was amazing, the photoshoot for Liverpool x Roberto Firmino kids fashion range that became part of the global campaign, the Everton Watch Along in Colombia which became the first localised TikTok Live by a sports team in the world. The list could go on 🙂

Learn more about our work, including Leo Messi’s talk with Ibai in Paris, by clicking here.

How do you see the evolution of the market?

Part of my mind is always on what is the next evolution in our market. Even if we do nothing in that area, we always need to be switched on to what is changing and making sure that we are prepared. 

We have seen a lot of hype this year around NFTs, the Metaverse and crypto companies coming into sport. These are all fascinating and in the short-medium term we will see many things fail whilst a few of them will succeed. For me, it’s about understanding the changes in society that are happening, and the underlying technology that will enable the next leap to be made. 

So having an understanding of the impact that Web3 and Blockchain will have on us is certainly high on my agenda, as well as continuing my fascination with esports & gaming (I’m a co-host of a podcast on this). There are some really interesting new companies coming up in these spaces and it will be about finding out how they fit into sport, and when the right time will be for them to be adopted in a meaningful way. 

How do you bring added value to your clients? 

Everyday is about adding value to our clients. That can be through the content ideas the team comes up with, to being a trusted aide who can be called upon to help in areas where we might not be contracted to be working in. 

I see my role is to help make the life of those we work with on the client side as easy, and hopefully pleasurable, as possible. Working to understand what their pain points are, and having empathy around the demands their role has on them. It means that I can be there as much or as little as they need me to be.

The most important point here is about trust. If the client can’t trust you then there is no relationship and it will be very hard to retain them when the time comes to renew. But if you do have that trust then you have to continue to earn it and show your value to them as a person. Then you have the building blocks for a successful, long term relationship. Something that we have always strived for, starting with Frederic as he grew the company, and hopefully now I can continue in that vein.