Creative Spotlight: Gaby Barns

February 15, 2023
5 mins
Creative Spotlight: Gaby Barns

The Gold Coast Titans have had a bumpy few seasons in the NRL, but the club is in scintillating form in the online space. Social and Content Lead Gaby Barns has helped take the Titans to dizzy heights in the digital realm, and she is only getting started.

Historically, the Gold Coast has not been friendly to sports franchises. Rugby league’s Gold Coast Chargers, Giants and Seagulls have all come and gone with a whimper, as have the A-League’s Gold Coast United and NBL’s Gold Coast Blaze.

No matter the sport, the Glitter Strip has proven a tough market to crack with clubs struggling for relevance.

And while the Gold Coast Titans are still building towards sustained on-field success, they have transformed into a digital industry leader with an enormous online audience, and Gaby Barns is leading the charge.

This year will mark Gaby’s first full season as the Titans’ Social and Content Lead. But with nine seasons at the club under her belt since joining as a teenager, her fingerprints are all over the Titans’ digital portfolio.

“The two biggest areas within my role are content capture and social strategy,” she explains.

“Most people only see the capture side of my role; the game days, the training sessions and the TikToks but there is a whole other side of my day-to-day job.

“I manage all our master content schedule and planning across all Titans-owned channels while collaborating with the broader business from media to commercial through to community to ensure the best possible coverage for both the business and our audience.

“I am lucky to work alongside a great team of like-minded marketing gurus and creatives who are constantly on the lookout for new trends and ideas to ensure our content is always fresh.”

Said fresh content has been a staple of the Titans’ off-season. With unique, short-form video and a suite of striking graphics at the fore, @gctitans have caught plenty of attention across social media.

In particular, the club’s TikTok account exploded over the past month. With everything from player acapellas, grip strength tests, Powerade-tasting challenges, obscure Facetimes and good, old-fashioned big hits, Gaby and the Titans have mastered the art of vertical video. So much so, the Titans have soared to the second-highest TikTok following of any NRL club with 135,000 and counting. That is, statistically, despite the club having the smallest fanbase in the league. They are bettered only on TikTok by the Melbourne Storm, who have the greatest membership base in the sport.

“This app has changed the game for both creatives and consumers,” Gaby said.

“Every social media app has or is trying to mould itself around short-form content and creatives are having to adjust the way we create in order to see any engagement nowadays. Although, all of social is still evolving and it is difficult to keep up with the changes at times!”

Having joined the club as a work experience student in 2013, few would know more about the worlds of social media and sport in Australia than Gaby.

For perspective, her Titans tenure began when Nate Myles, Greg Bird, Dave Taylor and Jamal Idris were playing for the club. Meanwhile, Instagram was in its infancy, Vine had just taken the world by storm and TikTok would not exist for years yet.

During this time, she has established trusting relationships with the Titans’ football department which has translated into player buy-in for content creation.

“It is very important, if not the most important thing to working in sports,” Gaby said.

“I am extremely lucky to have an enthusiastic playing group and understanding of coaching staff, however, this was not a relationship that was built overnight… the relationships within the football department have been built off many years of gaining trust.

“I would always rather miss the shot than overstep; it is a true balance of managing expectations, reading a room and understanding the many dynamics of the team.”

One of the greatest obstacles Gaby has had to overcome in recent years is the Titans’ disappointing on-field performance. As any sports creative would know, winning is everything.

But through her player connections and creative spark, she is finding ways to lift spirits on the Gold Coast with quality, high-performing content, to the delight of Titans General Manager of Marketing and Fan, Dean Madders.

“Gaby has done a great job across our entire social platform base,” Dean said.

“She has really gained the trust of the football department during her time at the club and ultimately executed brilliantly which reflects the young, progressive nature of our brand positioning.

“Rolling out content for TikTok isn’t always easy, particularly in a losing season, so she has done incredibly well. The club has received positive feedback from far and wide consistently on the back of this.”

Gaby has built a phenomenal portfolio of work over the years, but three stand out to her in particular.

First: chronicling the Titans’ inaugural NRLW match:

“It’s incredible to know that this moment will be looked back on in many years to come as a pivotal turning point for female athletes on the Gold Coast.”

Second - her Photography:

“Whether it’s the high of a win, the nerves of a debut, hard work at training, or the gut-wrenching moments after a loss, the ability to capture those moments for everyone to see is one of the best parts of my job. Fingers crossed I’m capturing more celebratory shots this year!”

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Finally, and slightly less grand in sentimental and production value but just as successful - the prank call video:

“This is a prime example of how short content, filmed on an iPhone with limited production, can work just as well if not better than a project that has days or weeks invested in it.

With such a strong resume and reputation on the Gold Coast, it should come as no surprise she won the Titans’ Outstanding Achievement Award in 2022, as voted by the club’s football and administration staff.

Despite her growing list of accolades, however, Gaby remains focussed firmly on two things: taking the club even further in the digital space and reaching the promised land of a maiden Titans premiership.

“I would love to be part of the Titans' success story,” she said.

“To bring the first premiership trophy home to the Gold Coast, to have both players and staff rewarded for all of their hard work over the years.

“In 2021, I was lucky enough to capture the on-ground socials for @NRL and witnessed the Panthers win the premiership. Most people were in awe of the players and watching their every movement however I found myself drawn to their staff, the people behind the scenes that create the platform for the players and how much it also meant to them.

“That feeling and that moment is something I would love to tick off the bucket list!”

Premiership or not though, Gaby remains one of the Titans’ great success stories.

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