Athlete x Media Summit: Where Sport Meets Business

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(BrandForward is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

On Thursday, January 30, more than 200 sports industry executives, professional athletes, venture capitalists, and representatives from teams, leagues, agencies and players associations came together for the Athlete x Media Summit during Super Bowl LIV Week. 

Produced by BrandForward and The Network Advisory during Super Bowl Week, Athlete x Media was designed for networking and in-depth conversation centered around the intersection of sports, athletes and media. In addition to the summit, the event featured the Big Game Podcast Row, which was a one-stop shop for sports podcasters coming to Southern Florida. 

Below are some of the highlights of the event, which featured some of the industry’s top business minds in media, athlete branding, partnerships and technology. Athlete x Media was sponsored by Podetize, EdjSports, beSPOKE, BrandStar and Dave Meltzer’s The Playbook Podcast

“We designed Athlete x Media and the Big Game Podcast Row to be meaningful and impactful way for athletes and individuals in the sports business industry to connect, share and collaborate,” said Justin Giangrande, CEO and founder of The Network Advisory. “With a focus on intimate settings that bring together some of the biggest names in sports, we are developing an environment that enables in-depth conversation and fosters long-term relationships.”

The Future of Media

The first panel of the day was moderated by author and keynote speaker Josh Linkner. Panelists included Frank Frigo of EdjSports, Chris Stegner of Very Big Things, AJ Vaynerchuk of VaynerMedia and VaynerSports,  and serial entrepreneur Mark French. The group discussed how the rapid evolution and expansion of the media landscape is changing how stakeholders are approaching the sports spectrum, from rights to content to technology.

Other takeaways included how athletes and sports entities can leverage opportunities through the usage of services, data points and media consumption. 

The Voice of the Next Generation Athlete 

Looking at how athletes are using their platforms to reach fans directly, this panel included NFL player and Mike & Ike podcaster Michael Badgley, NFL alum Walter Powell of Politiscope, multiple Olympic medalist and founder of Worth Winning Lauryn Williams, and Super Bowl XXXVII Champion Ellis Wyms of Athletes for Computer Science. The panelists touched on how today’s athletes are using their voices through mediums like podcasting, social media, start-ups and philanthropy to create impact and connections with teammates, fans and the greater community. The panel was moderated by pro rugby player and NBC analyst Blaine Scully, who is launching his own podcast, The Captain’s Code, in March. 

The New Brand Partnership: Athletes, Infuencers and Content 

NFL veteran, model and entrepreneur Dale Moss guided panel discussion on how brands and athletes are moving past transactional relationships and looking for ways to cultivate brand-aligned and mutually beneficial partnerships. 

Together with Moss, NFL player Kirk Cousins, Grant Jones of ACE Media, founder of LMS and Constellation Capital Denise Lambertson, and Vince Pannozzo of Facebook explored how brands can take advantage of an athletes’ direct-to-consumer fan relationship and how content is becoming an exponentially more important part of athlete/brand partnerships.

Investment in Innovation: Media, Technology and Sports 

Afternoon programming kicked off with Tim Fong of Intersect VC, NFL player and advisor Marshall Newhouse, Jasmine Robinson of Causeway Media Partners, Casey Schwab of NFL Players Associated, and pro wakeboarder and TV host Alexa Score

With a balanced group of athletes and media executives, the group provided attendees with meaningful insight into the investment of technology in live sports, media and e-sports, and how athletes are investing both time and capital into the future of sport. 

Gaming, E-sports and Endless Opportunity 

The conversation of innovation continued with a focus on e-sports and gaming, where panelists broke down what makes e-sports so attractive to entrepreneurs, investors and gamers alike, and how athletes, influencers and brands are jumping in to seize the opportunitty. 

Moderated by Zack Stein of SPZ Capital, panelists included: Reed Bergman of VaynerTalent, Wayne Kimmel of SeventySix Capital, VaynerMedia’s e-sports expert Tyler Schmitt, and Fortnite world champion Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf.

Leading into the final conversation, attendees were treated to a very special networking break featuring the newly-introduced Terry Bradshaw Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a collaboration by Terry Bradshaw and Silver Screen Bottling Company.

In Conversation: The Modern Athlete

David Meltzer of Sports1Marketing,  Nate Raabe of Rx3 Ventures, and Jim DiCiccio of Kitu Life (Super Coffee fame) closed out the day in conversation around modern entrepreneurism. 

Today’s athletes are no longer waiting until retirement to pursue off-the-field passions, instead they are sliding into the role of CEO and using their influence to develop and control their own brands. The panel dove into how athletes are leading the way from the field to the boardroom and how sports has catapulted their future into entrepreneurship. 

With Athlete x Media underway, the Big Game Podcast Row saw Summit guests join sports-driven podcasts to talk about everything from the industry and Super Bowl to lessons in leadership and financial literacy. 

Produced by BrandForward and The Network Advisory in partnership with Podetize, the Big Game Podcast Row featured a number of podcasts developed and led by current and former pro athletes –  including Amobi Okugo’s Frugal Athlete, Blaine Scully’s The Captain’s Code, Craig Casaletto and Asante Cleveland’s White Tiger Podcast and Lauryn Williams’ Worth Listening – in addition to sports-centric and leadership-oriented podcasts such as Jack Settleman’s Snapback Sports, Bridget Case’s After Orange Slices and Dave Meltzer’s The Playbook Podcast.

“Through Athlete x Media, we are creating a community of people who can come together around sport, and drive collaboration, networking opportunities and share great insights,” said Stephanie Martin, co-founder of BrandForward. “We are focused on creating experiences that enable our attendees to walk away with relationships and learnings that help accelerate their business, and for our athlete attendees to learn new ways to tap into the power of their platforms.”