Office Hours: Erika Nardini on Barstool’s Content & Commerce

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Welcome to another episode of Office Hours: a podcast where Front Office Sports CEO Adam White has a discussion with figures from throughout the sports industry centered around three basic questions. Those questions are “What’s on your mind today?”, “What are you excited about?”, and “Any big ideas or theories you want to share?”

Erika Nardini is the CEO of Barstool Sports and has been in that role for the last three and a half years. Nardini chats with White in today’s episode about the brand’s content strategy, how they drive revenue, and how they continue to make noise in the space.

Edited highlights appear below:

Chaos to content creation

Nardini: “We’re super transformational just because we’re boundless and we don’t really think about medium. We’re not that calculated in terms of thinking ‘maybe we’re stupid’ or ‘maybe we’re really smart’ whereby it’s not like, ‘here’s our podcast strategy’ or ‘here’s our video strategy’, or ‘here’s our blog strategy’. We basically just have really creative people. We let them run…Some of it’s best suited to be in a podcast format. Some people are brilliant at radio, some are exceptional writers and they stick to the blog. Some are just funny on social. Some are great in person, so there’s a chaos to the content creation, which I think really works for us. Podcasting is obviously really important to us. I’ve said this a lot, but I think that podcasting is an extension of the blog, like a very pure extension of ‘this is in my head. This is what I think is funny’.”

On conversations with partners

Nardini: “I get annoyed because there’s this distraction conversation about the ‘controversy’ of Barstool sports and part of me says ‘okay fine’, if you want to focus on that one narrative that exists when you do a Google search, that’s cool. Part of me gets annoyed because I actually don’t think that’s the story of this company…The internet has changed everything. Young consumers are very different. They have so much choice. There’s so much competition. Instagram is a mall, right?…I think that’s what’s changed in the world and why we’re so valuable because we have [digital credibility] you cannot buy [that]…You cannot buy your way to authenticity…And then it’s further exacerbated by the reality that most people in those companies don’t understand the internet…If you don’t have eyes for the thing you’re creating, you can’t create something that breaks through and resonates and has trust.

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On content to commerce

Nardini: “A t-shirt that has a slogan about something will go so far. A t-shirt that has a slogan that has meaning will go much, much, much further…So I think that there’s a lot of companies who are saying, we need a commerce strategy….Everyone who is dependent on programmatic ad revenue to fuel their business is looking at decreasing margin and decreasing efficacy and lower flat to lower revenue numbers…So they’re trying to augment those with new numbers. Now the subscription business, the commerce business, the live event business, is much harder and very hard. It’s a lot more work than selling advertising and it grows slower, it’s more uneven, it’s more unpredictable.”

On being a Social CEO

Nardini: “I love my job…I think I have a lot of the same DNA that Barstool has… I’m self-deprecating. I am pretty real. I show the process on social, which I think is interesting. I think a lot of CEOs try to be like executives and are very controlled about their image and they’re controlled about their access points, even to their own employees. I don’t feel like that personally…. I want to be connected with everyone doing all the things because that’s the only way I’m going to help us be better and be really intuitive to what’s actually working and actually not working.”

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