The Athletic’s Live Event Strategy Includes Deeper Discussions and More Star Power

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The Athletic isn’t a secret anymore.

What started out as a one-city publication that promised to provide in-depth reporting with no advertisements and a user experience focused on doing what was best for the subscriber versus what was best for the advertiser, the company has exploded in sheer headcount and market size thanks, in part, to $30 million in venture capital.

As the publication has grown, so has its offerings for subscribers — the latest addition being intimate subscriber-only events that have been able to provide those who pay between $3.99-$9.99 a month the chance to get up close and personal to their favorite writers.

After all, sports are built around community, and The Athletic believes it can not only provide that through content but in person as well.

“Since they started the company three years ago, there has been a number of informal events that have happened,” said Taylor Patterson, communications director for The Athletic and the person who is overseeing the expansion of their events. “It wasn’t till January or February of this year where we got into more formal, put-together subscriber events.”

While they are just getting started when it comes to formal events, Patterson sees an opportunity for the company to dive deeper with their writers, while also engaging athletes and executives from the teams the writers are covering.

“We did an event in Chicago with Ken Rosenthal and Peter Gammons that allowed them to really take people inside their world. Eventually, we’d like to get to a place where we can bring in executives, front office personnel, and even athletes.”

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Having already done close to 20 events already this year, the company is now going “on tour.” Thanks to a partnership with Homestand Sports, The Athletic began a seven-city Canadian tour earlier this week. Each stop of the tour features local writers as well as appearances from the likes of James Mirtle, Pierre LeBrun, and Eric Duhatschek.

Why Canada? Thanks to the publication’s coverage of hockey, a vastly underrepresented sport on other major publications, Canada has been one of The Athletic’s strongest markets. Because of the role the country and its cities have played in the overall success of the startup, Patterson and other members of The Athletic’s leadership team wanted to make sure they were giving back.

“Typically, we haven’t gone into some of our smaller markets because we just haven’t gotten there, but with Canada, we knew we had to go to all the cities that have signed up to make sure we were live and in person.”

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The tour, being led by Kevin Kennedy at Homestand Sports got started on Sept. 22 and will run through the 28th.

Now in their fourth year, Kennedy and Homestand Sports see themselves as a way to take what The Athletic has created online and deliver it offline.

“Our events are a direct link to their fan base. We allow them to get a lot closer to their fans. We sort of take their online community and bring it offline. That is my role in this partnership and it has proven pretty successful for both parties.”

Both part of their subscriber funnel as well as their subscriber retention plan, events will play a large role in the success of the publication going forward, according to Patterson.

“When it comes to events, we encourage our subscribers to bring their friends who may not be subscribed. While they are great ways for us to introduce potential new users to the site, the events are really meant to give back to our current subscribers as not only a value-add to their subscription, but as a thank you for their support. We would be nothing without them.”