Troy Aikman is not afraid of challenges, overcoming a 1-15 record his first season with the Dallas Cowboys to win three Super Bowls and going from TV rookie to longest-tenured NFL game analyst. Now, as a possible move to Amazon Prime Video from Fox Sports looms, Aikman is taking on Bud Light with a new light beer called EIGHT.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer will roll out the light lager in the state of Texas. If successful, Aikman could expand EIGHT — which is named for his old jersey number — to other U.S. states. Down the road, he’s not ruling out alliances with larger brewers in the $94 billion U.S. market.
Aikman and his partners raised the initial seed money for their Austin, Texas-based brewery from family and friends, and some big investors are poised to join the NFL champion and Pro Football Hall of Famer down the line.
“It was an easy raise. As we launch, there will be another round of funding we’ll be doing,” Aikman told Front Office Sports in an interview.
The U.S. brewing industry has been shrinking for years, with overall sales dropping 2.9% in 2020 and craft beer volume down 9.2%. However, Aikman has received a positive reception from key beer distributors and retailers in the Lone Star State.
“I’m not naive about this. Shoot, there’s over 8,000 breweries — and here we are diving into probably the most competitive segment of that in the light beer space. We’re going up against some real titans and heavyweights and I understand that,” said Aikman.
“But if I was concerned about a challenge, or worried about failing, I would never have been the Cowboys quarterback. We feel good about what we have. Now our hope is we can get it out to the public and they’ll buy it, drink it, and love it as much as I do.”
The lead NFL analyst for Fox will join other sports personalities who’ve entered the beer and wine business. Jim Nantz of CBS Sports and former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe market their own wine collections. Last year, UFC superstar Conor McGregor sold his controlling share in Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey for $600 million.
The entrepreneurial venture comes at a key crossroads in the 55-year old’s TV career.
Fox’s Aikman and Joe Buck are the longest-running NFL TV team on the air, joining forces in 2002. But Amazon is eager to hire Aikman and NBC’s Al Michaels for “Thursday Night Football” next season, FOS reported in December. Aikman could end up drawing two paychecks: calling TNF games for Amazon; then joining the “Fox NFL Sunday” pregame crew on weekends.
“We’re kind of having those conversations right now,” Aikman said. “So I don’t know if I will be with Amazon. And I don’t know if I will be continuing with Fox at this moment.”
Aikman has also mused about one day running an NFL team a la John Elway of the Denver Broncos. Broadcasting gave him the freedom to raise his daughters in Texas, but with his youngest off to college, the timing could be right.
“I think it’s a challenge that would be interesting to me. Quite frankly, and I’ve said it, I think if I were to pursue it, I would be good at it,” Aikman said.
With the price tag for NFL franchises exploding, the opportunity for ex-players to move into the owners club are “scarce,” noted Aikman. But he would not be surprised to see Peyton Manning be part of an ownership group someday.
“I think Peyton has some aspirations. I don’t want to speak for him — but there’s been conversations. I think he’s in a position where if that’s something he wanted to do, he could definitely do it.”