Unitea App and The Nations Partner For Room Service Festival

Lineup graphics provided by The Nations and Unitea

Following the massive success of Digital Mirage Virtual Music Festival presented by the powerful partnership between Proximity, Trap Nation, Brownies & Lemonade, we are now approaching Round 2!

With live streams becoming the norm, The Nations and Proximity are back with another banging virtual festival to kick off this weekend. Room Service Festival will be held from April 24-26, and it features an incredible lineup including Yungblud, Channel Tres, Pink Sweat$, Chromeo, Zeds Dead, Borgore, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Gallant, GRiZ, Mt. Joy, Trevor Daniel, RAC, Lolo Zouaï, Jeremy Zucker and many more. Seriously, if this was a real festival, this lineup would be expensive. Instead of using Twitch, there will be multiple “stages” on YouTube: one on Trap Nation and another on Chill Nation.

Following this weekend, 100% of proceeds will go to Feeding America and Sweet Relief. Feed American is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Every dollar raised goes directly to getting food and funds to local food banks across the country. The Sweet Relief Musicians Fund provides immediate assistance for musicians and music industry workers affected by the enormous medical and financial burden of COVID-19.

“This is the first time we have focused our entire network on a singular action, to provide a moment of relief through charity and experience. The generosity and support of like-minded artists and entertainment professionals is amazing as we will have presented 6 days of live streaming to millions and millions of global music fans. Our partnerships with Sweet Relief, Feed America, Proximity, Cut + Sew, The Network Advisory and others have proved to be invaluable as the idea grew into these two events.”

Creighton Burke, President of The Nations

It goes without saying that Room Service Festival is much more than merely a festival. It is generously giving back to the community, especially those who are struggling most. However, it doesn’t just stop there: Unitea App is an experiential-based music streaming app, and it is partnering with Room Service Festival this weekend to give back to the fans. Unitea is designed to foster community, support artists and reward fans.

Through this entire weekend, music enthusiasts have the opportunity to earn points (or “karma”) during their favorite artist’s set by streaming and sharing via the official Unitea app. After you accumulate your karma, Unitea will allow you to cash in your karma for prizes such as free merch, tickets or experiences with your favorite artist.

If this doesn’t sound generous enough, Unitea is giving back to the artists too. This weekend, Unitea is exclusively debuting its Artist Digital Revenue Program with Room Service. Inside the app, there will be group chats called “Artist Crews.” Each group chat is designated for a particular artist so everyone who enjoys their music can come together and build community. The Artist Digital Revenue Program will pay out artists who culture their fan community through its Artist Crews and points. The best part? Whenever you redeem your points for a specific artist (or the artist hits a milestone within their Crew), Unitea will pay the artist out 50x compared to other digital streaming platforms.

We all want to do our part and give back to the artists who have given us so much to love. However, it’s difficult because not all of us have money to donate. Unitea is making it easy for fans to give back to the artist. If you want to support your favorite musician, I highly recommend you utilize Unitea this weekend.

You can download the Unitea app HERE, and start streaming your favorite artists now for a chance at redeeming merch, tickets and other rad items.

Players Ntwrk unveils digital pop culture entertainment programs on Twitch

Players Ntwrk is launching its digital pop culture entertainment programming, starting with pilot shows on the livestreaming platform Twitch.

The entertainment network draws its performers from professional athletes, esports stars, gamers, musicians, and other celebrities.

The Los Angeles-based company was started by serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Stratton Sclavos. He is teaming up with the WME talent agency and Daylight Holdings to launch Players Ntwrk.

The company said the “entertainment network will live at the pinnacle of all things gaming and digital pop culture, featuring original programming, unscripted series, celebrity gameplay, and enhanced live events online from an array of diverse talent across the intersecting fandoms of professional sports, music, and gaming.”

Sclavos, CEO of the company, and Daylight Holdings president Ben Curtis created the Players Ntwrk in 2018 as a celebratory, fan-focused response to the ever-connecting worlds of gaming, sports, esports, music, and streaming entertainment.

Above: Serial entrepreneur Stratton Sclavos is CEO of Players Ntwrk.
Image Credit: Players Ntwrk

As conversations with celebrity athletes, musicians, actors, and other content creators developed, Sclavos approached WME and Klutch Sports Group, offering their top entertainers opportunities to create and produce original content under one universal entertainment platform.

According to eMarketer, viewership on Twitch will surpass 37.5 million monthly viewers in 2020 in the U.S. alone, accounting for 15.5% of total digital video viewers. As global events affect the way content is individually consumed at home and new game titles continue to be released, gamers (from the hardcore professional to the casual fan) will be looking for new entertainment platforms, the company said.

In a statement, Sclavos said the number of viewers and subscribers consuming gaming entertainment across YouTube and Twitch tops other entertainment services such as Netflix, HBO, Spotify, and ESPN combined. He said that entertainment spectacle is trumping hardcore gaming competition.

Players Ntwrk is the only platform embracing and executing this new reality by creating original content with the most influential people who also happen to be fans themselves, Sclavos said.

A shared passion for video game entertainment allows the debuting talent, also known as the First Squad, to create novel ways in producing entertaining content with the freedom to put their own unique spin on it. The platform’s forthcoming programming won’t be limited by specific game titles or formats, providing the First Squad the opportunity to experiment with new concepts and collaborative combinations.

Above: Players Ntwrk includes game and esports personalities. Image Credit: Players Ntwrk

The Players Ntwrk First Squad talent roster includes:

  • Professional athletes: De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings), Josh Hart (New Orleans Pelicans), Jarvis Landry (Cleveland Browns), and Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints).
  • Music artists: PARTYNEXTDOOR, Murda Beatz, producer Boi-1da, and actor/former athlete Donovan Carter (Ballers).
  • Creators and streamers: KatGunn, Sodapoppin, CashNasty, Jesser, Jericho, Octane, Sigils, Sonii, and DenkOps

As the network rolls out its 2020 content slate, fans will be able to interact, play against and discover other fans from overlapping fandoms. Fans of KatGunn will get opportunities to be introduced to fans of PartyNextDoor and vice versa. The network will also have frequent collaborations with well-known celebrities across sports, music, film/tv and gaming.

The network is focusing its early efforts with charitable live gameplay across a rotating roster of the First Squad on its Twitch channel with proceeds going to charity. Viewers will be able to donate directly. The pilot programming will debut this week on the network’s Twitch channel. The full programming slate will be announced at a later date. The company has seven employees, and it is raising a round of funding with strategic investors.

Athlete x Media Summit: Where Sport Meets Business

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, Influencers 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.”

*This article originally appears at Front Office Sports: ‘Athlete x Media Summit: Where Sport Meets Business’

Bootsy Bellows Pop-Up In Miami During 2020 Big Game Weekend

The h.wood Group will continue their long tradition of Pop-Up Bootsy Bellows during the biggest weekend in sports, partnering with In The Know Experiences and The Network Advisory to create, ‘Bootsy On the Water’ in Miami on Friday, January 31, 2020. Multi-platinum recording artist Post Malone will headline ‘Bootsy On the Water,’ an over-the-top celebration in a specially constructed venue along the coast of Biscayne Bay with the biggest names in sports, entertainment and music in attendance.

Bootsy Bellows pop-ups are an extension of L.A. hotspot Bootsy Bellows that brings luxury entertainment, invite-only, trendy experiences to exclusive locations. John Terzian and Brian Toll, co-owners of The h.wood Group said, “combining sports, entertainment and music only happens like this once a year, ‘Bootsy On the Water’ will be a one-of-a-kind experience.”

In the Know Experiences co-founder Seth Kaplan added, “we are elated to partner with The h.wood Group and The Network Advisory to produce ‘Bootsy On the Water,’ and bring the iconic Bootsy Bellows experience and vibe to Miami.”

‘Bootsy On the Water’ will kick off The Big Game weekend in a fully built out, 40,000 square foot venue with astonishing views of the Miami skyline, accessible by land, air or sea. VIP and celebrity guests will arrive by a yacht to a private marina. Once inside, all guests will have the opportunity to indulge in decadent food and top shelf spirits including JAJA Tequila. The event will have additional music by DJ Zack Bia, DJ IRIE, and special surprises throughout the night.

With previous activations at Art Basel, Coachella and past Big Game Weekends, Bootsy Bellows pop-ups are known to attract the best in entertainment and music with past attendees including Chris Evans, Kendall Jenner, Diddy, and Winnie Harlow and featuring performances from Gucci Mane, French Montana, Tiesto, Travis Scott, and more.

Justin Giangrande, CEO of The Network Advisory said, “The Network Advisory is excited to partner with these two leading hospitality brands to host the biggest pre-game experience in Miami. Post Malone has had a record-breaking year and I know he has something special in store for all who experience it.”

It’s Me Brands and Team Boom Cups will be the official VIP ticketing partner of the event and tickets will be available on www.itsmebrands.com. ‘Bootsy On the Water’ is supported by 1iota, The Kess Group, Event Eleven, SRX Events, and Best Buddies International. Additional musical performers, celebrity attendees and brand partners will be announced at a future date. For additional details, sponsorship opportunities, hospitality, and experiential table and ticket packages or to inquire about programming opportunities at the one-of-a-kind venue, please email: bootsysb@itkexp.com.


The h.wood Group is a Los Angeles based hospitality and lifestyle company with a diversified portfolio of upscale nightlife & restaurant venues. Born and raised in Los Angeles, John Terzian and Brian Toll established The h.wood Group in 2008. Their vision was born out of a need to bring high-end, thoughtful and detailed concepts to the LA market and now on a global stage. With a love of catering to the friends and family whom they had grown up with, Terzian and Toll spent their time tending to their every social need. To this day, this emphasis on service remains at the core of The h.wood Group.


In the Know Experiences is a full-service lifestyle company, with strong areas of expertise in the luxury travel, private events, fashion, nightlife and marketing industries. With over a decade of experience, we specialize in managing front of house operations and overseeing ticket, table and hospitality sales for premier events around the globe. Past notable events that In the Know Experiences’ handled all ticketing and event hospitality include The Rolling Stone Super Bowl Party in various locations, the MAXIM Big Game Party in New York City and Atlanta, Playboy Super Bowl 50 Party in San Francisco and more.


The Network Advisory (TNA) is a Los Angeles based talent, brand, and venture advisory syndicate focused on accelerating their clients by leveraging an extensive and resource-rich network spanning over many decades. TNA’s invaluable network and strategic partners are anchored by its industry leading relationships in venture capital and rooted in sports, media, and entertainment. TNA offers the necessary guidance to create meaningful, long-term relationships for its clients and focuses and has expertise in the areas of corporate partnerships, venture consulting, brand experiences, and marketing.

The Network Advisory is founded by long-time talent management and brand marketing expert, CEO & Founder, Justin J. Giangrande, who is credited and highly recognized for year after year producing notable high-end brand experiences at the Super Bowl.


The h.wood Group
Ben Russo

SOURCE: The h.wood Group

Post Malone Tapped to Play Super Bowl Party in Miami

Tickets to the ultra-exclusive “Bootsy on the Water” event don’t come cheap

Post Malone is bringing his bag of tricks to Magic City this month, with a special appearance to kick off Super Bowl weekend in Miami. The singer is headlining “Bootsy on the Water,” a one night, pop-up event that brings L.A. hotspot Bootsy Bellows to a select crowd in Miami.

The event, happening January 31, will take over a custom-built 40,000 square foot space along Biscayne Bay. In addition to Malone, there will be sets by DJs Zack Bia, Devin Lucien and IRIE, who’s known as a local fixture in Miami (when he’s not doing residencies in Vegas). Organizers, The h.wood Group, also promise “special surprises throughout the night.”

This is the eighth year that The h.wood Group has thrown a Super Bowl event. Last year’s headliners were Gucci Mane, Tiesto and French Montana, and previous Bootsy Bellows pop-ups have featured everyone from Justin Bieber to Travis Scott. The parties have also attracted a slew of celebs, from Chris Evans to Kendall Jenner.

With similar bold-face names expected at this year’s event (produced in conjunction with In The Know Experiences and The Network Advisory), tickets to “Bootsy on the Water” won’t come cheap, starting at a cool $1000 for a seat at a shared “VIP Table.” Organizers are also offering up private yachts to take guests to the event (entering through a private marina of course) and even a $65,000 package that gets you and 11 guests a helicopter ride to the event and a table right in front of the stage.

The link between entertainment and sports is nothing new for The h.wood Group, who have a field-level Bootsy Bellows-themed VIP area at Los Angeles Rams games inside LA’s Memorial Coliseum. But this event has the added appeal of taking place during one of the biggest sporting weekends of the year, with one of the biggest artists in the country right now as the headliner. John Terzian and Brian Toll, co-owners of The h.wood Group say, “combining sports, entertainment and music only happens like this once a year [and] ‘Bootsy On the Water’ will be a one-of-a-kind experience.”

The event takes place two nights before the 54th Super Bowl. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira have been announced as the halftime performers at the big game. As for Malone, his Super Bowl weekend performance comes as he prepares to kick off the second North American leg of his “Runaway Tour.” After his Miami gig, his tour resumes February 4 in Omaha.

Tickets for “Bootsy on the Water” are available online at bootsysb.com.

*This Article was written by Tim Chan for Rolling Stone and originally appears at: ‘Post Malone Tapped to Play Super Bowl Party in Miami’

Recapping the 2019 Athlete x Brand Summit

(BrandForward is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

On September 24th, BrandForward hosted the latest in their Athlete x Brand events at the headquarters of the Pac-12 Network in San Francisco.

Throughout the day, athletes and representatives from brands, players associations, agencies and media platforms came together for a day of conversation and networking. Participants also had the chance to ask questions and learn from experts in this subsection of the sports industry in a variety of panels.

“Each year, Athlete x Brand takes on new meaning, and features topics and speakers that are leading the way in the athlete brand space,” said Patty Hubbard, co-founder and managing director, BrandForward. “This year, we wanted to focus on the evolution of athlete brands and how the opportunities available for athletes are only accelerating.”

Below are highlights from the day.

The Rise of the Multi-Hyphenate: Athlete, Investor, Founder, Creator and Beyond

The days of athletes being put in a box are rapidly fading. Today, they have the opportunity to see themselves as CEOs of their own personal brands, and more and more athletes are taking advantage of that opportunity. They also have the power to become more than endorsers of product but rather partner with brands where they can have an impact on the brand’s goals as well as their own. This panel focused on how athletes are pursuing their off-the-field goals while balancing the demands of their profession, and lessons learned from athletes who are leading the way as they venture into the business world.

This panel was led by Bryant Barr of SC30 Inc., Kristen Gambetta of Rakuten, NBA player Lance Thomas, and Olympic Gold Medalist and former WNBA All-Star Jennifer Azzi.

The Art of Storytelling in a Digital World

In the digital age, it is easier than ever for both athletes and brands to produce their content and control their own platforms. This also means that content is being exponentially created, so it can be difficult to create content that stands out. This panel examined the growing importance of athlete-driven content in brands’ marketing mixes as they seek to really engage with fans and consumers, and advice on how to develop compelling athlete-driven content.

This panel was led by Dexton Deboree of Falkon, Nate Houghteling of Portal A, Austin Schumacher of Lyft and Emeka Mbanefo of Clio Sports.

The New Champion: From Supporting Causes to Leading Them

Modern athletes are choosing to not only lend their voice to the causes they care about the most – they are also now leading them. This panel discussed how positive social change can be achieved, featuring three athletes who have found success in championing causes important to them.

This panel was led by FIFA World Cup champion Brandi Chastain, Olympian Alysia Montaño, NFL Veteran Ellis Wyms, and Pac-12 Network host and reporter Ashley Adamson.

Roadmap for the Athlete Entrepreneur

Athletes do not need to wait until their playing careers have ended to begin making their mark in the business world. This panel explored the steps that athletes can take to begin their careers as entrepreneurs while they are still playing.

This panel was led by TJ Graham of Cooley, Matt Hillman of Cut + Sew LA, Joseph Milord of LinkedIn, and Caroline Acosta of the Pac-12.

The Changing Face of Athlete-Driven Content

Content posted on the social channels of athletes receives six times the engagement of content posted by teams or brands. This panel examined how athletes can use social media to more effectively build their personal brands as well as how teams and brands are building their own content strategies around athletes.

This panel was led by Justin Giangrande of Vayner Sports, Adi Kunalic of opendorse, Vincent Pannozzo of Facebook, Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic.

BrandForward created Athlete x Brand series in 2018 to bring together leaders throughout the sports industry who are working on the next generation of athlete brands.

“We wanted to create a space where athletes and the people working on athlete brands could come together, share insights and walk away with important connections, lessons and tools, as well as opportunities to collaborate,” said Stephanie Martin, co-founder and Managing Director of BrandForward. “The potential for athletes to leverage their platforms is exponential, and we want to help level the playing field so every professional athlete, Olympian and Paralympian can realize that potential.”

Brian Sher Inks First-Look Deal With UCP & Wilshire Studios; Sets Lil Yachty Comedy From Ian Edelman

EXCLUSIVE: Manager/producer Brian Sher has signed a first-look deal with UCP and Wilshire Studios to develop both scripted and unscripted programming. Sher has set his first project under the pact, a scripted comedy Public Figures at UCP from How To Make It in America creator Ian Edelman starring rapper/actor Lil Yachty (How High 2). The comedy has been set up for development at Quibi, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s short-form mobile streaming service.

Created by Edelman, Public Figures is inspired by Lil Yachty’s real life experiences, before fame and before music, when he moved from Atlanta to Harlem with five dollars to his name. The series follows a group of late teens/early 20 somethings as they pursue their dreams in New York City.

Sher, Edelman, Yachty and Gregory Jones will executive produce, along with Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “Pee” Thomas via their Quality Control banner.

NBCUniversal’s scripted-focused UCP and unscripted-centric Wilshire Studios are both run by President Dawn Olmstead.

“UCP has become the gold standard in scripted television, and I am incredibly excited to be collaborating and building with Dawn and her amazing team,” said Sher.

Under Sher’s deal with Wilshire Studios, he will develop reality fare for the studio. Sher’s unscripted executive producer credits include T.I.’ s Road to Redemption for MTV, Nicki Minaj’s My Truth and Turned Up starring Christina Milian, both for E!, Sisterhood of Hip Hop for Oxygen, Master P’s Family Empire for Reelz, and The Michael Vick Project for BET.

In 2009 Sher started management/production company Category 5 Entertainment to work with film, TV and music artists. Sher’s clients include writer/director Farhad Safinia (Boss, Apocolypto), multi-hyphenate Tip “T.I.” Harris (AntMan, House Of Lies), and actor/singer Rotimi Akinosho (Power). In addition to his own clients, Sher has worked with other recording artists in the crossover space, including Nicki Minaj, Tyga, Lil Wayne, G-Eazy, and The Roots.

In 2011 Sher joined Kelsey Grammer as a partner in his Grammnet Productions under a scripted deal at Lionsgate. Sher served as an executive producer on Starz’s Golden Globe-nominated series Boss, starring Grammer and created by Safinia, and as an EP on the FX comedy series Partners starring Grammer and Martin Lawrence.

Sher is currently an executive producer on Hulu’s YA scripted series Light as a Feather, in production in its second season with Awesomeness TV. He is also an executive producer on the Netflix film The Trap starring T.I and Mike Epps, and an EP on How High 2 starring Yachty and DC Young Fly, which delivered strong ratings for MTV. Sher also co-created and executive produces T.I. and Tiny’s Friends and Family Hustle, currently airing its 8th season on VH1.

Sher, who was a motion picture agent at ICM from 2001-2009, is repped by Todd Rubenstein of Morris Yorn.

*Article Credit: Nellie Andreeva

Q&A With Justin Giangrande on How Athletes Can Build Their Brand

Branding and marketing opportunities have become a huge potential slice of the earnings pie for today’s professional athlete. In the 2017-2018 season, for instance, LeBron James earned a salary of $33.5 million while tallying an additional $52 million in endorsement deals.

Justin Giangrande is executive vice president of VaynerSports, a full-service athlete representation agency. He oversees marketing and brand partnerships for the firm’s impressive client roster. He also manages all VaynerSports branded events. Giangrande draws from more than 10 years of in-depth experience in handling athlete marketing and endorsement deals.

Charles Frazier, sports and entertainment banking team lead at City National, sat down with Giangrande to discuss the necessary building blocks that help athletes build their brands and get the most out of marketing opportunities.

Charles Frazier: What makes an athlete marketable or brandable?

Justin Giangrande: People think of the brand as this mythical thing, but I think really when it comes down to an athlete being marketable or brandable, it takes a sincere desire on the athlete’s part.

People think that you accidentally just build this brand during the course of 15 years. I tell all my clients when they sign with us, at the end of the day marketing and branding are work — showing up for appointments on time, being reliable when companies work with you — I think it really starts with the actual desire to do that.

Frazier: Describe to me how you help an athlete understand the importance of branding and marketing themselves.

Giangrande: Branding is creating an overall strategy of where you want to end up. One of the things we do when we sign a client is we put them through a branding strategy exercise, figuring out “Where do you want to be after this year? Where do you want to be after five years? Where do you want to be after you finish your career?” That’s a brand strategy.

The things that make up branding, and create that strategy and that road map, are called marketing. So the deals that I line you up with, the places I put you, that’s all part of marketing, which makes up the overall branding strategy. I kind of think of them as little bricks that build the overall branding house.

Frazier: With so many new athletes coming into their respective leagues, the NFL, the NBA, NHL, what should new professional athletes be thinking about before signing a marketing deal?

Giangrande: In the beginning, money means a lot more to you, and so maybe you take some opportunities that are quicker term. But I think when you’re really thinking about a partnership, it should be more along the lines of, “Is this something I’m just doing for money? Or is this something that I actually believe in and want to be part of long term?”

Also the other question to ask is: “Is this a product or a company I would actually use myself?” People can sense when something’s just a money grab, and that’s really what will tarnish your brand in the early years. We’ve all seen Rod Tidwell in “Jerry Maguire” riding the camel. Don’t be that guy.

Frazier: Along those lines, why is being authentic important when branding and marketing for a professional athlete?

Giangrande: That’s everything. At the end of the day, brands want to believe that the athlete really would use their product, and why it seems authentic for them to do so. And so a lot of marketing deals get done by my clients using a product that they’re talking about on their social media, and the brand looks at that and thinks, “Wow, this person actually uses it.”

I’m quick to tell my clients not to just give away the publicity, but at the same time, highlighting opportunities and things that you use in your daily life can also drive a lot of those opportunities.

Frazier: How do you advise clients on which brands to partner with?

Giangrande: Going back to what I just said —“Is this something that I really would use in my daily life?” — but also understanding where that company is in its life cycle. If you’re working with a startup company that’s under two years, and they don’t have a ton of revenue, they won’t have the ability to put a lot of dollars towards marketing or endorsements.

If your goal is to actually be a partner and for them to grow with you during your career, then you’re going to have to take a little hedge cut in the beginning. When the company starts doing well and can put more dollars into its marketing, they’ll be able to include you in more campaigns and increase your compensation. Just know it may take some time to get there. I think it’s all about having realistic expectations.

Frazier: What does the typical marketing deal look like for a professional athlete today?

Giangrande: Ten years ago a normal marketing deal looked like, “Hey, we’re going to use you as a brand ambassador. We’re going to put you on some billboards. You’re going to have to do an appearance, and if we’re lucky enough, and the company’s big enough, you’re going to do a radio or TV spot.”

Now, it’s all about content, which means your social reach, how much social media you’re giving them. How much posting you’re going to do. How much access you’re going to give them to so they can shoot. And what are their rights to using you? Do they have the rights to use your likeness in perpetuity? Are they allowed to put it on Facebook and retarget against it? Or is it just on your social channels? Building social channels and profiles out is critical for any professional athlete that wants to take his marketing seriously and compete in the marketplace.

Frazier: Professional athletes can sign a marketing deal with their agent, or outside their agent. What are the benefits to signing a marketing deal with your agent?

Giangrande: Before joining VaynerSports, I had my own sports marketing agency, and we were separate from agents. Our sole focus was driving marketing revenue and building brands for players. I joined VaynerSports because of our ability to have the best of both worlds.

A lot of agencies say they do marketing because they don’t want anyone else touching their client or reaching out to their client. But there is a benefit if your agency can do both, because I’ve seen a lot of situations where there’s in-fighting when it comes to control over the athlete. And that creates inefficiency, and things fall through the cracks, and ultimately it hurts the client.


This article originally appears at: https://newsroom.cnb.com/en/entertainment/sports/justin-giangrande-athlete-branding.html

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