'Find People Who Are Experts in the Areas You're Not, and Outsource Your Weaknesses'

Photo Courtesy:   Whitney Holtzman

Photo Courtesy: Whitney Holtzman

Whitney Holtzman is CEO of Social Victories, where she advises athletes, teams and other sports entities about the latest marketing strategies, in order to win over fans and consumers.

Whitney, what are you most excited about today?

I just spoke at University of Miami, and was on a billboard on the Las Vegas strip for five days! I am also close to signing another NFL player and a few MLB players. I absolutely love being able to teach and consult.

My passion is building up those around me, so it's a natural transition to be able to do the same with brands. I am fulfilled when I get to share nuggets of wisdom that make the lightbulb go off. I love leaving my clients feeling invigorated that their path forward has been clarified.

How does Whitney define an epic athlete brand?

One who is the authentic version of themselves — a true leader.

People can always tell intent. Anyone who does something to try and please other people, or solely for the superficial reasons, is going to lose. I love those brands that set an example for how to make the world a better place, especially ones that put fans first, bring value and use the most cutting-edge marketing tactics to be effective.

What's your favorite athlete brand at the moment, and why?

Athletes like David Price, Tim Tebow, Aly Raisman, LeBron, D-Wade and Brandon McCarthy. They are so authentic and real on social, that fans get to know and build a relationship with them.

In addition, all of them are using their platforms for good, which fans really admire. D-Wade and his response to Parkland — donating money, visiting the school and showing raw emotion about the student who was buried in his jersey were incredible acts of kindness. LeBron constantly wants to stand up for what is right and give back. Aly recently used her platforms to be a whistleblower and stand up during the #MeToo movement. Tim does the proms for special needs children, and Brandon is hilarious.

What all of these athletes have in common is that they are good people, show their authenticity, and always use their brands to be leaders and try and make the world a better place. 

One recent story that really further catapulted an athlete brand into the spotlight is Julian Edelman and what he did to stop a school shooting. Julian's assistant alerted police and likely saved many lives. He's been all over the news because of it. That extraordinary act of doing what's right has led to many fans seeing Julian as a leader in our society.

Finally, I love what Tom Brady has been doing with his Tom vs. Time series. It's real and offers great behind-the-scenes access. Access is the best form of content for fans, and he's let people into his daily life in a way they've never seen before. The 15-minute episodes and ability to watch on Facebook are perfect examples of an athlete marketing in the year we live in.

When you look across the athlete brand landscape, what's the one thing you think more athletes should be doing?

Documenting everything they are doing! Athletes live incredibly fascinating lives to the outside world. Social media is the front lines of your brands, and perception is reality. They should be capturing all of the cool, behind-the-scenes stuff they're doing on a daily basis and sharing it with their fans. You have to go to where the fans' eyes are, instead of expecting them to come to you.

What’s your best advice for athletes who want to kickstart their personal brands?

Know your strengths, and be willing to be vulnerable and self-aware about your weaknesses. There are benefits to having played a pro sport when it comes to the business world. But likely, many athletes have never spent time learning about an HR or marketing department. Find people who are experts in the areas you're not, and outsource your weaknesses. Learn as much as you can and maximize your opportunities while you're playing.

One of my clients who I really admire is New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland. He lives on 10% of his salary and spent his offseason interning on Wall Street. That's one smart guy, who's setting an example we all can admire.

What’s the number-one tool you’re using right now?

I love Instagram, because it's where everyone's eyes are focused. I like the quick-hitting nature of photo storytelling, and the platform has great intricacies and targeting capabilities.

But I'm really excited about two partnerships I have and the opportunities they offer to be a first-mover: One is with a podcast company called Radio Influence, which allows my clients to have their very own podcast and to build their brands with vocal storytelling. Podcasts are also the best when you're commuting and don't have access to WiFi!

I also work with Satisfi Labs, which offers my clients AI capabilities. So, for example, when a fan asks a question Facebook, Twitter or even on Alexa, we can help program responses through AI to have the entire conversation with the fan. It helps keep companies alive and reachable 24/7!

Based on your knowledge and expertise, what's the future of athlete branding and marketing?

We're going to continue to see athletes speak out about causes they care about, and technology is going to allow us to get to know them better personally and form a greater connection to them off the field.

There's been a shift, where many athletes are realizing sports is their platform, but they have a greater purpose and other aspects to their lives. So, I think we'll start seeing more athletes prioritize their interests and career ambitions outside of sports.