6 Spot-On Insights About Athlete Brands from Bill Simmons and Jason Stein

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Cycle founder and CEO Jason Stein recently joined The Bill Simmons Podcast. Here's a six-pack of athlete branding and marketing takeaways from the interview:

1. "Athletes are still too cautious."

Bill references the Steve Nash x Grantland docu-series as an opportunity for athletes to provide more candid "inside access" to fans. "Right now we're seeing these guys dip their foot in the water," he says," but not really take chances."

2. "These guys still need education and understanding of why it's important."

Jason uses 76ers center Joel Embiid as a rare example of an athlete who is doing it right. "I see him as a smart, witty person who can do a lot of things besides play basketball, just because of his tweets," he says. "It totally changes the way you see someone as a fan, as a brand, as a team."

3. Athletes should be more candid.

Bill argues that Embiid's personality and candor on Twitter make people overlook his otherwise injury-plagued career.

"The reason people love Embiid over everything else is because of how great he is at social media. He's only played like 31 games," he says. "I don't understand why more athletes aren't candid, because people appreciate it so much. And then they might say a couple things that 'are going to get them in trouble,' but they really don't because people appreciate the candor."

4. "You don't need every single person to love you to be successful."

Jason agrees with Bill's point that athletes should use more authenticity to build their brands. "That's the thing that's really hard to embrace, the idea that being authentic is what will make you successful, but you're going to rub some people the wrong way," he says. "I get why, as a marketing strategy, that's smart."

5. "The Internet has become entertainment at this point."

Therefore, athletes who use the Internet to connect with their fans need to entertain their fans, if they want to maximize fan loyalty and equity at tremendous scale.

6. Don't be too polished.

Jason uses the The Players' Tribune as an example of content that feels "too ghost-written," while Bill says some athletes who partner with media companies come off as "clumsy."

"That's the risk in partnering with any media property, instead of going direct to your own audience. A media company is not necessarily a PR agency or a branding agency or always thinking about your best interest," Jason says. "When you can really own that message yourself and really give it directly, you don't have to worry about it as much."

Listen to the full episode: