Recapping the 2019 Athlete x Brand Summit

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Photo Credit: BrandForward

(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.”