Q&A: Bryce Harper On His Approach To Business Off The Field

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Bryce Harper partnerships
Photo Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper has never been far from the spotlight.

Compared to LeBron James in a Sports Illustrated cover story when he was 16 years old, his profile has only grown since he was chosen first overall in the 2010 MLB draft by the Washington Nationals, subsequently winning the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year award en route to six All-Star selections and a 2015 NL MVP.

It only further increased this past winter, when he signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, which at the time was the largest contract in MLB history. It was subsequently eclipsed by Mike Trout’s 12-year, $430 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels.

His position as one of the most well-known players on the field has translated off of it, as Harper now has one of the largest sponsorship portfolios of any active MLB player, ranging from deals with baseball- and sports-related companies like Rawlings, Topps, and Gatorade, to nontraditional deals like Jaguar, Hallmark, Blind Barber.

Most recently, Harper signed a partnership with Johnson & Johnson Vision to serve as an ambassador for its new contact lens – ACUVUE OASYS with Transitions – which Harper wears them both on and off the field.

Front Office Sports spoke with Harper about his business pursuits, what he looks for in potential deals, and how the move to Philadelphia has impacted his brand.

Front Office Sports: What drives you to partner with a specific brand?

Harper: When I look to partner with companies, I just don’t want to work with a million companies. I want to be able to work with someone who cares about me and my family, cares about what I do on the field and how I approach my life off the field.

The deal with [Johnson & Johnson Vision] was kind of natural – it was just them knowing I wear contacts and me telling them I wear ACUVUE products. I started to discuss the partnership with them about a year ago – I’ve been wearing contacts since the seventh or eighth grade. It’s been fun to work with Acuvue in particular because I tell them how about the contacts, how they can make them better, and certain things like that.

FOS: What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to working with potential partners?

Harper: Working around my schedule. I think companies I partner with have always done that for me – understanding that it’s very busy and that we have a 162-game season. Some companies it’s like, ‘well you have to do this or you have to do that, you have to get this done in this time frame,’ and the companies that I’ve partnered with have not done that. So I’ve been very lucky.

FOS: What leads to the most success when it comes to a partnership from an athlete’s point of view?

Harper: It’s really about being able to understand who I am as a person, and how a product is helping me out.

Gatorade, for example, is obvious – hydration products that help me when I work out. Under Armour – it’s what I wear on and off the field.

Brands like T-Mobile and ACUVUE, it’s the same thing – these are products I like to use in my regular life.

While Jaguar doesn’t help me on the field, it’s nice to be able to be with an international brand and is very well known – I also drive an F-Type.

One of my more recent deals is with Blind Barber [Harper invested in the barbershop brand in 2018, becoming a partner in the company]. I love hair products if you can’t tell, and I love being able to design the barbershops.

I think the more and more I get older and have more wants and needs in terms of what I want to do, or how I want to do it, I’ll partner with more companies that have those same values as I do.

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FOS: There has been a trend in athletes doing deals with companies that include equity, as opposed to just getting a check – is that something you’re interested in?

Harper: I’ve done that with Blind Barber, and being part of the company has been great. I’ve been able to show that side of myself, designing barber shops, understanding what goes into these things and making decisions on where we want to go in the country. We’re opening in Miami, Nashville, here in Philly pretty soon, a couple in LA and a couple in New York. It’s been fun.

I’d never want to partner with companies that I don’t care about, where I have to just say ‘Oh yeah I use some product,’ but I don’t. I wear Under Armor daily, I drink Gatorade daily, I drive a Jaguar F-Type daily. These are things I do enjoy, so I look forward to meeting companies and expanding that role and doing whatever I want to do.

FOS: Do you see that as a way to extend your business career beyond baseball?

Harper: Being only 26, I have a long way to go. I enjoy baseball, I love the sport, but I don’t want that to be my whole life; I don’t want that to be my whole thing. I want to expand what I do with my mind and my family, things like that. I want to be known for more than just Bryce the baseball player, I want to be able to do certain things if I can and expand into other pieces of my mind and others places in this world. But I want those companies to have the same values as I have. I want to be able to put my heart and soul into something I enjoy.

When I’m away from the field and decide at 39 or 40 years old that I’m going to retire, I still have forty or so years to live, whatever it will be. Forty is so young now; 60 is young. I want to be able to work and do certain things, travel and put my mind into something I enjoy, whatever it is. Just being able to expand my mind into certain areas is something I want to do, and if I enjoy something then I’m going to put my mind, heart, and soul wholeheartedly.

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FOS: It’s just been a year, but have you seen an impact on partnership interest now that you’re in Philadelphia?

Harper: It takes time to make those relationships. Philly is such a good town, and it’s extremely family-oriented. People have been in that town for a long time. I’m hoping that by building relationships with people around the ballpark and in the city will give them a chance to know me, and my personality on and off the field. So far, living in the city has been great for me and my family. Being in D.C. for seven or eight years, there were certain things I could do there. Now hopefully going into Philadelphia, same thing. It’s been a great transition for us, people have opened their arms to me and our family.