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How Ohio State is Changing the Game When It Comes to Personal Brands

#BrandU is the brainchild of Sam Silverman, Asst. Director, Creative Media & Branding for Ohio State Football.

Adam White



Silverman (left) seen here presenting to the Ohio State football team. (Photo via Sam Silverman)

If you would have happened upon Sam Silverman and asked him what he wanted to do after he got done with his undergraduate studies at Ohio State, he would have most likely told you a “sneaker designer”.

For the industrial design major, Silverman admits that while he was good at art he didn’t quite know what he wanted to do with it after high school. A self-proclaimed “sneakerhead”, Silverman gravitated to the major in which he could combine both his proficiency in art with his love for sneakers.

While in school at Ohio State, Silverman fell in love with the storytelling aspect of not only sneakers and their design, but just design in general. It was this love, mixed with the skills he had built up over the course of his four years at OSU that led him to taking a role with the athletic department as a volunteer intern after graduating in 2012.

“I was working for free, doing some graphic design work, because, at the time, they wanted to revamp their marketing initiative through graphic design,” said Silverman. “They were really lacking in the area of how to promote the program through physical mailers or through social media.”

Not a graphic designer by trade, Silverman was able to use the early days with the athletic department to dive deeper into the process and learn more about the history of the industry and what made it tick.

“After that, my brain started clicking better with graphic design,” mentioned Silverman.

While making advances inside the world of graphic design, Silverman was also supporting and working for Launch Labs, the startup himself and a group of buddies founded. It was there while working on the brand of the startup as well as the clients that Silverman found a fascination in how to marry storytelling with imagery.

“I really enjoy figuring out what people’s stories are and how I can best communicate that to a target audience.” As I started working with more and more clients, everything started clicking and churning for me.”

Eventually, Silverman quit working with the startup and transitioned full-time to OSU. During the process, he had grown close to Braxton Miller, creating what would become the genesis for this newly implemented program.

A look at some of the sketches from the logo design for Braxton Miller (Photo via Sam Silverman)

“When I started working for OSU full-time I was close with Braxton Miller. One of my friends wanted a personalized logo. Something that represented him and what he wanted to accomplish. It was the relationship with him that sparked it all.” said Silverman.

“You have to ask yourself how you can make your name more valuable than just what happens on the field.”

This wasn’t the first time that Silverman had helped build a brand identity for a player. In 2014, he had been assigned the task of creating something that would separate OSU from others when it came to recruiting Myles Turner. Turner, who was from Texas, was heavily recruited out of high school. Silverman and the rest of the basketball recruiting staff knew they had to do something different to stand out from Turner’s home school of UT.

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“We were in a battle with Texas and he is from Texas. We were trying to swing as hard as we could to get him to come to Ohio State,” said Silverman. “We brainstormed what could be done to separate us from the rest and present it to him saying, ‘we are already thinking about your personal brand and how we can help  build that while you are at Ohio State and have it become something you can take with you once you leave.’” 

“Guys at Ohio State have a pretty large platform where people are listening to them because of who they are and where they are at.”

While Silverman wasn’t in the actual presentation, the idea had left an impact.

“I wasn’t in the actual presentation, but the coaches told me when they were presenting it to them his mom started crying which was incredible to hear.”

Silverman would continue to grow within the athletic department, taking on more responsibility and eventually transitioning away from his duties for the entire department and focusing fully on football.

Sketches of Myles Turner’s logo. (Photo via Sam Silverman)

Although the idea with Turner was a hit, Silverman had forgotten about it mostly until one of the football coaches approached him and asked him to help with blowing away a recruit they had coming.

“Coach Johnson asked what could we do that was different and I told him about what we did for Myles Turner and that we could replicate it for Taron Vincent,” said Silverman. “ We put together a logo and showed him how we could help build his personal brand during his time at Ohio State and how he could leverage that  to add value to his name and make it more memorable.”

With multiple personal brands built and multiple recruiting pitches delivered, Silverman knew it was time to take what he had been doing to the next level. Given the success he had seen with it so far, he knew it could potentially set OSU apart from other programs.

“After I’d been giving these presentations and seeing the overwhelmingly positive results we were getting from the recruits and their families about them, it really made me think about how this could be something that makes us stand out. All big-time football programs nowadays have great facilities, great fanbases, and great stadiums. This was something really unique and really different from what they (players) were used to seeing.”

“I was really fortunate because of the leadership we have here at Ohio State to give me the ownership to run with this and think about how we could make it bigger and better.”

The skills were there, the support was there, the desire for the program was there, all they needed was to get it cleared by compliance and the conference and they were off to the races.

“I started thinking about it and, working alongside our compliance office, made sure we could do this as an in-house resource,” said Silverman. “We ran the idea by compliance and the Big Ten. We got the okay as long as the endeavor wasn’t for profit and the players weren’t profiting off of it while they were in school.”

“Two weeks ago, I was granted the opportunity to speak to the team. It was exhilarating. That was the biggest audience I had ever spoken in front of.”

Now, in what Silverman called “Phase One”, he and other members of the team are meeting with players to help them work through the self-discovery process. During this process, they help guide the athletes through a series of questions and conversations that allow them to determine who they really are.

As Silverman puts it, “Phase One is really about self-discovery for these players. They figure out who they are because you can’t promote a brand if you don’t know who you are, what you stand for, and why you stand for it.”

Like anything in life, getting this kind of benefit is something earned and not given. In order to “unlock the next phases” of the program, players have to be in good academic standing, good standing with coaches, and good standing when it comes to their practice habits.

“Once all those boxes are checked and the coaches approve, then we move on to the additional phases,” said Silverman.

Although the program has just begun in football, the goal is to make it a department-wide curriculum and one that will set all of OSU’s student-athletes up for success after their athletic careers end. If the student-athletes choose to work with OSU after graduation, they are welcome to, but even if they don’t Silverman and his team knows they will leave the program more prepared than when they started.

“I want these student-athletes to come out of this program and workshop with what I’m calling a ‘personal brand toolkit’ that they can utilize. If they want to continue working with us great, but if not at least they have something that keeps them ready.”

Thanks to buy-in from the administration, ownership from Silverman and the desire to push the envelope when it comes to offerings for their student-athletes, Ohio State just set the standard for what is to come in college athletics.

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at


Kyrie Irving Expected to Sign with Roc Nation

Kyrie Irving is expected to sign with Roc Nation, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Michael McCarthy



Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving is expected to sign with Roc Nation, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Irving, who was most recently repped by Jeffrey Wechsler of 24/7 Sports Management, joins an NBA client roster at Roc Nation that includes the likes of Kevin Durant, Josh Hart, Justise Winslow, Danny Green and Caris LeVert.

The switch in representation comes on the same day that Irving took the first step toward his prospective free agency this summer.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Irving is not opting into his $21.3 million contract for the 2019-20 season and will become an unrestricted free agent.

By not opting into his contract, Irving can sign with any NBA team when free agency opens on Sunday, June 30th.

If he signs with a team other than the Celtics, he will be eligible to sign a max deal worth $139 million over four years.

If he were to stay with the Celtics, Irving can sign a five-year deal worth $188 million.

An industry source speculated that Roc Nation could be waiving the fees on Irving’s contract in order to retain his marketing rights.

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Meet the WNBA’s New Boss

Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert will become the first commissioner of the WNBA and the first woman to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

Front Office Sports



Photo Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

For the first time ever, the WNBA will have a commissioner. Before now, all of the league’s previous leaders like Val Ackerman and Lisa Borders were given the title of president. 

Cathy Engelbert, the current CEO of Deloitte, will take control of the role on July 17th and will report directly to Adam Silver. 

What should you know?

1. By the time she is done at Deloitte, Engelbert will have spent more time at the company (33 years) than the WNBA has been a league (23 years)

2. Engelbert is the first female to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

3. She is the fifth person to lead the league after Val Ackerman (1997-2005), Donna Orender (2005-10), Laurel Richie (2011-15) and Lisa Borders (2016-2018)

4. Engelbert has spent the past four years in charge of Deloitte’s U.S. operation.

Basketball is in her blood…

Although she might be an accountant by trade, Engelbert is no stranger to the game of basketball. 

According to Bob Hille of Sporting News, she played at Lehigh for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw and was a team captain as a senior. Her father Kurt also played and was drafted in 1957 by the Pistons.

What are they saying?

“Cathy is a world-class business leader with a deep connection to women’s basketball, which makes her the ideal person to lead the WNBA into its next phase of growth. The WNBA will benefit significantly from her more than 30 years of business and operational experience including revenue generation, sharp entrepreneurial instincts and proven management abilities.” – Adam Silver on the hiring of Engelbert

“I think that’s probably one of the reasons I was selected for this role, to come in and bring a business plan to build the WNBA into a real business and a thriving business, quite frankly.” – Engelbert to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel

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Adam Silver Wants More Gender Diversity

The NBA commissioner states his desire to get more women into the sports industry. The NBA currently has a 31.6 percent ratio of women in team management.

Front Office Sports




Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

If Adam Silver has his way, 50 percent of the new incoming NBA officials will be women.

That number applies to coaches too, Silver said speaking at the Economic Club of Washington.

How do the leagues stack up?

The following numbers, outside of MLB, come from 2018 reports put together by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. MLB is the first league to have a report done on it this year.

1. NBA – 31.6% of team management are women / 37.2% of team professional admins are women

2. NFL – 22.1% of team senior admins are women / 35% of team professional admins are women

3. MLB – 28.6% of team senior admins are women / 26% of team professional admins are women

4. MLS – 26.5% of team senior admins are women / 31.6% of team professional admins are women

5. WNBA – 48.6% of team VPs and above are women / 58% of team managers to senior directors are women

6. NHL – No report done

Quotes from Silver… 

“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing.”

“The goal is going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”

That’s not all Silver wants to see change…

Silver, who has been adamant about getting rid of the one-and-done rule, provided some clarity as to when that might be achieved.

According to the commissioner, the 2022 NBA Draft will likely be the first one since the 2005 NBA Draft to allow high school players to go straight into the league rather than playing a season in college first.

Citing “active discussions” with the NBPA, Silver noted that they are still “a few years away.”

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