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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

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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 adam@frntofficesport.com.

Digital Media

Bleacher Report’s New Revenue Streams Showcase Publishers Capabilities Beyond Its Digital Walls

After a successful 2018, Bleacher Report has plans to continue to leverage the power of its platform to drive revenue in unique ways.

Adam White

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Bleacher Report - Revenue - Sports

Like many publishers in today’s media landscape, events have become a key way for Bleacher Report to create additional monetization opportunities for partners, as well as new ways to bring a brand that is inherently digital, into the physical world.

Hosting six events in 2018, the strategy behind the events was finding ways to capitalize on the biggest sports moments of the year.

Their latest event, while somewhat in the “pop-up” side of things, is an opportunity for fans as well as influencers to connect in real life over their love of Kicks.

Finding success with the events they hosted in 2018, Ed Romaine, B/R’s Chief Brand Officer, sees events going forward for the publisher falling into two separate categories: editorial driven and partner-driven.

Their last event of the year, B/R Kicks x The Drop Up, is an example of what an editorial-driven event for the brand looks like.

Spun out of the event, B/R will launch “The Pre Heat” and “Sneaker Shock,” two new content editorial franchises that will be connected to this celebration with seamless values of giving fans experiences that they normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to get their hands on.

“Our tentpole franchise events like this will remain in 2019, but I think you will see us do more advertiser-driven events that are based on in-store retail opportunities,” said Romaine.

READ MORE: Bleacher Report Takes Next Step in Evolution With B/REAL

Executing opportunities like this are what Romaine credits to B/R being able to see revenue growth up over 44 percent year over year. It’s also part of how media companies like B/R are finding ways to diversify their revenue in an age of digital ad dollars being dominated by the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

“All content providers now are tasked with being a solution center for people who invest in them. Whether it is through media agencies or through client direct buys. Being a 360-degree solution for partners like Levi’s has helped us win business that we probably wouldn’t have been able to win.”

What exactly did B/R do this year to grow its revenue in new ways outside of events? Romaine points to multiple key initiatives, including thought-leadership capabilities and a newly established influencer marketing platform called “B/R Squad.”

Through the thought leadership platform, B/R has worked with different companies and brands in the industry build custom solutions to pressing research or industry questions that they are having trouble answering.

All of the new initiatives come down to one thing according to Romaine: staying competitive.

“I think if any content provider wants to be competitive, then they need to have a comprehensive set of solutions that they have in the marketplace that people can tap into.”

BR Kicks - Bleacher Report - Sports - Revenue

With the “Drop Up” and events like it going into the future, Romaine is most excited about B/R being able to build out opportunities that focus more on cultural moments and not just sports moments.

“I’m excited about the ‘Drop Up’ because it’s the second time that we’ve expanded beyond just the sports moment and started focusing in on the journalistic culture moments that we’re creating throughout the calendar year. Where you’ll see an evolution from us or where you’ll see a more comprehensive set of events will actually come more from the editorial vision that we continue to dig into.”

While being a media company in 2018 has its challenges, B/R is an example of what can happen when you are able to leverage the attention that you have on your brand.

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How College Football Teams Celebrate Bowl Eligibility on Social Media

Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and FIU offered a handful of examples on how social media departments can capitalize when their football teams become bowl eligible.

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Vanderbilt celebrated their bowl eligibility with a slick graphic. (Image via Vanderbilt)

At the start of every college football season, one of the main goals of most FBS teams is to reach a bowl game. These high-stakes events are not only a chance for the program to accrue more revenue, but players get one more chance to compete on the field while fans have one more opportunity to see their team before preparations for the new season begin.

In many cases, the excitement from a team qualifying for such a game can provide inspiration for great graphics and social content. Teams like the Vanderbilt Commodores all over the nation churned out striking posts on Twitter celebrating that all-important sixth victory that qualifies teams for bowl eligibility.

That win kicked off a host of festivities centered around the Commodores getting to a bowl, which, in turn, provided the digital team with even more chances to make content.

While reaching bowl-eligible status is an achievement that on its own is worth celebrating for many teams, some programs have the opportunity to celebrate a streak of consecutive years achieving this milestone.

READ MORE: ‘Ask Amelia’ Puts Customer Service in the Palm of Fans

Wake Forest, for example, celebrated its team reaching bowl eligibility for three straight seasons. This was just the second time in school history that the Demon Deacons were able to do this.

Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Dan Wallace explained the specific design elements and parts of the school’s expansive style guide (which recently underwent a rebrand) that went into creating these graphics.

“The black and white was something that we’ve been using for a lot of the score graphics this season. For a couple of years, we really put a lot of emphasis on using the black backgrounds; so this year, we went with the white backgrounds instead. Now, you look at the content going out on our social media accounts all year and you will see a very similar theme. From there, we try to use certain elements that can make each one unique, but still you can recognize that it’s a Wake Forest graphic when it comes out.”

The Demon Deacons now know that they will face the Memphis Tigers in the Birmingham Bowl on December 22.

In the final weekend of the season, many teams learn their fate in terms of going to a bowl game or not. Some programs, however, learned specifically which event they would be attending immediately following the game. This was the case with the Florida International University Panthers, who discovered they would be heading south for the Bahamas Bowl.

FIU Athletics Director of Marketing Scott Yogodzinski explained the thought process behind the design of the announcement posts for the Panthers’ bowl game on December 21 against Toledo.

READ MORE: Will Snapchat Still Be Useful in 2019?

“We wanted to make it look bright and tropical-looking. We’re in Miami — already somewhat of a tropical climate anyway — but we just wanted to push that this is a reward for our team. We have eight wins this year for the second year in a row and just the third time in the program’s history. This bowl is a reward for achieving that.”

Through these specific examples, it’s clear that bowl games can provide a university’s social media department plenty of extra opportunities to drive brand awareness and showcase immense creativity.

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MLB Network Completing the Cycle Towards Opening Day With Winter Meetings

Baseball’s iconic network continues to roll out fresh content throughout the off season starting with the annual Winter Meetings

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Baseball - MLB - Winter Meetings

There truly is no offseason in the sports world.

For Major League Baseball, the offseason is a chance to fine-tune rosters, revamp on-field protocol, and solidify new strategies and areas of focus heading into the next season. No event plays a bigger role in this than the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Held in Las Vegas from December 9-13, the 2018 Baseball Winter Meetings provide an opportunity for club managers and general managers from throughout the league to congregate. Player signings, potential trade deals, and shuffling young prospects through the farm system are all topics for discussion.

Former Colorado Rockies general manager and current MLB Network studio analyst Dan O’Dowd has leaned on his former experience in the majors when talking to current team officials. He noted that there is a certain energy to the Winter Meetings that makes it a distinct event from the rest of the offseason.

“It is the one time a year where the baseball cycle doesn’t stop for an entire week,” said O’Dowd. “Everybody in the game gathers under one roof to talk baseball.”

With teams sending their lineups of general managers and roster decision-makers to the meetings, the goal of the Winter Meetings is to help ensure that each team’s roster takes shape. Agents, on behalf of individual players, meet with team executives as contracts are negotiated and terms are discussed.

READ MORE: Transmit.Live Sees Future With Live Streaming Tech

“Clubs talk amongst each other but there is a bit of competitive tension,” said O’Dowd. “Every club has suites within the hotel where they talk strategy and meet with agents. With personnel sometimes traveling from one side of the hotel to another to meet with various representatives and clubs, it is usually a flurry of activity.”

In today’s social media landscape, news is breaking at a record pace, ultimately allowing MLB Network to share that news to the baseball world.

“For general managers, it is very difficult to contain their plans regarding free agents and trades,” said O’Dowd. “It is more about controlling the outcome as it will find its way into the media one way or another. Everyone is looking for news.”

Due to the amount of breaking news and storylines to keep fans updated on, MLB Network utilizes a full crew and new show segments to keep the public engaged. With over 45 hours of live, on-site programming from the beginning of the Winter Meetings to the end, there is plenty of content for fans to digest.

From live coverage provided by Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci amongst others, to interviews with managers and insight into club strategy with O’Dowd, Dan Plesac, and the rest of the MLB Network crew, there is no shortage of communication and planning that goes into the day-to-day operations for the media outlet.

“Our team is excited to get to Las Vegas to cover the Winter Meetings,” said Dave Patterson, SVP, MLB Network Production. “The adrenaline of our analysts and production staff will be pumping for four straight days because the next big transaction could come at any time from any club. We’ll be on our toes and ready to change direction at a moment’s notice.”

What’s new this year? Coverage of the Winter Meetings across all of MLB’s media platforms will be presented by the advisory, assurance and tax firm CohnReznick. As part of the collaboration, MLB Network will produce a new series, “Business of Baseball.”

The series will go in-depth within the issues that surround clubs both on and off the field. The first episode of the series will begin on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET and feature general managers Alex Anthopoulos (Atlanta Braves), Rick Hahn (Chicago White Sox), Dayton Moore (Kansas City Royals), and Mike Rizzo (Washington Nationals) whilst being moderated by O’Dowd and MLB Network host Brian Kenny.

“During filming, there was such authentic communication amongst the managers,” said O’Dowd. “Those guys were so transparent with their thoughts when we were discussing topics that were not easy to be so vocal about. We talked for over two and a half hours discussing everything from analytics to general manager/club manager relationships.”

MLB Network’s content doesn’t stop after the Winter Meetings either. Directly after the conclusion of the meetings, MLB Network Presents will roll out with its latest program, “Eck: A Story of Saving.” Hosted by Bob Costas, the original series, which launched in January 2015, covers some of the most iconic moments and players of baseball from MLB Network’s own unique lens.

Weekday programming staples such as “Hot Stove,” “High Heat with Christopher Russo,” “MLB Now,” “Intentional Talk,” and “MLB Tonight” will continue to provide expert analysis and captivating debates throughout the offseason.

And with the start of the new year marking MLB Network’s 10-year anniversary since its debut, content will reflect the best of what the network has to offer. The “Top 10 Right Now!” series returns for its ninth season after the new year. The series, which ranks the top MLB players at each position, will be followed by the six-part series “Top 100 Players Right Now!” which reveals the pecking order of the best players in the game.

READ MORE: Through New Company, Former Pitcher Hopes to Change Baseball

While there will be plenty of discussion highlighting today’s elite players, MLB Network will also take time to honor baseball’s greats as it announces the results of the 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot on Tuesday, January 22. The network will also air the first interviews with the new electees. This will transition into the start of spring training and the beginning of another edition of regular-season coverage.

MLB Network certainly keeps busy throughout the year; highlighting the build-up towards the playoffs and breaking down highlights throughout the postseason and World Series are staples of its programming. Yet, the network has continued to keep fans informed of offseason headlines, roster reshuffling, and new content to surely fill the craving as we look towards Opening Day.

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