When I first saw the headline about Saquon Barkley leaving Roc Nation for CAA for marketing my initial reaction was extreme skepticism. How long will it last before he considers leaving Roc Nation as a whole? How did that conversation go with Roc Nation? How much did CAA guarantee in marketing dollars that led him to make the switch?
Then I stopped and really thought about it.
This is an epic move for the world of sports. Why in the world am I saying that? Because for once someone is realizing that everyone wins when you focus on what you do best. By no means am I saying that Roc Nation doesn’t do big marketing deals (Todd Gurley is the face of a lot of significant ads right now), but it’s not what you immediately think of when you hear them mentioned. You may think of Jay-Z, who owns the agency, or some of their very big name clients. CAA on the other hand does have a reputation of being a leader in sports marketing and has spent years building up relationships with the top brands and companies across the world.
This is an issue I have personally faced in the industry for years. Everyone wants to be a “jack of all trades” when they work in sports. They forget that the second half of that quote is “master of none”. So many individuals are so insecure and scared of people stealing their clients that they try and say that they do “everything” - as in negotiate contracts, run their social media, handle all of their marketing deals, build their brand, run their charities, handle crisis management, deal with adversity, manage the “groupies”, and of course a laundry list of a million other things. It’s the very reason why over the years I have had very real (and not so easy) conversations with some of my clients’ agents and their internal marketing teams. It’s also the very reason why a handful of meetings with full-service agents often end in a discussion about how they actually do what we do. We’re often viewed as a threat even though the reality is that what we do (building and protecting the athlete’s brand while focusing on authenticity and sustainability) can actually make the agents and their marketing teams a significant amount of additional income, while also saving them from potentially losing dollars by keeping things in check. In one sense, what we do actually acts as an insurance policy.
Maybe, just maybe, we’re moving into a wave of agents and marketing reps placing a larger focus on what is in the best interest of the client, as opposed to what’s in it for them. Because what I have found is that by staying in your lane you actually end up profiting more since you’re focusing your energy towards what you love and what you’re good at. We all know that we either resist doing the work that we’re not in love with or we save it for last, sometimes never getting to it. It’s one big issue of overpromising and under delivering which leads to an unhappy client who may just leave you entirely. Trust me, I get it, because I used to do this. When we first got started we were definitely operating on a “jack of all trades” model. Not only did it spread us thin and de-value our work, but it also led to certain work not being delivered to the standard that we typically operate on. In one instance, it actually cost us a client. I never want to lose clients or money, but I am grateful because it’s something that we will never do again. Sometimes you just have to learn the hard way.
This upcoming season will actually be the first that we have NFL agencies on retainer in addition to individual clients. They handle the contract negotiations and we handle all things personal brand related. Hopefully it's a new wave and just the beginning. Looking forward to seeing where Saquon Barkley's face ends up off the field this season.
-Lauren Walsh, President & CEO
Photo via The Miami Herald
Dolphins DT Gage Wright was cut following punches thrown at his own teammate.
My first reaction, as I’m sure was most people’s, was to say, “violence is never okay, too bad for him.” While the first part of that is true, the second part is not. Football is their livelihood. Football is their income. Football is how they take care of their families. After a year on the practice squad, Wright probably worked like crazy all off season to prove himself this year: to prove that he was good enough to make the 53 man roster. I mean, this is his job, and all of the sudden it is gone in an instant because of a 2 second lapse in judgement. Which let’s be honest we have all been there. Okay, maybe we haven’t punched someone, but we’re also not getting paid to literally bulldoze people over.
I don’t know much about Wright specifically, but we’ve seen this happen so many times to so many different athletes. A lot of us forget about whatever happened within a couple of days. But the repercussions for these athletes far exceed a week of disapproval. They are left lost and jobless. Who knows if they ever graduated from college, who knows if they are able to get a job, or even know where to begin. A lot of times they don’t. They have to start all over.
This thing they have worked their whole lives for is just taken from them in an instant. And that’s where you have to realize that it’s bigger than just a “thing” it’s a life.
Violence is never the answer, and I am not advocating for violence, or dismissing what happened. But that isn’t the end of the story here. Wright may never get an invitation to workout with another team, and then what? As much as athletes need to remember to conduct themselves as professionals, they are still human beings, and human beings screw up. This is the side of the NFL that is often missed and forgotten.
Life after football isn’t necessarily easy. Especially when it catches you off guard, your temper gets the best of you, and the lights go out. Literally.
It was just a month or two ago that our own brand was a mess. I know, we are a branding agency. Our website was severely outdated and didn't do our people or our services justice. Our social media had fallen by the wayside and lacked any sort of synergy. But at the end of the day, our clients were happy and we continued to receive referrals so it didn't really matter, right? Wrong.
We may have thought that it was working but, at the end of the day, you have to put your money where your mouth is. And given that people want to do business with people, as opposed to brands or companies, you better be able to let your actions speak way louder than your words. And for us, that means being able to demonstrate that we actually know how to build and manage brands, starting with our own.
I was looking into our website and social media analytics from this week and realized our number had spiked, particularly on Monday when the first article was released. Just like I would expect over 90% of the visitors came from google. Because let's just be honest, when there is something that we are not familiar with we "google" it. Now what would have happened had our website not been updated? What if the contact information wasn't correct? Would we have gotten as many interview requests this week as we did? It has really given me a fresh perspective into how important it is to stay ready. We joke around with our clients and often use the phrase, "stay ready so you don'thave to get ready". But this goes well beyond sports. It applies directly to life and business. When I got the call to go on CNN my hair was in a pony tail, I and I was wearing my typical work uniform of jeans and a blouse. Oh, and the CNN producer wanted me at the studio downtown within 2 hours. No, I am not saying you need to wear a suit or a ball gown to work everyday, but I am saying that you need to stay ready so that when an opportunity presents itself you're able to jump right in. And that doesn't mean camera ready, it also means ready with insight and knowledge. Because if I learned one thing from this week, it's that when news breaks, it moves FAST. And if you're not ready, they're already on to the next story. So how do you "stay ready"??
1. Stay up to date on what is going on within your market or your industry.
You have to stay in the know. Luckily with the help of social media, apps, and push notifications breaking news is basically being thrown at you so you don't have to do too much of the legwork. My team and I set up Google notifications on all of our clients and anything related to them. We also have the Bleacher Report and NFL apps set up on our phone with specific push notifications. Then we use Hootsuite to closely monitor all of the various streams on Twitter.
2. Present yourself everyday as if you're expecting to meet your next client.
You truly never know who you're going to run into on a daily basis. And if you're anything like me, the universe decides at the most interesting times when someone is supposed to come into your life. Stay presentable and put together. If you're in an industry where casual works, then rock it. By no means do you need to go from jeans to a suit. Figure out what works and then stick to it. Because you never want to be in a situation where you run into someone and you think to yourself, "I can't believe I look like this right now". And as much as your personality, accolades, experience, and reputation are most likely going to be what closes the deal, first appearances do matter.
3. Keep you brand identity in check.
Do you have a company or personal website? If so, keep it up to date. And don't keep it stagnant. People want to know what is going on NOW. Your standard website should clearly depict who you are and what you do, but it should also get updated with current events or projects. Make sure your "brand identity" is synergistic across all platforms - website, social media, LinkedIn, etc.
4. Put yourself out there.
I went through a phase where I went head down for about a year. I had spent the first two years grinding and putting myself out there. I was at just about every NBA or NFL event you can think of - draft, ESPYs, games, etc. And I was literally counting pennies and maxing out credit cards to make it happen - I'm all about keeping it real. Then I figured I had met everyone that I needed to and it was time to work within my business. Looking back, I can't even imagine all of the valuable relationships I may have missed out on. It's also important to highlight that almost all of the clients that I am now working with are from relationships I fostered those first two years. Sometimes it just takes time. But you really never know who you're going meet and where. There is a whole lot of "right place, right time" going on, but first you have to get out there.
Here's to you and your legacy.
Lauren Walsh, President & CEO
It’s been a whirlwind this week. After a few MLB players had old tweets that surfaced, our CEO, Lauren Walsh, was interviewed by The Associated Press. Once the AP released the article, it spread like wildfire. The Huffington Post picked it up, as well as the Chicago Tribune and MSN.com. Before we knew it Lauren was being interviewed live on CNN and then in the WBEZ studios for a discussion on NPR’s All Things Considered. In case you missed it, we have compiled a list of our key takeaways.
Before we jump in, let’s address the typical objection by players, teams, and agents: I’M NOT OBJ. WHO CARES WHAT I PUT OUT THERE?
You think it will never happen to me. I mean, who will really take the time to go back and see what I tweeted in 2011? Well, ask Josh Hader, Sean Newcomb, and Trea Turner. It happens. And usually, it happens in your “shining moment.” Most fourteen year olds aren’t thinking about how a tweet will come to light ten years down the line when they are playing a sport on national television. Like I said, we get it. But, that same tweet from your fourteen year old self can cost you your reputation (not to mention millions of dollars). So instead of taking your chances, why not get ahead of, and build yourself a sort of “insurance policy” for your brand?
#1: Define your values and understand your personal brand.
Human beings are not stagnant. Our beliefs and ideas are constantly evolving, but there are core values that never change. Find them. Dig deep and find what you believe to be the fundamentals of who you are and what you believe in. What is your why? Why do you literally get up in the morning? Then make that the center of your personal brand. Figure out your true character, and make sure that is being clearly represented in every single thing you say, do, and of course, tweet.
#2: Clean things up as soon as possible.
If you are reading this and you are a professional athlete, STOP READING THIS, GO TO YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA, AND CLEAN IT UP (or call us, we’d love to help). If you know younger athletes, encourage them to do it as early as possible. Again, you’re probably going to get the typical objection that we see, but there is a method to our madness. As we have seen, things generally don’t come out until players finally get their shot, and by then it’s too late. The damage has been done. And unfortunately, they now will be remembered for some old social media posts as opposed to the impressive feat they conquered or record they broke.
#3: Everything on the internet lives forever.
True, but you can only control what you can control - yourself. However, it is important to evaluate if there are other people out there who have “dirt” on you. Really think back. Past relationship? Old teammate? Put a plan together. The reality is that you can only control what you can control, and that is you. So delete what you can, and then be prepared in the event anything was to ever come out from someone else’s content.
#4: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
We all remember this one from back in the day. It’s simple. But true. There is enough hate and negativity in the world, and you don’t need to add to it. We’re all sick of the trolls. Don’t jump on their bandwagon. As a professional athlete you are a role model for the next generation and you need to represent yourself as such and act accordingly.
#5: Understand the power of your platform.
You need to educate yourself on how to use social media in a positive way. As a professional athlete social media is a powerful platform that allows players to connect with fans, have a voice, humanize themselves, and earn income off the field/court/ice/etc. With that being said remember to know what you’re talking about. Use your voice effectively. And of course, have fun.
Old tweets highlight sports team fears of social media
Washington Nationals’ Trea Turner reacts after being hit by the ball during an at-bat in the third
inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Sunday in Miami. Homophobic and racially insensitive tweets by Turner from 2011 and 2012 surfaced Sunday night. The 25-year-old Turner, a shortstop for the Washington Nationals, apologized in a statement released by the team. Brynn Anderson — The Associated PressBy Cliff Brunt, The Associated Press
POSTED: 07/30/18, 9:53 AM EDT | UPDATED: 43 MINS AGO
As major leaguers Trea Turner, Sean Newcomb and Josh Hader face up to racist and homophobic tweets they sent as teenagers, publicist Lauren Walsh recalls how she dealt with a football player who had offensive Facebook posts years before he prepared for the NFL draft.
She went through his whole social media history, taking down any posts that even raised an eyebrow.
Scrubbing tweets, Instagram posts and other comments, captions and status updates has grown into a top priority for LW Branding, Walsh’s company that has helped 40 NFL athletes with image control in the past 3 1/2 years.
“Any client that we take on, that’s generally the first step we do in the process,” Walsh said. “This can take someone down in an instant. All it takes is one tweet. Now, he’s going to be known for this. This is what people are talking about.”
Turner and Newcomb are the latest high-profile athletes burned by reckless posts from years past. The 25-year-old Newcomb nearly threw a no-hitter for the Braves against the Dodgers on Sunday — a career defining moment that took a turn when he called reporters back into the clubhouse to apologize for offensive tweets sent in 2011 and 2012, when he was 18.
Homophobic and racially insensitive tweets by Turner from 2011 and 2012 surfaced Sunday night. The 25-year-old Turner, a shortstop for the Washington Nationals, apologized in a statement released by the team.
“I believe people who know me understand those regrettable actions do not reflect my values or who I am,” Turner said. “But I understand the hurtful nature of such language and am sorry to have brought any negative light to the Nationals organization, myself or the game I love.”
Hader, who pitches for the Milwaukee Brewers, is still in apology mode after tweets from his past surfaced during the All-Star Game this month. He was given a standing ovation in his first game back in Milwaukee, and then booed when the Brewers made their first road trip of the second half of the season in San Francisco.
The trend touches many young athletes, with millions of posts from thousands of players who have been online since they were kids.
Former Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen apologized for a series of offensive tweets he sent while in high school that were revealed right before the NFL draft, when the Buffalo Bills selected him seventh overall. As Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo was celebrating being named most outstanding player of the Final Four, some of his old tweets that included racially insensitive and homophobic comments made headlines.
“This stuff happens all the time and it happens when they get their shining moment,” Walsh said. “When all of us were 17, we weren’t thinking about where we were going to be in our lives seven years down the road.”
But athletes should start thinking about the bigger picture, as damage from slip-ups can be critical to coaches and executives, Walsh said.
The mistakes by Turner, Hader and Newcomb will be discussed by athletic departments, professional teams, agents and handlers looking to protect themselves and their players. As higher-ups grow more aware of the damage social media mishaps can cause, vetting could become more rigid as a key part of evaluating a multimillion-dollar investment.
“In light of recent events, that’s definitely something our staff will discuss to potentially eliminate the chance of a negative situation that puts a student-athlete in a bad light,” said Creighton spokesman Rob Anderson, who said he doesn’t know of any staffer going through a player’s entire social media history.
Varsity Monitor keeps up with social media and offers education programs for 15 Division I schools, including North Carolina, Texas and Florida. Chief executive Joe Purvis said business is at an all-time high since 2010, with sales doubling in the past year.
It’s not just athletes who should be wary of their past mistakes, Purvis said.
“Sports recruiters and normal employment recruiters are now looking at social media profiles as well as resumes as a standard of that person’s character,” he said. “If your social profiles have negative posts, they will assume you are negative.”
In the sports world, college might actually be too late to make changes. Social media can factor into whether an athlete is even offered a scholarship.
“We’ve stopped recruiting someone based on what kind of person he is after coaches had chances to assess everything in their life, including social media,” said Georgia Southern spokesman Bryan Johnston.
Most schools designate a member of each team’s coaching staff to monitor the social media channels of athletes. But the sheer volume of several hundred athletes per school makes it nearly impossible to keep up with everything.
Many schools have presentations early in the school year to educate students about the importance of being smart about social media. North Carolina brings in Derrick Mayes, a former NFL player and co-founder of 5.0 Communications, for “scared straight” seminars to athletes.
“When the reputation of your university, of your program is judged by what a teenager is doing on social media, the more that you can do to try to minimize those surprises, the better for everybody,” North Carolina spokesman Steve Kirschner said.
Walsh suggests athletes and average Joes alike scrub their accounts once a year like a spring cleaning, leaving nothing to chance. And to use social media in a positive way.
“Be authentic,” she said. “Define your brand and values. And then, you put out your content.”
Even better to make smart decisions to begin with so there’s no situation to fix, said Purdue spokesman Tom Schott.
“Once you put it out there, regardless of what you think you’ve deleted, it’s probably going to be out there in some form or fashion,” he said.
Interns are an intricate part of the LW family. We don’t have them running to get coffee, or doing menial tasks. If you are an intern at LW Branding, you are apart of the family and will be treated as such. Yes, we teach the interns the ins and outs of the sports world, but they bring a new set of eyes, and continually teach us new ideas they are learning in school. An internship at LW Branding is a mutually beneficial relationship.
Yes, experience is important, and we make sure that all incoming interns have experience that will apply to the work they will be doing, but equally important is the culture fit. We pride ourselves on our relationships - with clients, yes, but also with each other. Collaboration and brainstorming are a large part of what we do, so it is important that all team members not just get along, but enjoy each other.
This past summer our interns have far exceed any expectations that we could have had - both personally and professionally. The enthusiasm and positivity that they brought everyday has been a crucial part of keeping our environment creative and energized. We look forward to coming to work because we get to spend time with people we genuinely like. Not to mention, the work that they have done continually blows us away. If Lauren tells them something once, they do it. They do not need constant babysitting or supervision, they are self-starters and they are efficient.
One of the interns is finishing up this week, and the other two are leaving not long after. Safe to say we are not ready to let them go. The only downfall to having interns? Unless it’s their last semester of school, they always have to go back to college. If you know anyone looking to break into the sports biz, send them our way!
Before our summer intern, Anna, leaves us for the summer to head back to college, we asked her to weigh in on social media, after the recent discovery of Jash Hader's tweets:
If you were to ask me two months ago my thoughts on the importance of filtering through athletes social media, I probably would have laughed in your face. I would’ve said that it is a total waste of time. If you were to ask me this now, I would tell you the exact opposite. I would tell you that this is something that absolutely must be done for any athlete before they enter the world of professional sports.
The problem is, in today's society, most people working for professional athletes, would have agreed with what I thought just months ago. This is what leads us to countless sticky situations athletes get in over social media. The harsh reality is, social media is everywhere and anyone can have access to it. An athlete’s brand can be trashed instantaneously by one post they made a decade ago. On the contrary, social media is such a powerful tool. When used correctly, an athlete has the potential to connect with fans, make money, and grow a crazy, awesome brand.
Take what just happened in baseball as an example of how important this is. Josh Hader, a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, is under scrutiny for a series of tweets that he posted in high school. These highly offensive tweets were brought to attention while he was playing in his first ever All- Star game (literally during the game).
His reputation will forever be tarnished by this series of tweets. He will no longer be remembered for the amazing work that he has done- as it is almost impossible to make it into the major league let alone the All-Star game. His hard work and accomplishments will now forever be swept under the rug by a mistake he made seven years ago. On top of that, his family has to endure the backlash from this as well as they return back home.
As his punishment, he has to take sensitivity courses. I am not saying that he should be punished for multiple games for this, but I do believe a standard needs to be set. Professional sports as a whole need to enforce a message that this behavior is not acceptable. Young people need to see that there are punishments for actions like this.
If someone on his team took the time to go through and filter through his social media, could this have been avoided? Absolutely.
On a personal note, since working for LW Branding, I have seen the importance of filtering through my own social media. I have since gone through everything that I have posted. Although most of my thoughts when going through my accounts were, “thank god my middle school days are over,” I am so thankful I did this. As a 14 year old posting about my Justin Bieber obsession, I definitely didn’t view social media like I do now. You see, your social media represents your brand- who you are as a person and how you want others to perceive you. It is so important to then make sure that this representation is the best it can be.
I now pose the question to you: how do we fix this problem? It is as simple as filtering through social media. Professional athlete or not, this can make or break your career.
For today’s, #LifeatLW feature, I am writing about something near and dear to my heart. The LW team had the opportunity to attend the Women Win event and panel at Champs Sports this past Monday. One of the best parts was that we had our very own CEO (and proud girl boss) Lauren Walsh, speaking on the panel! The event itself was so powerful. As a young female, I had this amazing sense of empowerment as I left- I was ready to change the world. And I know I am not alone here... this is a common feeling and ultimate goal for the LW team.
When reflecting on this event, here is what I came away with that I wanted to share:
1. Don’t look at others as competition, view them as a way to collaborate
By making this simple mindset change, you will be benefiting in more ways than one. From a personal standpoint, this is more of a positive way of going about life in general (glass half full kind of mantra). At LW, we are all about positivity and how it can benefit you both personally and professionally. From a professional standpoint, you will not only be growing your personal network, but also your brand/company as you create, (what we like to call at LW) a mutually beneficial partnership.
2. Us girls need to stick together
The harsh reality of working in sports is, WE (women) are working in a male-dominated industry. Sounds cliche, but us girls need to have each other’s backs. We can be WAY more successful as a united front, rather than individuals. It is human nature to want to be someone’s role model. I know very few professional women that deny the opportunity to mentor the younger generations. We all have those who we admire or look up to. Look at those who you admire; utilize them. Let them educate you to help you build your empire. Then, right along with that, do the same for others! Be that role model and mentor figure to help another build their empires.
3. Keep your mind busy by focusing on yourself
In today’s digital society, it is so easy to compare yourself to other women. This is a self-deteriorating process that does nothing but lead to un-productivity and bad self morale. I believe one of the hardest things about being a woman in today’s society is the constant comparison to one another. How can we fix this? Focus on YOU and YOUR goals. If you are busy chasing your dreams and making it happen, you flat out don’t have time to compare yourself to others.
4. Be confident and YOU in all situations
Your confidence can carry you a long way. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Going right along with that, it’s so important to stay true to yourself and your personal values. So many times in business, what you feel right in your heart, might cost you money, relationships, and even opportunities. By staying true to yourself and following your heart, you may take a short-term burden, but long-term, you save yourself from stress, anxiety, heartbreak, and overall well being.
I hope these #takeaways help you as you continue both your personal and professional careers :)
2018 LW Summer Intern
We recently had a major come to Jesus moment at LW.
We (finally) came to the realization that we were building and managing amazing brands for our clients, but completely failing when it came to doing this for ourselves. The reality of the situation was that since inception, nearly four years ago, we have grown 400%. And yes, it has been as crazy as you would imagine things would be with 400% growth. We became so engulfed in just keeping up with our clients projects that we lost sight of practicing what we preach.
The sports industry (along with many others) is highly driven by referrals. One of the biggest reasons is because trust is one of the key factors. We've all heard the horror stories of athletes being taken advantage of, particularly when it comes to their money or their business deals. And half the time it's their advisor or a family member. We had gotten so engrained in the idea that referrals were going to be the end all and be all. And yes, they help move the needle, especially when the person referring them is someone the athlete trusts, but we still have to be ready to "pitch" once the intro is made. Given that we live in such a digital age your social media platforms and your website are both your resume and your portfolio. And unless you're keeping it updated, how the heck is anyone supposed to know what you offer or what type of work you have done?
We decided to take on our toughest client yet: ourselves. We basically went through the same exact steps that we would when we take on a professional athlete client. We dug deep into all of our media platforms and our website, quickly realizing that we were doing a horrible job at effectively communicating who we are and what we do. Before we rebuilt our entire brand we actually went through the process of having every member of the team define their own personal brand. Whenever people ask what makes LW Branding different than another company in industry, our answer is always our people. So it only made sense to start there. We each clearly defined our personal brand, how we wanted it portrayed to the world, and then our one, three, and five year goals.
It's been weeks worth of strategy and planning, which has involved long days in the office and meetings with individuals who have insane amounts of experience in this field. At the end of every day we've left feeling as if every single part of our brand had been used up, but we knew it was moving us in the right direction. We couldn't be more proud to not only unveil our work to the world, but more so to know that we have a very clear direction and plan to follow from here on out.
As a takeaway, we think it's important to highlight that although it seems like getting the work done is the most important, it's also equally important (if not more) to take a step back and strategize. It's usually in those moments that you find clarity and put yourself in a position that can really take things to the next level. Also, make sure to always check in with yourself and really ask: Am I practicing what I preach?