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PODCAST – MVP Interactive presents Adam White, CEO of Front Office Sports

CEO James Giglio sat down with Front Office Sports Adam White to discuss today’s sports landscape and the latest technology being used by leading brands and sports teams.

James Giglio (00:11):

All right. Welcome back to the MVP podcast. Today we have another special guest where we’ve had the pleasure of back-to-back sports executives here for the podcast. And today we have Adam White, who is the CEO and founder of Front Office Sports. For those of you who are unaware of Front Office Sports, they have been one of the most trusted voice in sports media. The site was recognized by Forbes as one of the Top 50 must-follow sports business Twitter accounts in 2015, 2016, and 2017. And Adam, who is our special guest today, was recognized as a Forbes 30 under 30 in the sports category for 2018. Adam, thank you for joining us today.

Adam White (00:58):

Yeah, thanks for having me. appreciate it.

James Giglio (01:00):

Yeah, of course. So, as a devout subscriber of your new site there you know, one of the things that we like to talk about as you know, establishing our guests ‘background you know, we just want to hear a little bit about, you know, what led you to developing front office sports and what that journey has been like from the onset.

Adam White (01:27):

Yeah, really you know, kind of all started when I was back at Miami, the University of Miami where I went to school and kind of, you know, did the thing, the traditional college experience really, I think, was untraditional for me in a sense that when I was there after my freshman year, really during my freshman year, our teacher at the time, professor, excuse me, one of the class projects we had was that we had to do an informational interview with people who were working in and around sports. So I was like, All right, cool. That’s easy. Not a problem. I like to talk to people. Whatever. The whole idea of the project was that, as you may know, other people who may be listening, is that at that time, I think it’s a little bit different now. At the time, it was really about not what you knew, but who you knew in the space to kind of get your foot in or, or what, what have you.

And so my whole thesis was that, okay, instead of doing just one of these, why don’t I do a bunch of these? And if I do a bunch of these, I’m gonna have a network of people that by the time I graduate, I’ll be able to walk right into a job. That was the whole thing, was, I want to walk right into a job. I didn’t want to have to wait, I didn’t want to have to do any of these other things. So it’s just like, for me it was like, okay, if I’m gonna be competing with a bunch of people, what can I do to make sure that I know enough people in the space? And that I could also build some, like, visibility for myself. So if I walked into a room and I was like, Oh, I do front office sports, people would be like, Oh, front office sports, I know front office sports.

definitely, now we have something automatically in contact. So in common. And so that’s, that’s how it all started. I did 110 informational interviews in my first year. and really the evolution of it over the course of the last few years is all driven, driven by what people wanted. People asked us, Hey, can you start doing a newsletter? Hey, can you start doing news? Hey, can you start doing this? Can you start doing that? Can you start doing this and that, and this and that? and, you know, we started to build on top of all of those things. And in 2018 we had the opportunity to, you know, to get some investment and by a chance, you know, kind of encounter and ended up working out. We move, I moved to New York in 2019, January of 2019. We hired our first full-time employee and yeah, from, kind of just started from there.

So really, we’ve been doing it since 14 in total, but I’ve, we’ve been a full-time, actual fully functioning business since Jan, 1 of ’19. So some type of, you know, context and, and even for me, sometimes hard to kind of like put in perspective because you forget that, yeah, you’ve been doing it for so long, but it’s really only been a business and where you want it to be recently for like a year and two months prior to Covid, and then, you know, now six months later into covid. So we were just starting to get up to really good speed prior to Covid, and then obviously everyone has to adjust from there.

James Giglio (04:28):

Yeah. We’re I think we are all going to take a mulligan on 2020 <laugh>. You know, you can reset your, your clock, but you know, especially in the startup world, you know, you hear about companies going, you know, being in stealth for X amount of years and then launching, and so, you know, I can relate completely in terms of really setting the clock at a start time at two different periods, right? So you have the formation of the company and at least the concept and the idea, and you could be doing it on a practical level at some point, but then Yeah, you know, for us, it took us maybe six to seven months to land that first account or that first client. And so I always joke and say that you know, 2013 was really our start because that’s when we kind of brought a product to life to the NBA, and it’s like, okay, we were on the map there.

Everything else prior to that was just you know, all the groundwork and, what have you. But it’s all a part of the journey as, as we were both learning and have learned. And so yeah, totally relate to that. So that’s pretty interesting in terms of what a story in taking coursework from college into a career that that’s pretty unique. And so, you know, obviously, there’s no shortage of sports content, especially sports media out there in the world. And, you know, even on the professional side, you know, you can look to your sports business journal or some other trades, but what would you say front office sports competitive advantages and what makes you a little bit more unique than what’s out there in the market?

Adam White (06:01):

Yeah, I think it’s just really if you look at it and you are, I wouldn’t say critical, but if you look at it and you look at all of them across the board, Excuse me, sorry.

Need a second set of coffee or something Friday afternoon Yes, we got a yawn on. yeah. So really at the end of the day, it comes with the fact that I think there are two things. One, we are really big on social. Every channel that we do is organic, right? We, treat it organically and natively, right? So we, what we do on Instagram is gonna be very different than what we do on Twitter, which is gonna be very different than what we do on LinkedIn. I don’t think anyone else does that. and then outside of that, it’s you know, the newsletter and the inbox, again, basically, it comes down to creating content for people to consume natively across different channels, right? And understanding that as long as you, like, you can build a big business if you have four or five or six different native channels that are growing, and then you can monetize them. So yeah, I think that’s the one, like, that’s the one overarching thing, which is a couple, different points inside.

James Giglio (07:11):

You know, next time we’re gonna have to do the happy hour.

Adam White(07:15):

Yeah. Yes. You know, it’s crazy.

James Giglio (07:16):

Three o’clock on a Friday

Adam White (07:17):

I need the coffee hour, that’s what it’s and so yeah, so that, and then at the end of the other side of the spectrum is really that I think the approach from a coverage of the space is different where our coverage is generally rooted in the industry and then adjacent industries that are impacted by sports. so, you know, tech, finance, retail, and covering it like a business publication, right? Versus saying, Okay, we’re gonna cover the sports industry and subsets of the sports industry, like ticketing venues and facilities, right? That type of stuff. Because we believe that there’s a bigger opportunity outside of that. And there’s nothing wrong with the publications that do it in the way I just mentioned. It’s just if we wanna build a differentiated business, we can’t do it the same way cuz we’re gonna do it the same way we’re all writing the same stories. So it really doesn’t make sense. So that is kind of how we would say that there’s the differentiation or the difference.

James Giglio (08:15):

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things that I’m most impressed with is the fact that you guys are so ahead of the normal news channels or the tickers and someone not in the media in the traditional sense that, that you’re operating in you know, I’m not too familiar with what happens or how stories are released or what is leaked first or what the priority is, but you know, it seems to be that you guys have a pretty good system and whether that’s an algorithm or some other partnerships or whatever, it may be shy of, you know, disclosing your secret sauce. Maybe talk to us a little bit about, you know, how you’re able to kind of keep ahead of the general news cycle and, and have these breaking stories at, at such a common pace.

Adam White (09:04):

Oops. I mean, yeah, I think it really comes down to just having good reporters. I think we have, you know, a group of those and have been able to leverage that. I also just think it’s weird, but oftentimes the fact that we’re active on social makes it seem like we’re faster to stories than we really are. Oh, interesting. and so again, it’s just like that, the whole thing is, how do we win with speed? How do we win the inbox and how do we win on social? That’s like, as long as we do that, everything else will find its way out. If we don’t do that, then we’re gonna lose across the board. and so that for me is the biggest issue. Sure. And the biggest, I would say, not even just issue, but that’s the biggest, I say it’s kind of like a front, but in some cases, it is, right? Like you, we are quicker on social than others. And so because of that, it gives people a perception that we may be bigger than we actually are. And for the years people have thought we were 50, 60 person, you know, media company just because of how much we put out across different platforms. And it’s really just with the understanding of that, how the platforms work. And I think that’s the biggest thing.

James Giglio (10:14):

Yeah, that’s really interesting and fascinating point in terms of social because even the way social media is leveraged as a platform, as from a user base you know, even if you think about human resource, cultural company policy where, you know, back in 2008, 2009, you know, you would be chastised if you kept up your newsfeed or your Facebook page or your Twitter page, you know, at the office because that was personal information and you know, that’s your time. But now, I mean, I think each and every one of us keeps our Twitter feed up live, and running throughout the day as that go-to news source. so that’s pretty fascinating to hear and that, you know, and that’s probably where I’m getting my assessment too because as someone that kind of keeps Twitter on in the background and getting your alerts and just keeping privy to the market a few different markets, really you know, I could see where you’re the impression is that you are first because you are so active on that note.

Adam White (11:22):

Yeah, For sure. It’s, again, it’s just all about perception, right? Like our whole thing is we want you to wake up with our brand, like with the newsletter, we want you to go on Twitter and see our brand. We want you to go on LinkedIn and see our brand, and we want you to read like, so by the time you’re done with the day, you’re like, Holy cow, I saw FOS like in 50 different places, right? And everywhere they are. And it’s just like, that’s, again, it’s just, I wanna say it’s a competitive advantage because we’re so active in all of those areas.

James Giglio (11:49):

Yeah. And so have you, and I’d guess based generationally you’ve really, you know, grew up in the air, you know, in the high times of social media. Have you and your colleagues changed your philosophy as to what platforms that you leverage over others? And, you know, the emergence of TikTok, for example are you using those type of social media sites to kind of convey the news or create that following?

Adam White (12:18):

Yeah, I mean, for us, TikTok is probably something we will never get into <laugh>. it just doesn’t make really that much sense for us to be on. You can only be on so many just like Snapchat and the like. And so I think at the end of the day, it comes down to a couple key ones. Twitter and LinkedIn being the main ones, Instagram from, you know, we think there’s a big crossover audience there. And I think there’s a, you know, just a bigger opportunity to grow and be more strategic there. But yeah, for a fact, I mean, it’s definitely I think the most interesting ones. LinkedIn. yeah, I guess I just think there’s fewer people who treat LinkedIn like a true social platform, right? And if you do the, the rewards are great. So we’ve seen that you know, be really I wouldn’t say explosive, but really helpful overall because it’s definitely been something that’s underutilized by others. But if it’s overutilized by you, you’re, like I said, you’re gonna see the rewards from it, so. Right, right. That’s been something that’s been a really good surprise. you know, I think we’re gonna be at the point where we’re, we have more followers on LinkedIn than we do on Twitter. And I’ve been tweeting when I was running the account consistently since 2014, and we just started posting on LinkedIn in 19. So, yeah big difference.

James Giglio (13:32):

Yeah, it’s funny, I just spoke to our, marketing lead here and you know, we’re kind of looking at LinkedIn as a platform for, you know, various navigation tools, you know, on the sales end and what have you. And one of the things, you know, personally, my LinkedIn profile probably has the highest engagement of all of the things that I’m on, you know, and I’m not an influencer by any stretch of the imagination or nor do I attempt to be one. But when LinkedIn is used properly, it is such a great platform for professionals for networking and really exchanging information and contacts, and opportunity. And so yeah, we’re right there with you in terms of where we think LinkedIn is going. And, you know, I hope for the sake of you know, sanity and keeping things professional, that LinkedIn does not fall down the path of, you know, morphing into a Facebook platform because, you know I think over the last political season and one approaching now you know, things got a little dicey on the platform with a lot of personal opinion and just banter and just kind of inappropriate messaging and use of the, of the platform.

So I hope that there’s, you know they had some lessons to learn, you know, from other platforms and you know, it stays professional. have you know, in terms of your engagement, generally speaking, LinkedIn is, you’re going to have, you know, I minded people and have you had any in terms of engagement, any conflict or, you know, what’s your engagement like when it comes to maybe opinion pieces and then everyone has, you know, with sports, I feel like there’s even more passion <laugh> to an opinion than, than other industries, so have you had any experience one way or the other with that?

Adam White (15:32):

No, I mean, mostly pretty positive. I mean, we just gotten the opinion column business couple weeks ago, we’d never really written opinions until we got to the point where we felt like our publication was in a spot to do it. And again, it’s not even our opinions. It’s we’re, you know, we have opinions from people who are experiencing things that we don’t experience and are providing colors to what their experience looks like. So yeah, that’s something that for me is is really interesting. And I, it’s not an issue. I think that’s the biggest thing that you mentioned. I think it’s the fact that people can go on LinkedIn and they’re not bombarded. Those still some, like, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t bombarded with the fact that Aunt Jean likes ex-president and Uncle Bob likes y President, There’s hundreds of hateful comments or whatever it is.

And, you know, LinkedIn is built for professional networking, and I feel like it’s just the, kept the discourse there to a point where people, in my opinion, enjoy going on because there’s some intent behind going there, Right? You’re either working or you just want to know how to do your job better, or you’re seeing cool things about your job or other things like that. And so I think that’s what’s the fascinating part about LinkedIn. And I don’t think they position it very well, quite frankly. I think people could see LinkedIn as a more powerful tool, but, you know, I think it’s better for us that they don’t Yeah. Because then we get to take advantage of it. So yeah, I think for those who take advantage of LinkedIn, It’s a huge opportunity. I think teams could do a lot of cool stuff with it too. but it’s just, unfortunately it’s not sexy like some of these other ones.

James Giglio (17:12):

Sure. Sure. So you brought up a couple of interesting things. You know, one, obviously politics and, two opinions. one of the things that it’s been very difficult for the overall consumer base or readers or people just looking for information, is to get really straightforward, unbiased news. And I think from your platform, you know, it’s always been very matter of fact, you’re reporting on the business side of it. You know there hadn’t seemed to be any real sort of political divisiveness or any topics that, you know, you’re gonna create, you know, turmoil within the platform or what have you seen, especially in this environment now with covid and politics and how that all sort of has impacted sports? Have you seen any engagement or response to some of the articles that you’ve published or the news stories that, you know, I’m thinking of like colleges right now, right? You know, there’s a lot of controversy happening within the collegiate space as to whether campuses are going to be open to students and, you know, therefore what student-athletes are going to do. So talk to us a little bit about that and, you know, in this current environment and if you have any anecdotes or stories or, or experiences with, with that.

Adam White (18:33):

Sorry, I was talking into a muted Mic. Yeah, I mean, honestly, I don’t think I don’t know. I don’t, we really haven’t run into any of that. I think the issue is because it’s just, we just cover the news, you know? Like, we just cover the news matter of factly. We don’t try to interject ourselves into various discussions where we don’t believe or we don’t need to be in. so that’s you know, one of the things that I think has been, again, positive about our platform is it’s just the news, right? Like, we’re just covering the news, we’re writing about the news. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for us to continue to be more critical in certain places, and that’s just gonna come with the, you know, the growth of our journalism and the, you know, the advancement of our journalistic staff.

But yeah, I think for the most part, the only time you really get that stuff is if you give that stuff. So if you’re, if you want politics to follow you around, then you’re basically what happens is you’re giving it out, right? Just like anything. Yep. and so, because with us, we’re, there’s no side either way. It doesn’t matter if you’re blue, green, yellow, black, or whatever. we’re just reporting on the news and, and what’s happening and, you know, a matter of faculty reporting on that. So I think that’s the biggest thing that I, is positive from this, is that we don’t get caught up in, I wouldn’t say like the doom scrolling or some of that other stuff. Yeah. There’s negative headlines, and obviously, there’s always gonna be negative headlines, but not to the quite level that I think you’ll see in other places. You know, just because it’s like, we’re not covering, I guess, a lot of the day-to-day lifestyle stuff, so. Right. That’s yeah.

James Giglio (20:22):

Well, as a reader, like I said, I mean I hope that doesn’t change selfishly, because I do appreciate that approach and like,

Adam White (20:29):

Yeah, you know, it’s not gonna change

James Giglio (20:31):

Outside of going to, you know, BBC or, you know, some, like for traditional news, it’s very hard to just get, you know, information without any agenda, right? And so, it’s great to hear that that’s your approach. Do you see down the line any possibility that you know, there may be a change in that philosophy and, you know, do you encroach on the bar stool space where it’s

Adam White (21:01):

No, No.

James Giglio (21:02):

Very controversial. Yeah. Okay.

Adam White (21:03):

No, never. It just doesn’t make sense. You know, It really doesn’t make sense for us to get down that way. And I don’t, that’s not our brand. That’s not who we want to be. That’s not what we wanna stand for. you know, we’ll never get in the dead spin side of things. We’re just gonna cover the news. Right? We’re gonna cover what’s going on in the news, and I think that’s the, you know, and if the news is bad, then we’ll cover it. If the news is good, then we’ll cover it, Right? Like, you know, I don’t think there’s a lean towards any different type of, I guess, you know, area. Right. It’s not like, it’s not like we’re not gonna cover something because something’s bad. If something’s bad and it’s the news, we’re gonna cover it.

If it’s not the news, then probably not gonna cover it. and then when we’re reporting all of our original stuff, same thing. We’ll report positively if something needs to be reported positively and report negatively if it’s something negatively. And you know, Ian and the team, that that’s their oversight and they, you know, they know what our kind of like editorial standards are and guidelines are. So I don’t really see, I don’t really have an impact on that anymore, but Yep. That is definitely something that, you know, again, just there’s no agenda. There’s never has been. It’s just what’s interesting, what’s cool, what’s the news.

James Giglio (22:14):

Yeah. Yeah. And again, I think I read it on your site that and it did not get any coverage, or at least I didn’t see it. I can’t, you know, make that statement on substantiated, but I saw it on your site solely about NASCAR over the last few races of them being ahead of the curve in terms of allowing fans at a minimum inside their events. You know, these are outdoor events, obviously, but, you know, they were selling tickets very controversial for the time, obviously. But, you know, the way that it was presented was, Okay, here’s what NASCAR is doing. You know well, essentially, I don’t know if there’s been any follow-up in terms of, you know contact tracing or if any exposure to Covid or anything of that nature.

Adam White (23:06):

Yeah, that’s a good point.

James Giglio (23:06):

Yeah. I mean, but it was honestly refreshing to read something like that, to give a little glimmer of optimism, but it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t your agenda to politicize it, It was just, here’s what’s happening with NASCAR.

Adam White (23:21):

Correct. Yep. a hundred percent.

James Giglio (23:24):

So you had recently went through a rebrand, you wanna talk to a little bit about that? I know that we’re, we’re kind of wrapping up here on time, but yeah, I would love to hear a little bit about the rebrand, what, what initiated, and where it’s going.

Adam White (23:38):

Yeah. So the idea is to really, it’s just, again, it’s this whole idea of building a news business, right? Like, we wanna be the political of sports. I’ve said that at nauseum, and how do we make sure that we’re putting that out, right? Like, we’re actually being forward-thinking in that. So for me, and for us, I think it’s the most important thing to really if we’re gonna if we want to be a news publication, we need to feel like a news publication. If we wanna be a premium publication, we need to feel like a premium publication. And so, while I loved the old FOS logo and, you know, kind of just what we had done, we didn’t feel like lowercase felt like that, right? All lowercase logo, we felt kind of, ah, a little bit weak. It doesn’t feel as strong as we wanted to be.

 the font was a little bit, you know, we didn’t work across the board as well as we would’ve liked it to. and so, yeah, it was just a bunch of different factors, and it was really just about plusing up the brand, right? Like it’s <laugh>, we’ve gone through too many rebrands, but that’s what happens when you’re not you know, a venture-backed media company from day one, right? And you’re gonna go through changes, you’re gonna evolve. And like, that’s not a bad thing. And, but it’s just, it’s so funny. And we also, as part of that, got frontofficesports.com, we had never had the domain, the full domain before. So it’s basically like, I want people to come onto our site and be like, All right, we, I get a New York Times, or I get a Wall Street Journal, or I get a, you know Washington Post or like those types of vibes right when I go on your site.

And like, that’s what we tried to build. And I think, you know, I think we’ve done that, and I think it’s really something that we’re proud about. The reception has been great. And then some of the things that we have planned, it’s just like, how do we continue to integrate? The whole idea is it’s, we’re a business publication covering the sports industry. Like that’s the whole idea, right? Which is very different than a sports industry covering the business of sports, right? And like where our differentiator is. And we wanna make sure that, okay, if we’re a business publication covering the sports industry, we need to feel like it, we need to cover stocks and finance. We need to cover who’s the markets that are moving. We need to cover what, like these different adjacent industries, like I said, that are technically in sports, but don’t really be seen as “sports”, right? So that was all about kind of taking this idea credence of switching from being a sports business publication to a business publication that covers sports and wrapping it all into one with the new rebrand and then the launch. And so I think that was quite frankly, the best part of covid is that we were able to take a step back and get things right. But that was honestly probably the biggest project for a Covid standpoint, and it was definitely interesting.

James Giglio (26:11):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s coincidental that you had, you mentioned that because we are under a rebrand ourselves and, you know our creative director kind of took it upon himself to spend that covid time in quarantine Yeah. To really work through a couple of different options. And you know, you can see here on my shirt, Adam, this is the new logo that we’re Got it. We’re rolling out. That’s good. And you know, we’re super proud and pumped and, you know, one of the things similar to what you had just said is that, you know, we’re going through a new website rebrand as well, and it’s, you know, it’s really the maturity of the business and that’ll evolve and your brand. And, so it’s important, to be flexible to change. And one of the things that I had always said internally is, you know, we’ll rebrand when the time when there’s a reason to rebrand, Right?

And you just don’t want to do it for the sake of like, a cool new t-shirt. You wanna, you know, make a statement, you wanna have a reason, and you want to kind of escalate yourself and, and show the transition. so I, you know, kudos to your new site. I love the bold look of the capital letters. And very easy to digest the newsfeed. And so why don’t we, for those that do not follow you, Mr. Twitter top Twitter account, why don’t you tell us, <laugh>, why don’t you tell us where to find you in front office sports and you know, so we can kind of get you more eyes on your site.

Adam White (27:37):

Yeah, so like I said, frontofficesports.com for the first time ever, which is great. you know, we’re still at the old Twitter handle at F R N T O F F I C E S P O R T. That’ll change too. sooner rather than later just happen to be, we got what we wanted to get, and Twitter had their hack and we couldn’t change it. So TBD on what’s next there, but we’ll definitely be helpful. and then on Instagram, it’s just front office sports spelled out, same as the domain. And then myself personally on Twitter is just @FOSADAM.

James Giglio (28:13):

All right. Well, Adam, I hope you get to enjoy the rest of your afternoon if you can. Thank you. Stay awake and make it through the weekend.

Adam White (28:20):

Yeah. Stay awake. I, that’s what happens when I work out at five in the morning.

James Giglio (28:25):

I hear, you know, I, there’s not many of us, but when email communication is firing away at 6:30 or 7:00 AM I gotta, you know, that unspoken nod to you.

Adam White (28:38):

Yeah exactly, if I can get it in before all that stuff happens, it makes it so much easier for the rest of the day.

James Giglio (28:43):

Yeah. Well, I appreciated our early morning communication and continued communication. And so we hope to again, you know, have any type of presence on your site and you know, stories. And so we appreciated everything that you’ve done for us in the past and me personally with being on your shot callers series. And so I hope to repay the favor and, you know, we’ll just continue to grow together in this industry. That’s It.

Adam White (29:09):

All right, James. Well, I really appreciate it, man. Thanks for having me on.

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