If you’re a veteran working in the sports business industry or a young professional trying to work your way in, chances are you know how powerful a tool social media can be. When cruising Twitter or Facebook, there’s also a chance you may have ran into some creative content from a company called Front Office Sports — but if you haven’t, start paying more attention. Adam White, a recent graduate from the University of Miami, created the brand a few years ago while in University in an effort to cover a unique aspect of the multi-billion dollar industry, and he did it by sharing the stories of the people who actually worked in it.
Fast forward to now, White is CEO & Founder of FOS and helps lead a large team of writers dedicated to covering the industry at the intersection of sports and business. The startup’s success has been mainly driven thanks to organic social media growth and by finding ways to help young professionals learn about the stories important to them. As part of our Young Achiever interview series, The Sponsorship Space had a chance to sit down with Adam to learn more about his journey and
where he believes the company is heading.
Q: You recently graduated from the University of Miami, but I feel you already have a ton of valuable work experience. Tell us about the last few years for you.
The last few years have been a blur to say the least. If I wasn’t working on FOS, I spent time managing the on-campus sports bar while in school. Outside of school, I spent my winter breaks working for the Arizona Sports Foundation who put on the Fiesta Bowl and the Cactus Bowl back in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. During my sophomore summer, I went to New York to teach students in sports management as part of the National Student Leadership Conference and then spent my junior summer in Lincoln, Nebraska to intern for opendorse before coming back to intern with the Hurricane Club my first semester of senior year.
Throughout the process, I was able to take away valuable lessons from each place I spent time and have applied every lesson I have learned to run FOS better and more efficiently.
Every move along the way has been strategic in nature in the fact that each were meant to build upon one another and luckily they did just that. There were many sleepless nights and days of working from 6am-3am, only to do it again the next day, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Q: What was the thought process behind creating Front Office Sports?
Well, when this first started three years ago, it was never meant to get to this point. It was supposed to be something that allowed me to get in front of the decision makers in the industry in order to make sure I had a job when I graduated from the college. When I originally put the idea together, I had realized that there was a lack of outlets covering the industry side of sports business, specifically the people working in the industry, beyond the legacy players of SBJ and others. Realizing that, I set out to make sure I was able to put together a resource and a platform that put the stories of the people before anything else. As the platform evolved, we have changed our approach and been able to create an authority publication where we not only tell the stories of people in the industry, but allow them to come onto the platform and share their views and expertise in way that no one else does.
Q: How did you balance school with creating your own company?
It was quite easy actually. What I was doing with the site and the company was in direct correlation with what I was learning in school. Instead of something separate from school, it became just like a three-year extracurricular project that I was able to relate to everything that I was doing. Having the support of those in my program also gave me the confidence to get others at Miami involved in a way that could elevate the program.
Q: What were some of the initial challenges you faced in the early stages of development?
There have been challenges at every step of the way. For the first year, it was all about learning the ins and outs of everything I was doing. From reaching out to professionals to finding the best way to publish on Wix and share over social platforms, that first year taught me more about the industry than any experience I have had the last three years.
The biggest roadblock we faced early on was that no one knew who we were, so trying to build legitimacy and brand awareness took a concerted effort to produce high quality content and rely on the people we were interviewing to help us spread the message of the publication.
In the last year, efforts have turned to finding ways to monetize the site, while proving that we are more than just a place to go for advice on how to break into sports, which after focusing only on career advice for the better part of two years has been a bit of a challenge, but one we are making progress on everyday.
Q: What did you do to overcome those challenges?
To overcome the challenges, we have focused on flexibility and improving a little bit everyday. Each person on the team has relatively no experience running or building a media company and because of that, much of what we have learned is from watching what other companies are doing and applying that to our own content and our audience. When building a business and a brand from nothing, challenges arise everyday. There is no magic potion to overcoming them. It all comes down to continue to work through them as they come and if what you are doing is something that you want to do, making sure you don’t give up when there is a challenge you don’t think you can overcome.
Q: With Front Office Sports hitting over 13,000 Twitter followers recently, it’s becoming one of the industry’s leading resources. How did you grow the platform and did your network play a role?
We grew the platform by focusing on creating a community around the brand. We didn’t want this to be a platform that just pushes the content we create. We want it to be a place where people can read great content, but also where they can engage with a platform that has a personality and that truly cares about them. We found that by doing this, people took a liking to the brand over the content that we created, so it made it easier for them to vouch for us. Instead of our followers sharing just a good story they saw, they were instead sharing the whole brand, which allowed us to grow quickly at a grassroots level. In the early parts, Russ Wilde really spearheaded the growth through our network by relying on a calculated influencer strategy. Once we had a solid base, it was our network who introduced us to others in the industry and opened the doors to so many more professional relationships.
Q: You recently launched the Rising 25 Award and the FOS College Program. Clearly, it’s important to your team to give back to the community. Can you share with us details about those initiatives and why you have made it a priority to support the development of others?
With the Rising 25 award, we felt like that those 25 and under were making a profound impact on the industry and needed an award to celebrate their accomplishments. We were right in our assumption, as we received 140 nominations for 90 nominees. Choosing 25 was extremely difficult as all 90 of the nominees were more than worthy of the award.
With the college program, we felt that the legacy publications have basically forgot students when it comes to creating content specific to them and programs that engage them and provide them an avenue for development as they progress in their academic career. As college students when we all started this, we know the opportunities and value it has brought us and being able to open up the platform for other students to take advantage of what it now allows us to do is something that we take great pride in. While college students may not be the ones paying for enterprise subscriptions now, they are the ones who in 10 years will be leading teams and organizations across the country and the world. It is all about finding a way to own the consumer lifecycle and be on their side every step of their career.
Q: Let’s quickly chat sponsorship. Where do you feel the industry is heading in the next few years?
Online, it is all about creating engaging native content. Gone are the days when you can slap a banner ad on something and expect it to produce a high-quality ROI. Whether it is a video or a written piece, finding natural ways to integrate sponsors is the most impactful way to deliver quality engagement for sponsors and for your audience.
When it comes to in-venue sponsorships, partners have to create tangible activations that drive consumers to either share their experience with the partners’ brand or interact with the partners’ product.
Q: You keep up with content daily. Are there any specific partnership campaigns that have stuck out to you recently?
I love what the Seahawks did with Starbucks recently by creating custom drink sleeves that have jerseys on them. Not only did they do a physical activation, they activated on Instagram as well. When it comes to physical spaces, I haven’t seen many better than what the sponsors at Mercedes-Benz Stadium have done.