July 8th 2010, for many this represents the dawning of the Player Empowerment Era.
If you don’t remember that date, and why should you unless you live in Cleveland, that is the date “Lebron: The Decision” aired on ESPN. Lebron James announcing his intent to take his talents to South Beach in an ESPN special that was probably 10 minutes but felt like 20 hours.
Forgetting how mind-numbingly awful that show was, it did put a stake in the ground for all athletes moving forward to say “we can take control of our careers and pull the levers of our own lives.”
It’s clear how monumental this event was, based primarily on the anger it caused in then NBA commissioner David Stern. Stern was a very smart man and savvy businessman, and according to may I’ve spoken to who knew him, he loved being in control of the league and its players.
Stern pushed ESPN to cancel The Decision, former ESPN executive John Skipper detailed after the fact that he believed "[Stern didn't like it] probably because the player was in charge here."
And there it is, the dawning of the player empowerment era.
Well, that is if that’s how you define player empowerment.
I think I’d take a different view.
If empowerment is the authority given to someone to do something, I think athletes have been empowered far before Lebron James walked the Earth.
Jesse Owens earning 4 gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games as Hitler watched outraged.
Billie Jean King
They all took back their power, leveraged their abilities into change moments. It wasn’t choosing what team to play for, it was choosing to change the world.
I’m not trying to be belligerent, clearly today’s athletes are using their voices and power toward good causes and are effecting change in the world. Nothing has interested me more in the last 10 years than the Player Tribune, the ultimate platform for athletes to show they are more than an athlete.
Athletes today have a louder megaphone and more tools in their toolbelt than ever before. And they are using them all.
One of those tools many athletes leverage are Athlete Marketer, people trained and dedicated to help build the profile and brand of today’s top athletes. One of my favorites, is Jennifer Keene, VP of Athlete and Property Marketing at Octagon, Jennifer Keene.
For long time listeners of this show, Jennifer has been here before and knocked it out of the park. I wanted to have her back on to discuss many of the emerging sports marketing trends in 2021...and she was kind enough to join me despite the fact she is moving from New York to LA! So when you see videos of the show, she wanted me to make it clear she is moving, not a hoarder with boxes everywhere.
Here she is, my friend Jennifer Keene ready to discuss sports marketing trends in 2021.