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Erin Andrews is Always in the Middle of the Action

“It’s fun, and FOX allows us to have a personality, which I’m really, really grateful for.”

Derek Futterman

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Erin Andrews
Courtesy: FOX Sports

Prior to the Kansas City Chiefs-Chicago Bears game, rumors were swirling that Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Taylor Swift would be in attendance. Over the ensuing weeks, Swift had been linked to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who expressed disappointment that he couldn’t deliver a friendship bracelet to her during a performance on “The Eras Tour.”

As speculation around Swift’s possible appearance intensified, NFL fans and Swifties alike became curious about the details. Before the game, FOX Sports lead NFL reporter Erin Andrews was on the field with play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and color commentator Greg Olsen. The broadcasters were engaging in their usual routine, meandering the sidelines to make observations and converse with players, coaches and other team personnel to enhance their deft preparation ahead of kickoff.

Suddenly, Andrews noticed that her phone was being inundated with messages, including communication from producers for the pregame show, game broadcast and on-air features. Figuring that they would want her to confirm if the gossip was true, she informed Olsen of the situation. Although Kelce was in the middle of a pregame drill at the time, Olsen grabbed his attention and informed him that Andrews had a question to ask when he had a moment.

“I really did have a football question because I really do care about football,” Andrews explained. “I’m obviously being sarcastic right now, [but] I wanted to talk football. I think he was relieved because I don’t know if he heard Greg make a joke about, ‘Hey, she really needs to ask you something.’ And then out of the corner of my mouth I said, ‘Hey, there’s this rumor that Taylor’s coming,’ and he kind of just looked at me and he hugged me and he goes, ‘Yep, but you didn’t hear it from me.’”

In confirming the news, Andrews was able to inform the rest of her FOX Sports colleagues so they could adjust their coverage accordingly. As a reporter, she has worked to foster relationships with athletes in order to develop and maintain the necessary trust to be privy to insider information. Meticulous groundwork, networking skills and a passion for the craft have engendered Andrews a stellar reputation, and she has been able to combine those bedrock journalism tenets with the demands of the incessant modern content ecosystem.

Andrews, who is a fan of Swift and her music, knew what promptly became one of the top news stories of the day, but the broadcast still remained focused on presenting viewers with the nuances of the inter-conference matchup. Shortly thereafter, the FOX Sports broadcast team spoke with Brett Veach, the general manager of the Chiefs. The discussion centered around the roster and how to improve the synergy among the offense. Extemporaneously so, Veach asked if they were aware that Swift was coming to the game, giving Andrews a chance to probe for more information.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I kind of heard, but what are the details?,’ and he told us what he knew, so then I could attribute it to I had definitely heard it,” Andrews conveyed. “I didn’t want to hang Travis out to dry, but once she was there, obviously the cat was out of the bag.”

On a weekly basis, Andrews expertly gathers information, ensures its veracity and presents compendious reports on the air. Furthermore, she will direct handheld camera operators to capture certain shots for the broadcast, assisting producer Richie Zyontz and director Rich Russo.

There are times when viewers do not realize she has provided the broadcasting booth with the latest information, and she equates some of her responsibilities to those of a spy. The job would be considerably more difficult, if not near impossible, without the connections she has fervently worked to build and her willingness to go above and beyond for the story.

Andrews is certainly a frequent flier, often traversing the United States to interview intriguing sports figures such as Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders and New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Seeing journalists at work, however, was nothing new to her since she grew up as the daughter of Steve Andrews, an award-winning investigative reporter and writer at WFLA-TV, the local NBC affiliate. One day as they were watching Hannah Storm interview Hall of Fame basketball forward Charles Barkley, Andrews informed her father that she was interested in pursuing a career in sports media. Despite advising her against it, she proceeded anyway.

Throughout her youth, Andrews was an avid fan of the Boston Celtics and watched superstar players Kevin McHale and Larry Bird vie to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the season’s end. She also consumed plenty of Boston Red Sox baseball and NFL games, closely following the teams in the New England area. While tuning in to a Monday Night Football game, she discovered sideline reporter Melissa Stark and immediately recognized that she would be a role model as she worked to break into the industry.

“She was the hot name,” Andrews said. “It’s cool to talk to her now because she really started her career when [Tom] Brady came into the league when [Bill] Belichick was with him and so forth. She was young and she was somebody – I cut my hair to be like her; I would wear the sleeveless shirts with the collars like her – so she was somebody I really loved.”

Andrews attended the University of Florida, a school that stood out to her because of the national coverage its sports teams garnered. As an undergraduate student, she had the opportunity to interview various personnel across its sports programs and also saw the entities she aspired to work for actively producing television.

Upon her graduation, Andrews started freelance reporting with FOX Sports Florida, contributing stories as needed and hoping for a big break. By the next year, she landed a role with the Sunshine Network to report on the Tampa Bay Lightning, and she followed the team as it amassed and developed the pieces to create a sustainable, winning culture.

Andrews ultimately joined Turner Sports in 2002 as a studio host and reporter where she covered a variety of events throughout the year. She displayed her skillset by reporting on the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Thrashers while hosting college football and Atlanta Hawks coverage. The job required her to move to Atlanta, Ga. and she had the intent to stand out through her peerless work ethic, shrewd perspicacity and indefatigable willingness to adapt.

“I think they signed me to a two-year deal,” Andrews recalled, “and then they got rid of me because I was terrible. I was so bad.”

Throughout Andrews’ time with the entity, Charles Barkley, who she remembered watching in her youth, was an advocate for her. Upon learning of her impending departure from the network, he knew that she would flourish and gave her a vote of confidence.

“I remember he texted me when they let me go and just said, ‘They’re going to regret this, and I can’t wait to tell them that they are,’” Andrews remembered Barkley expressing. “Listen, I was green as hell in doing what I was doing. I don’t know if I was utilized the right way, [and] I don’t blame them for not renewing my deal because I think it pretty much all worked out, but everything happens for a reason.”

Cognizant that she would be without a job if she did not take action, Andrews devised a plan to go to a hotel bar to interact with broadcasters after a hockey game. Having worked in the industry for several years, she knew the likely location and ended up interacting with various personnel. Her drive to succeed was unyielding, determined to find a role and merit sustainability and longevity.

“I said, ‘I’m Erin Andrews, and I’m going to be unemployed in a month. Who do I talk to with ESPN hockey coverage so I can do the hockey coverage for you guys for the playoffs?,’” she recalled, “and I got a name and a number.”

One week later, Andrews was assigned to the Tampa Bay Lightning playoff series against the New York Islanders, the team she used to cover with the Sunshine Network. Twelve wins later, the Lightning earned a spot in the Stanley Cup Final where the team faced off against the Calgary Flames, battling to the brink for ultimate glory.

“The Lightning ended up winning the Stanley Cup, and I was doing post-ice interviews – center ice with the team that gave me my first shot – and it was pretty awesome from there,” Andrews said. “I signed a three-year deal with ESPN right after that, and away we go.”

The network assigned Andrews to ESPN College Football Thursday Primetime where she worked alongside play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico and color commentator Kirk Herbstreit. When football was in its offseason, she reported for college basketball games on Tuesdays and Saturdays, calling Brent Musburger, Dick Vitale and Dan Schulman her co-workers.

ESPN also granted Andrews chances to become immersed in all levels of baseball by reporting on the Little League World Series and College World Series. She spent four years as the field reporter for Monday Night Baseball and another season on the Wednesday Night Baseball broadcasts with Dave O’Brien and Rick Sutcliffe before moving to other responsibilities.

The network partnered with ABC to cover the Scripps National Spelling Bee, granting Andrews a chance to report on the precocious contestants aiming to prove their acuity in the English language. Additionally, she appeared as a contestant on Season 10 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and she and her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy finished in third place.

Because of her deft storytelling abilities and reporting acumen, Andrews was named the features reporter for College GameDay in 2010 and was also afforded the opportunity to host the first hour of the program on ESPNU. During that season, she balanced these roles while serving as the sideline reporter for Saturday Night Football on ABC where she reunited with Musburger and Herbstreit. Despite facing adversity and enduring personal hardship, Andrews prospered and further cemented herself as a staple in sports media.

ESPN made an offer to keep Andrews, but FOX Sports ended up signing her to a multi-year deal in 2012. Upon the announcement, she was immediately placed on the new Prime Time College Football Pregame Show and also on baseball coverage during the postseason and World Series.

Andrews recently appeared in studio for a football pregame show segment, coinciding with the MLB on FOX Pregame featuring analysts Derek Jeter, David Ortiz and Álex Rodríguez, players she covered as a field reporter. A few weeks ago, FOX Sports held an event between its MLB and NFL properties, and she had the chance to thank Jeter for being accessible and kind during that time.

“Jeter made a mention to one of my bosses – ‘Hey, she’s a baseball girl; she needs to be back with us,’” Andrews stated. “It’d be a grind, but it’d be fun, and he was just being funny when he said it, but it’d be cool to be a part of that.”

Prior to the start of the 2014 NFL season, Andrews was named the new lead sideline reporter for the lead broadcast crew of the NFL on FOX. Whereas longtime announcing tandem Joe Buck and Troy Aikman departed the company to join Monday Night Football on ESPN, Andrews remained with the network. She has been working with Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen and Tom Rinaldi since last year.

Andrews values being able to follow the sport throughout the season, one of the aspects of the job that contrasted from her time on the baseball coverage. Veteran sports journalists Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci took over field reporting duties on the lead broadcast prior to the 2016 season after Andrews inked a contract extension with the company.

“It was harder for me to come on during playoffs and World Series because I hadn’t spent the whole year with them,” Andrews explained. “Kenny, obviously, just knew a lot more than I did, and I just don’t want to be put in a position where somebody knows so much more, and I don’t want to do a disservice to the sport.”

When Burkhardt and Olsen were elevated to the lead NFL broadcast team, Andrews knew that she would be able to develop chemistry with them. After all, she had worked with Burkhardt in the past during her first year on NFL coverage and knew Olsen from his time on the Carolina Panthers. Everything culminated in what ended up being a record-setting Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs that drew an average of 115.1 million viewers.

“We all get along really well,” Andrews said. “We have a really funny side text chain that’s always going off that my husband’s always like, ‘Oh god, what does the text chain say now?’ Yeah, they’re your family.”

While Andrews has been in her role for over a decade, she presumes that the last couple of years have helped her become more comfortable and genuinely evolve her broadcast style. Leading up to a game, she prepares through conducting research, having conversations and participating in various meetings, all of which are intended to present an informative and engaging final product to the viewer. Reporting the situations on the sidelines such as in-game adjustments, injury updates and other occurrences are of critical importance, along with remaining nimble and malleable to react to environmental changes.

“I know when I need to be informative; I know when I need to be serious and give the facts, but it’s also football,” Andrews said. “It’s fun, and FOX allows us to have a personality, which I’m really, really grateful for.”

In her Week 6 assignment – which ended in a thrilling upset by the Cleveland Browns over the San Francisco 49ers – Andrews was reporting during a moist, rainy afternoon. Always having an admiration for the craft of meteorology, she concisely delivered a pregame report connecting the playing conditions to the game strategy. Her relationships allow her to accurately compile and recapitulate salient points on a weekly basis, augmenting the quality of the presentation.

“I talked about the wind gusts, I talked about the rain [and] I talked about my weave getting wet,” Andrews elucidated, “and then I said, ‘This is kind of what Kyle Shanahan wanted for this defense and offense. This is the stuff they’re going to have to go through to see if they can be the team that’s there at the end.’”

Andrews showcases her personality and perspectives without a bonafide time limit as co-host of the Calm Down podcast through iHeartMedia. She and FOX Sports colleague Charissa Thompson record two episodes of the show per week, on which they have candid, friendly conversations about their lives both inside and outside of sports media.

“The inspiration was, ‘Why can’t we?,’” Andrews said. “I have a lot more to say than just the 10 seconds that I’m allotted on air. With so many girls reaching out to us asking about the industry [and] asking what it’s like to travel on the road – we have so many funny stories, and it’s been really cool to be on the field for games and coaches to be like, ‘Hey, that podcast of yours.’”

A topic of discussion recently has been the potential relationship between Swift and Kelce, something that can be traced back to an August episode of the show. Commenting on Kelce being unable to meet Swift at a tour, Andrews implored the musician to “try our friend Travis.” She proceeded to impart that although she and Swift are not friends, she should take her up on the suggestion anyway. Ten weeks later, Swift was attending her third Chiefs game in a four-week span and donned a windbreaker that was sent by Andrews herself.

The apparel, which rapidly sold out after images were disseminated from the game, is part of the “WEAR by Erin Andrews” clothing line, an entrepreneurial endeavor she launched in 2019. It now has licensed products from various professional sports leagues, including the NFL, and is partnered with online retailer Fanatics.

“We helped maybe bring Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift together and all this stuff,” Andrews said of the podcast, “so yeah, we love it.”

Following the Chiefs’ 41-10 win over the Bears, Andrews interviewed Quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Since she has spoken with him on numerous occasions and developed a professional connection, she asked Mahomes to have fun with the final question in their conversation.

“I knew what everybody wanted,” Andrews said. “I knew at the end, I wanted to ask a funny question about her being there. Listen, everybody wanted to see [No.] 87 score because we wanted to get her reaction; it’d be fun. Once he scored, that was obviously something I could ask Mahomes about, but I’m there to do a job; I’m there to talk about football, and that’s what I did.”

As a trailblazer in the industry, Andrews remains focused on the task of supporting her colleagues and showcasing the athletes and personalities within a marathon towards the “Big Game.” This weekend, she will be back on the sidelines, trying to extrapolate the information and tell the stories to set up the broadcast for success. Even though Andrews has attended many thrilling matchups and tentpole events, she looks forward to every chance to demonstrate her reporting and football expertise.

“Every single week, I try to show them and grind as much as possible – just show them how much I care; how hard I work; all the things,” Andrews said. “When I get the validation from them, that’s really what success is to me.”

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Sports Radio Advertising is a Great Alternative to Expensive Team Sponsorships

There are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships.

Jeff Caves

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Photo of Citi Field in New York
Photo Credit: Stadium Sponsorship

Not everyone can afford to sponsor a local NFL or college football team. However, there are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships. Here are some ideas:

Pitchmen for Hire: Leverage Local Personalities

Thousands of listeners tune in to hear local sports personalities discuss their favorite teams. Hiring these “football expert” personalities to represent your business can significantly boost your ad response. Their endorsement can help you rise above the fray and double your ad response.

Get More Bang for Your Buck: Stand Out

Tie into station activities that make your brand stand out. Sponsor the local team poll on the station’s website, host a remote broadcast the day before a big game, or sponsor a charity promotion and donate to the cause. Breaking through the clutter of commercial breaks requires creativity and involvement in station activities.

Tie into Local Teams Without Sponsoring Them

You don’t have to sponsor the local team to run a promotion about them. Consider running ads offering discounts if the team wins and even more significant discounts if they lose. Your ad rep can help you phrase these promotions to avoid legal issues. True fans listen to sports radio weekly for team-related content, so tap into that passion.

Become a Title Sponsor

Be the title sponsor for interview segments with local players. If the station is conducting regular player interviews, sponsor these segments. If shows don’t run many interviews, consider sponsoring newscasts that feature excerpts from these interviews.

Hire Retired Fan Favorites

Retired players beloved by fans can be an excellent asset for your business. They are often less expensive than current stars but still hold significant appeal. Think of players like Mike Alstott, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, or Nate Newton. These personalities can do spots or appear at your location, adding a memorable touch to your advertising efforts.

Adopt a ‘Mattress Mack’ Strategy

Make an offer based on the local team’s success, like Gallery Furniture in Houston‘s Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. In 2022, he offered customers double their money back if the Astros won the World Series. Such promotions generate significant publicity and engage the local community, even if the offer is temporary.

Sponsoring a local NFL or major college football team may be out of reach for many clients. Still, numerous creative strategies exist to maximize a sports radio advertising investment. By leveraging local personalities, participating in station activities, and creatively tying your promotions to local sports teams, you can effectively break through the clutter and make a lasting impression on listeners. Engaging fans with innovative offers and memorable endorsements enhances your brand’s visibility and builds a loyal customer base.

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Caitlin Clark Media Coverage is Good for Everybody in the WNBA

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players.

John Molori

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Screengrab from ESPN's Get Up covering Caitlin Clark
Screengrab: ESPN Get Up

It’s time to talk about Caitlin Clark. The rookie guard for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever has become a legit phenomenon in the media. She has singlehandedly, and I repeat, singlehandedly put the focus on a league that has been largely ignored by mainstream sports talk shows for a quarter century.

Nobody wants to admit that one person can change a sport or a league. It is viewed as a slight to people who came before that special athlete and that special athlete’s contemporaries, but it has happened on numerous occasions, and we’ll get to that.

From a marketing and media standpoint, Caitlin Clark is a human tidal wave of interest, excitement, and anticipation. She quite literally brought tens of millions of eyes to the 2024 Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, and deservedly so, she will most likely earn tens of millions of endorsement dollars from a variety of corporations and their products. She has inspired congratulations and controversy, especially with her recent exclusion from the USA Basketball Women’s National team.

The reaction to Clark’s success and attention from some members of the media and WNBA players has been shocking. Tremendous commentators such as Andraya Carter, Chiney Ogwumike, and Rebecca Lobo have, at times, come off as apologists for WNBA players who are just plain jealous of Clark’s unprecedented popularity.

As ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has explained eloquently, these critics are missing the point from a marketing and economic perspective. Clark has not only helped herself with her play, but has also brought attention and focus to women’s hoops as a whole.

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players. Clark is that rare breed of athlete who is truly changing the game, making it better and more profitable not only for herself, but for everyone involved at all levels.

On recent editions of ESPN’s First Take, Smith has gone toe to toe with Carter, Ogwumike, and Monica McNutt on the Caitlin Clark issue. The fascinating exchange between Smith and McNutt on the June 3 edition was a watershed moment in recent sports television.

Smith, McNutt, and host Molly Qerim were discussing the hard foul/shove that Chicago’s Chennedy Carter laid on Clark in a WNBA game. The course of the discussion moved toward the rise in WNBA ratings mainly because of Clark’s presence in the league.

The debate eventually came down to a back-and-forth between Smith and McNutt. Smith reiterated his longtime dedication to the WNBA and women’s sports in general. In response, McNutt said that with Smith’s platform, he could’ve been talking as much about the WNBA three years ago, long before Clark’s debut.

Smith was visibly angered and disappointed by McNutt’s comments. On The Stephen A. Smith Show podcast that same day, he defended himself and his show, saying that First Take has been at the forefront of promoting gender, race, age, and all forms of equality and respect.

Smith is 100% correct. This chap has been a champion of women, minorities, and even older media personalities, such as Christopher Russo, whom he has brought to a whole new audience on First Take. Stephen A. Smith is the Arsenio Hall and David Letterman of sports talk. When the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show hit the airwaves in 1989, he was the first late night host to bring hip-hop artists to center stage on a regular basis.

Similarly, Letterman’s “Late Night” on NBC showcased new talent in comedy and music, while bringing irreverence and originality to the tired old talk show format. Smith has done the same. He has made stars out of Ryan Clark, Mina Kimes, Marcus Spears, Kimberley Martin, and many others. He has also raised the profile of already renowned commentators such as Shannon Sharpe, Qerim, and the aforementioned Russo.

Smith has been a stalwart of equity, but that’s not what McNutt was saying. She was saying that with his audience, Smith could’ve talked about the WNBA thereby creating popularity and exposure for the league long before now.

McNutt’s jarring comment put Smith in a humbled position and really hit at his very core, but he took his game to a whole new level the very next day. McNutt was back on First Take, which right there shows the utter gumption that Smith possesses. He could’ve easily let things settle down a bit before he brought McNutt back on the show, but he didn’t. That’s classic Smith – encouraging discourse and disagreement.

When you get to the level of a Stephen A. Smith, you welcome a debating challenge. The last guests you want are sycophantic suck-ups who cowardly agree, no matter what the subject. Smith’s high point on the June 4 episode was when he said in a loud voice, “Caitlin Clark is white.”

He acknowledged the fact that it makes a difference. He also stated that black players who have been just as talented as Clark have not been given their rightful attention – also true. Regarding the perceived negative treatment of Clark by some WNBA players, Smith made it clear that they should not go easy on Clark on the court, but their mindsets need to recognize that Clark is benefitting the WNBA and putting dollars in their collective pockets.

Whether you agree with Smith or not, the fact is that this is what special players like Caitlin Clark do. They raise the level of discussion and simultaneously raise the profile of their respective sports. The WNBA is now in the A-block on highly rated shows like First Take and ESPN’s Get Up.

The league and its players are on the front burner of discussion for Smith, Nick Wright, Colin Cowherd and many other top-tier, multimedia sports debaters. This fact was straight up impossible one year ago. This is what Caitlin Clark has done.

Clark’s impact and stamp on women’s basketball is not unique. There are precedents where one person has made such a difference.

Larry Bird looked different, played different, restored a dead Celtics franchise, and made his mark in a sport that was on life support in terms of media coverage and fan interest. Bird and Magic Johnson rescued the league – a black man on the west coast and a white man on the east coast, two wunderkinds who changed the NBA forever. Caitlin Clark is Larry Bird.

Tiger Woods burst onto the PGA TOUR and won the Masters in 1997, embarking on a run that would see him change the game of golf from a competitive, performance, historic standpoint, and social standpoint. He was charismatic, focused, and yes, an African American phenom smashing records in a white-dominated sport. Caitlin Clark is Tiger Woods.

In 1965, Alabama quarterback Joe Namath eschewed the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and signed with the AFL’s New York Jets. He raised the profile of the league and garnered more attention and dollars than established AFL stars which made him a target. As the league’s popularity grew however, opposing players recognized his significance beyond the field. They did not go easy on him during games, just ask his knees, but they knew that his success was theirs as well. Namath was the key figure in the eventual AFL/NFL merger. Caitlin Clark is Joe Namath.

Serena Williams was smart, savvy, athletic, fashion conscious, and just plain great. Williams shattered the traditional mold and became an iconoclastic figure in women’s tennis with both her play and personae. The lineage with her sister Venus ushered in a new era in the sport. Serena attacked the game in a unique way. She was exciting and original, and lifted her sport and fellow athletes. Caitlin Clark is Serena Williams.

I am not saying that Clark will have a legendary or Hall of Fame career akin to these illustrious athletes, but the immediate impact she has had on her sport and the media coverage of her sport is similar.

As Smith so often states, Clark is “box office.” You can debate the reasons why, but you cannot debate the fact that she has supremely raised the profile and the financial prospects of women’s basketball and its players.

I understand that other WNBA players want their share of the credit for improving the league. I also understand that WNBA commentators want fairness and equity in terms of attention and the spotlight. However, both groups need to realize that Clark is the main reason that they are getting this increased exposure. On the court, be competitive against Clark and try to beat her and her team. On the air, be critical of Clark and analyze her game, but on a larger scale, understand, accept, and embrace that Caitlin Clark’s most important assist might just be to you.

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Joe Tipton Turned Sports Graphics Into a National Reporting Role With On3

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes.”

Derek Futterman

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: On3

In the moments when athletes make a monumental decision about their playing careers, news outlets frequently try to cover the story in a timely and accurate manner. Whether it is signing with a new team in free agency, inking a new endorsement deal or retiring, basketball has plenty of these occurrences annually. These announcements are sometimes accompanied by graphics, adding visual elements of branding and allure to the development. Joe Tipton learned the nuances of photo editing and graphic design at a young age, leading him to create images of NBA players and share them on social media. Observing a lack of interest within the space, he considered doing the same for high school players nearing college commitments.

Tipton Edits, an independent business venture that he began shortly after starting in sports graphic design, provides athletes with a free edit in which their new uniform is superimposed onto an image divulging their new team. These recruits then share the photos on social media and tag Tipton. Especially at the start of the entrepreneurial property, he viewed gaining followers as remuneration, an invaluable currency as digital media continues its swift proliferation.

“I didn’t start making the graphics at 17 to have a job in it – I was just kind of doing it on the side for fun and then just kind of [seeing] where it would go,” Tipton said. “Since I was one of the first people to make graphics for these high school players in their recruiting decisions and now transfers, and now that I’ve built up the presence online and the credibility and the reputation, a lot of them will flock to me, and I think that’s what’s so sustainable about it now.”

The transfer portal keeps Tipton busy in creating and delivering graphics to collegiate athletes moving to a new school. Remaining prepared to create an enticing visual featuring the player in their new uniform and distributing it on social media requires a commitment to the craft. Even though he was a marketing student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, he was still trying to determine the best path forward and ended up transforming his hobby into a sustainable career.

“I was able to communicate with high-level basketball players and create something for them – and all of it free of charge – in exchange just for a tag on Instagram and Twitter, which helped propel me and grow my brand and following online,” Tipton said, “and over the years, [it] got me to where I am now.”

By designing these graphics in advance, Tipton was privy to coveted information and recognized that he could effectively reveal where players were signing. His work has been featured on various sports outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report and shared by NBA legends including Shaquille O’Neal and Scottie Pippen.

On3, a digital sports media brand that delivers news, analysis and insights to consumers regarding college sports, recruiting and NIL, added Tipton as a national basketball reporter after he graduated from college. Since that time, he has established himself as a distinguished journalist covering high school and college basketball.

“[I] had an opportunity to join On3 because basically what I was doing when supplying the graphic to a high school recruit and even transfers now in the portal, I am being gifted the knowledge of where a player is going,” Tipton said, “so I’m able to report that information, and that’s basically what I serve as now for On3.”

Joining On3 provided him with another platform to disseminate this information and expand his audience while assisting the company in its own growth. Shannon Terry founded On3 in 2021, and the platform has continued to expand with dedicated coverage of NIL, the transfer portal and the NFL Draft, along with adding subsidiary verticals such as On3 Elite and On3 HER.

“When it comes to the transfers and their decision making, it’s so rapid fire, and there’s so many players that enter the transfer portal because of NIL, because of instant opportunities and also the ability to play right away and not have to sit out like the previous rules stated,” Tipton articulated, “so it increased the need for what I do and just the coverage of the transfer portal in general has taken a significant leap, which is great for those who cover the portal and recruiting in general.”

Tipton earned a contract extension at On3 earlier in the year, but he has always operated with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is more than just a graphic designer. While he is a recent graduate and continuing to shape his identity and forge relationships, he believes the process has been considerably slow to this point. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic that working with On3 will be able to propel him to the next level.

“They didn’t view me as a reporter even though I was breaking news, so especially in the earlier stages, I wasn’t getting credit for breaking the news just because I guess they didn’t view me as a reporter [or] traditional media outlet,” Tipton said. “But ever since joining On3, that’s kind of painted me in a new light, and people will look at me a little bit differently, especially with the coverage that I’m able to provide for On3 and then just the overall stories broken.”

There is an aspect of fluctuation that has become more embedded in college basketball, rendering it fundamental to verify information ahead of its circulation. For example, if a player informs Tipton that they are committing to a certain school, he will oftentimes call the coaches or athletics department to safeguard against complicating miscommunication between the two entities. In the end, he is never releasing graphics or reports without extreme confidence in its veracity.

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes,” Tipton said. “It’s kind of a rush as well to be able to get it out first, but the first year on the job with On3, there was an incredible amount of pressure that I put on myself to just achieve this at a high level, but there’s also a great deal of stress that comes with it because a lot of what I do is time sensitive.”

Although he has a stellar reporting record dating back to his days solely creating graphics, there are moments when other reporters or outlets beat him to the story. In these situations, the power of his brand and its identity assists in overcoming these impediments, indicative of his broad appeal and widespread reach. Establishing himself as a brand rather than being a graphic designer or reporter within a larger entity has been a key differentiator within his formative years in the business.

“I think it’s the key to sustainability and a way to separate yourself from other people, so I’m incredibly fortunate that the players believe in me, trust in me and then On3 does the same because I’m a source for the player that they can come to and trust, and we all grow together,” Tipton said. “I help grow the player, [and] I help grow On3. On3 helps grow me [and] the player helps grow me because they’re all posting my stuff, we’re posting them, so we’re all on this together, so it’s really nice.”

Tipton never envisioned himself appearing in front of the camera, but he is now doing so regularly for On3. As part of its content, he frequently discusses the latest news regarding recruitment, the transfer portal and NIL in addition to synthesizing player rankings.

“[I am] obviously only just scratching the surface of the on-camera stuff, but I think that is a strong potential avenue for me moving forward in my career,” Tipton said, “but then also my ability to break news at a high level and also the relationships that I have just when it comes to the recruiting insider portion of my job as well.”

Later this month, Tipton will see some of the players for whom he has created graphics soon enter the NBA when the NBA Draft takes place from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although he has not assimilated into reporting on the NBA, he is competitive and has thought about his future work. Yet he understands that a majority of his verve is in college basketball and is focused on breaking news beyond recruiting.

“The good thing about me and kind of how I was brought up was I wasn’t raised in a family that was a fan of a specific team; in fact, my parents aren’t even sports fans at all,” Tipton said. “Sports was just not on at all growing up, so I never grew up a specific fan or a diehard of any specific program.”

Reflecting back on his journey thus far, Tipton feels that he stumbled into his career with fortuitous timing. The versatility he has developed, along with his persistence, networking and inexorable work ethic, has contributed to the growth of Tipton Edits and his role with On3.

Tipton found a way to cut through the media ecosystem, investing his time and effort into a niche that did not exist with the level of cache and emphasis that it currently possesses. The industry moves with unrelenting momentum and can seem imposing to shrewdly understand and cover, but Tipton aims to masterfully keep up while enjoying his journey to an unknown destination.

“We live in a world where, especially younger people, they’re keen on growing their social media presence,” Tipton said, “so On3, Tipton Edits and others alike are able to grow their channels, so they’re encouraged to utilize services like mine to help kind of propel their following and for it to reach a large number of people.”

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