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James Brown is Using His Platform for Good

“I would make certain that I, if there’s such a thing, over-prepared so as to capitalize on that opportunity, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

Derek Futterman

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James Brown
Courtesy: Mary Kouw, CBS

Following the conclusion of a sporting event, some fans usually choose to congregate outside of the venue with the hopes of snagging a picture or an autograph from their favorite players. One day after a Washington Bullets basketball game, there were many children aiming to greet their heroes. As one of the players emerged from the arena, he noticed a child extending a pen and paper in his direction, hoping for the stationery to be adorned with his coveted signature. Instead, the player knocked both items out of the child’s hand and kept walking to the team bus, an impudent act commentator James Brown watched as it unfolded from afar.

Visibly shaken and despondent, the young fan was suddenly greeted by Hall of Fame forward Wes Unseld, a traditionally affable and benevolent individual. Unseld, who had seen what occurred, sat the child on his knee and provided his autograph and gear while restoring the child’s confidence and morale. As he performed this act of magnanimity, he informed team officials that the team bus, which was sitting idle and preparing to depart, would need to remain as such and wait for as long as it took.

Being in the vicinity of this illustration of proper decorum prompted Brown to make a conscious reaffirmation related to his own self-efficacy and inherent values.

“I said, ‘If I ever am in a position to be an influence on somebody, I would want to be a positive influence like that,’” Brown said. “Again, to be real clear, as a man of faith, I try to do that as well too from a standpoint of unifying and finding the good in people to talk about those things.”

From the beginning of his career, Brown has tried to serve as an exemplary role model for industry professionals and sports fans. He has proven to be an adept commentator both in sports and news media, holding true to journalistic tenets amid a cyclonic content ecosystem, while also giving back to the community. For his work in both respects, Brown will be honored with the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters, the organization’s highest honor, at Wednesday night’s NAB Marconi Radio Awards.

When Brown was informed that he would be this year’s honoree, he was incredulous and wanted to double-check that the message was not transmitted to him in error. Upon confirmation, he thought back on his journey to reach this point, a winding road of twists and turns that required adaptability, and how a common thread through it all was utilizing his platform for good.

During his formative years in the business, Brown decided to ask a colleague if he would be able to blend philanthropic elements within his platform if he became successful enough. In response, he was informed that he would likely not experience such fortune in his career, an assertion with potential to disquiet and fluster prospective rising stars. Instead of succumbing to the pessimistic melancholy foreboding suppositious failure, Brown adopted the opposite mindset and stayed true to the fundamentals of the craft.

“I felt in my heart it could be the case,” Brown said. “This is validation that it was because I would not have ever thought I would ever have been considered for something like this when I look at the people who have received this award.”

Throughout his career, which has spanned parts of five decades, Brown always possessed a keen interest in penetrating beyond the nuances of the game itself. Yet he never thought he would be on the sidelines covering the action, instead pursuing a career as a professional basketball player. Under the mentorship of Hall-of-Fame high school basketball coach Morgan Wootten, Brown became a two-time high school All-American and received 200 athletic scholarships from universities around the country.

Nonetheless, he chose to attend Harvard University to study government while continuing his career on the hardwood sans bursary. He assumed that the institutional erudition would better position him for long-term success and felt that when it was amalgamated with accolades as a basketball player, he could thrive as an entrepreneur.

Brown was drafted both in the NBA by the Atlanta Hawks but did not end up making the team. As a result, he began working as a sales manager at Xerox and had no thoughts about pursuing media until he was invited to a television show.

While there, Brown informed of a forthcoming opening as a color commentator on Washington Bullets games. After auditioning, he was granted the job for away contests, filling the role of Mike Riordan, and continued his work with Xerox in the process.

Most professionals in sports media are subject to criticism from viewers, colleagues, and competitors alike. With advances in mediated communication, filtering these critiques and cultivating a network of trusted sources can prove fundamental for maintaining stability and confidence. Brown, however, did not run away from these critiques; rather, he utilized them to improve as he continued broadcasting games and occasionally filled in on play-by-play announcing duties. After his first year with the Bullets, he had lunch with William Taaffe, a columnist for The Washington Star, and asked for uncensored, genuine feedback about his commentary.

“He said, ‘JB, you clearly know the game. You just need to eliminate the five-dollar words in your Harvard education and talk to everyday people in simple terms and explain what it is and have fun,’ and he was right,” Brown said. “It harkened back to a lesson my English teacher told me in high school which was essentially, ‘Keep it simple. Explain it in language that everybody could understand.’”

When CBS Sports snatched part of the television rights to the NCAA in a four-year deal with ABC, then-owned by American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, worth a collective $264 million, the network was looking for extra announcers. The company reached out to Brown after executives heard him commentate a game and informed him that he would need to expand his skillset if he wanted to work in media on a full-time basis.

While he was a skilled color commentator, CBS Sports executive producer Ted Shaker expressed that the superstar professional athletes would likely fill the analyst roles upon their retirement. As a result, he implored Brown to learn how to work as a play-by-play announcer, reporter, and studio host, and he subsequently gave him opportunities to hone his craft.

Brown had worked as a studio anchor for both WJLA-TV and WDVM-TV while continuing assignments with CBS Sports, including college basketball, NBA, and NFL games. As it pertained to the NFL on CBS, he called matchups with a variety of analysts starting in 1987, including Dan Jiggetts, Gary Fencik, Ken Stabler, and Randy Cross. Having emanated from the analyst role, he always worked with his partners to ensure they would be able to convey their firsthand, esoteric perspectives amid the presentation.

“[I had to] understand it well enough to be able to ask the intelligent questions to capitalize on the expertise that the analysts, being singular or plural with whom I was working, to elicit from them the best in preparing the audience for what they were about to see on TV,” Brown said, “and to watch it knowledgeably so as to, again, ask the right questions to make them shine.”

CBS ceased broadcasts of NFL games after NBC acquired the AFC rights and FOX snagged the NFC rights, transactions that totaled almost $2.5 billion. When FOX Sports acquired the property, the company was looking to establish credibility and signed CBS commentators John Madden, Pat Summerall, and Terry Bradshaw to lucrative contracts.

FOX Sports was originally going to have Bradshaw work as both an analyst and host for its studio coverage with Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson. Network chairman David Hill conceptualized the studio team discussing the game as if they were friends conversing at a sports bar. At the suggestion of division president Ed Goren, Hill hired Brown to host the show without an audition, and he stressed the importance of standing out and being distinct. The program, known as FOX NFL Sunday, would be a blend of information and entertainment, following the mantra of “sugarcoating the education pill.”

“I remember one time we started off our football show, and it was probably a little pedantic; a little bit mundane,” Brown recalled. “[Hill] came out of the control room in a huff and a puff. He stood in front of the desk of the four of us, and he looked at us and he simply said, ‘You’re boring me!,’ and he turned around and went back in the control room. We took it up another notch from that point forward in terms of the energy level and enthusiasm and the frivolity, which separated that broadcast from others, and we were back on track.”

Brown remained with FOX for 11 years, during which he expanded his responsibilities to include hosting NHL studio programming and occasionally filled in on the MLB pregame and postgame shows. In lieu of live game broadcasts, he also added hosting duties for The World’s Funniest!, a comedic reality show that showcased amusing clips for entertainment purposes. Moreover, he contributed to Real Sports on HBO, hosted news magazine program America’s Black Forum, and worked with The Sporting News to host his own radio show.

Brown had previously hosted a three-hour midday show on WTEM since the station’s inception in 1992, but the two sides parted ways as his network television responsibilities amplified. The audio platform kept him fluid in the parlance of other sports while also fostering professional relationships around the industry. Since his show was not solely football-focused, Brown was able to discuss a wide variety of sports and report on human interest stories, affording contextualization of occurrences on the field.

When CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus contacted Brown to see if he would be interested in returning to the network, he asked him to make contributions to the news side of the property as well. While he had a passion for storytelling in both formats, he asked to deliver excellence on the sports side first and would take on a role in news later if needed. As a result, he replaced Greg Gumbel on The NFL Today studio program, commuting to New York City to host the show with studio analysts including Bill Cowher and Boomer Esiason. A few years later, he added Inside the NFL to his slate of responsibilities and hosted the program until its recent move to The CW Network.

“My aim was to pull out of them the best of what they brought to the table and, where possible, to inject a little levity and humor without forcing it to make it extemporaneous so that it showed that we truly were just doing things organically, not trying to force it to copycat what they were doing over at FOX,” Brown said. “If we were journalistically sound, showing that we were a group that genuinely liked each other, and, oh yes, we could still have some fun, but present all of the basic information to set the stage; set the table for the audience to watch that game through the lens of these experts, then we’ve done our job.”

In hosting the studio program, Brown carries an unselfish attitude and recognizes that the show is about the team rather than one person. Although the cast has changed since his debut with the additions of Nate Burleson, Phil Simms, and J.J. Watt, he understands how to position his colleagues to adequately extrapolate their perspectives. There are times when he will eschew the 10-second lead-up to a commercial because he can discern one of the analysts trying to chime into the conversation, focusing on the quality of the discussion more than individual promulgation.

“I will defer to them to get that point in to let them know I’m mindful of this, and we are a team-oriented group, and therefore let me allow them the opportunity to get that significant nugget in, and I may only have three to five seconds to say, ‘We’ll be back with more of the State Farm Postgame Show after this,’” Brown explained. “That is an indication to them that I recognize their value; I’m willing to sacrifice so they can give something that hopefully is going to elevate the broadcast and separate us from the competition.”

Over the course of the game itself, it is up to the studio team to react to the action in real time and adapt as necessary. Outside of a sudden injury or change in status, unexpected news items that emerge before the games largely occur beforehand. Contrarily, all developments occur during the slate of game action once the opening kickoff takes place, requiring everyone to remain nimble and malleable at all times. The studio team regularly provides updates from the other action around the league, something that is partially in the purview of Brown.

“Before I used to do the highlights fully myself because you’ve only got eight to maybe 10 seconds to do that, but a way of keeping them engaged and in tune is to do it with the analyst,” Brown said. “My job then is to put a headline on that highlight that we’re about to shoot in to the various markets – a la the RedZone – to keep everyone abreast of what’s going on…. ‘A record in the making,’ and then boom, we’ll go into a lot with that.”

Prior to CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus retiring from the business in April 2024, the network will present the television broadcast for Super Bowl LVIII, marking the 22nd time it has televised “The Big Game” in its illustrious history. Brown is expected to host pregame coverage of the championship matchup coming off record multiplatform viewership of the game.

Even though the audience will likely be large, his approach will remain consistent in conveying information to the viewer in a genuine manner, highlighting the key storylines of the game without coming off as pompous or imperious. As he goes live in front of a legion of football fans, Brown will heed advice he received from John Madden while play-by-play announcing by making sure that he is duly prepared with a bucket full of information.

“We always wanted to rely on the game itself being competitive and exciting – that’s what the people are tuning in to see; that’s what we got the most fun out of,” Brown explained, “but in a blowout scenario; if the stadium was experiencing some kind of an electrical problem [or] weather-related delays, we had to have as much information as possible to prime the audience for the telecast.”

Brown’s current contract with CBS guarantees a set number of fill-in anchor responsibilities on the CBS Evening News throughout the year, allowing him to make contributions in both genres under the CBS brand. Throughout his second stint with the company, he has also had a chance to present stories for 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, and CBS Sunday Morning among other properties in the news division.

“Whenever we have our news Zooms to go over the stories for the day, etc., they’ll usually start off and ask me, ‘How do you do such and such?,’” Brown said. “Well, I am a substitute anchor there, but my attitude is still always one of, ‘You guys have got a well-oiled ship here. All I want to do is to make sure that I am complementing all of the work that you do by doing my job excellently on the air.’”

Although Brown has not studied the intricacies of the evolving sports media landscape, he feels that some parts of the industry are a microcosm for larger societal issues related to derision. Through his charity endeavors with organizations such as GENYOUth, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the Ron & Joy Paul Kidney Center at The George Washington University, Brown aims to bring people closer together and keeps the spirit of congeniality and altruism alive with every broadcast.

“I don’t care how trite it may sound but, ‘A house divided cannot stand,’” Brown said. “We ought to be looking for common ground and that which encourages each other. That is something that I absolutely speak about in the opportunities I’ve been given.”

As Brown prepares to take the stage in New York City on Wednesday night, he harkens back to advice bestowed on him from Morgan Wootten, his high school basketball coach. Before Brown was set to speak before a group of young people, he expressed a sentiment of fear and confusion about what he was going to say. In response, his coach communicated a message with the sanguinity and proficiency that guided his teams towards five national champions and 22 D.C. titles. Providing the assist to his longtime forward both in the game on the hardwood and in the game of life helped shape him into the person he is today, venerated and worthy of this acclaimed industry honor.

“He says, ‘JB, there is no such thing as new fundamentals. Fundamentals are tried and true – they’re basic. You can dress it up, but you make sure that they understand you need to master the fundamentals,’” Brown remembered being told. “Yes, bring your personality to it – don’t try to copy someone else. [It is an] old, tired expression, but it bears repeating, ‘If you try to be somebody else, you’re only going to be the second-best, but you’re going to be the first-best you.’ Be you and deliver it with excellence, remaining focused on the fundamentals.”

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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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