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Meet the Podcasters: Bomani Jones, Wave Sports + Entertainment

“This is taking a product that has been built over the course of five years, bringing the subscriber base that we have that we’ve built in and now supercharging it.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Fans of Bomani Jones got a nice surprise this week. The feed for his podcast, which had sat dormant for months, suddenly alerted subscribers that a new episode of The Right Time was waiting for them.

Jones exited ESPN earlier this year. His contract was not renewed as part of the cost-cutting measures across all of Disney’s divisions. His show is now part of the Wave Sports + Entertainment portfolio.

Wave Sports + Entertainment may not have the sort of ubiquitous name in sports media that ESPN does, but thanks to Paul George and the Kelce Brothers, the company has proven its worth in the podcast space. That is what Jones was looking for as he weighed his options for The Right Time‘s next chapter.

In this conversation, Jones talks about how to build a podcast that blends sports and other topics, why Wave Sports + Entertainment is the right partner at this point, and how sports talk is filling a void for middle-aged Black audiences.

Demetri Ravanos: Wave Sports + Entertainment is a very different animal for you. You are coming from ESPN, the quintessential entity in sports media. Now, you are going to a place where you are the lone media member as opposed to an athlete trying to either transition or start something new. So how do you fit in with the Wave Sports + Entertainment portfolio?

Bomani Jones: Yeah, that’s a good question that, to be honest, you ought to ask the Wave people. I hadn’t even thought it out that far. Part of that for me, and I think that this is kind of what’s different about doing a podcast versus being on TV or radio or all that stuff, is that I’ll always look at podcasts individually as just kind of like their own worlds of sorts, right? There are certainly some ways and places where I give thought to a larger brand and how I fit or something like that, but with Wave, my question primarily just was, “Okay, what can you do to help me grow this podcast that’s already successful?”

I think that maybe if I was starting from zero, we’d be talking about something else, but I’ve always thought myself – and partially as a function of the places that I’ve worked – but I’ve thought a podcast is something that the individual talent and everybody surrounding it, they’re going to be the ones that make it into whatever it is, and they’re going to have to do a lot of the building in that regard. With Wave, what’s so impressive about them is their ability to take what it is that you’re doing and then optimize it for all the means of distribution and everything else.

Now to the beginning of your question, it is a little interesting that in this brief time that I’ve been away, one of the big stories that’s popped up is this whole Travis Kelce and Tay Tay thing. I guess we’re coworkers. You know, that can’t be anything that I worry too much about because I don’t know how much they’re supposed to worry about me, but yeah, that is a little bit different, I have to say.

DR: It does seem like there is a class of podcasts or maybe it’s just a standard boilerplate go-to slogan whenever somebody is launching a sports podcast that it is going to be “a melting pot of sports and culture.” I wonder why it is that you think you are better at it than anyone else trying to start this thing. There is no shortage of them, and you have had a long history of success in this space.

BJ: I think the thing for me is, at least in terms of journalism, is I was doing the “and” before I did the sports and I was doing the “sports and…” at Page 2, which is probably the best “sports and” thing anybody has ever come up with. I’m also there at the same time as [Bill] Simmons and his brand of “sports and” I could never quite do, you know what I mean?      

The thing that I feel like I’ve gotten better now at this point in my career is this “sports and,” it ain’t let’s call it Hall & Oates, right? It’s Simon & Garfunkel; it’s Gladys Knight & the Pips. Sports has got to be out front. I firmly believe that because people got to know they’re coming to get something out of this. I think for a lot of people, the attempt at sports and pop culture ultimately becomes more about self-gratification than really getting to the audience.                  

The other thing that I think gets tricky when you do “sports and” stuff is you’ve got to get people who want to hear your sports and people who want to hear your end game. They’re probably not going to show up just to get “the and” if they don’t like the sports. They’re probably not going to show up to get the sports if they don’t like the “and,” because they’ll go get somebody that does the sports that they like. It doesn’t matter what the other stuff is. What matters is if they like it. You have to learn to be judicious about these things and understand what exactly it is that people come to you and people come to your podcast for.

What I have been able to do over the last, and this sounds crazy, 23 years of working this job is that the people who are coming for an opt-in product from me, by and large, are people who know me and thereby are people who trust me. They are willing to hear some of these things that I want to talk about. It takes time to earn the trust in all those places, and so this very long answer to get back to the top of it. I think the thing that helps me is with the pop culture stuff – I developed an independent reputation for being somebody who talked about pop culture; I developed an independent reputation for being somebody who talked about current events, and I had an independent reputation for talking about sports. I dabble, I guess, in some ways in the first two now and I am in the third more, but the truth is, I’ve done all of those in such a fashion that when I’m now dabbling in them, I’m dabbling into expertise as opposed to simply dabbling into interest.

DR: You and I had a conversation a while back. I had just gotten back from doing some radio fill-in stuff in South Carolina and I said to you that I was kind of shocked by the amount of Black voices on the phones when I took calls. It was overwhelmingly more than any time before. You had a really interesting theory about it being the lack of a classic rock format for guys in their 40s and 50s at this point who grew up listening to rap. I wonder if you think that is just benefiting sports radio or maybe that is benefiting podcasts too with Black audiences.

BJ: I think it’s benefiting podcasts and I think the numbers bear out. It’s really benefiting YouTube, which is a place where Black people over-represent in that sample. But this is kind of the flipside of all the rap from our youth that we were defending. It’s not that easy to listen to it in the car with your kids, so you don’t really have those stations. I think Atlanta has a classic rap format. I honestly don’t know of any other city that does. So once you get to your grown man station in life as a Black man, where do you go? I know in Raleigh they were telling me that when they went from the AM to the FM dial, suddenly they heard a lot more Black people on phones.

It’s always been a thing with ESPN. ESPN programming has a much higher Black viewership than most television shows do. When you think about it, how many other places on television are you tuning in and Black people are the stars? That’s what happens with sports.

Now, what I think is interesting though, in terms of format, especially when you start talking about places in the South where you just have fewer options, that’s where you really start hearing more and more Black people get on to phones for sports talk. That’s also a function of sports talk’s growth outside of urban areas. You ain’t getting that many of those calls in the afternoon up here on WFAN right now. It’s a really weird sort of quirk. I think it may be partially cultural in the sense that I think that in the South in particular, Black culture and white culture are far closer to each other, both in proximity and just kind of what their substances are. But you turn on the radio in these cities where one of the host’s name ends in a Y? You know, “John and Sully” or something like that, You know what I mean? No, Black people ain’t calling them. We’re not having nearly as much overlap in those spaces.

Even once you’re just talking about the cultural elements of it, you start talking about coming up north and the people are more likely to be Catholic. The ancestors, I guess you got your Mayflower types certainly, but up here it’s much more a discussion of immigrant culture. When you get to the South, everybody’s going back generations and generations still in the United States. They’re all coming from the same direction.

DR: You and I talked recently and you said that what was appealing about Wave Sports + Entertainment is that this is what they do. Podcasts are not a division of a much larger company. The same could be said for Meadowlark Media, and I think there are a lot of people who would wonder, if that is what you were looking for, why you would not prioritize past relationships as you were trying to figure out what your future is after ESPN.

BJ: Yeah, I think the question that I would ask people in response to that is, “So what exactly does that do for me?” I don’t mean that snidely or rudely, but I think that people with the assumption that I would wind up going to work for Meadowlark are operating under the premise of what my relationship has been with Dan Le Batard. What about me implies to you that I make business decisions based on something that personal? You just can’t, that’s not how things work. You can’t do that.

So in 2022, when my contract was expiring with ESPN, I talked to Meadowlark. I’ll let you know, we were pretty deep in talks with them, but in the end, I wound up in a situation where I was doing Game Theory for HBO, and Game Theory was the single most important thing to me. Every other decision that I was going to make, both personally and professionally, is going to be made with Game Theory in mind. I thought that it would be best for me to not be doing a start-up television show and also trying to restart a podcast with a new staff and producer at a company that itself was a start-up. I just thought that that was too much.

It didn’t even really come up this last time that my deal was up and I was trying to find a place to be. The way that Dan sells things, you know, “It’s work, it’s family.” It ain’t really how life works. But, you know, that’s him and the way that he does things. I think that people who really love Dan and who enjoy the things that I did with him, they would love to see me go work there and be part of this thing that they already love. I could totally see how that would be the best thing for them. I just don’t know how those people would necessarily explain how it would be the best thing for me.

DR: Is there a part of you that worries if you go back to do anything with that collection of people, there’s always going to be a segment of the audience that is going to see you and Dan together and think of you as the sidekick?

BJ: Yeah, the sidekick thing with Dan is very interesting because on Highly Questionable, if you go and watch it, there’s very clearly a sidekick and it’s his father, right? But it was this weird thing because his father is at once the sidekick and also the centerpiece. It was a really good thing because ego stuff typically comes up when people do television shows together and who plays what role. But it’s really helpful to have this cuddly old man in between and everybody can be like, “No, he’s the real star of the show.” Then none of that other stuff ever comes up. But that show, it wasn’t mine. That’s something that I know when I worked with Dan that he struggled to understand. I didn’t mean this in a bad way, but “It’s your dad. It’s your city.” Like when I would come in to do radio in the same studio where he did his radio show, and it’s just covered wall to wall with Dan Le Batard Show stuff, it’s his and that’s cool.

I never saw myself as a sidekick, however there was a hierarchy. He is Dan Le Batard. They built the studio because he’s Dan Le Batard, all of those things.

Now, if I had come in 2022 and decided to work there, what would have been more likely was that we would have used this show The Right Time as kind of its own tentpole and hopefully, the plan would then be to build out a network of sorts underneath The Right Time. In the Le Batard AF, I am neither A nor F in the way that I wanted to go about that. I admit that was very important to me for the reason that you describe.

I’m kind of past the point in my career where I want to position myself in a way that looks like sidekick stuff. So I think that part is totally fair, but at the same time, I really don’t know the numbers that closely on his end, but I’m assuming that his operation is a bigger one than mine is. So, his show being a bigger one and me being there with my own thing that isn’t as big? That’s okay. I can live with that. I was at ESPN and my show wasn’t as big as Zach Lowe’s. That’s fine, not a problem. That’s kind of survival of the fittest.

I don’t think with the way that Meadowlark does things now, that there would be a place for me. Everything now seems to be treated as an offshoot of The Dan Le Batard Show now. That, I absolutely would not go for, but let me be clear. That also was not offered to me. So I’m not pretending like I turned it down.

DR: You said one thing in there that I want to wrap on. You mentioned that at the time you did not think going to an upstart network while having Game Theory would have been the best thing for you. Obviously, you wish Game Theory was still on, but the fact that it is not on the air anymore, did that allow you to take more chances as you tried to figure out what you were going to do next?

BJ: I would say the opposite. Me taking chances on where to go with the podcast is much more of a function of my previous employers not renewing my contract there. Once your old job says you don’t work there no more, the risk is there.

But also I don’t see Wave at all as being risky. I would even make the argument that for a podcast, working at ESPN would be far riskier. It would be much riskier for Paul George to take his podcast to ESPN than it would be for me to take what I’m doing and bring it to Wave. This isn’t just about ESPN. This is about most of these large companies. I’ll give you an example. After I get off the phone with you, we’re going to do a rehearsal show. I’m going back and forth with Sean Yoo, who’s my new producer, and we’re talking about some stuff and he’s like, “Hey, we got a tweet that we’re putting out. The social team wants you to quote tweet that. And if you check that e-mail I sent you, we’ve got the schedule.”

I checked it and it’s a spreadsheet in a Google Doc of what the schedule is and the planning for what to do with the social channels as we break this show out and introduce it to some new people because we’re slapping a new coat of paint on it and all of that stuff, right? That doesn’t happen in the same ways, at least in my experience, at the big companies. For the big companies, it’s like, “Hey, man, they got this thing called podcasting that the kids are doing. We should probably get into that. So we need to send some things out on social” then you bring that person who just doesn’t have anything to do and then it goes from there. I’m working now with people who are much more native to the space, who have a much more organic knowledge of these things, and can strategize much more.

What I’ve always felt like, no matter where I’ve been, no matter where I’ve done, it’s my job to come up with something good. It’s your job to get people to consume it. If I come up with something and you put it in front of people and they reject it, then that’s my fault. Okay? But with a podcast, I know I’m going to give you a good podcast. I know that 100%. And from what I’ve seen from Wave and people they have worked with previously, I know they’re going to be able to take the social channels and take all these other things and get this out here to more people probably than I was capable of getting out to when I worked at ESPN.

So no, this to me is the opposite of a risk. This is taking a product that has been built over the course of five years, bringing the subscriber base that we have that we’ve built in and now supercharging it. I think that the more likely outcome here is that this now goes farther than it ever has and it goes to places that I probably didn’t think were possible at some point.

I’m taking the podcast and it’s going to a place and the place is then going to do whatever that place does with the podcast. But in terms of leaving ESPN, if you wanted to make the argument that I took a step down of sorts when they decided to cancel High Noon, that’s perfectly fair. It’s not even hard to get around that. But for the podcast. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. All that matters about the podcast is whether or not the people you work for are the best equipped to get it out to as many ears as possible to allow them to make a decision as to whether or not this is something they want to be part of their regular lives. And I think in that direction, I probably took a step up.

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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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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