Players Tackling Business Opportunities off The Field

Players Tackling Business Opportunities off The Field
July 11 11:26 2017 Print This Article

NFL Players Inc. is the licensing and marketing arm of the NFL Players Association. It focuses on creating and marketing unique products utilizing licensing rights; establishing better business relationships and interactions with players at proprietary events; identifying and integrating the best players for product lines and marketing campaigns; and, streamlining player activations by facilitating endorsement deals and appearance logistics. Take a listen as we spoke with NFL Players Inc. Vice President of Licensing and Business Development Steve Scebelo on the intricacies of player marketing and building brands off the field.

Jay: I would love to hear about some of the things you look for when you’re looking to line up a brand with any specific player.

Steve: Within NFL Players Inc., which is the licensing and marketing arm of the NFL Players Association, there’s a whole division that’s called player services. There, we gather every bit of information we can on every NFL player in a database. We have relatively limited resources to keep track of all 2,000 players, especially when you have 350 or more cycling in and out every year. Therefore,; we rely on whatever sources we can get. When we do have companies come to us that are looking for something specific in terms of whatever a player can bring to help them deliver their marketing message, we want to make sure we have the best data available. We want to make sure we know the player’s personality, no conflicting endorsements and that the audience is the right size for what the marketer is looking to do. Player services will generate a list with some players who we think would be a good fit. And we’ll take that back to the partners and try to strike the right deal.
Jay: With the social media leverage players have today, is that something you recognize or even help players cultivate?

Steve: Absolutely.  Leadership is a big part of it. For players to make it to the NFL, they’ll have had to have succeeded at every level along the way. From Tom Brady to the 53rd man on the roster, all are incredible athletes that have had to persevere. At our event we produced recently called NFLPA Rookie Premiere, we had about 18 partners over the course of three days working with 40 of the top rookies entering the league. They would do everything from photoshoots to autograph signings. Some are better at it than others. But if you watched all 40 of them, you’d be impressed in how they do it. And that is a message that we try to get out there to businesses. We’ve been doing more in trying to connect players to off-the-field opportunities. We’ve also set up an externship program that will continue to grow. Last year we had over 40 players participating in companies in a 3-week program in the offseason where they got to nurture their skills and see what different industries were like. It’s everything you would want in an employee. They demonstrate teamwork, leadership and personality to inspire people around them. That’s important for us to get the message out to the business community and for the players to be set up for success when their careers on the field are over.

Jay: There were multiple rules changed during this offseason. One in particular that stands out is the celebration penalty. Do you think that’s going to have a big impact on the game or is that more of a slippery slope that may go the wrong way quickly?

Steve: From the business standpoint, we have emojis that were created for some of the players. One of the more popular ones that would get shared the most were touchdown celebrations. The fans want to see the players having fun, and I think the league making some of these changes is recognizing that the players are the vehicle in which fans connect to the game. Any of the league’s sponsors will tell you they want the players to have personalities to align with their brands and for it to be positioned in front of the fans in an even better way.

Jay: Lastly, what do you think is the best piece of advice so far that you’ve gotten that you’ve been able to help yourself with, and has there been moments when someone asks you for advice, whether about branding or business?

Steve: The advice I love to share is the importance of networking. If you’re there for people when they ask you for a favor or to make an introduction, then you’ll know they’ll be there when you need them to return the favor or not. And as far as what I’ve learned, it’s the value of persistence and hard work. I am amazed at the energy level of the players who engage with our partners off the field. Their job is still on the field and making sure they’re prepared for it. And yet I’m impressed with some of their LinkedIn pages. Check out (New York Jets offensive lineman) Kelvin Beachum as an example. He’s out there every day meeting someone fascinating. And also, he’s still a football player. I usehim as my model of inspiration in how hard they’re working, and I want to make sure I’m working as hard on their behalf.

Steve is an experienced and innovatived marketing executive with a core competency in developing profitable merchandise licensing businesses for world-class brands in the sports, consumer products and media industries, including Coca-Cola, TV Guide, the Olympic Games, Major League Baseball and the NBA.

Skilled in planning and executing profitable extensions and activations of world-class consumer brands. Strategic thinker who combines creativity, intuitive skills and experience to consistently deliver results that exceed expectations. Adaptable, with the unique ability to quickly comprehend and successfully execute new projects. Great communicator, proficient at building win-win partnerships that create revenue growth and new opportunities. A detail-oriented problem-solver and motivator who uses leadership and hard work to keep teams focused on end goals.