This Is What Barstool Sports Founder Says He Has Never Been More Confident In
Dave Portnoy’s dream match-up for the 2019 Super Bowl would be the New England Patriots taking on the Chicago Bears in Atlanta. The company he founded, Barstool Sports, has a massive fan-base in Boston, but also sells a bunch of merchandise to followers in Chicago.
Yet, as 2018 turns into 2019, the product that may be on the field is much less concerning to Portnoy than the events that surround the Super Bowl. In particular, one event, hosted by Barstool Sports, consumes Portnoy completely.
Super Bowl LIII will serve as the third Super Bowl that Barstool Sports hosts an event around.
It promises to be the most unique and exclusive party that the team has thrown to date. Portnoy says that it will be the hardest ticket to obtain the week prior to the Super Bowl by a long shot.
It will not just be a standard Super Bowl party with top shelf drinks, celebrities and performers. It will have all of that, plus a fight. Barstool Sports is bringing its Rough N’ Rowdy concept to the Coca-Cola Roxy in Atlanta and hosting an amateur fight night that can also be watched for $15.99 on a pay-per-view stream.
“For the Super Bowl, we always have to think outside the box,” says Portnoy. “We can’t afford a Justin Beiber or Taylor Swift. We had to do something different.”
In 2017, Barstool Sports hosted an event that featured Ja Rule and Ashanti, which was done without much help from third parties that have existing experience in the event space. That was followed by a 2018 Super Bowl party, where Barstool Sports partnered with Tao Group, which did not go nearly as well from Barstool’s perspective. It was “too corporate” according to Portnoy, who promises that 2019’s event will be nothing like the Minnesota-based experience.
“We are back to controlling everything we do,” says Portnoy. “We will never be overly corporate. If you want corporate, we are not the place for you. If you want to reach the 18-35 demo, then we are it.”
The Rough N’ Rowdy concept has been brainstormed for the purposes of the Barstool Sports Super Bowl party for some time.
First, the company conducted diligence to determine whether an amateur fighting event would be approved in Georgia. Once the team knew it was legal, they started searching for the perfect venue. Portnoy thinks that he got exactly what was needed and says that everyone in attendance “will be basically a celebrity.”
“It will look like a Conor McGregor fight in his prime,” says Portnoy. “We are taking a small venue, with not a ton of tickets available. You will have to know somebody. I’ve never been more confident in anything we have done.”
Barstool Sports says that there will be a total of four hours of amateur fighting, bottle service and more at the February 1 event. One bottle that will certainly be passed around throughout the night is New Amsterdam Vodka.
New Amsterdam Vodka Is Seriously Getting Into Bed With Barstool.
In October, New Amsterdam Vodka signed a three-year agreement with the National Hockey League to become the Official Vodka of the NHL. That same month, the brand became the presenting sponsor of a Barstool Sports NHL-themed podcast called Spittin’ Chiclets.
New Amsterdam Vodka has recently decided to expand on its relationship with Barstool Sports, and will become the Official Vodka of Barstool Sports in 2019, according to Barstool Chief Revenue Officer Deirdre Lester. That includes sponsoring the bar at the Barstool Sports office and the new office when a move is completed in the Spring. It also includes incorporation into the Super Bowl party from branding at the event to ensuring that celebrities will be sipping on New Amsterdam Vodka.
“We had been in some discussions with [New Amsterdam Vodka’s] agency about advertising opportunities and they thought that based on what’s happening with Barstool — the growth, fan engagement and overall alignment from a brand perspective — that there was a bigger partnership to be had,” says Lester. “As a digital media brand today, we aren’t focused on just selling based on impressions. We are looking for brands we can partner with and engage with our fans, who can stand out.”
Lester describes Barstool’s relationship with New Amsterdam Vodka as less like digital sponsorship and more like a league partnership deal. That deal is for the entire 2019 calendar year, so expect to see a lot of New Amsterdam Vodka branding across Barstool’s properties.
What’s next for Barstool from a business perspective?
Portnoy describes Barstool Sports as having a “pirate ship vibe” that allows his company to keep making waves, but not necessarily acting as a disruptor. That has allowed executives like Lester to show brands the weight Barstool is pulling in terms of engagement.
“In terms of engagement, we just exponentially outdo everyone else on the Internet,” says Lester. Yet, the NFL still refuses to provide Barstool Sports with credentials to Super Bowl events.
That has not stopped companies like Kraft Heinz, Bud Light and Natural Light from forming partnerships with Barstool Sports. They will all be activating with Barstool surrounding the Super Bowl. Additionally, Barstool Sports has an exclusive daily fantasy sports partnership with FanDuel and a variety of sports betting deals that include FanDuel, MGM and others.
Barstool Sports is still looking to add partners for its Super Bowl event and beyond into 2019. One area it thinks it can improve on is in dealing with female-related brands. That is where Lester thinks a podcast like Chicks in the Office can help. If Barstool Sports can grow beyond the heavily male demographic to include more females, then the brand opportunities should keep pouring in.