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If you want to understand where the world of social media is headed, look no further than Barstool Sports. This sports media site has been around for nearly a decade, but it is only during the full bloom of the Facebook-fueled social media revolution that the site has exploded into the pop culture mainstream.
At a time when sports giant ESPN is reeling from layoffs, and when big corporate-controlled sports media sites like Bleacher Report (owned by Time Warner) are having a hard time bringing in advertising revenue, Barstool Sports has become a remarkable success story. So what have been the keys to the company’s success?
Don’t get caught up in a bland, PC world
Perhaps the biggest factor working in the favor of Barstool Sports is the site’s willingness to take on controversy. It’s not a bland, vanilla corporate production. The site actually started out with fantasy sports and sports betting content, and moved on from there.
Barstool Sports is not about hearing from expensively paid sports analysts in suits – it’s about average guys just talking about sports, in a way that the average guy can understand. And that, admittedly, has gotten the site into quite a lot of trouble. In fact, the site has become known for its sexist content and its blush-inducing lowbrow commentary.
For example, take the current Winter Olympics in South Korea. Just about everyone has fallen in love with American sweetheart Chloe Kim, the 17-year-old snowboarding medalist. So has Barstool Sports – but for a completely different reason. On a Sirius XM broadcast of a Barstool Sports radio show, one of the co-hosts referred to Kim as a “little hot piece of ass.” (He was promptly booted from the show)
And that’s the story elsewhere as well, as Barstool Sports has been unafraid to say what people are really thinking. And that often includes risqué commentary about female athletes and female broadcasters. In October 2017, a partnership between ESPN and Barstool Sports lasted all of 10 days before the corporate suits in Bristol, CT realized that a bunch of guys sitting around talking about sports and girls in a van might not be the best optics during the whole #metoo movement.
But here’s the thing – Barstool Sports embodies the brave new world of social media, where authenticity and “being real” matters more than anything else. The entire slogan for Barstool Sports is “by the common man, for the common man.” You can expect to hear things from Barstool Sports that a bunch of guys sitting around in a bar might say after a few drinks.
Understand your online audience
Nothing better encapsulates what Barstool Sports is all about than its popular slogan, “Saturdays are for the boys.” It is a slogan that has launched a thousand different T-shirt designs, mostly because the message resonates so strongly with young millennials who consume social media. The idea is simple: one day a week, you should just be able to hang out with your buddies and enjoy sports.
And Barstool Sports has been unafraid to go after anyone who tries to use that slogan for their own marketing purposes. For example, when the NFL tried to use, “Sundays are for the boys” to get people to watch NFL football games on Sunday afternoons, Barstool Sports immediately mobilized their lawyers and forced the NFL to back down.
Perhaps the surest sign of success for Barstool Sports is that investors are completely onboard with the company’s controversial approach to winning over sports fans. In January 2018, the company received another $15 million in financing, valuing the company at a cool $100 million. At a time when layoffs and financial difficulties loom over sports giants like ESPN, this is all the more impressive!!!!