Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs won’t let billionaire aspirations derail his commitment to staying true to his values as he plans for a life after football. Day 1 of the SXSW Sports Track presented by Sportico featured insights from Diggs, former WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike, business leaders and the World Surf League, all of whom detailed the demands of business life outside their sports.
The three-time Pro Bowl receiver spoke about being the CEO of his brand and the importance of authenticity when seeking partnerships with companies and organizations. A ‘two-way street,’ where the athlete’s values are understood early is key to any deal, Diggs said while headlining the festival’s ‘Cultivating Authenticity with Brand Partnerships’ session.
“You want whatever you’re aligning with to be [connected] with your core values,” Diggs said of brand partnerships. “You want to be like-minded. Like for me, it’s about acts of service, and I want whoever I’m partnered with to be active in the community. It should happen naturally instead of being forced.”
Los Angeles Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike shared her experiences as a former MVP player in the WNBA during ‘The Expanding Opportunities Around Equitable Investment in Women’ session. Ogwumike, who was joined CBS Sports broadcaster Amanda Balionis, spoke about how the lack of emotional investment from owners when it comes women’s sports compared to men’s sports, which is reflected financially.
“That’s where the sexism comes into play,” said Ogwumike, who serves as the WNBA Players Association union president. “Most of these sports teams are owned by white men, so the emotional investment is in men, and that’s the standard.”
The World Surf League (WSL) made a splash during the ‘Surfing’s Swell of Success and the Business Behind It’ session where WSL CEO Erik Logan, pro surfer Jadson Andre and Box to Box Films co-founder Paul Martin spoke about the power of storytelling and how it will push the sport into the mainstream.
“I don’t think anybody says that they love the NFL; they love their teams and athletes,” Logan said in an interview. “We try to step back and say: how do we take someone like Gabriel Medina or Kelly Slater and make them the biggest stars on the planet? The league will benefit from the growth of the athlete… The more we can tell their story, the better chance you, as a fan, can connect with them.”
Day 1 of the SXSW Sports Track concluded with the ‘Women’s Mental Health and Olympics’ session which featured discussion on self care and fighting depression. Stanton and Company CEO Amy Stanton, Olympic gold medalist Lydia Jacoby and Arkansas gymnastics head coach Jordyn Wieber.
Sports Track programming continues Sunday with appearances from Socios.com chief strategy officer Max Rabinovitch, Oak View Group head of sustainability Kristen Fulmer and Minnesota Twins senior director of innovation and growth Chris Iles.