Regardless of how you feel about Dave Portnoy or the company itself, there is no denying it. Barstool won quarantine. Between unboxings, frozen pizza reviews, DDTG, Mush Madness, and Coach Duggs, Barstool Sports has captured the eyeballs of media consumers everywhere. Not to mention the Call Her Daddy drama which captivated the internet and helped Barstool to emerge as one of the top five podcast publishers in the US.
There are many reasons why Barstool has been so successful, but one in particular is how they source, grow, and retain their talent. With many “influencers” deceptively hiding behind walls of fake engagement and delivering subpar returns on advertising investments, Barstool has shown how effective building core audiences around your employees can be. By investing in growing the personal brands of their employees, (instead of just the Barstool brand itself) Barstool is able to save valuable marketing dollars using their own in-house “influencers” and attract the best talent in the business.
Started by the media industry, the idea of building personal brands for company talent has started to gain steam in a handful of sectors such as fitness, beauty, and fashion. On Rumble’s website you can find the social media handles for all of their trainers, many of whom are very active on Instagram boasting over 10,000 engaged followers and multiple brand deals. Lucky Brand now features employees across all of their digital campaigns, reporting an engagement increase of 2 to 3 times what a normal influencer campaign would deliver. Even Macy’s has created #Macy’sStyleCrew, a way for employees to model Macy’s products on social media and earn commission in the process.
Building these employee personas has been shown to be mutually beneficial for both the corporation and their working members. Let’s break this down a bit further:
In a world of facetuned photos and fake engagement, authenticity matters. Consumers are tired of seeing promotions showcasing influencers with edited waists and airbrushed skin, knowing that in most cases their recommendation is powered by a check, rather than the love of the product. Instead, we want to see the faces behind the brand. The real people who make these products come to life. This is music to the ears of corporate marketing managers who no longer need to shell out the lofty fees of high-end influencers. Lucky Brand reported that their typical campaigns cost up to 10x more than their recent employee campaigns have, and as mentioned before, deliver a fraction of the results.
Empowering employees to grow their own brands is also a strong selling point for future talent. There is no denying the advantage that having an audience brings and this is a goal that many young professionals are already looking to achieve. Not to mention the larger the audience that your employees build, the more eyes that are on your product, and the more dollars that are in your pocket.
For those who have already had aspirations of building an audience, having a national corporation as a platform adds a lot of fuel to the fire. Building a personal brand as an employee can open the door to other lucrative business opportunities. While a Glossier employee influencer couldn’t promote the product of another beauty competitor, he or she could welcome advertising deals in the lifestyle, fashion, and fitness spaces or get paid to speak at industry events. This also gives the employee something to walk away with once their time at the company is done, making them a more attractive candidate for other opportunities or providing them with an upper-hand when negotiating salary with their current employer.
Barstool has perfected this model with it serving as a main driver of their business. Their content is raw, uncensored, and most importantly, entertaining. Employees from all departments of organization are encouraged to grow their own personal brands, and there is a mutual understanding that Barstool will provide the platform and funding to make them as successful as possible. The larger the internet personalities grow, the happier the employees are and the more money Barstool (and the employees) make. Everyone wins.