This week, I’ve interviewed Patrick Curran, co-founder of Curran Media. Curran Media are a different athlete marketing, management, video & brand development company helping athletes maximise their potential in & out of their sport. Patrick has had an amazing journey that he talks about today, alongside sharing his insights around content, digital trends and athlete-driven marketing.
Q1) Patrick, a pleasure to have you on Ash’s Sports Talk. How did your sports career begin?
I played sports through high school, including division one American football, and I even coached within division’s 2 and 3. This led to me working within marketing departments at schools, and fast forward to about 5-6 years, I started working with big media companies around branding, including the UFC, which led to supporting athletes with optimising social media channels.
My brother and I started our own business 5-6 years ago between my college and coaching years. At the time, we had devised a fitness app that picked up interest and found us consulting in football coaching. We realised we were doing a lot around marketing at this point and were inspired to start our own business, Curran Media.
Q2) Tell me more about your current role at Curran Media, such as what you do and what sports you’re focused on?
My brother and I co-founded the company. My role is around business development and creative standpoints, whereas my brother is more focused on securing deals. We’ve worked with athletes across American football, basketball, and MMA.
Every athlete is different at Curran Media, meaning it’s important to give them custom-based treatment to facilitate their needs. For example, approaching a brand partnership or campaign with an MMA athlete will differ from a basketball player. Plus, the interest from brands in particular industries will be more popular with different sports.
Q3) What does the process look like when forming/reaching out for a brand partnership?
It depends entirely on the situation. Some brands reach out to us or vice versa. Firstly, we identify if there are any synergies between what we’re both trying to achieve. Secondly, we’ll offer some creative thought behind how we can work together. Once the brainstorming is done, we’ll move towards figuring out logistics, budgets, and so on.
Q4) Athlete-driven marketing has changed tremendously in recent years; I don’t think more power is in the athletes to this day. What do you think are the defining factors to building a successful personal brand for an athlete?
Build a community and one where your fans really care about you. That could be inspired by your athletic ability, sense of humour, style, or simply important values. Quite a few athletes don’t understand how to build a community on social. Ten years ago, to create a relationship, you would’ve only had meeting face-to-face as the only option. Now, you can build bonds by responding to a comment on an Instagram post.
Some athletes that have stood out to me when building a personal brand include Conor McGregor, a smart businessman and entertaining character in MMA. American footballer Juju Smith Schuster is another great example; he made 800,000 dollars through brand endorsements and content, significantly more than on the field. He’s funny, silly, does lots of community stuff, and ultimately, his digital success comes from showing different aspects of socials.
Q5) I see you’ve worked with some UFC fighters. I’ve grown into a vivid supporter of MMA because of it, mainly because of the variety of characters. How pivotal do you think that’s been to the UFC growing to where it is today?
Every fighter has a different angle to garner attention, for the better and worse. For example, not everyone will appreciate how Colby Covington promotes himself. The interesting thing about MMA from other sports is the fan will tune in to see a fighter lose instead of winning; that culture doesn’t really exist in other sports like the NBA or NFL.
MMA fighters tend to truly say how they feel compared to other athlete’s, which makes them so much more accessible, and many fans will feel as if they know them personally. This allows fans to become super invested in them. It comes down to MMA fighters not being so polished as athletes in other sports; they don’t have major PR teams. Instead, it’s usually one manager who deals with them. Plus, they’ll likely encourage more trash talk and confrontations because that’s what increases the appetite of the MMA audience.
Q6) what trends and platforms can you see growing across digital that athletes can benefit from to boost their profiles?
Tiktok is for everyone, and I recommend every athlete to be on it. I can’t think of any other platforms from an entertainment and engagement platform ahead of TikTok right now. There will always be new platforms on the rise, which we currently don’t know; however, athlete’s need to stay on top of this. Generally, athlete’s already have a following, it’s so easy to move onto another platform. By all means, be patient if necessary but don’t be late for the party.
The great thing about TikTok is that you can produce content in many ways, and it’s not all about synchronised dancing. However, make sure your content across different platforms is the same. I’ve seen major creative differences with some athlete’s who’ll have amazing TikTok accounts, but their Instagram accounts don’t match it.
Build a brand; it’s not just about having ‘nice pictures’.
Q7) Creating Curran Media, what have been some of the challenges you’ve come across along the way?
We deal with humans, so challenges happen all the time. For example, people don’t get back to you in time. But, the biggest challenge occurred when we wanted to transition from athletes to work with media companies and big brands. We had zero true relationships, and it wasn’t easy to convince them that they could trust us as working with an individual is different to a company.
Now, we have a handful of college athlete’s we work with, which is a whole different market. A lot of them are super marketable and likely to play professionally. This means bigger agencies will be keeping their eye on them, and we’ve got to do our best to keep hold of our athletes. It’s annoying and frustrating. However, all we can do is give our absolute all for who we’re working with.
Q8) Patrick, what is your key piece of advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in sport?
Do it, be active and give people a reason to want to work with you. Want to work in broadcasting? Well, start talking about the sport you love. Social media has given us a space where we can share our voice, use it. Start a podcast or a YouTube channel; you don’t have to have a thorough plan behind it, but strategise as you go along. Once you’ve found you’re angle, keep going.
What a brilliant interview with Patrick. He’s come a long way to establish Curran Media with his brother, and his successes are clearly paying off. What did you find most insightful about this weeks interview?