SBJ/August 20-26, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Plugged In: Jeff Urban

The former Gatorade, PepsiCo and Gannett executive is now co-founder of youth sports content startup The Whistle, which is scheduled for a late-September launch. He talks about making the transition from the established world of corporate sports marketing to an unproven new venture focused on today’s kids.

Photo by: DOUGLAS GORENSTEIN
This idea is so big and with so much opportunity. Our biggest challenge is making sure we come out with the right voice and a fresh perspective for kids. It’s all about putting kids in control of their sports media.


On the value proposition of the The Whistle:
We offer kids an entertaining and authentic sports media experience, and the ability to personalize their experience and share it with their friends. … We offer parents a media experience for their kids that provides engaging sports media content, and a positive focus on sports without scandals or inappropriate adult advertising. … We offer our league, nonprofit and sponsor partners access to kids and parents in a positive, entertaining and values-driven way.

On working with properties such as the NFL and USOC, and earning their trust: It’s about the idea and our mission. Who doesn’t want to do right by kids and deliver them a great sports experience? The pillars of what sports can deliver to kids are so clear: good sportsmanship, critical thinking, a solid foundation of fitness and nutrition. Those ideals resonate across properties, and our mission is to deliver them where kids spend almost a third of each day: on screens.

On developing a startup brand versus a mature entity such as Gatorade: So different, but certainly leaning on many of the marketing tenets from that great brand. Know the customer. Be laser-focused on delivering them what they want. Learn and iterate quickly.

On defining success for The Whistle: We build a brand and experience where kids want to come, engage, personalize and share their sports experiences across a wide variety of sports when and where they want it.
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