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Jon’s Postlife Crisis: Stephen Stokols, CEO Of Boost Mobile Talks NIL

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Athletes getting paid all over the place!

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Syndication: Phoenix Tom Tingle/The Republic

Name, Image, and Likeness - NIL - goes into effect TODAY. This is one of the biggest developments in college athletics, EVER. CAPITAL LETTERS EVERYWHERE!

I got the chance to interview Boost Mobile’s CEO Stephen Stokols about NIL.

Boost Mobile is sponsoring Hanna and Haley Cavinder, twin guards on the Fresno State women’s basketball team. The Cavinder twins have one of the biggest social media followings of any current NCAA athletes as between them, they have over 5 million total followers across Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

One area in which NIL will be interesting - it may benefit small business more than it will massive companies like Verizon, Nike, etc. College athletics is very regional in nature. A local bakery shop could get more mileage out of sponsoring a local college basketball player because that player wouldn’t even show up on a large company’s radar.

We talk about some of these issues in the interview. Mr. Stokols talks very fast. There is a LOT going on, and there will be an explosion of announcements about this over the next few days.

One point of confusion. We kind of go back and forth about today or tomorrow. I say “Today” because the content wouldn’t be released until Thursday. He says “tomorrow” because he thinks I’m putting something out immediately.

Jon has a book out!

On August 21st, 2015, Jon unexpectedly dropped dead of a widowmaker heart attack. He was shocked five times on the way to the hospital with no response. He was shocked two more times in the ER. He was dead for over 20 minutes. Doctors placed a stented and induced him into a coma. In January 2016 Jon received a second stent and in June he was diagnosed with an anoxic brain injury.

He wrote a book about death and recovery. The title, “Been Dead, Never Been To Europe” reflects the ironic nature of life, what happens versus what we want to happen. It’s available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.

Consider signing up for Jon’s Postlife Crisis newsletter, which is about Jon and interests beyond Cornhuskers sports. (I know, right?)

Transcription

Jon Johnston

Welcome to Jon’s Postlife Crisis. I am Jon Johnston, founder of CornNation.com, your site of Nebraska Cornhuskers, potential and hope which is all we got right now because it’s the offseason. This episode I’m talking with Steven Stokols, CEO of Boost Mobile. we’re talking about NIL - name, image and likeness the idea that athletes can profit from themselves. Today, Boost Mobile becomes the first wireless company to officially sponsor college athletics. They’re sponsoring two of college basketball’s biggest social media names, twin sisters, Hannah and Hayley Cavinder, who played for the Fresno State Bulldogs. I’m just going right into this Welcome, Mr. Stokols.

What made you guys want to take advantage of now like immediately, I mean, is this just an opportunity become the first wireless company or I mean, what, why NIL? Why the girls from Fresno State?

Stephen Stokols

That’s two good questions. First off. Boost Mobile is now the fourth largest wireless carrier. We’re taking on the big guys, Verizon, AT&T, and T Mobile. We’re kind underdogs coming and taking these guys on. We’re really about empowering consumers. We’re kind of looked at college athletes. And now we said, Look, this is about empowering college athletes. We like that, it’s consistent with our imaging. More importantly, we’re not going to sort of play a David versus Goliath by playing the same game as the big guys. We look for opportunities to kind of be first in on opportunities, be a little scrappy, or do things that big corporates like Verizon aren’t able to do. We looked at it and said empowering athletes is totally consistent with what we want to do with consumers.

There’s an opportunity here that’s sort of going to be the wild, wild west, when the first one tomorrow officially becomes legal. Today’s not the day we’re sponsoring, it’s tomorrow. But as of tomorrow, it’s legal. It’s going to be a gray area. We want to be kind of leaders, and we want to really sort of embrace college athletes. We think a lot of the boosters we have 8000 Boost stores across the country, many of them college towns, including Omaha. And so we look at it and say, Look, we want to brace the athletes, we want to sort of power these guys. We want these local heroes, when they have big fan bases to be able to kind of profit off their names and helps us sort of push affordable wireless service. So so we see it as sort of a win win. We’re boosting kind of win and college athletes can get kind of can win as well.

Jon Johnston

College athletics is very regional. Do you have plans to micro target audiences around the nation?

Stephen Stokols

Absolutely. That’s the beauty of it. If you look at, like I said, if you look at Boost Mobile, we have 8000 stores in all kinds of markets, including very regional markets. A lot of our markets have universities, so take a market like Omaha, Nebraska, or actually Lincoln, if you take Lincoln, you got boosters there and I and I assure you, you probably know better than me, there’s probably five players on the Nebraska football team who were bigger names and more well known than five guys on the Arizona Cardinals. So regionally, we’re looking at it and you got Boost stores in Nebraska. Our opportunities to go ahead and kind of really get local and focus on the top players at the Nebraska program guys, we we’ve got guys earmarked in Nebraska.

We’ve got guys across the SEC, the PAC 12 where you get sort of local heroes, guys who sort of aligned with what we’re doing as a brand. Some of them may be underdogs, like the Cavinder twins, to answer your question, the Cavinder Twins are some of the biggest female athletes are undersized for division one basketball, they’ve kind of overcome the odds, similar what we’re trying to do. We like what they’ve kind of done from a social media perspective, they sort of resonate with our brand, because we’re the challenger. So we’re finding athletes are sort of in our markets, local, and sort of align with kind of what we’re doing as a brand at Boost Mobile.

Jon Johnston

How are you targeting these athletes? Is it a market base is that they have to have a social media following already?

That’s a good question. It’s a little of both and we’re looking at and say look, where do we have a lot of Boost stores and presses and then we look at those more and it’s because we’re national in almost every market and then you look in those markets and say, what are the universities there? And if those universities have, so take, let’s take Lincoln, like Nebraska, college football is big there. I don’t have to tell you that right. So we look at and say great opportunity.

We got Boost stores in Lincoln and Omaha college. Football is huge there. So now we’re looking through and we I can’t mention names yet but we’ve got some athletes on the Nebraska football team who are on our target lists, there, they’re sort of more of the underdogs and subscribe to some names. You’re gonna know all the names based on your show, but they’re well known names locally. We have a list, we’ve got almost 500 athletes across the country in different regions that we think really fit with our brand, and that we think will sort of work well together that we’re going to go after starting tomorrow.

Jon Johnston

So can you tell us anything about the model of compensation you’re using? Or is that kind of proprietary stuff?

Stephen Stokols

Well, yes or no, I mean, I think generally speaking, if you look at college athletes look like the Cavinder twins, we can’t share details on that, especially now, because there’s nothing really agreed there’s nothing really formally agreed until tomorrow, that’s when it becomes legal. That said, we kind of look at college athletes again, it really depends. And so you look at in some cases, you’re paying some sort of sponsorship fee, in some cases, and maybe actually taking a football team and give them all free phones and free phones, cell phone service. So it really kind of depends on sort of the athlete, the program, the context. But ultimately, if you kind of look at it, from our perspective, we think there’s an opportunity. Like I said, there’s 500 athletes on our list right now, ultimately, maybe a lot more than that. But we think there’s an opportunity to kind of really kind of come in strong and from a wireless perspective be really early adaptors or an embrace those athletes is sort of aligned with our messaging and positioning.

Jon Johnston

Are there different rules that you have to follow when you’re dealing with college athletes, like opposed to say, Pitbull, who was one of your sponsors, or one of your spokespeople, right?

Stephen Stokols

For one Pitbull, we could probably get 10,000 college athletes, and it’s gonna have a bigger impact on those college athletes than it would on Pit Bull as well. So yeah, there are different rules. There’s definitely different rules, the sort of the beauty and the opportunity is right now those rules are sort of a grey area, to be honest, those rules are being defined as we go. So we have to be a little bit conservative out of the gate. And then I think the reality is the NCAA, the athletes, universities are going to form and harden these rules over the next six to 12 months. So I expect a lot of ambiguity over the first six to 12 months. Like I said, Boost, we’re an aggressor, an attacker. So we’re jumping in a lot of the big guys I know are like want to wait and see how the rules shake out. We want to help form those rules. We want to kind of influence what what those rules end up being six months from now.

Jon Johnston

There’s a lot of people that look at this, and they go, Well, this is going to destroy college athletics, this is going to be the Wild West, you know, what do you see happening with the future of name image and likeness?

Stephen Stokols

That’s a great question. Because there’s really two sides of the coin, right? The way I look like with any sort of new innovation, there’s going to be adaptation, you know, those who adapt are going to sort of thrive and some are right and so when you look at it from it’s the The rules are gonna change, look, look at college basketball 20 years ago, versus now. Those who embrace the one and done, they kind of thrive, right. Krzyzewski, for years didn’t like the one and done, started losing. Embraced it and they got back on top, I think it’s gonna it’s going to be a new dynamic. Now. I think programs like Nebraska are well poised to benefit. The big programs, they got big, they got big pockets, they got a big name, they got a national profile. So from a sponsorship perspective, companies like Boost are gonna be more interested in sort of partnering with the Nebraska athletes. And they might, I don’t want to pick on any school right now. But some small State University and I don’t know, Wyoming. Now, I just picked on a school. But the point is, so I think it is going to potentially make the rich richer in some respects, and potentially sort of exacerbate the divide. But I think there’s an opportunity for those who embrace it to really, to kind of sort of rise together. And like I said, I think I think universities like Nebraska, who have the national stage and sort of have that sort of history in that cache’, are really well positioned to kind of really benefit from this.

Jon Johnston

I only have one more question after this. Is there anything I haven’t mentioned that you want to bring out?

Stephen Stokols

No, I mean, pretty thorough questions. To be honest, I think you touched on the main points. And like I said, I mean, we’re really excited about the Cavinder twins, because those twins, you know, first female athletes, they’re probably the top five, if not the top two most well known female, female athletes in college athletics right now.

They represent what we’re about, and they’re, you know, likewise, we can represent what they’re about. We’re very happy about that piece. But like I said, I mean, starting tomorrow, you’ll see us going after a lot broader group of athletes as well, including, you know, some of the the athletes that probably some of your listeners are fans of.

Jon Johnston

I lied, I have two more questions. When will we know we know more about the people that you’re going to be sponsoring. I mean, will this be immediate is it’s like KABOOM, we’re going and we’re moving or is this kind of a slow boil type thing,

Stephen Stokols

I think it’s probably between starting tomorrow, will start to move and it’ll be continue over the weeks. It’ll be more of a slow boil because as we approach college football, we’ll be bringing more and more football like, to me college football starting, it’s gonna be huge for college football this year. Covid’s over, fans are back in the stadium. So we’re going to be bringing on athletes focused on college football added over the next couple of months leading into the season. So it’s probably more of a slow roll where we’re going to be doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes starting tomorrow. And then these days will be announced incrementally. A lot of these announcements will be sort of regional in nature.

Jon Johnston

Excellent, excellent. You know, I’m glad to see this happen. I think that this has been a long time coming. Absolutely last question. Do you have any need for a spokesperson for the crusty old man that yells at Cloud marketplace?

Stephen Stokols

Never know if we can find one.

Jon Johnston

I might have somebody in mind if you’re ever you know, looking at that going, Hey, we’re missing this complete area where people are angry and they want cell phones.

Stephen Stokols

That’s a niche we might need to go after.

Jon Johnston

Exactly. All right. Anything else from your side?

Stephen Stokols

No, no, we’re excited and like you said it’s gonna be a busy next couple of days. A lot of noise in this space.

Jon Johnston

All right, well, thank you. Steven Stokol, for joining me and giving us some insight into what’s going on with Boost Mobile and NIL.

Stephen Stokols

Enjoyed it. Appreciate the time.

Jon Johnston Take care of yourself.

Stephen Stokols

Alright, thanks. You too.