When it comes to the business acumen of pro athletes, the bulk of the stories we’re told are of two extremes: The millionaires who somehow lost it all, or the pros whose skill for making money just get better with age.
The success stories of retired athletes like David Beckham and Michael Jordan, or Magic Johnson and Junior Bridgeman, are well documented. And a new generation of pros–like LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant–already have thriving business careers while still dominating on the court.
But James and his business partner Maverick Carter saw an opportunity to inspire not just athletes but everyone to be able to talk more about financial issues, with stories about finding your career path and being comfortable talking about the ups, downs, and everything else associated with it.
Today, Uninterrupted, James and Carter’s digital media startup that tells athletes’s stories, is launching a new podcast series that aims to tell some lesser-known, but no less inspiring stories of post-sports career success. The goal is not only to change the narrative around athletes and business, but also to take away the stigma often associated with discussing financial and business challenges. Think Wealthsimple’s Money Diaries, but for the ESPN set.
Branching Out is a new miniseries podcast that interviews former athletes about their career arcs after sports. It will be released as part of the company’s Kneading Dough podcast and video series, which is dedicated to talking to athletes about financial issues, challenges, and education.
“We look at Kneading Dough as a brand that stands for athletes being empowered to have a conversation about finances, about what they’re going to do post-career, what they think about when they’re not competing in their sport, what they’re investing in,” says Carter, who launched Uninterrupted in 2015. “What it shows people is that there is a way to have these discussions without it being an intimidating experience.”
While Carter stars in the video series, the podcast host of both Kneading Dough and Branching Out is former NFL wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who is a living, breathing example of what the series aims to portray. Now Uninterrupted’s director of business development, Hawkins interned at the company while still playing for the Cleveland Browns and getting his master’s degree in sports business management at Columbia University. “I was a solid NFL player,” Hawkins says. “I wasn’t a Super Bowl winner or contender, I wasn’t on a ton of winning teams. But on the business side, I feel like I’ve found my stride.”
The first episode talks to former NBA player Caron Butler, who retired last year after 14 years in the NBA. He and Hawkins discuss his unlikely journey from jail to the NBA, how he handled the financial side of pro sports, and how he started his career in broadcasting and business. In episode two, Hawkins sits down with director Matthew Cherry, a former journeyman NFL wide receiver who’s now a director and producer at Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions.
“It took him 12 years to get where he is,” says Hawkins. “It’s an amazing story that anyone can relate to, not just a pro athlete or former pro athlete. Finding your passion and understanding how to navigate life with it is universal.”
Branching Out is part of a larger brand partnership with Chase Bank, which also sponsors Kneading Dough. The podcast is actually recorded in local branches (Butler was recorded in Washington, D.C., and Cherry in Chicago), but beyond that, the brand thankfully stays in the background. Lois Backon, head of corporate partner marketing JPMorgan Chase, says this isn’t about selling a specific product, but rather being a part of a larger conversation that makes talking about money easier.
“Two stats astound me,” Backon says. “That 57% of Americans feel the least comfortable talking to friends and family about money over any other topic. And that half of Americans only have $400 in savings for an emergency. So we need to help educate consumers, and this was one step to be able to do that in a cool, relevant way.”
Carter says that in any brand investment, there are two things you should be doing: either solving a problem for people or bringing them in emotionally through storytelling. “I think Chase saw this as a way to emotionally connect with people, to show you don’t need to be an expert to have an open and honest conversation around finance,” he says. “By doing that, it empowers the viewer, which is what we strive to do at Uninterrupted.”