Whistle Sports has expanded its senior team with the addition of Joyce Parente, who will serve as the company’s new SVP of marketing brand partnerships. With time spent at major media companies like National Geographic and Complex Media, Whistle Sports CEO John West calls Parente a “marketing leader who has consistently developed content-led campaigns for the best known entities in media.” Under her guidance, Whistle Sports aims to ramp their branded content efforts with existing clients like Nike, Marriott and Gatorade and expand the companies client roster. “She’s an essential asset for our brand partners, who are always looking for the best ways to unlock the power of our content and community to help drive a brand message.”
The hire comes at a time when the overall video industry is in slight duress, but Whistle Sports has attempted to diversify its business from a network model that represents 500+ digital-native creators like Dude Perfect, DevinSuperTramp, The F2, Nitro Circus, FaZe Clan and Team Edge to a 360 degree media company. And with competitors like ESPN entering the space, now is a good time to get more aggressive on grabbing sports-focused advertisers. Parente replaces Michael Davis who departed from the role in January.
“Time and again, Whistle Sports has proven adept at making an impact with…difficult-to-reach consumers, engaging them with funny, inspiring, and entertaining content,” said Parente. “I’m eager to take that story to market because in our brand safety-focused times, Whistle Sports stands tall as a leader and an innovator.”
Given the current state of media and advertising, VideoInk picked Joyce Parente’s mind to get a sense of how Whistle might stand to retain that position as a “leader and innovator” and how the company is planning to open up its roster.
VideoInk: The industry has undergone some major shifts, both with video and media/branded entertainment. What do you think is crucial for a company like Whistle Sports to activate to sustain brand supported video?
Parente: “Unlike others in the space, Whistle Sports is not simply a production company. We have our own roster of original programming. We’re a brand. We have a fan base, and we have intelligence about them, what moves them and where their eyeballs are fixed. So, we are perfectly poised to flip that script for brand partners. To sustain our brand-supported video trajectory, it is crucial that we continue to maintain a direct-to-consumer presence while innovating around fresh, original, surprising content themes.
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VI: From your work with Complex I’m sure you have built the types of campaigns that resonate with a core male audience. Can you give us any lessons learned about campaigns that work? And how you see the op for Whistle Sports in the same category?
Parente: An authenticity-first approach to embracing their (various) passion points is key. Brands can misstep by appearing to glom on to a particular community because it is suddenly desirable, like eSports, for example. The audience will sniff out that self-serving agenda, and at worst, generate negative chatter. What will resonate is when a brand delivers real value back to the enthusiast group; value that tacitly communicates to the people that they understand their world, they celebrate their world and want to contribute to their passion. For Whistle Sports, we go to market as an advocate for our audience and as a brand that is driven by a desire to serve them, not “leverage” them. We advise our brand partners to do the same.
VI: What excites you about Whistle Sports’ business and this opportunity?
Parente: I’d isolate three things:
—Whistle Sports’ distribution model is “of its time” in a way that a lot of other companies have not mastered, and in fact, are struggling to maintain meaningful scale. I’m excited to follow the viewers and continue to be ahead of the curve in terms of where we make our programming available.
—I’m also motivated by our dedication to thoroughly examine and explore the Gen Z mindset. We’re putting our money where our mouth is with a wide scope of proprietary research, not a re-hash of third-party data. Our insights are deeper and more accurate.
—Our commitment to a 100% brand safe environment is something I welcome as a marketer. It certainly gives us an edge in the marketplace because we can bring that peace of mind to brands without any fancy filtering.
VI: With brands like Bleacher Report, ESPN, Barstool and a handful of others trying to sort OTT video in sports, what’s the distribution of dollars looking like for 2018?
Parente: We’ve been ramping up resources on the studio side based on our previous successes, which will live on both OTT and Whistle Sports’ owned and operated platforms. We are also particularly excited to expand with content in new areas like YouTube Premium, the newly renamed YouTube Red service.
VI: Given the recent shift from “demographics” to “psyche graphics”, do you see ops for female focused brands to also come to Whistle Sports?
Parente: Our content is appealing and entertaining and not processed through a male-only lens. I think a female-focused brand would benefit from a “showcase” effect and would be lauded for breaking an assumed gender bias. However, the reality is that brands, more than ever, hyper target (because they can now) and so someone would have to be willing to be a pioneer of sorts.