NIL Undressed

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Ryan Schachtner

21 May 2024

32m 4s

Staying Pliable in The New Era of College Sports With Greg Glynn



Greg Glynn is the Founder & CEO of Pliable, a versatile marketing, public relations and broadcasting company in Augusta, Maine. Pliable specializes in athlete branding.

With more than 20 years of experience in the sports industry, Greg Glynn, Founder & CEO of Pliable Marketing enjoys working side-by-side with high school, college and professional athletes to help them build their athlete brand. He is the creator of Pliable's 10-Step Athlete Branding Playbook, recognized as one of the industry’s most forward-thinking ideas for athletes to acquire the skills and tools to build their athlete brand, including securing name, image and likeness opportunities. He has been recognized in a variety of ways during his career, including being nominated for Mainebiz's 2023 Business Leader of the Year and Innovator of the Year.

Ryan: Welcome to Nil Undressed. I'm Ryan Schachner, and along with Cheney Robinson, the mayor of Rock Hill, South Carolina, Football City, USA, he once threw eleven touchdowns in one football game and right after that, hit three home runs. That's right, high school.

Greg: Yes, sir.

Ryan: Cheney. Today, I'm really excited, right, because this world of nil is, is extremely cluttered and there's few good people that, you know, have the right intentions of the athletes. I mean, a lot of people are just trying to, you know, get a piece of the pie, right? And so today we have Greg Glenn. He's the founder and CEO of Pliable, a versatile marketing, public relations and broadcasting company in Augusta, Maine. So this is the first individual I've actually met from Maine that's something. Pliable specializes in athlete branding. With more than 20 years of experience in the sports industry, Greg Glenn, founder and CEO of Pliable Marketing, enjoys working side by side with high school, college, and professional athletes to help them build their athlete brand. He is the creator of Pliables ten step athlete branding playbook, recognized as one of the industry's most forward thinking ideas for athletes to acquire the skills and tools to build their athlete brand, including securing name, image, and likeness opportunities. He's been recognized in a variety of ways during his career, including being nominated for main business 2023, business leader of the year, and innovator of the year. Greg, welcome to Nil Undressed.

Greg: Thank you very much, Ryan and Cheney. I'm excited to be with you guys today. There's a lot happening in this space, and I'm really excited to dive in.

Ryan: Absolutely. Well, let's get it going. Right. So 20 years in the sports industry, and then nil comes around and you make that shift to really help these athletes with nil. So what prompted you to, to, you know, course adjust?

Greg: Yeah, well, certainly my story is similar to yours, Ryan, in the sense that an injury ended up kind of leading me down a career path that I didn't see coming. I was actually in high school and I went in for my regular physical where, you know, you got to get cleared for camps in the year, and you're like, okay, I'll go. And, you know, my back had hurt, but I was just toughen it out. And they went in and they said, we'd like to get some x rays. And I'm like, okay. So they ended up seeing that I had a slipped disc. And I was told by the doctor at the time at, you know, 1415 years old that if I played hockey, I could get hit in a certain way and be paralyzed from the waist down. And at that moment, I mean, I knew my hockey career was over. You know, they're in a doctor's office, which is kind of tough as a 1415 year old to figure that out for sure. But I try to turn a negative into a positive. I've obviously, you know, kind of adopted that philosophy now, but as a teenager, you don't have that perspective. You're like, you're upset, you're probably crying. I mean, I was just devastated. But I, you know, tried to refocus, and I ended up starting to broadcast my high school hockey games because I had the knowledge, I had the skill, I had the passion. I just couldn't be on the ice. And so I ended up starting broadcasting the games, got the experience, got a competitive advantage, if you think about it. Cause I had two years of experience when I got to college. I went to Quinnipiac University, got in there as broadcasting mass communication school. And I actually was broadcasting games on the commercial radio station by the time I was ending my freshman year.

Ryan: Wow, how fun. That's impressive.

Greg: So I started broadcasting at Quinnipiac University my freshman year, I was actually on the commercial radio station, which doesn't happen, really. You're, you typically on the student radio station, you work your way up. But I had worked my way to WQUN at the time, which doesn't exist. That makes me feel really old right now. But the idea is that I used my opleet brand to basically, as a hockey player, have a career in broadcasting and then turn that into a career with the Portland Pirates, which is a minor league hockey team in Maine. So that's how I got to Maine, was through my broadcasting career, and I spent six seasons there. I saw pro sports up close and personal, and I was thinking to myself, holy smokes, these guys aren't getting media training. They need help with community relations. They need help, you know, with these appearances and everything. And I thought to myself, I kind of just planted the seed in the back of my head. I was like, wow, this is an untapped area now. That was back in like, 2006, 2009 range. Okay, so social media hadn't really come on the scene as much as it has now, right? And you throw in that into the mix, and you've got yourself a whole. Basically, you could have a PR person, if you really needed it at the pro level to be able to manage all this stuff, and you're building your brand. And I realized that. And what happened with me is I carried too much luggage into a hotel once because I was just wearing too many hats, tired and on the road and the whole nine yards. And my back eventually gave out. So I had to have a spinal surgery. That's when I realized I needed to slow things down. So I did. I met my wife and Augusta, Maine. I was at a PR agency after that because I couldn't be in sports. I couldn't be on buses 40 hours a week. Ended up basically there for 13 years. Gained pr experience, more marketing experience. I had a minor in marketing. And then when name, image and likeness came out and, you know, pandemic hit, I was like, if there's ever a time, Greg, this is the time. And it was game on from there.

Ryan: That's really cool. So what types of athletes do you represent? Cause I think with the media, right. So hitting on media, it's, it's a lot of, we see football players and we get the, you know, basketball and it's these big, you know, high profile sports that get the attention. So what type of athletes, what sports do you work with right now?

Greg: Yeah, it's a great question because I've seen that. And what I know from being around athletes is that I know my job, number one, is going to be easier if I'm working with people that are detail oriented, that are fully engaged, that understand the responsibilities. So what I decided when I started my company is that I'm going to have a motto and that is that I'm looking for good athletes that are great people. Because if I find great athletes that aren't good or great people, my job becomes really hard. Okay? So if I'm gonna help great people, what I need to do is build a team. I need people to have that team mentality which I know they're gonna have because they're athletes. So if I'm not gonna go get the biggest stars, I need to go and I need to find people that understand this is about more than just me, this is bigger than myself, this is Greg and pliable going out and finding opportunities for me. Even though I only have 2000 followers, how can I use my name, image and likeness to develop career opportunities so that I can leverage my athlete brand during and after my career. And those are the athletes that I want to work with. It's okay if you're a great athlete. I don't mind that, trust me. But I need you to be a great person first. That's the priority.

Ryan: Gotcha. When you, when you reach out to athletes, when you're talking to the athletes that you represent, initially right. We're talking to, and I know you have female lacrosse players, you have a female hockey player that you work with. What are the biggest questions that they have? Because, you know, I think, again, we see so much in the media about nil being for those higher profile athletes and. But you're not necessarily going. You're going after the good people. Right. And so what are their initial questions, concerns, hesitations that, that they typically have.

Greg: Yeah. So I've structured it interestingly so that I can build trust. So I would represent hundreds of athletes if I really wanted to. Right. Like that. That's an absolute possibility. I get emails every day. I could try and do that. But what I've set it up as is, like I talked about with that playbook and you mentioned at the top of the show, which is I've created this playbook for success. And I know having been in the media and on the media side, right. As a broadcaster, what I'm looking for is a way to build somebody to make them more marketable than anybody else. And quite honestly, the profiles that these athletes get when they go to college do them no justice. Like, if I'm trying to market myself, my stats from last year and my headshot and maybe where I went to high school and a few little stats about me, you know, are on that page, that doesn't make me marketable. Like, I've got, I've got to tell the story about how I faced adversity, how I overcame an injury. You know, look at Margo Norhad, who I just started working with. She had the number one goal on SportsCenter. Like, that's the marketable stuff. So if that's not in your profile, then you're missing a huge opportunity. So the first step in the process is an athlete profile. You need to have the stuff on there all in one place where a brand can look at you and go, wow, look at these academic achievements. Look at these athletic achievements. Look at the community relations. Look at the grade point average. I was talking to somebody the other day, you talk about businesses getting into this game. This is an online education company looking to try and help schools realize the potential of their academic platform. And the guy said to me, he said, what are the type of athletes you work with? And I said, this is going to be perfect for you because the athletes I work with, on average, I would say 80% of them have like a 3.8 GPa or higher. So that's going to be great for that brand because they literally have access to these academic all stars that are going to be, because I've recruited these great people, that's going to be a huge benefit to that company. And he didn't care about 80,000 followers. He cared about the academics and he cared about the access. If you think about access, if they've got 2000 followers, but they're all at that college, if you say there's this new academic platform that you should try, those 2000 followers that are in your same class sitting right next to you are probably going to be like, I should do what she's doing.

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So how do you, I mean, you're talking about getting an athlete to, you know, who's team focused. I'm part of a team helping the team humble, don't talk about myself. But in order to do this and build this, we need to highlight. You need to, you kind of have to bring some of that out. So how do you get them to, to process that?

Greg: Yeah, so I love helping educate and empower them. So they need to understand the role of public relations. They need to understand the role of marketing. Think about this. Not a lot of these athletes are actually marketing students, right? So a lot of them are in a different type of major. I've got doctors, you know, they want to get into the health sciences. You look at a lot of these athletes that may want to get into finance or something else different than marketing. So, I mean, I enjoy working with a girl like Audrey Everett, okay, who comes to me, she learned about me through another athlete I work with, which shows you the networking, right? This thing's going to spread quickly. She says to me, Greg, I trust your opinion. Whatever you think looks good, sounds good. That's what I want to do. And that to me, is so valuable because if she's able to understand and values the 25 years of experience that I have, rather than trying to go off and do our own rogue thing, that's going to create so much more efficiency for us. And she has actually created a pretty cool concept because we did this together, is that she's created this brand called Journey behind the jersey. And so what it is, is it actually highlights the athlete's career by having the name on the back of a shirt that then has all these words that are associated with their career. And so now she's built this kind of template, and I'll be able to carry that over to other pliable athletes that are going to want to do this. Because the other thing about it is, it's not about Audrey, okay? It's about the athlete journey. It's not about her. And that's a great example of someone who realizes this is more than just about me. And the funny thing about Audrey and why, again, she's a great, pliable athlete. When I interviewed her about why she wants to work with pliable, the first thing that came to her mind was, I just want to help people. And I'm like, this interview is over. You're a pliable athlete. Like, I mean, this is done. You know, I'm dear. Yeah. So I was like, this is perfect. And so she's off and running. She's got now, like three or four nil partnerships in her first month. I mean, that's just because we've made her more marketable.

Ryan: Yeah. So the athletes today, right, high school, college, and even pro, they've embraced nil. Right. This is a world that a lot of them are growing up in, right. But the parents grew up in an era where, you know, an amateur is an amateur and, you know, this is just so far off the reservation for them that it's hard for them to process. Right. I mean, we saw that all the media headlines were, nil is going to ruin college sports and all this kind of stuff. Right? So how, what kind of questions do parents have and how do you work with them to help kind of bring them up to speed on what nil is?

Greg: Great question, Ryan, because it one of the barriers I have to entry, right? So athletes will hear about this. They'll be like, yeah, let's go. I'm ready to try and build my brand. And I enjoy having the parents on the call because, number one, it saves time. Because if they have to explain to their parents that they talk to some guy on the Internet over a Zoom call and he's ready to help get them nil deals, I mean, I'm thinking about that as a parent myself. I'm like, to my daughter. I'm like, I don't know about this. I wanna hear what this is all about. Right? So what I ended up doing was creating a very thorough contract in case I don't get the parent on the line, that then allows the athlete to go to the parent and say, look, this is what's happening. This is what I'm looking to try and do. And by having a standard nine page document that literally outlines everything that I'm going to do, that at least gives the parents, I think, some credibility either to say, sure, go for it. Like, okay, we trust the process, or let's at least get it on a phone call. You know what I mean, and vet me out. And I'm great with that. Like I said, I love talking to parents. Parents are sometimes my biggest advocate once they realize what I'm doing, because they're going to realize that this is about more than just sports. This is about the future of their career and career development opportunities. And they go, wow. Yeah. Like, this is a no brainer. Yeah, that's right. There's your networking right there. That's the networking. Absolutely. I think that's a great point, Cheney, is that once they realize what we're trying to do here, that then they're going to go tell four or five more of their friends or the parents that I need to be able to bring in. I'll give you a great story. So Ella Berger out in Minnesota, her dad reached out to me two years ago now and said, my daughter's going to St. Thomas. I want to kind of understand this nil thing. And I was like, absolutely. So he ends up letting me know that Ella's pretty good at hockey. Well, it turns out she was really good at hockey. She ended up winning Miss hockey out in Minnesota her senior year. Okay. Pretty good. Yeah. So it's very humbling. Right. So he was very humble about it. He didn't come across with, my daughter is going to win miss hockey, or like, she's the greatest hockey player out there. So I knew that this was going to be a good fit. And sure enough, since then, now Ella has brought me two of her teammates. So I've got three girls on the St. Thomas women's ice hockey team that I work with. They then told their friends Janessa and Juliana Gazdick, they became pliable athletes, which led me to Josie St. Martin, who's now a future Ohio State Buckeye, who just won a world championship gold medal. That's how it works, you know, like, I can benefit from having good parents promoting what pliable is doing and going and finding more good people and great athletes and, you know, continuing on with what I'm trying to do.

Ryan: Absolutely. Well, but then at some point, you got to get the results right, so you've got to get nil deals. And so from my perspective, that's been, I mean, you saw, you see the big fortune 500 companies jumping in and just dumping money into this. Right. Which we knew they were going to do. Right. But you have other businesses that don't quite know if they fit, how they fit. So how do you help businesses understand how they can take advantage of Ni. How do you break through that, that barrier, that marketing barrier that. That most of them have.

Greg: Yeah, it's. It's a challenge. So we talk about the barriers that I have to entry. We talked about one already. That's the parents number two. Then I've got to have the barrier to get through to the businesses where I think there's the biggest opportunity, quite honestly, is local. You know, the local pizza shop, the local car dealership, the local chiropractor, the local trainer who's literally been training you probably for 15 years of your life, and you have a really good relationship with. That's the opportunity that's at stake because you've already got a personal relationship. Now I just need to come in as a third party, which the parents really appreciate because the last thing they want to be doing is wheeling and dealing. Right. For their athlete who they've already had a relationship with. And it kind of gets weird. I've heard that a lot from these parents is we don't know enough to make this happen. Greg, we need you to come in and kind of help facilitate this. So that's been a big area where I can help. Contracts are so important. Right. This is not a handshake. This is not a. Oh, yeah, hey, this is what we'll do. That gets into a lot of problems because if you don't know how many social media posts you're supposed to make or what you're supposed to be doing, that's when relationships dissolve. Because you think you're doing more and you're not getting your fair share or that business asked you to do ten more posts and you're like, wait a second. How many was I supposed to do? You know? And so it's really important to have somebody that knows the rules, knows what a contract's supposed to look like and how you're supposed to execute and deliver on it. And as a full service marketing company, I have the skills and tools to empower these athletes, to have checklists, to have approval process on posts, what you're supposed to say, how to follow the Federal Trade Commission rules on influencer marketing. There are so many athletes out there right now that are breaking federal laws and they don't have a single clue. That's a huge problem.

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and it seems like you've created that again. You have that process and the checkpoints that help make sure that these athletes, that your athletes, the pliable athletes, are doing things the right way to, again, help them in the future, but also keep them out of trouble, you know, while they're. While they're doing all of it.

Greg: Yeah, because, and again, like you said, the businesses I have to. What I do sometimes is I will go do an athlete outreach tour. So I will go on my own dime, because I know what's going to happen when I go into a business with Katie Shanahan on my left and I say, katie wants to work with you, Katie, explain what you're up to. And then, because she's been trained in this world, she's able to deliver her talking points. Confident young woman who says, this is what I want to do. This is what I have. This is how many followers I have. And that's when the magic happens. I am literally, guys, undefeated. When I go and I do these athlete outrage chores, I am nine and o, like, I will go to your college or to your hometown, and I will get you a partnership. I have no qualms about that.

Ryan: Well, and I think you hit one of the big pieces, the communication piece. Right. Being able to separate yourselves through communication, to be able to highlight your strengths, the value that you're going to be able to bring. And that's important in nil deals. But it's also important for a lot of these high school athletes that are trying to get to that next level. And they're talking to coaches, and, uh, they have to now compete with these transfer portal athletes. And, you know, being able to separate yourself among the crowd and stand out by being able to communicate the right way is just so. I mean, it's a life skill, obviously. But the earlier they can learn it, the. The bigger opportunities, you know, not just in nil that they're going to have.

Greg: Yeah. And I think a great example of this is Maddie Niles. So I started working with Maddie. Funny story. I was broadcasting her games, live streaming field hockey at Lawrence High School. And not this year, but the year before, she went off for 38 goals in a season. Okay. She only plays 18 games. Like, you know, that's ridiculous. And the funny thing is, if you know anything about field hockey, she did it on grass, so she wasn't even on turf. And I was like, this girl is amazing. And then I started to network to find out who her parents were. Things like that great kid heard all the right things. So I start working with Maddie. She's got, like, 400 followers. She had never made an Instagram post before. Okay. So we start working together, and she's, of course, like, I want to play division one field hockey. And she's up in Benton, Maine. And as I like to joke with people, there probably are 75% of the people here in Maine that don't know where Benton, Maine, is. Okay? So you've got to make yourself marketable if you're going to reach division one coaches in Benton, Maine, you're going to need to market yourself. And so she embraced that. Her parents embraced it. This was not about going to make money for Matty. What this was about was, let's use Nil partnerships as a way to get Maddie on the radar for these coaches and get her out there on Instagram, give her a social media presence that will allow them to find her. And if you do a YouTube search or a Google search for Maddie Niles, now, you've got at least 20 results that are about Maddie Niles because she's used name, image, and likeness to get a deal with a maple syrup company. She's a former Miss Mini Maple, by the way, in a beauty pageant, so that didn't hurt. Okay. But you've also got her now with Aroma Joe's, which is an up and coming, you know, coffee and energy drink company that she works with. So all it takes is just a little bit of that confidence, and, as I like to say, that swagger. Right? Like, let's give these kids some swagger and then see what happens. And she's an amazing athlete. She was actually the female pliable athlete of the year this year because of the. Not only the contributions, obviously, to her field hockey team and athletically, but her work in the community has been unbelievable. She raised with her team over $10,000 for. To raise awareness for domestic violence. She raised over $1,800 with her team and got together a team for the Travis Mills foundation that supports recalibrated veterans. This girl is outstanding. And here I am in Benton, Maine, finding what I would say is a huge diamond in the rough.

Ryan: Absolutely. Well, I think that's kind of the. The, um. The part that's not talked about is a lot of these athletes, what they're doing for the community, uh, that doesn't. I mean, it. It goes, you know, unnoticed, uh, to. To the nil industry. Right.

Greg: The impact.

Ryan: I. You know, I'd be curious if you take. If you take the non football basketball players, right. And you say, all right, how much have. Have this other group done for the community? I would be interested to see what that number is. Cause I think. I think it would. I think it would beat the football basketball players.

Greg: Yeah, I do. And the other thing that's really important, I think, here, is look at what nil can do for communities, what it can do for nonprofits people don't see that side enough. We see it a little bit around Thanksgiving. Guys or girls donating, you know, turkeys or raising money, donating to charity, you know, but there's so much more of this going on in our communities than we even hear about. And so I really try to help athletes. One thing I will say, aroma Joe's here in Maine. Up and coming company. I just mentioned them with Matty, but they have five pliable athletes they work with now. They're called community ambassadors. They are not out there saying, hey, buy this drink. They are literally out in the community. They now have a vehicle because a Roma Joe's is involved in the community, but they don't have the influencers to be able to say all the wonderful things they're doing. So when they match up with an athlete that's a pliable athlete that already is engaged and wants to do stuff in their community, it's a perfect fit. It's why Natalie Bowden, who, by the way, is at Lewiston High School, where they had those mass shootings in October, raised over $1,000 for those families selling t shirts that say, we are one Lewiston. And that is a great example of why she's a community ambassador. That earned her that opportunity.

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. All right, one last question and we'll let you get going.

Greg: Yeah, no worries.

Ryan: So, prediction on where nil goes from here? Because there's a lot of craziness and all that. Who's going to govern it and all that kind of stuff. But your prediction on maybe the next year or two in the nil space?

Greg: I think that schools are going to try to have a little bit more education. We've seen that already. The NCA has said now, starting in August, they are going to have to provide more education. So that's going to open eyeballs for a lot more of these students. It's not going to be just the orientation thing. They're going to end up partnering with a lot of these nil platforms and providers that will increase the awareness. Then you're going to increase the awareness. The big question is going to be how much of a role will schools play in name, image and likeness and what power will they have. And obviously, right now, a lot of the talk is around collectives and what's going to happen to collectives. I also think keeping an eye on the unionization of athletes is going to be a huge thing. I will tell you this is, I'm disappointed that athletes right now, from the current talk, are only going to get dollar 600 to be in a video game, that's, that in my mind is not enough. And I think that that's certainly something we need to kind of keep an eye on because there will be more of these bulk deals that kind of start to happen. You're going to start to see some rogue athletes. I mean, if you watch the movie the national championship, I mean, that literally was about boycotting the national championship. Game over nil. So as more awareness comes to this topic, I think schools are going to have to get more involved because here's why. From a branding perspective, there's a lot at stake for them. A lot at stake. And every state is different with the rules and the laws. So I think we're gonna start to see some of these schools realize, and maybe the NCAA, depending on how long they have any power or control, because it's slipping away every day. I think you're going to see the pressure come back on the schools and they're going to realize we have to step up to the plate and they're going to have to realize that education is going to be the key to that.

Ryan: Yeah, very good. Man, this was great. How can people look up pliable? How can they find you?

Greg: Absolutely. So they can go to I have a lot of information there. Under the athletes tab, you'll be able to see all the pliable athletes that I work with. I also do recruitment videos. I really enjoy that because I can find my next athlete that way, which is great. The other thing I would encourage them to do is follow pliable marketing on social media. So p l I a b l e m k t g on Instagram, twitter, you can stay up to date on all these athletes and what I do. And then the other thing I'm just going to end with, because it is at the core of what pliable is all about, is mission e 50. So when I created my company, I started an initiative that is called mission E 50. And it is that I will always represent more than 50% female athletes. I have a twelve year old daughter. I've seen the inequality in women's sports. I've seen it through the athletes I work with. It is not cool. And so I've taken this on through name, image and likeness opportunities, quite honestly, that I know that's going to increase the popularity of women's sports. And I'm ready to take on that mission. And if you look up the hashtag mission E 50, take a look at the impact that we've made already in just two years.

Ryan: Very cool. We will definitely check that out. Greg hey, this was a home run. We appreciate you coming on and thanks everybody for joining every as a reminder, every like subscribe, share and comment is greatly appreciated.

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