Derek Jeter's digital media company, The Player's Tribune, has been ad-free for its first four months, but now it's bringing on its first big sponsor: Porsche.
The retired New York Yankees shortstop is partnering with the iconic sports car brand as his site moves beyond its start-up phase and eyes everything from brand integration to native advertising.
There will, of course, be more advertisers to come for the site, where professional athletes create and edit the content. The Player's Tribune can easily reach out to marketers who already work with the site's athlete-editors, a team that includes Jeter; NASCAR's Danica Patrick; the NFL's Russell Wilson; the NBA's Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant; MLB pitcher Matt Harvey; and LPGA star Stacy Lewis.
Another easy source of potential advertisers will be the deep bench of team and league sponsors.
"We've gotten a lot of interest, which is kind of cool," Jeter tells Adweek.
Jeter's final season in pinstripes was memorably saluted by sponsors such as Gatorade and Nike. Since soft-launching his site in October, he said he's been surprised by the level of interest, not just from athletes, but from companies wanting to go into business with Jeter and his peers.
"They like our mission. They like what we're doing," Jeter said. "They find the stories interesting. It makes me excited."
Porsche Cars North America spokeswoman Cristina Cheever confirmed the brand will serve as an "event sponsor and advertiser." Porsche itself is coming off a winning season: sales rose 11.1 percent in 2014.
The Player's Tribune launched ad-free to allow athletes to shape its voice, said president Jaymee Messler. Now, it's looking to create "integrated brand opportunities" that connect sponsors with the "authentic" voices of the athletes. "We're going to start seeing a lot more of that," she said.
The Player's Tribune has also announced a strategic partnership with AOL to co-produce and distribute exclusive content across both platforms.
Athletes have become the "new rock stars," said Dermot McCormack, president of AOL Videos and AOL Studios. More than anything else, fans and advertisers want to go behind the velvet ropes and get to know star athletes on a more personal level.
"Access is everything," McCormack said. "If The Player's Tribune and Derek Jeter have something that's really strong, its that they built this access."