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The sports and media publisher Boardroom is on pace to generate eight-figure revenue and record its fourth straight year of profitability in 2024, said cofounder Rich Kleiman.
The 30-person publisher, founded in 2019, covers the worlds of sports, hip-hop, sneaker culture, marijuana and music—recent stories include an interview with snowboarder Scotty James and coverage of Damian Lillard’s sneaker deal—and it has found solid footing in the unstable business of digital media in large part due to the connections of its founder.
Kleiman is the business partner of National Basketball Association superstar Kevin Durant, and Boardroom has made ample use of this connection to land advertising deals, brand partnerships and other business.
“By having my partner be Kevin Durant and having the network that I had, I realized that we had all this ammunition to build a platform,” Kleiman said. “We could use the Boardroom brand to be the storytelling vehicle for everything.”
The publisher is one of a growing number of younger media companies, alongside Semafor and Puck, to interweave an experiential business into its product offering from launch. The strategy helps it land premium brand deals despite a relatively small readership, creating momentum that Boardroom has used to grow the rest of its business.
Boardroom has worked to build a lucrative events business, and its appeal is predicated largely on its ability to lure celebrities, artists and professional athletes into intimate settings.
Already this year, it has booked around $4 million in revenue, according to Kleiman. Its top-line revenue grew 5% year over year in 2022 and 7% in 2023.
“Celebrity is a shortcut,” said Jeff Weiner, a partner at experiential agency Work x Work. “Someone with a lot of social capital willing to lend it to you can kick-start a flywheel effect, with the hope that eventually you can operate without them.”
Considering LeBron James’ SpringHill Company and Steph Curry’s Unanimous Media, “Athlete-led and supported media brands are the wave now,” said Jermaine Spradley, media analyst and former publisher of SB Nation. “And they will continue to grow in popularity and engagement—and eventually in their sophistication around navigating the modern digital economy.”
Advisory and advertising
Boardroom generates the majority of its revenue from two primary businesses, split almost evenly, that often intersect: an events, content and partnership operation; and an advisory service facilitated largely by Kleiman and a small team.
The advertising and partnerships business extends over the standard touchpoints of the Boardroom website, its video footprint, events sponsorship and newsletters, according to Kleiman. About one-half of this revenue comes from a mix of direct and programmatic advertising, while 35% comes from events and 15% comes from video licensing.
The publisher attracts roughly 500,000 unique visitors to its site monthly, according to measurement firm Comscore, and it has 810,000 YouTube subscribers and four newsletters with a cumulative 175,000 free subscribers, according to Kleiman. It plans to launch a fifth newsletter, about women’s sports, in the next few months.
The remaining 50% of its revenue comes from an advisory service Kleiman leads, in which he and a small team work with brand partners to accomplish commercial goals largely unrelated to Boardroom itself.
For instance, Kleiman was tapped by Major League Baseball to curate a dinner of 50 influential figures to kick off the spring training season in Arizona. Durant, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, will attend, as will teammate Devin Booker and other Arizona athletes, such as football star J.J. Watt.
The dinner, and an accompanying panel moderated by Kleiman, will be captured on video, which will then be shared across the Boardroom social channels and included in a newsletter write-up.
“The advisory service is largely deals, brand and talent that I work for Kevin where we carve out money that flows through Boardroom,” Kleiman said.
Turning connections into revenue
Boardroom takes further advantage of its proximity to Durant through its experiential business, which is set to include around 10 events in 2024, according to Kleiman.
Boardroom events typically feature a small collection of cultural and commercial luminaries, which are then sponsored by blue-chip brands looking to connect with the attendees. For instance, in February, the publisher will host a brunch sponsored by Steph Curry and an entertainment summit presided over by actor Michael B. Jordan.
The primary attraction for sponsors—including Visa, Coinbase and Meta—is the introductions the events provide to their influential participants, said Weiner.
“It’s harder than ever to get access to decision-makers,” Weiner added. “Relationship-based marketing is the name of the game, and those introductions are more important than ever.”