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Why You Should Care

When the biggest name in kids’ entertainment partners with the biggest league in sports, a truly unique kids and family cross-platform experience is born. Dive deep into creative creation with Martellus Bennett and the leaders of the imagination in this hit session from Hashtag Sports 2017.

Check out the full video and transcript below!


Transcript

Keith Dawkins: It’s true. That is true. You know real doesn’t exist.

Dawn Hudson: That’s a new product idea.

Martellus Bennett: I like making new products [laughter]

Jason Feifer: I’m just going to jump into this because this is going to go in a different direction. Hello everybody, my name is Jason Feifer, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. I’m really excited to be here on this panel. We’re talking about something that, I am a little too early of a father to be fully aware of. My son is two so we’re still just watching fire trucks on YouTube, but eventually we will be watching sports on Nickelodeon, no doubt.

Hudson: Next year!

Feifer: Next year? You start them at three?

Hudson: [points at Martellus] His daughter’s three.

Feifer: Your daughter started watching Nickelodeon?

Bennett: My daughter loves football. “Daddy, you play football? You fall down, but you get up!” That’s a life lesson right there. [laughter] You fall down you get up, Jett.

Hudson: My niece says football is “men who go boom.”

Bennett: That makes a lot of sense cause we do go boom a lot.

Feifer: Is that copyrighted? You could run with that. Let me introduce the folks up here before we just…

Dawkins: Gets out of control?

Feifer: It’s already out of control [laughter] I’m trying to keep this thing together, people. Okay, what we’re going to do here is I’m going to introduce everyone and then we’re going to talk a little bit about the partnership and then we’ll watch a video and then we’ll kind of get into a conversation about how these brands have worked together and how you’re going to be innovative to reach this new audience.

So, starting down at the left here… This is Dawn Hudson the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the NFL. Sorry for reading bios, but if I had memorized it I would have gotten in all wrong. Dawn is responsible for building the fan base of the NFL and growing the NFL brand.

Bennett: [Yells and claps]

Feifer: She also oversees marketing for the NFL Network at NFL events including the Super Bowl and the Draft. Martellus Bennett…

Bennett: [Yells and claps]

Feifer: You may have recognized him from “men who go boom.” It’s a show on TV. And, in edition to Martellus’ career in the NFL, he also has a company called The Imagination Agency, a four-person agency…

Bennett: Yeah but we…

Feifer: You’re going to question that again? What’s going to happen…

Bennett: Hi guys, I’m Martellus Bennett [laughs]

Feifer: There you go. Anyway, Martellus is a Super Bowl Champion. He’s got multi…

Hudson: Why are you not wearing your ring?

Bennett: Because it has 283 diamonds on it. I don’t want to get robbed. “Hey, I got a target on my back, take my ring.”

Feifer: Martellus runs a multimedia creative production company focusing on children’s literature, entertainment, and education. And he works quite a lot with Nickelodeon.

And then Keith Dawkins here is the Executive Vice President of TeenNick and NickToons. And then under NickToons is Nick Sports. I have that right?

Dawkins: Yeah, that’s right.

Feifer: Yeah, there’s a lot of layers of Nick. It’s Nick all the way down. Philosophy majors? [points to crowd] No? Okay. Keith is in charge of further mining programming and partnership opportunities in deepening Nick’s relationship with sport leagues and athletes.

So… yes sir? [points to Bennett with hand-raised]

Bennett: Can we get that time back?

Feifer: Yeah, we blew a lot of time on that. That’s my fault, I was trying to keep this thing running.

Bennett: Did you introduce yourself?

Feifer: Yeah, at the very beginning

Bennett: Okay, I wasn’t here for that.

Feifer: I’ll do it again. [crowd laughs] Jason Feifer, Editor-in-Chief at Entrepreneur Magazine, failure as a leader of this group. But we’re going to keep trying.

Hudson: It is the end of the afternoon.

Feifer: Everyone just wants to drink. Keith, set us up with what’s going on with the NFL and Nickelodeon, and then let’s take a look at it, and then let’s talk about how it’s…

Dawkins: Got it. Okay, I’ll be frank and short and concise as I can be…

Feifer: Yeah, because Martellus is watching the clock

Dawkins: Ten thousand years ago, we had a meeting with the NFL talking about a variety of ideas — those ideas don’t matter — but what was important then, and 10,000 years later, was that the NFL has always been completely focused on the notion of how to do we create the next generation of NFL fans?

They know who they are in the space now but they’ve always been focused on — for a seven-, or eight-, or nine-year-old today or the one that’s to come — how do we create? And I thought ‘Wow, that’s interesting!’ Those guys are focused — they had a whole youth strategy around it and what they were focused around kind of attached to our audience, our networks.

So we partnered up then around this piece of IP called “Rush Zone” which was a digital property that they had: Create your 32 team avatars. [We then] created a short form series that went into a long-form series… But the main thing was they were focused always on how do you create that lifelong fan? And they have a focused strategy and a focused team, and they haven’t deviated from that since we’ve been in business with them.

On the — that’s my experience with you guys; you may feel otherwise — on the athlete side, you know what’s interesting is, we create this playground for after you come to play, but what we found is, as you play with these athletes more and more, if you get to know Martellus, being a professional athlete is like “Oh, he plays for the Packers.” That’s why you hear Super Bowl ring. It’s like number 55 on his list of how he identifies. I literally exaggerate that not. You will have a conversation for two hours.

So into play comes Nickelodeon because it could be on the oldest end of the demo of the athlete: “I have a four-year-old who’s watching Paw Patrol.” On the youngest end of the athlete, it’s “I grew up watching Nickelodeon” and, oh my gosh, he sits in that in between growing up watching animation and cartoons and films and blah blah blah… He wants to talk about that way more than anything else. He wants to inspire his child in this space.. Some [are] like “Oh, this is a great pen to play in!” Right?

They’re [the NFL] focused on the audience for their agenda, right? He’s [Martellus] focused on “I grew up in this space and I’m inspired by some stuff. I want to create some content for this next generation and for my daughter.” And it works.

So, our whole strategy is kind of built around, how do we mine content from a new pool of partners? How do we market ourselves, Nickelodeon, off our screens and not just be arrogant like the NFL’s not trying to be arrogant and go “We’re big and number one” but how do we be humble and go “We need to build ourselves into a success 20 years from now, so we’re still relevant.”

So we’re trying to not be arrogant: ‘We’re Nickelodeon, number one.’ How do we market ourselves off our screens and go to the other passion points that are important to our audience? Sports being one of them.

And that’s how this relationship all comes together, and I think the video we’re about to click to is kind of a cumulation of the work that we’ve done with the NFL this past year, Super Bowl 51 in Houston, but you’ll see a content play. You’ll see on the ground marketing activation. You’ll see digital, social expansions that all speak to that content from new pool of partners. Marketing stuff up off of our screens, and by the way if we get it right, monetize this stuff. This is a new pool of advertisers that come in. So that’s what it takes.

Feifer: Sounds good, let’s watch it.

[Video plays]

Feifer: So everybody in the audience gets slimed after this panel?

Dawkins: Yes.

Hudson: It’s not after, it’s during!

Dawkins: We’ve got hoses…

Feifer: Five minutes — everyone gets slimed.

Dawkins: I’m sorry, I was just going to say to that, it’s you know for us, it’s… if you haven’t been to the Super Bowl, what’s humbling about the Super Bowl, I mean you know it’s big, but it’s BIG when you’re there; it’s seismic.

To be able to be a part of that and to see kids faces get passionate around our brands is like “Wow!” Within this zeitgeisty idea, the excitement… So to me what I hope is, you’re seven, eight, nine — you’re coming there for the Super Bowl. You’re not coming for Nickelodeon. You’re coming there for what the NFL’s doing. You’re already a fan. You’re going “Wow!” This idea was there within the Super Bowl? That is the pivot moment where when I was that age I’m deciding between am I going to do MLB, I’m going to do whatever… right?

And Tony Dorsett became my guy, how did he [points to audience member] become a Cowboys fan, right? You’re making those choices at those ripe ages. Someone has come through those doors, and we don’t know who that kid’s name is, but they showed up for the Super Bowl, Nickelodeon was there, and they went “Wow! NFL I’m in for life.” And hopefully they also went “Nickelodeon understands what I am about as a kid, and from the sports side, I’m Nickelodeon for life.”

Hudson: It’s just it’s the most unbelievable brand partnership, I think, because they want to get more development in sports, because it’s still one of the top entertainment choices for kids, and we want to be part of kids’ talk and discussion.

In our past, we’ve actually tried just broadcasting flag games, which was nice, but it wasn’t taking advantage of what Nickelodeon is. Let’s bring sense of humor. Let’s bring fun. Let’s go to the Super Bowl. Let’s face it, how many seven-, eight-, or nine-year-olds get to go to the Super Bowl? But they want to go. They want to go behind-the-scenes and they want to see it through a kids’ eyes, not through what we, at the NFL, might tell them about it.

Dawn Hudson, CMO at NFL
Dawn Hudson smiles as the crowd reacts to Martellus Bennett. (Steve Luciano, Hashtag Sports)

So I just think it’s such a natural for two brands. It’s so effortless in a way because it just fits and it works, and to me the key though is to keep it fun. Not arrogant; playful. And I think that’s been the evolution of the partnership, it’s become even more, kind of stretching the boundaries to have more fun and be more spontaneous. What do you think? [Turns to Martellus]

Bennett: Hey guys. I think, I think it’s huge to have both the creativity and sports because when you play sports, you grow up a little bit faster because you focus on your team, you learn how to — you learn discipline, you become way more disciplined than you should. You should be, but still it’s important to remember to be a kid.

If you go around the NFL locker room like Tom Brady’s about to be 40, but he’s one of the youngest guys in the locker room. So like playing sports keeps you young, but growing up in sports grows you up faster ’cause you’re older than you would be as a kid that’s just playing around. It’s always interesting to me because I feel, at one point in the future, there need to be activations at the actual stadium for the games for kids because kids are at the tailgates. They’re just standing on the street throwing footballs around. But it’d be really cool, if you can go get slimed or you know interact with different characters, and it could be traveling to different games. Maybe it’s like the Thursday Night games where a Nickelodeon is there for those games in those towns? I’m just doing y’all some money right now! [Laughs]

Dawkins: I appreciate that. I appreciate that. I’m writing them all down up here. But to the point you just brought up, I mean, that’s the other pieces to the growing up fast. The world that they [athletes] live in is constantly like: “Tell me about your contract, tell me about the free agent thing, tell me…” but when they come out [with us] we’re not asking any of that. So what we get out of the athlete is like this refreshing different idea because we represent a part of the media that they don’t deal with all the time. So they can just be their human selves which people forget that even exists.

Hudson: I also think — and this is just me and the players I’ve interacted with — but they do grow up fast and they work so damn hard from an early age…

Bennett: We can say damn?

Hudson: We can say damn.

Bennett: Okay

Hudson: [jokes] You can but…

Feifer: Don’t push it Martellus. [Laughter]

Hudson: …to get to the NFL and yet, you know they’re still really young. A rookie is only 21 years old, and remember not that long ago they were a kid and they like to play around, and have that fun. And in a way, Nickelodeon is an outlet to get back to…

Dawkins: An “old” veteran is thirty. [Looks at Martellus] That was just a hypothetical.

Bennett: I totally agree with you because you’re grinding all the time — from childhood like you kind of have to to become a pro athlete, you kind of got to get rid of all this stuff in order to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish.

But there’s something about that inner child staying alive. When that inner child is able to live forever then that human being… Like, the creative adult is the is the inner child that survived. You know so like we’re athletes — there’s a lot of creative athletes out there, but the sports world kind of shuns that. Like “You like can you read? You play sports and you’re a writer? Nobody wants to read what you write. Like come on man, you’re an athlete.” Like there we get labeled as a “dumb jock” so a lot of guys stick in a dumb jock space and they lose out on that creative space and that creative haven.

And a lot of guys are super super into a lot of stuff because we’re parents — so I watch Paw Patrol every morning. You know what I’m saying? I watched Dora The Explorer. “Swiper, no swiping! Come on, Boots!” You know so [we] watch it all because we’re parents, so whatever’s on the television, we’re watching it. I grew up with that boom and the 90s with Doug, Rocko’s Modern Life, you know, Ren and Stimpy, Spongebob was a little bit after me, but I respect Sponge.

Feifer: Salute your shorts? [Laughter]

Bennett: Respect the Sponge. Salute your shorts. What was it, myth bender? Like All That, Nick At Nite. Well Nick At Nite was more I Love Lucy — that was another thing though. I did love Lucy though. I had a crush on Lucy.

Feifer: Take me into, sorry, I mean, you could just keep going every other show that you remember…

Bennett: I’m just letting you know that’s a part of my childhood and…

Dawkins: Lucy might take us down a rabbit hole.

Bennett: Yeah, Lucy is a whole other field though.

Feifer: Take us into the conversations that happen about how to translate sports for kids. What are kids looking for? What gets them excited? What or how do you start thinking about where to take NFL content and bring it to kids?

Dawkins: I will say my experience with the NFL which is, you know, it’s interesting how on the outside, you might think we’re different companies; I have find over the years we’re wildly similar.

There’s a grounding in research; these guys have a truckload of research they do that guides their stuff. We have a truckload of research that guides what we do. They’re intellectually curious though the other way. What do you guys know about your audience? What are you doing in digital, social? What are you doing with blah blah blah? I mean they are, we are both wildly… [Makes hand gesture]

Hudson: Process oriented.

Dawkins: Yep, here’s the date. We will line it up and then the pitbulls go. Now what’s interesting that is you have two bullish organizations who are very big and powerful and successful in their own thing and that’s created pain points, but that’s just like any organization, you work through that and then you find the common sweet spots.

And so what has been pleasurable about working with these guys is we will go, they’ll go “Here’s what we’re looking to achieve: upcoming season, kickoff, Super Bowl… Super Bowl 50 was a great thing. They were very articulate with what we’re trying to achieve and we’ll go “Here’s where we’re at in the space. Here’s what the research is saying. Here’s what our research is saying.” And then you start to go from that and start to get down into “Here’s what we’d like to do.”

Hudson: But I think what’s interesting about that too is with all the research and the planning, there’s a permission in your organization in mind to challenge status quo, and not say “This is what we did that last year, so we have to do it again.” It’s like if we’re both trying to do this and this is happening, the media world is changing so fast.

You can’t say “Okay, here’s our cookie cutter approach. We’re going to pump it out every year.” And that’s what I think is really great about the partnership and why it’s almost a decade old, but we’re going to do new things all the time.

Dawkins: An honesty in the relationship which I think companies need to have. We don’t work for the same company. But at some point you need to be able to have honest conversation. So there’s been this conversation that, you know, we’ve had them on both sides like that didn’t feel good around this thing. “Here’s what I’m looking to do next time. This doesn’t work, we can’t do that.” You know what let me be open to that. These things are an iterative process. They take awhile to get there. But essentially there’s a colleague that works, in their group who, we were talking about something, and she said to me “I kind of wish you guys were on like the floor down or the floor up, so we could talk.”

I’m like that’s like the greatest compliment! Separate organizations, but it was almost like she — this is Jaime Weston — that’s where our relationship has gotten to. You have to be kind of open and honest and visible around what you’re trying to achieve. There needs to be a trust factor in if I’ve said we’re looking to achieve this…

Hudson: …We have to celebrate birthdays together.

Dawkins: … We have to celebrate birthdays together, right?

Bennett: That’s nice.

Dawkins: It’s always nice common goals, clarity, visibility.

Bennett: I’m just here for comedic relief.

Dawkins: …look back at the mistakes. Let them be mistakes for a moment, move forward, make it iterative and build on the wins.

Feifer: Martellus, how do you translate sports to kids?

Bennett: Me?

Feifer: Yeah. What do you think of when you think of what about football is going to excite a five-year-old, a seven-year-old. How do you make that translation?

Bennett: I don’t think you really do it. I think the love for sports comes through the household, like theirs’ or through a friends’ household. So if your parents don’t really watch sports, there’s usually a friend that you watch with. It’s like usually a collaboration — there’s a joint-venture when you watch sports as a kid. Kids aren’t just watching a game by themselves, they watch the game with their friends. They may have — there’s families who do fantasy football together and all the kids in the neighborhood will come together and play fantasy football — but for me, I mean I just try to be as awesome as possible all the time so that kids know that they can actually be awesome.

Feifer: That’s a good strategy

Bennett: So I think what these these guys are doing — and this beautiful lady right here on my left, can we get a round of applause? [Clapping]

Some of y’all [are] not clapping. I see y’all!

Feifer: You’re getting slimed!

Bennett: I’m going to follow you guys on Facebook and leave mean comments.

No, but I think the interesting thing for me. There’s always this challenge of like the NFL’s brand is a much older brand. If you think about it, usually men or you know fans, that love it are usually older, already out of or in high school or whatever is. So it’s always interesting that this partnership, partnerships are great because both have something to offer both sides when it’s a good partnership. If you’re doing business in a partnership that doesn’t balance or a relationship that doesn’t balance, then it’s not a good relationship. So you got that partnership although, I don’t believe in divorce, but let’s continue… [Laughter]

So the partnership is varied because they are a huge kids brand and the NFL wants to get in that space. So we collaborate with one another to bring content to kids on a trusted kids’ brand so if my son wants to watch the NFL and it’s brought to me by Nickelodeon, I trust Nickelodeon for kids already. You know sometimes in the NFL, we do curse. I do like to say damn…

So there are those moments, things like that, but with Nickelodeon I know it’s a network that I’m familiar with, that my family is familiar with, that’s been around for, I don’t know how many years — older than I am so that says a lot. So it’s just trust, it’s just a trust thing for me as a parent and as a fan to let my kids go experience the NFL through Nickelodeon because I know what the content is going to be and what level they’re going to bring it on.

Dawkins: But I think it’s context for people because I don’t know if they can fully capture this. His Imagination Agency is a legitimate content creation agent. I’m gonna be your…

Bennett: Yeah, I make stuff.

Hudson: He’s good at sales…

Dawkins: Apps like “Hey AJ” that you can digitally download…graphic novel Towel Boy that he put out, long-form features, but like legitimate. It’s actually… [gestures towards Bennett] I’ve said this about you a lot… It’s like a dumb bag of riches, okay? So I’m just 6’7” and I run like a deer I can push people around and all that.

Bennett: I run like an antelope.

Dawkins: Is an antelope better than a deer?

Hudson: They’re faster.

[Martellus gallops]

Dawkins: It has an awkward gallop?

Bennett: Have you seen Bambi? She didn’t run fast enough. Like the mother didn’t run fast enough…

Dawkins: She died though

Bennett: That’s what I’m saying! I don’t want to run like a deer because the deer died. I don’t plan on dying, so I’m just going to be an antelope. I’ve seen the Lion King too and I know some antelopes got caught, but I wasn’t that antelope.

Feifer: This is going to be a good GIF. Somebody’s going to make a great GIF out of that.

Dawkins: The point that I’m getting at is…but talented illustrators, writers, designers get a whole other… but his perspective isn’t just like I am a fan, I do this thing. He’s making content…

Feifer: When Dawn walked into…when we were in the green room, Dawn walked in, and Martellus just immediately started pitching her ideas.

Dawkins: Yes.

Bennett: Yeah.

Feifer: You’re full of them!

Bennett: Yeah, I’m a natural so I’m…

Hudson: He has the largest work backpack I’ve ever seen. He’s got so many things he’s pulling out.

Bennett: It’s like Mary Poppins in there. You don’t know what I’m going to pull out. Oh, you need Tic Tacs? Gotcha. Oh, you need a sword? I got that too. [Laughter] Whatever they need…

Feifer: A full antelope.

Bennett: Tic Tacs, swords, you know what I’m saying? You want some deer jerky? I got some deer jerky. ’Cause deers get caught. Ever have antelope jerky? No, because no one’s catching antelopes! [Laughter]

Dawkins: Okay, fair enough. Never a deer reference again.

Bennett: But I’m on both sides so I’m like a little bit of a bridge because I make kids content, and I also play in the NFL. So that’s why I’m here, not just for comedic relief. I’m here because I’m like in between. So I do make interactive children’s book apps, and I do animation, and I write shows, and I pitch shows to them [Nickelodeon], and I pitch shows to them [the NFL] so I play in the NFL, but also love Nickelodeon so I’m like right in the middle of them both.

[Clap from an audience member]

Feifer: You’ve got one fan out there.

Bennett: Yeah, thank you. I didn’t see who it was but if you clap again I will follow it. Yeah, what’s up buddy? I got you man.

So yeah, so like I make interactive children book apps and on the App Store — the first ones free. I just released a comic book. I do children’s books, also did my first animated short film and I finished up my next miniseries. And I’m making vinyl toys and toys and other stuff, too. I am also the publisher and a distributor, and I own the whole process with my company too. So I’ll try to get these guys to let me write a show for them. That’s why I’m also here too…

[Laughter]

I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine.

Dawkins: I can’t say anything about it, can’t say anything about it, I got to leave that alone.

Hudson: It’s probably worth talking about this, why the three of us are here and it works? It’s because kids..so if you just look at fandom for most sports is created under the age of 18. Some kids, you know they get it from their family passed down. More and more kids, particularly maybe if they didn’t grow up in this country, they kind of discover things on their own and then they take it to their family. But you discover things like if you play football, that’s the best. I mean if you become a fan at five, and you’re playing the sport you’re going to be a lifelong fan. But that’s only like 15% of our fans that’ve ever even played the sport.

So how do you get to know it? What interests kids is actors and actresses on TV, it’s cartoon characters, its players. Right? They don’t come into football to learn the rules. Rules are kind of complicated. What they do is come in by “Let me understand some of the stars, some of the heroes, what’s going on?” So when you create something that bonds the fun of Nickelodeon with characters and with the players, then you get some magic.

Bennett: [Raises hand] Sorry that’s a habit.

Hudson: No, go ahead.

Bennett: But I feel like as a player one of the struggles, say the difference from the NBA is like you can’t really see this beautiful face of mine because I wear a face mask all the time. Then I wear a dark visor so I’m kind of like a transformer, so that’s cool, but I think that likeness… Ya it’s a little bit harder for kids to engage with an NFL player because they don’t really know what they look like or who they are.

So when you get platforms like Nickelodeon to go on there and [you can] introduce yourself to a kid so kids can grow your likeness and you can grow your business as well. Because every athlete in the NFL is entrepreneur. I am a consultant. I play for whoever needs a tight end at that moment. I figured that out of a young age like “Oh, you need one? I’ll be there for a year; I’ll be there for two years. I don’t know how long I’m going to be there. But I will consult your team as long as you need to tight end up to my standard.” I do independent contracts.

Hudson: And they pay you well.

Bennett: Yes, they pay me well. I’m an independent contractor at my position. And every single year I have to better my product so someone wants to pay me more to go. So like right now I’m on like the…. there’s an iPhone eight coming out. I’m like Martellus 8.0 right now. It’s better you try to one-up yourself every single year.

By doing this with kids who parents buy stuff for, you’re able to make more money in the long run because kids are being able to see you. “Oh, he did the voice on SpongeBob! I remember him. He was on this, he did that.” Because now they associate you with Spongebob which makes you even cooler because it’s like me and SpongeBob. I’m great, but you know if it’s like me and… Well unless you hang out with Odell Beckham, then you good anywhere you go.

[Hudson raises hand]

Feifer: Dawn?

Hudson: So it’s just an observation. Let’s see if you think this. I think athletes today, because they grew up in a social media world, are really much more attuned to: “I’m gonna play for a certain period of time” — independent contractor.

Bennett: Yes

Hudson: And then I’m going to use that time to define who I am, to reach out and create a fan base, to figure out what I’m going to do post-NFL or post-basketball or whatever you’re playing. And so they’re really smart about how they leverage that time, I think, in the limelight to set themselves up first for career two or three.

Bennett: So but here’s the struggle with that. Sorry, I raised my hand [Looks at Dawkins]

Dawkins: Yeah go ahead, I didn’t raise my hand.

[Laughter]

Bennett: Here’s the struggle with that. The struggle is that the identity of the player becomes the sport. So therefore when they leave the sport, they don’t know who they really are.

Hudson: That’s the basketball problem.

Bennett: Yeah, so they build their brand up using the sport, but they really don’t have any other thing to offer besides the sport. So once that sport ends, no one’s really interested in their product. Now if a player stands up on their platform where they build that platform to grow until another space, like say for me and content creation with The Imagination Agency, then I can stand on the back of the NFL to promote what I’m trying to do in the long run like [others] do sports commentating. That’s cool, but I don’t want to do that. I want to talk about sports after I retire from sports. That would be miserable.

Dawkins: This is the theme now. [Raises hand]

Bennett: Oh, you got it bro. Tag your it!

[Laughter]

Dawkins: I think what the challenge for Nickelodeon, I’ll speak for us, is also the opportunity. So the challenge is when the world was simpler, it was easy to be like our competitive set was only Disney or Cartoon Network. Ratings were done on a given day — let’s look at those places. The challenge is now, the ratings were down a given day? And we also know through the resources kids love their families, love spending time with them we’ve noticed and well that means they’re watching The Voice because kids and families are watching it. Or oh, they’re watching game whatever, the NFC Wild Card together. So it’s made our competitive set everyone.

Well, there’s also the opportunity in that. That means research tells the sports is a passion point for audience. By the way it always has been, but when the world was separated didn’t matter now. Now there’s an opportunity to partner up with folks in a way, differently, to do different work. But that’s kind of hard intellectually for us to get our heads around at first because we probably liked where the world was simpler. But I think that’s the new frontier where it’s like how can we partner up with…

Feifer: And players individually are a real solution to that, right?

Dawkins: They’re a real solution to that, yeah.

Feifer: Because the players or at least a player like this guy right here could certainly appeal to kids and know how to talk to kids, but also parents want want to see that other side of players, and particularly it was interesting when you’re talking about, you know, being an NFL player and people can’t see your face so they may not feel like they get to know you. I think of NFL players as serious, very serious and so seeing an NFL player in the light of Nick is an eye-opener for me as an adult.

Bennett: I think it’s a disservice not letting people see this face of mine. Just letting y’all know.

[Laughter]

Hudson: Don’t you want the protection though?

Bennett: I do when I play. I don’t want anyone messing up this. This is my moneymaker.

Dawkins: Yeah, I was going to a different place though around the fusion right? So I’ll use the example of my house. My household is a Giants household; I’m not, which we won’t get into that. And I think it was Odell’s rookie year — scores a touchdown, he’s in the end zone [extends arm], he does that.

[Martellus impersonates Odell’s touchdown dance]

Dawkins: Right, and at the time this — to me this is the fusion of everything — at the time, it’s just “Wow, that’s Odell’s end zone dance.”

Well if you were from a certain part of the country, you actually knew that wasn’t an end zone dance, actually that was a dance. But for mass of the country that was just Odell doing the end zone dance. And then within like six weeks, I felt like later it was like some other song, next thing you know it was like the Whip/Nae Nae stuff happens.

It’s like “Oh, wait a minute.” He brought, like culturally from a geographical region, a music and dance thing into this, right, on a giant platform, the NFL, that all of our kids and family audience was watching. Then next thing you know, we’re trying the — music is the other passion point for our audience — we’re trying to put that into our storylines mobile app. And I’m like that’s when like the light bulbs were going off for us like that fusion between music and sports and our audience. It’s just organic.

Hudson: Well we’re trying to bring more music, not only is music around the game and accents, you know, plays, but I think the interesting, or the opportunity, (but it does make it more complex) is that the digital world we live in, there’s so much content.

I mean think about five years ago — Hulu, Amazon Prime. These things didn’t exist and now there’s so much. Even a kid as soon as they’re two, they’re stealing their parents iPad or phone and and working on it. I want mine fixed, I go to my niece.

But I think what that’s done is said the way you’ve got a kind of breakthrough is you defuse these things and, you know, we can’t like take the same highlights and put it everywhere. That’s boring. We got to find a different slant and kids are looking for something that the other kid hasn’t found yet.

Bennett: That’s why I told him it would be great to have like a SportsCenter with like Spongebob hosting it, calling the plays “Hey, Martellus Bennett is running down and it’s “It’s me Spongebob!” Patrick’s there, Squidward’s there, and they’re calling a game which is so funny for a kid because now they get real content from the gang. But with a character that they know.

Feifer: In the environment that they can understand and appreciate.

Bennett: And then for me, I love that there’s — no offense to you guys — but as a content creator, I’ll think it’s like the gold mine, the gold rush right now with all the different platforms that you can make content for with Hulu or you could do with Amazon, you could do it with Netflix. No longer do you have to go through the old way of going through the path of just television. Television is dying a little bit — maybe not for you guys, but for everybody else.

Feifer: Keith, do you have something to say about that?

Dawkins: The only thing I attach to with that is he reflects from a consumer standpoint the purity of…I just want good stuff, and I’ll go to whatever platform I get to get it. So again, the challenge of us is oh my gosh there’s more doors for people to knock on whatever.

But I believe we’re well-positioned. We’re content creators, and we make good stuff. So if we make good stuff, we should be able to put them down any pipe there is and make people love Nickelodeon through the different partnerships and the different relationships that we can do. But we have to be a little bit of humble to acknowledge there’s different doors to knock on. It’s not just hey, we’re pole position… Just like these guys, that’s part of the relationship is like they’re not going — you’re just gonna automatically show up to Monday night, Thursday night, Sunday night just because of the NFL. They’re trying to build it 20 years from now when we’re having this conversation.

Hudson: Oh, yeah, the other thing I think is interesting about Nickelodeon is because, you’ve been around for awhile now, you actually do hit multiple generations.

Dawkins: Yeah.

Hudson: You know, you remember growing up with or hearing your older brother talk about Spongebob or whatever and Spongebob is still around. Then you have new characters, so there’s a, there’s a parent-sharing and watching this stuff with their kids.

Dawkins: That again goes right back to the commonality between us now and you guys.

Bennett: Bye guys!

Feifer: Thanks for coming!

Dawkins: They got called out.

Hudson: They’ve got to find your mean comment.

Bennett: Writing down your names on Facebook. I’ll see ya’ll on Facebook!

[Laughter]

Feifer: There’s slime right outside the door.

Hudson: Yeah, you’re gonna get slimed!

[Laughter]

Dawkins: Oh, that’s tough… But what I was going to say was that’s the maturity of two brands, right? That these guys have spanned multiple generations so I’m able to speak to what Monday Night Football meant to me as a kid growing up, to my boys now, whatever. And the same thing for this thirty-plus year-old brand, you know. Kids Choice Awards is thirty-years-old. Nickelodeon’s 37 or something years-old so now there’s a generation of Nickelodeon kids who are Nickelodeon adults now who grew up with that and are able to go out to their daughter Jett whose three, right?

Bennett: That’s why I like a Disney does well with a lot of remakes they make Beauty and the Beast…

Dawkins: Why’d you have to bring them up though?

Bennett: I’m just throwing it out there because I was about to tell you guys that you guys should start making movies from all the content that I grew up on. So now I can take my daughter to go see the “Hey Arnold” movie.

Dawkins: Really?

Feifer: Yeah, it’s a little comfortable

Bennett: … or the “Real Monsters” movie. I’m mean they’re already in competition like somebody has to talk about another tight end so like…

Feifer: What’s he talking about?

Dawkins: I didn’t bring up Gronk or Jimmy Graham though.

Bennett: I’m just saying though…. but it’s competitive! You got it like you said like the different people out there so like at one point all you guys were lions right? All you guys were lions; you were the king of the jungle. And that’s how it is. At one point when I came in, I was the king of the jungle and whoever’s in front of you was the gazelle. Every day the gazelle wakes up, the gazelle knows one thing: it has to run. Because the lion is going to chase it. If it doesn’t run fast enough then “rawr!” Witten was the gazelle, and I was the lion. Every day Witten came to work, he ran good too. He’s still there. I obviously. I obviously didn’t catch him.

[Laughter]

Hudson: I have visions of the Lion King meets the NFL.

Feifer: Yeah, there’s a lot of animal metaphors going on.

Bennett: I like animals. It’s my best category on Heads Up.

[Laughter]

Feifer: I’ll try to ask a serious question. This was mentioned earlier, and I think that the earlier part of the conversation pre-gazelle was getting into it, was how to build a culture in which this kind of flexibility is possible? Because you’re both older companies, Martellus you can find an animal metaphor to jump in here.

The elephants? Right, old lumbering elephants, and you cannot be an old lumbering elephant. How did you guys, was there anything strategic that happened inside the NFL or Nickelodeon that built a culture that allowed for flexibility and innovation, and that humbleness that you guys were talking about?

Dawkins: I’ll speak for Nick and my observation of the NFL. They felt similar, you know, we were experimenting with a few ideas; they were an experiment in terms of the NFL Rush Zone experience, and another one separately with Rob Dyrdek of Fantasy Factory, Rob & Big, and Wild Grinders and that started to put us on a path of sports, a passion point for our audience, and then we got focused around it because that’s just once we like decide we’re heading down the path with you…

NFL Slimed
Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

I wasn’t in their early conversations; I came into a meeting, but what I found is a similarity. Once the NFL decides they’re heading down a path, they’re focused around it, right? So to me that’s what felt like okay we have a really good partner here like “We’re in it” and if we both decide two years in we’re going make a mistake and need to re-pivot it or go “We’re both out…”

But they come in deliberate with a point of view and focus around where they’re going and we’re similar that way. Not every partner — period, not just a league partner — not every partner that we work does that. Sometimes they approach us like “You’re Nickelodeon! You have the kids zone! We want to be in the kids’ space.” Do you have a point of view? “Well, not really but we just want to be in the kids’ space.”

Hudson: I very much saw as an outsider what you saw, which is if you’re not careful, you’re successful to find you as your father’s Oldsmobile. Brands like the NFL that have such appeal in a way are swimming upstream because we’ve got a society that delights in doing something different than somebody else, in discovering something new. So in an environment and a culture where everybody’s looking for something new, what’s really paramount in the NFL is is really to stay true to who we are in our core, and our game, and our players, but to change it up and make sure that we understand what the next generation wants, and find a way to reinterpret our sport.

So what we did is bring a lot of [analytics] out. I mean we’ve always been a data-driven organization, but I think we weren’t as focused on different generations of fans and how sort of at the age that you are, if you’re a kid, if you’re a teen, if you’re in college, if you’re trying to date, it’s a different way that football interacts with your life than when you have kids or yourself than when you’re parents, when you’re grandparents.

So being able to say look we don’t have to do everything the same way. We can target and we can target even within a demographic. We can do something different on this social platform than this one because we understand that people aren’t all the same — even eight-year-olds are not all the same; they have different ways to interact with things.

Bennett: Thank God for that.

Hudson: And I think that’s just keeping driving that big has to stay nimble, that big has to stay innovative, that big has to challenge the way they’ve done things before and try to bring new thinking to the table.

Dawkins: Because it’s not easy; it’s not easy to be big and nimble.

Bennett: You guys are like tight ends.

Dawkins: They’re big and nimble?

Bennett: Yeah! We have to do a lot of stuff. We have to block, catch the ball, pass protect, play in the backfield. Everybody else gets to do one thing, but the tight end — it’s like Batman’s utility belt. You might get a smoke bomb or a batwing, Pterodactyl thingamajigger. So, you guys are like — and then you have to be nimble and fast…

Feifer: He slipped in an animal reference there.

Dawkins: He did, he did.

Feifer: It was good.

Bennett: I like animals. I do I think they’re a lot like us except for no, they’re not. Human beings are terrible people, terrible creatures. We destroyed the Earth and animals, but that’s…Come on, come on — let’s talk about this.

Feifer: I’m going to open it up to questions. Do we have mics?

Dawkins: They’ll shout it out!

Bennett: Come on Ethan… Ethan has a question. Let’s go, I have great eyes!

Feifer: Shout out all questions.

Bennett: I have great eyes.

Audience Member: So where do teams fit into this whole universe? Aside from how you guys structure a deal between the entities, do they have a role in linking your brands together? Or do you look at this to be a top-line, focus on the player, focus on the football?

Hudson: Well, I’m gonna answer broadly and then we can talk specifically about this relationship, but obviously teams are really great at reaching out. You know in their communities and working with their, I’d say they’re better at working with their current fanbase then they are necessarily attracting. And a lot of them have youth programs but not really at scale. So what I think what we’ve been able to do is so we’ve got a group of eight to ten of the marketing directors for the teams that come together with us, and we talk we go deep on kids.

What can we do to make it a better experience at the national level? Doing something that Nickelodeon? How do we bring that somebody mentioned it to the actual game, to the kids that go to the game? How about if the kid can’t go to the game? Can we give them things in the community in Iraq? So we try to share best practices and share what’s working in one area that might work here because the teams are the — I mean I’d like to think people love the NFL but they love a team; they love the players. So that’s where the real heart and the connection comes, and what we do is try to amplify that and put it on a national stage and provide those opportunities. But it’s not for the big monolithic NFL. It’s for for the team, the players’ position, and that’s what engages people.

So it’s really important to have that team connection and something that I also worry about is that as fantasy and other things take over, and we want people to know players more and become engaged. But we don’t want to do it at the expense. We are the ultimate team sport. We want to make sure that that’s what really drives people — being connected for a long time because even as the players change out or we switch teams, you still want to have them not become disinterested now because they’ve lost a player.

Bennett: The jersey is bigger than the name on the back of it.

Hudson: Yeah.

Bennett: I know that. I tell guys that all the time.

Audience member: So this question is for Martellus, Mr. Antelope.

Bennett: I can’t hear you

Audience member: Over here!

Bennett: Oh, I see you now.

Audience member: Yes it’s me, so on the one hand…

Bennett: What’s up bro?

Audience member: What’s up man? Oh alright, what’s up? So on one hand, you’re a Super Bowl winning tight end and super aggressive, you know running people over, and on the other hand, you have a children’s content creation company. So how do you kind of balance those two mindsets and kind of switch between the two and also, have any other players expressed interest in collaborating with you?

Dawkins: You have a funny story about that.

Bennett: Yeah, so I’m usually very happy all the time, and I’m very gregarious. Great word. So the moment I put my helmet on, I transform. I’m into ass-kicking mode. Like the helmet goes on? Ass-kicking mode. Helmet goes off “Hey guys, how you doing?” That’s just how I am. So like for me when I’m playing I look totally different, like I’m in a totally different zone. I love stiff-arming people, stepping on people, or making them think I’m gonna help them up, but I’m just pressing on their chest.

That stuff excites me, and when fans scream when you step on somebody — like if I go to a grocery store and you take the last box of Captain Crunch and I step on you for it, It’s frowned upon. But in the NFL it’s great. You step on that guy, great job. So like it just turns off.

It’s no different than being a father. I’ll go home all super “Hey, baby. Let’s go play upstairs! There you go. Great job walking!” You see my daughter, I’m not that guy on the playground “Look at how she swings! She’s a champ!” I mean, I am raising champions in my household; I’m not no — cause losing is contagious, trust me. Losers like first you lose games, then you lose the championship, then you know you lose your job, you lose your family, then you lose your house. It just goes — everything just snowball effects. This losing is contagious.

But for me like creating content is who I am all the time. Like I don’t turn creativity off, I can’t. I create because I have to and I play football because I want to. So I don’t have to play football like I’ll be just as happy if I was just creating, but for now where people are screaming when I step on people, I’m still going to do it because I enjoy doing that, and I like dominating another guy. That sounded weird. I take that back. That sounds weird, but I like the preparation for the game, like the mental part of the game and preparing for somebody, the way they move.

Does he have good hips? Does he have bad hips or can he change direction? Do I stop and pop against them or is this a guy that I need to speed cut or shortcut down hill or is it a sharp cut down hill? Or is it like how am I gonna release against 32 that’s different? So like for me the mental preparation of the game is the most fun part and then when [it] actually works on Sunday it’s like right and it was great. When it doesn’t work, it’s like damn I worked the whole week on there and it didn’t work at all so it’s like instant gratification too because you could practice something and you could try it on Sunday and it works right away.

Dawkins: What’s with the side-eye?

Bennett: Huh?

Dawkins: Why are you looking at me with a side-eye?

Bennett: Because this guy right here, one day, I met Nickelodeon. Yeah, we’re having a great time, like I’m out here, I’m engaging with the people. I’m being gregarious.

So we’re having a good time, and then everybody’s like “Man, this guy’s so nice!” So I find out that he asked people, like watch this, he’s like “So who could jam you up?” Then I just switch. I’m like “Nobody could jam me bro what you’re talking about? You know so we go from talking about Spongebob to like what are you talking about? You trying to jam me up right now?

Dawkins: Don’t be fooled by it, right? I was like, I’m going to poke the bear, I guess. So seriously, who at the line of scrimmage can just jam you up? And He’s like “What areyou talking about?” I’m like who you just can’t get off the line. He’s like, “Bro, no one can jam me up, okay? Who can jam you up?” I’m a grown man no one can jam me up! So now we’re standing in the lobby like this.

[Stands up]

I’m like I’m gonna right here, who jams you up? He’s like “I would do the swim technique…” and the switch is just funny. I have a picture of that — jamming him up at the line.

Bennett: They try to jam me up, but they ain’t havin’ it bro. Like it’s all fun and games until we get inside that of the white lines, and once it’s in the white lines bro, I don’t care. I go at my teammates because I feel like during training camp I feel like look, it’s a competition. The NFL is men playing — this guy has to feed his family, I have to feed my family so I’m playing for my family’s livelihood.

I feel like a lot of rookies have a disadvantage because they don’t have families because they’re playing against men and when you play against a man who is trying to feed his family, it’s a totally different tenacity. So when a kid comes up to me on the field, I’m telling I’m not gonna be the reason you make the team — not me. I’m a reason why you don’t make the team so don’t come over here and line up against me because today is not gonna be the day.

Dawkins: I think the macro…

Bennett: Sorry, I just… y’all made me snap for a second!

[Laughter]

Dawkins: I think the macro thing in this this game, we had to get out of our own way at Nickelodeon where it was like “A Nickelodeon kid is about these…” I’m like wait. The same kid who watches the NFL is the same kid who loves like iCarly.

Bennett: I did like iCarly

[Laughter]

Dawkins: That’s not a different human being. But we were treating it like it was a different human being, as if you can’t content create and want to stiff-arm someone. Like that can be in the same person. So I think again once we got out of our own way, that’s how what may seem like dissimilar ideas, I actually know there’s a seven-year-old sitting at the intersection of all of this.

Feifer: Yes, not defined by one thing.

Martellus Bennett comic books
Bennett surrounded by his comic books. (Source: The Imagination Agency)

Bennett: Let me break it down for you. The kids that you are creating for, I am the Nickelodeon kid. So one of those kids watching Nickelodeon is gonna be in the NFL. That’s me. That’s who I am.

When I look at those kids watching those cartoons, I’m making cartoons for those kids. I’m making cartoons for kids that may be in the NFL or may not be in the NFL. But those kids are no different from me. So when I look at them I see myself so far. Except I mean I just have a mean stiff arm, and they ain’t got one yet.

Hudson: You know, there’s something going on, in the world of celebrity or the world of athletes, people, particularly with kids, people they want to know more about them than just what they’re doing on the field, and I think one of the things that concerned me maybe when I first got to the NFL is the assumption was tough, aggressive, serious on the field; therefore, that way off the field, when in fact the majority of our players have foundations, most of them give back to their local communities, a lot of them do stuff for kids because they want to help kids like them get a better shot at life.

And so when we market the NFL and we do things that allows our players to tell their stories and tell what makes them different, we actually engage our fans, because they want to know more than just what position do they play on what team? That’s interesting, but I want to what do they eat. What do they train? What do they like to do off the field, you know? What are their passion points? What music do they like to listen to? And because that just draws kids in particularly and makes them more interested.

Bennett: This is perfect for the platform I pitch to both of you guys, there you go. That’s exactly what I’m trying to give the kids. Any more questions out there? Sorry, Jason

Audience member: Hi!

Bennett: Hello, I can’t see you.

Audience member: Okay.

Bennett: Now I can.

[Laughter]

Audience member: So this is for Keith and Martellus, what are some of the non-traditional ways that you guys are about when it comes to creating content? So maybe some of the non-traditional platforms like a Facebook Live or a Periscope, as well as the type of content.

Dawkins: I, actually for me, I actually care less about the pipes — because the pipes gonna be , there’s gonna be new pipes emerging all the time — I care more about the storytelling that’s coming down the pipes.

So when I say that meaning the business side of me is not diminishing that we need to be understanding Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Facebook Live and the list goes on, Snapchat, and how we use those platforms, but at the end of the day they are pipes, they are the ways we’re going to get the consumer. I’m really concerned about the storytelling that we have at the front end.

How are we diversifying that storytelling? How would we be inclusive of a lot of different voices? Sports is one path to get it; a different type of diversification of the storytelling — music’s a different way to get diversity in storytelling. Our audiences starve for it; they’re consuming it on pipes outside of us, not because the pipes are important but because we’re not servicing them in the way they need to be serviced.

So that is actually what I care about first and foremost, and when I say our research is saying sports is a passion point for audience, it’s because there’s a type of story — the NFL is a storyteller. I think people forget about that. Every week, there’s a must-see TV soap opera. You go 0–3…

Hudson: That you can’t produce.

Dawkins: You’re soap operas. Like oh my gosh. It is right? And that’s the fan base they have built that thing in. So I want some of that soap opera.

Bennett: It’s like the Super Bowl. There’s no way you could write this. Rudy wasn’t that good, Any Given Sunday wasn’t a good, Remember The Titans was great, but it wasn’t like the Super Bowl. You cannot recreate that moment, those stories that the NFL creates.

Dawkins: That’s what we’re trying to tap into — this mindset [Bennett’s] and antelopes and everything goes with it, this mindset [Hudson’s] and everything that goes with it, right — and bring that diversification to our audience, then down every pipe that we can put it down.

Hudson: If I build off your storytelling, one of the worries I see or that I get concerned about in marketing is everybody’s measuring clicks, and how much reach did I get, who do I get, what pipe did I use, and how many different hits did I get? When in fact, it’s really about engagement, it’s really about I’ll even take a little less reach if I can get somebody who wants to spend time with me.

Bennett: I say that all the time! I’d rather have less followers that like my content then have more followers that just skip pass it.

But for me, content creation for me, because I am growing — and I’m believer that… So first we had the radio. Everyone used to gather around the radio and everyone used to listen to the radio and whatever to be entertained. And then this great thing came around called the television, and it was great — first was black and white, then it got colored. It wasn’t in color first; I don’t know how old you are but it used to be in black and white before was in color. So television came and television was awesome. Then they made 3D televisions and television was great.

But now they have these mobile devices iPads and all kinds of gadgets, and now content is on the move. It’s on the go. What I’m really interested in right now is that with TV, there’s only one cognitive sense. You just watch and if you want to play a game you have to, you know, change it to play the game.

But like what the mobile platform is, you can create content where they could watch shows and interact with, be interactive with books, interactive with games; its all in one place. So you could build your own network and one thing is, you’re in one of second biggest stores in the world which is the Apple App Store — Amazon is number one for me. Then you could be in the Amazon store too.

But now they just download your app and they got all the content possibly there is — shows, there’s games, and they don’t have to go to multiple places to get it. It’s all at one house. Whew!

But yeah, and then like IG, I’m interested in making a cartoon series that only exists on IG and in like this short format. So it’s like, you know, just different episodes that will come on there as well. So I’m interested on a lot of things as you can tell.

Feifer: We have we’ve passed our time and surely someone’s thinking that if they get up, Martellus is going to yell at them.

Bennett: Yeah, don’t you get up! I’m gonna treat this like football. You have to use the bathroom? Bill Belichick’s talking, you got to use the bathroom and you’re like “Man Bill, it’s been an hour and a half, and ya’ll have been telling me to hydrate so I’ve been hydrating all morning. I got to use the bathroom!” But you don’t want to be that guy that gets up and leaves while Bill’s talking. It’s like, oh come on man! So it’s crazy, the bathroom is always full after the first team meeting.

Feifer: But, let’s take one more.

Bennett: Okay.

Feifer: Martellus, you choose.

Bennett: Oh, why are you putting that pressure on me?

Dawkins: Go deep, go deep.

Bennett: Okay, the lady up there. Ladies haven’t been given a lot of love today. That’s a man. [laughter] Oh he’s got the mic, what’s up man? Lets go!

Audience member: I just wanted to ask, obviously there’s pretty alarming stats at how much more time children are spending indoors consuming all this content on all these devices. Is there a strategy discussion on using content to actually encourage kids to get back outdoors so that there are football players in twenty years time?

Bennett: So, want me to answer this one?

Dawkins: You can go for it.

Bennett: So one thing, I was talking to them about too is well, so first of all the generation has changed. No longer — it’s like kids are going to be on mobile devices. That’s just the generation that they are. Their eyes are going to be different from ours, adapting to it — so I’m not really worried about them sitting too close because that’s the one thing. Out of all the creatures that ever been on the planet, the humans are still here. That’s because we have the best ability to adapt, even the great dinosaurs are dead — I love dinosaurs — but um, so like for me…

Hudson: They’re kind of slow though.

Bennett: Dinosaurs? Depends which ones.

Hudson: Well, you’re fast.

Bennett: Right, well the T-rex can’t catch.

Dawkins: Short arms.

Bennett: Although, we have people, players, we call T-Rexes that get scared across the middle. Oh, he T-Rexin’ it because if you don’t want to reach for the ball…

But for us like, it is like, it’s also like not only the creating content, but it’s also creating content where you know like there’s a timeout or like in the same platform, say we do this platform it’s Nickelodeon and the NFL, in that platform it could be not only that content, but it could be players on there like “This is the food I like to eat or these are my favorite workouts, exercises.”

So now imagine Steph Curry shooting a jump shot and you’re a kid. “This is how you shoot the perfect jump shot.” Because can you imagine the kids going outside, to try to shoot just like Steph Curry cause he showed them how he shot? Or “This is how I throw the ball.” Tom Brady showing how to throw the ball, kids will go out and practice what Tom Brady is doing because they want to play like Tom Brady.

So they feel like they get — or my favorite workout is the pushup. “I like to do this many push-ups everyday.” If they see their favorite, J.J. Watt, does push-ups: “I want to look like JJ. Watt.” (I don’t want to look like JJ Watt) but “I want to look like JJ Watt when I grow up.”

You know so now kids are interactive with the content that you’re putting out there, but at the same time they have fun with the animation and fantasy football, whatever it may be so there’s a platform of plethora things that we could put, a cornucopia of things that we could put on there… SATs is coming out, definitely. I got 990 on it just in case you were wondering.

Hudson: But also to give you the stats behind it ,you know, sports participation is declining, and it’s a function of a lot of things. One is the mobile device and all this content; the other is more and more kids are living in urban areas and there aren’t things for them.

So we put a lot of focus on trying to put more programs out there in areas that don’t have access to — and flag programs in addition to tackle football programs — but doing things that make kids get outside and get active. So we partnered with United Way to try to get something out there called Play 60 where we go into elementary schools and our players show up and help this, and create playgrounds, and try to get into the curriculum — the notion that kids will go outside and do something for 60 minutes — and now the government’s coming to us saying “Okay, great 60. They need more exercise. Can you get it to 90?”

So you know can we get it from just playing to playing a game? So can we create some more games for kids to play? So it really is an issue. We can look at it as an opportunity. We look at it as a way to get them, you know playing around with a football all that they can, but it’s something that I think all sports need to focus on.

Dawkins: And Nickelodeon literally has had it’s Worldwide Day of Play initiative for years. We’re, you know, coming the fall, like we go we’d literally go dark on our air on our platform three hours. “Goodbye. Go outside. Go play.” We’d do a big event here in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and have a bunch of partners including the NFL and Play 60 like “Come in under our tent.”

We do events across the country so we’ve been involved in that “Let’s play” idea as a way to keep kids active, keep kids healthy, combat obesity with a variety of partners: league partners, ad partners like General Mills, right? And how do you bring content to that? So that’s been important to us.

Bennett: And one thing I’m doing right now is, my charity like, I’m just starting — I just finished designing my first playground. So I’m starting to build playgrounds all over the world. My first one’s going to be in Houston. So I design playgrounds, magnificent playgrounds, not the playgrounds where you don’t want to go to. Because I got banned from a theme park when I was a kid. So I was like, when I get my chance I’m going to build theme parks for kids all over the world. So I’ll start with these playgrounds. I’m gonna build playgrounds all over the world first.

Hudson: Are they interactive?

Bennett: Oh yeah, they’re crazy. They’re nuts. Like it’s the best playground ever. I’m telling y’all!

Feifer: We have a question over here.

Bennett: That’s a whole other story. I’ll tell you that at dinner.

Dawkins: Oh, that’s later.

Feifer: Well…

Bennett: Okay, we can end it on this. I can tell the story and this could be the last one. I’ll tell you why I got banned from the playground, alright?

So there’s this great place in Texas, it’s called AstroWorld; it’s amazing. There’s rollercoasters, there’s funnel cakes, there’s lemon pies, and there’s like all these rides, and there’s this Superman ride where you to up and you feel like you’re Superman for at least 60 seconds and then you throw up. I don’t think that Superman ever throws up because he has no…I hate superman actually, but that’s all another story.

But we’re there, me and my brother — my parents used to drop us off. I have season passes there. My parents drop us off with $20 each — my brother plays for the Seahawks, Michael Bennett. So they’re going to drop us off for $20 each, which is nothing at the theme park, like $20? I know my parents are struggling at the time. But come on mom and dad? You better off not giving me anything.

So I get to the theme park, and we’re having a good time, and me Michael, we’re two big kids, and we have a funnel cake and I have a Coca-Cola. And there’s my $20. And Michael has a funnel cake and he has a Sprite. That’s his $20. We’re there for like six hours so we got hungry, and we were really hungry — we were big kids; I was 6’6, 240 when I left high school. At the time, I was probably like 6’3, 210. I was younger.

So I’m there, and I used to be a really good thief. Like I can pick pockets, I could steal things so we had the best day ever at the park. I stole so much food for me and my brother. Like we were eating everything and like we had a funnel cake on our faces, we stood in line, we’re like…we left full. When we got ready to leave we weren’t hungry. Like if my mom was cooking, we probably wouldn’t have ate that night. Then again, we would have ate anyway because that’s just who we were as human beings.

So we enjoyed this day — six hours of awesomeness. Somebody would order a funnel cake, I’d just walk up and take it. We were taking corn dogs, chips, cold drinks, like it was delicious. It was the greatest day of my life. I’ll never forget this day.

But on the way out, you know after this great day, we’re high-fiving each other “Yeah, great day bro. Like this is best. I can’t wait to come back tomorrow, dude.” Yeah, right? On the way, I was like “I need something to remember this day.” I steal a keychain that says Six Flags and a dude taps me on my shoulder. He’s like “We’ve been try to catch you all day.”

[Laughter]

Dawkins: Awww, tough….

Bennett: After all the stuff I stole, they caught me stealing a key chain! And that was pretty much it. They banned me for a summer. I never went back. So I have this other obsession with theme parks, and I want to have MartyLand one day this will be better than AstroWorld. Astro just shut down; now I want to get enough money to buy it and rename it MartyLand and revamp it up for the kids.

Dawkins: Kind of legendary.

Bennett: Kind of, but I also got banned from IHOP, but I have to tell you guys another time.

[Applause and laughter]

Feifer: Thank you, everybody! Thanks to Dawn, Martellus, Keith. Coming up later, Martellus will tell you what kind of animal you are…

Check back soon for more content from Hashtag Sports 2017. In the meantime, subscribe here to receive updates or go ahead and grab your pass to Hashtag Sports 2018 while the going’s still good.

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