Own The Moon: Barstool Sports and Why They’re Here to Stay

Engaged readers, engaged sponsors, and a growing commerce business are redefining the term “Barstool Difference.”

In his Emergency Press Conference announcing its acquisition by The Chernin Group, Barstool founder Dave Portnoy vowed to take the company ‘to the moon.’ Since that day in early 2016, Barstool Sports has been on the rise within the sports and media landscape.

Over the past decade Barstool has quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) built an allegiance throughout the East Coast and Midwest in cities like Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, and Chicago. Although having a strong presence in these hubs, it has been far from ‘mainstream.’

Until Super Bowl Week 2017.

BSS was seemingly in the news daily. Debuting its web-series ‘The Rundown’ on Comedy Central, making waves for being banned from radio row, and luring away the NFL’s All-Pro Punter Pat McAfee to work for its site — are just a handful of headlines generated by the blog throughout the week.

Since then, it has made even more waves with Patriot’s Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia sporting an anti-Goodell t-shirt, and its podcast duo Pardon My Take, appearing on SportsCenter.

Once heralded as merely a smut blog, it has become clear, that Barstool is a force within the industry — and a national audience is starting to take notice.

Although there is a lot of chatter about its recent achievements, one aspect of its success that is not being talked about however, is its engagement…not only with its readers, but its advertisers.

There are very few personalities or outlets — if any — that are able to bridge the gap between sponsorship and content as seamlessly as Barstool.

Let’s take the most recent ‘takeover’ sponsorship with Totino’s as an example. Totinos sponsored Barstool’s Super Bowl trip with branding of their Houston command center formally known as the “Totino’s House.” Barstool was able to incorporate them with already existing content mainstays such as Pizza Reviews, Tod and Gordo (Sorrey), and Jumpsuit January.

Their smooth integration led to countless @Totinos mentions on Twitter, with Stoolies/readers showing their support for both brands.

This noticeable lift in mentions throughout the partnership, along with a spike during Super Bowl week is visualized below.

Totino’s mentions from January 1st — February 6th. Via Sprout Social

Outside of social media engagement, the partnership has also seemingly produced a lift in Google searches, showing that users are not only interacting with both brands in a social setting, but are also looking to act on the engagement.

‘Totino’s’ search volume over past 30 days via Google Trends

Totinos isn’t alone.

Bacardi Oakheart Rum began their partnership with the blog in Q3/Q4. The search volume lift during this time period is apparent from Google Trend data as well.

‘Oakheart Rum’ search volume over past 4 years via Google Trends

Another sponsor, Leesa, has repackaged the inside joke, “Mattresses Mattresses Mattresses” into their own Facebook ad campaign.

Leesa Facebook Ad utilizing Portnoy’s post

Adding to the list, DirecTV also found success with Barstool. The partnership included regular personalities from the site creating branded NFL Sunday Ticket spots. These efforts resulted in Barstool becoming the #1 digital seller of NFL Sunday Ticket over the course of the year.

Aside from their sponsor and social engagement, they also have created a booming apparel business.

Brands such as Thrillist and Nasty Gal have been attempting to merge content and commerce for years — and have yet to be truly successful.

No one has been able to find this intersection and capitalize on it as well as Barstool Sports. The team is able to turn current events into a revenue stream almost instantly. Mainstream sites such as Deadspin (RIP) have attempted this model, but with little avail, and resonating nowhere near as well as BSS.

(Left to Right) Jay Cutler, Rob Gronkowski, WVU Head Football Coach Dana Holgorson
(Left to Right) Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Céspedes

With nearly all media outlets driven and reliant on subscription based models or intrusive banner advertising, the necessity to generate alternative revenue sources is a hurdle for most publications — and Barstool has it down to a science.

Although Portnoy made the promise to take Barstool ‘to the moon,’ a new goal has been rendered. Fuck just getting to the moon, #OwnTheMoon. And with loyal readers, happy advertisers, and successful eCommerce — Barstool may just do it.

Not bad for a bunch of smut bloggers.