Chase Griffin on Launching The Athlete’s Bureau

Last Updated on January 19, 2024

UCLA quarterback Chase Griffin launched a new media platform recently, The Athlete’s Bureau. The newsletter produced by The Athlete’s Bureau is expected to share NIL best practices and also give a platform for student journalists to report on issues impacting student athletes. The platform also expects to launch the industry’s first athlete-led college athlete polling and research service to amplify the perspectives of college athletes.

I sat down with Chase to talk about his vision for The Athlete’s Bureau and what subscribers can expect.

Transcript

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Chase Griffin: The Athlete’s Bureau is a publication that’s owned and run by athletes for athletes. And it’s one of a kind right now. Hopefully it starts a new perspective and a new equity play. I think in the age of revenue share as it’s coming in the next couple years, it’s important to have the athlete perspective and the schools and organizations that implement it in the best way will see all of their stakeholders taken care of.

Kristi Dosh: How did you come up with this idea? What made you think that a newsletter was the medium where you wanted to talk to people about this?

Chase Griffin: I thought it was a way that we could reach all sides and all stakeholders. It’s formal enough to get to the politicians on Capitol Hill and it’s informative enough to get to every single athlete on every campus. And I think it legitimizes our views of the media and views of how to go about this media revenue share and gives us credibility in a space where people often try to take credibility from athletes in a paternalistic way that just, frankly, in my opinion, is amoral.

Kristi Dosh: How does your educational background fit in with this project?

Chase Griffin: My undergrad was in public affairs, so I focused on governance and policy. And then my first Master’s was in Education, and right now I’m doing a Master’s in Legal Studies.

Part of the newsletter, part of the base is surrounding the perspectives of college athletes and legitimizing them with court decisions. And we’ve already seen the cake is sort of baked with the Alston ruling and with the House ruling.

Kristi Dosh: How has your experience as an athlete off the field changed with the advent of NIL?

Chase Griffin: I think NIL just added the opportunity for college athletes to maximize the markets that they were in, but also receive a cumulative education that every other student on campus had been receiving for a long time. The ability to participate in business, have financial literacy that’s not really espoused or talked about in class or by mentors, but actually practice through the use of having your own money. It’s a platform for athletes to reach their goals earlier and practice how to be sustainable in that way.

Kristi Dosh: An interesting thing you said in your press release that caught my attention was that there was a study referenced that said only 5% of the stories that are written about NIL have an actual quote from the student athlete. What has that been like for you personally when you’ve done NIL deals? Have you had the opportunity to speak on that with the journalists who are writing about you?

Chase Griffin: For most of my deals, I have been blessed with the opportunity to speak about them in the media and share my perspective. I think a lot of that sometimes comes down to my selection of working with brands that sort of understand who I am and what I think of in the space and aligning with brands that authentically in how they do things reflect how I do things. I think that’s something that The Athlete’s Bureau wanted to address.

In an industry that is carried by athletes, in an industry where athletes sacrifice, you know, emotional stress, they sacrifice physical pain, they sacrifice spiritual pain in some ways, in order to create this product that the public loves, and frankly, in the age of linear TV, that is carrying linear TV.

Athletes, especially at the collegiate level, are excluded from having a voice and what’s actually happening, what the sentiments actually are for these teams. And I think anytime you hinder any type of equity in a space, you’re also hindering the maximum potential of it, which affects everyone.

Kristi Dosh: Are you telling brands on the front end to let journalists know you’re going to be available and want to speak on this? Are you vocal about that?

Chase Griffin: I am, but I also think because of my experience with the media, and my experience consulting in the space, when brands are asked to put somebody forward to speak for them or to speak about a campaign or deal campaign that they feel comfortable pushing me forward for that.

Kristi Dosh: Here’s what happens on my end. I get pitched by brands every single day, multiple brands a day, who want me to write about their NIL deals, and I write about a fair number of them. I always want to talk to the athlete, every single time. And they don’t let me very often is what happens.

I will ask, can I get a quote from the brand? Can I talk to the student athlete? And I’ll even say that I know student athletes don’t have a lot of time, so I’m happy to send the questions over by email. And if they wanna record a voice note or they want to respond by email, then I will fit it into their schedule. I want to talk to the athlete, and most brands tell me no. Most of them tell me the athlete doesn’t have time or they need this posted tomorrow or in the next 48 hours, and that doesn’t work with their schedule.

They give me a million excuses, and your newsletter had me wondering how often they’re even asking the athlete like maybe these athletes don’t even know that I’m asking to talk to them and the brand is just saying no without even going to them. I have no idea what’s happening, but now you’ve made me want to reach out to more of these athletes on my own because from a journalism standpoint what’s happened with NIL is that we all used to go through the sports information director. If we wanted to talk to athletes, you went to the SID, and they might or might not give you access, and now I talk to athletes all the time in DMs and on social media.

You and I have talked on social media a number of times before we got on to do this, and you’ve been a very accessible student athlete when I was asking for a quote for an article I was working on. But you’re making me feel like I need to work a little harder to get these student athletes because maybe they would talk to me and they just don’t know that I’m asking.

Chase Griffin: For the first time, literally ever, and you pointed this out just now, athletes have been at least afforded some type of control over how they are portrayed to the media. They can tell their own story, they can say what they’re about, if they’re earners or working with brands, they can lead initiatives to affect the communities that they care about positively. These are all things that should be celebrated. And I think writers such as yourself who do a good job of highlighting this, not only do your due diligence, and I think what sort of owed to the athletes that the industry relies upon, but it also pushes the industry forward.

And that’s why in the age of Title IX, when people were saying Title IX was gonna eradicate sports, more people watched and played than ever. In the age of NIL, when people said that NIL was gonna lead to the destruction of college athletics as we know it, it made it better. More people tuned in, more monies are being made by everyone included.

Now in the age of revenue share, I think capturing what college athletes really feel about it, which is the mission of The Athlete’s Bureau, will lead to industry progress. And all stakeholders, I think the ones who really get it, understand that empowering equity always leads to progress for all in the end.

Kristi Dosh: Circling back to the newsletter, what is the plan in terms of how often there will be new content and who’s going to be writing for it?

Chase Griffin: Weekly is the goal, and I think we can sustain that. We’re happy with our numbers now but obviously we want to grow. We have both free and paid options. The paid options will get you access to more data and more polling, which I think give an immediate voice and constant voice to athletes to voice how they feel about decisions made without them. And hopefully with that, we put pressure on decision-making, including athletes as stakeholders in the near future.

As far as folks who are included, primarily students and student journalists, and we focused on student journalism. Most of our journalists, even if they are students, are writing for premier publications right now. And if they aren’t yet, they’re going to be. Hopefully The Athlete’s Bureau is, you know, sort of a landing spot and launch pad for those folks. We chose students because they are on these campuses surrounded by these athletes on a daily basis see how these athletes and their efforts add to the culmination of success in schools being able to provide their students with a quality education and quality experience.

Kristi Dosh: Is this something you see yourself running beyond graduation? What’s the long term vision for this?

Chase Griffin: Absolutely. This is a media publishing company that I want to run for a very long time. I’m proud to operate it and look forward to, as time goes along and we build more value, finding partners to be able to help us in that mission. At the same time, I see it as something that can work on as a thought leader, but primarily a conduit between athletes and those who are making decisions that affect us. And helping those folks recognize the more athlete perspective you include on those decisions, they will validate those decisions, and you will end up coming to better conclusions and better decision making in the long run.

Kristi Dosh: Talk to me a little bit about the data and the polling. What’s the plan for making sure that you can get some meaningful data to pass on to journalists like myself?

Chase Griffin: To educate journalists, to educate the general population, to educate Congress. There are folks out there, lobbyists right now who are frankly saying false things about athlete numbers, athlete support, et cetera, who are coming out with reports with zero athlete quotes, zero athlete perspective, yet saying this is what athletes think. We want to be able to provide categorical and empirical data for anything that goes against what athletes actually believe.

Kristi Dosh: How are you going to get this in front of athletes so that you can get their opinions?

Chase Griffin: We have different means of polling. We have different services that we’ve been using now that already have athletes sort of in the space. And we’re looking to continue to build out that model.

Kristi Dosh: How have your teammates or other student athletes that have found out about The Athlete’s Bureau responded so far?

Chase Griffin: I think they think it’s cool. A lot of what I do in NIL has sort of supplemented my general branded deals. And anytime I have an athlete or teammate of mine ask what I’m doing, I always try to include them. And so, especially in the quarterback room, I was really proud. Had a couple of signups in the QB room.

Kristi Dosh: From a broader perspective, how have you approached your NIL? What did you want to do with NIL? What do you still have left to achieve?

Chase Griffin: I have one more year of eligibility after this season, and I plan on coming back here to UCLA. In that time, obviously with the branded deals and relationships I already have, I wanna continue building upon those. I think every single year my content gets better, my ability to drive viewership and followership gets better, and my brand grows stronger.

I think on initiatives like this, I’ve wanted to diversify what I can do in NIL, whether that be continuing to build out my foundation that I have with Ground Swell and my partnerships with Big Brother, Big Sister, and the LA Regional Food Bank, and also initiatives such as this building out publications, building out properties that I think can add value in the space.

Kristi Dosh: Why did you choose not to have an agent?

Chase Griffin: I felt like nobody would be able to represent me and tell my story the way that I could. And I felt like in the truest sense of NIL, that was the move for me to make. There are a lot of athletes who are having great success in the NIL space, and they have agents. And I think there are agents and management groups that do a fantastic job. I actually consult at one, Range Media Partners with the Range Sports team, and so I understand the resources and the people who dedicate their life’s work to helping talent find opportunity.

I thought for myself, and I continue to believe this, that I was in a unique position to have people around me who, while they may not be managers, may not be agents, love me and care about me. My father has been a great help and has run point on a lot of projects for me, especially while I’m in season. And I’ve just been blessed to have a family that supports me throughout this entire process and family friends who are experts in the space.

So, even though I’m not represented, I’m absolutely not alone in this. And I think everyone who wants to have success in this space should have folks around them who care about them and have expertise. And those are some of the tidbits and opinions and advice that I’ll continue to share through The Athlete’s Bureau to athletes.

Kristi Dosh: I know that athletes are going to listen to this and they’re going to have one big question for you: without an agent, how do you find NIL deals? Is it all stuff that comes to you or are you proactively reaching out to brands too?

Chase Griffin: It’s a bit of both. I think at this point, I’m primarily inbound. And I know that’s a huge blessing and a huge help to be able to say that. And I think I do a good job of not really always looking out to source deals, but just look for quality companies, quality folks in a powerful position who I think have a similar mission to me and constantly thinking of ways to add value.

I think athletes at heart intrinsically add value. When you get to a school, they’re not putting you on scholarship just for charity. There were a lot of other folks who wanted that opportunity. You worked extremely hard to do it. You probably provided a lot of value for your middle school or your high school or so on. And when you’re at that college, you’re generating value to a multi-billion dollar industry.

So by nature, even before NIL, athletes have always been value creators. I think now that we have NIL, it allows us to create some value for yourself. And once revenue share is here, I think we’ll realize it at a value level that has always been sort of the necessary step to get to in order to ensure that all stakeholders benefit.

Kristi Dosh: Are there one or two questions that you always ask of brands? So, a brand comes to you, maybe you recognize the name, but you’ve never talked to anyone there. Is there like a go-to question or two that helps tell you whether that brand’s a good fit for you or not?

Chase Griffin: There’s not always questions. I think questions probably do arise out of this, but when I look at a brand, it comes down to values. So it comes down to personal values and alignment there.

It comes down to economic value and alignment with what I believe my market price is or what I’ve been charged in the immediate past for, or what I’ve charged in the immediate past for similar services. And then third is community value. Do I see this as a company or a brand that I see helping me empower the communities that I care about?

You can check out The Athlete’s Bureau and subscribe at AthletesBureau.com.

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