What: Alex Rodriguez spoke at last week’s 12th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
Why it matters: Rodriguez is the ultimate redemption story from what appeared to be a completely damaged brand to a growing Hall of Fame business career.
There are few better comeback stories in sports and entertainment than the one of Alex Rodriguez. From banned baseball superstar to mega-businessman, entrepreneur, analyst, and now Yankees advisor, Rodriguez has risen from the ashes of what most thought would be a career lost and a brand squandered to be one of the most thoughtful, engaged, and well-rounded Latin American athletes turned businessmen of the past 25 years, succeeding well beyond his stellar position as baseball analyst for FOX and ESPN.
ARod, his business plan, and the brands he works with were center stage late Friday afternoon at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (@SloanSportsConf) in Boston, where the MLB great shared his business thoughts on a panel that included Maverick Carter, DraftKings founder Jason Robbins, and 538 Founder Nate Silver.
The ARod Corp (@AROD) has created a wide business portfolio that includes everything from commercial real estate to eSports, with brand partners that include UFC Gyms in South Florida; Trifision, a rising fitness initiative which marries yoga, pilates, boot camp, barre, boxing, and cycling; Energy Fitness —a large chain of high-end fitness centers primarily located in Mexico City—, and NRG eSports, a millennial-focused content network, providing exclusive, multi-platform programming for gamers. That is in addition to the advisory work he does with the Bronx Bombers (which was announced on Sunday), his stellar baseball analysis, and his work with Jennifer Lopez on any myriad of cross-promotional businesses.
His comeback off the field has made for a growing Hall of Fame business career that may not surpass his legendary status on the field, but can come close.
The brand of ARod, it seems, has never been as vibrant, diverse or successful as it is today. How has it gotten there? Learn from those around you, and the mistakes you make along the way.
“I have the fifth most strikeouts in MLB history. Only four people in the entire world have struck out more than me,” Rodriguez told ESPN’s Michelle Steele before a packed room at Sloan on Friday. “You get a Masters in failing, but you get a Ph.D. in getting back up.”
The backup involved rebuilding the trust of a skeptical public, as well as the business world, following his suspension from the Yankees. His comeback off the field has made for a growing Hall of Fame business career that may not surpass his legendary status on the field, but can come close.
One of the keys to success today? The three-time MVP believes control of your brand and all of its elements, is more important now than ever. “I look at the great success Jennifer [Lopez] has had with so many elements of what she does,” he added. “She had a fragrance called Glow that sold more than US $1 billion but she only owned 1 or 2 percent of the overall brand. Now with Glow2 she has much more control and if it ‘only’ makes US $200 million it is still better business because she can control the entire process.”
Another key to business success for Rodriguez? Listening. While always being known as a solid and thoughtful student of baseball during his playing days, the now retired veteran has a diverse team of business experts working with him on his myriad of businesses, many of whom are women.
The ARod Corp culture is based on a set of five values —Collaboration, Integrity, Accountability, Loyalty, and Excellence— that shape both the business and the companies that they work with. Also mixed deeply in that culture is a diverse leadership group that has identified and has executed business deals in a multicultural landscape that is becoming increasingly valuable, and the insight from young, vibrant successful Latino leaders will be key to the company’s future growth.
The transgressions of the past appear to be just that, and although Rodriguez will have critics and naysayers, the business world, both in sports and in other areas, seem to buy into the belief of his brand and the scalable growth that has come and will continue to expand.
“Alex Rodriguez was a success on the field and a hero to millions, especially in the Latino community, before all his issues, and he is perhaps an even bigger hero now because he has addressed, overcome and thrived not just as an athlete, but as a businessman,” said Chris Lencheski, who helps lead MP & Silva’ s global partnerships, and a longtime sports marketing expert. “He has done what many at the top sometimes struggle to do; learn from your mistakes, reinvent who you are, embrace change, and come out ahead. It’s a great story, and at his age it’s pretty clear that the best may still be ahead, which is great news for his team, the brands he partners with, and most importantly, for the millions of people, both in and out of the Latino community, that will know ARod the businessman as much as ARod the baseball superstar.”
Success off the field can be tricky for even the most successful athlete. To be able to rest, succeed, expand and grow while learning from those around you is pretty amazing. While MIT Sloan featured some of the biggest names in sports business coming together for 48 hours (along with a former President of the United States as well), one of the most engaging and entertaining narratives came from a retired baseball superstar who has controlled and recast a brand that was tarnished and now shines across multiple languages, cultures, and brands. A second act better than the first?
That’s a pretty high bar but losing is not something acceptable for the New York native. Hits, after all, are what he does.