In early July, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sqor CEO, Brian Wilhite, who discussed his new platform, Sqor, a site dedicated to enhacing the fan/athlete relationship.
In my follow-up interview, I spoke with Brian on the future of the company and discussed the role NFL legend, Brett Favre plays in its growth.
The GM’s Perspective: What is next for Sqor and how can you see it expanding in the future?
Brian Wilhite: The next step is just to continue what we’re doing really. Continue blocking and tackling and staying focused on the business and game plan we have going forward: Meeting, delivering and giving the fans closer access to the athletes, and delivering a really rich platform. With that being said, we’re going to continue on a very aggressive product roadmap. That roadmap is a developmental process that will span over 15 months. From a fans perspective, it’s going to be focused on engagement and implementing and bringing back our Showdowns product.
Showdowns were simply the ability for a fan to go head-to-head with each other and select one team to beat the next team. We launched this last fall right around the college football season. There’s a tonne of passion around college football, (I went to LSU), and no matter who LSU was playing that weekend, I’m always finding friends or people that went to the opposing teams school, and we’re messing with each other. The idea was to be able to go head-to head: I’d pick the LSU Tigers to beat the Wisconsin Badgers. Drilling down even further allows us to dig deeper to the athlete level. I can select “LSU QB” who I think will throw for more passing yards than the opposing QB.
It makes it really fun and engaging so you can invite your friends and your opposing teams friends who want to go against you.
We’re launching that in time for the college football season, which happens to be LSU vs. Wisconsin Badgers in late August.
GMs: I know we talked briefly about how you both met, but how did you get Brett Favre on your Board of Directors?
BW: Brett and I met four years ago. I was introduced through his agent, Les Cook. I went down to Mississippi to sit down with Brett and talk to him about my vision and what I saw as an opportunity and how we were focused on the athlete. Brett liked it. We spent a couple hours talking and getting to know each other. He accepted my proposal and my offer to be on the Board and to be involved as an advocate as much as he possibly cared to be, in terms of talking about Sqor and representing the brand. That was four years ago and we’ve come a long way together with that. It’s starting to get fun cause we’re starting to see, as you’re on the platform, the number of athletes that we have creating content. It’s incredible and growing, literally, weekly. It’s fun for us together to be witnessing this brand and to see this product come to life that we originally talked about.
GMs: So when you met Brian a few years ago and discussed this idea, what sold you on Sqor?
Brett Favre: I was at a point where my career was over and I’m part of the older generation of athletes where you used to write letters to people. Now, text messaging is part of everyday life, social media is new and expanding. By no means will I sit here and say that I was gung-ho with the social media thing because it’s sort of unchartered territory for us older folk.
I really like Brian, first of all, and you’re right. Les and I get stuff that comes across the table all the time, you name it. And why they would want my involvement, I have no idea? Really, Brian is a good guy and that was the first thing that really, more than anything, sold me. I knew he was genuine, I liked his idea, but I like him even more. I have to admit; initially I thought this probably will be just like anything else. Any idea that actually comes to reality is hit or miss. You never really know. I thought this would be another passing fancy, but it hasn’t been. Brian doesn’t ask a lot of me, it’s painless, I don’t mind doing it. Whatever knowledge I can come to the table with is a bonus. I liked the idea, and I thought it had potential. I was probably more pessimistic maybe, but I’m sold on it. I think Brian had worked diligently, and I know on numerous occasions in the past couple of years he’s asked me to talk to different people he was trying to bring over to his company that would solidify his company even greater. He ended up getting those people to make this company even stronger.
I think that says a lot about Brian and the product he has. He’s driven. More important than anything, it was Brian that really sold me. He didn’t pay me an endorsement fee or anything. I plug the company and I want to see it succeed. I didn’t get my money and leave. I’ve done endorsements for different products before, and if they sell great, if not so be it. This is not one of those. I have a stake in this as well. I think it has tremendous upside, more so today than four years ago.
GMs: Businesses can be financially successful and whatnot, but what you’re saying about how Brian sold you on Sqor, shows the passion you both have to make this a successful endeavour.
BF: We need people like you to put the word out. I try to do my part, but it’s like anything, the more exposure the better. I think it will just continue to grow. Football is probably the one sport that is lacking with numbers (interaction). I think it’s a bigger entity to crack, but I think as players become more aware, I know during my last year of football I heard the word “Twitter”, it will. It wasn’t as big as it is now. Same thing with Sqor, I have so many people come up to me and ask me about it. Brian has sent me hats and t-shirts cause I’m a hat and t-shirt type of guy, but everyone is asking what Sqor is. I tell them if they’ve got an iPhone, download the app and play around with it. Word of mouth has been great and we need people like you to expand it.
GMs: You’ve been doing contests on Sqor such as, “Who do ya think can beat me in arm wrestling?” – winner gets Sqor headphones! I’ve read some of the comments and people have quite the imagination. What’s does it feel like, despite being retired for a few years now, that you can still draw all of these great responses? It has to feel pretty good to be able to interact with the fans after all these years?
BF: It’s the way it is now. If you ask the younger generation about writing letters and mailing it to you grandmother, you’d get a blank stare. The older generation has to learn to adapt or you can’t communicate! It’s just the way it is. As I retired and got a little it more removed from the game, it has been refreshing. It’s always nice to know your still loved and still hated in some circles. The comments have been very good, funny and crazy. But that’s what Sqor is about. To be able to interact with the athletes and with the fans is the biggest selling point.
GMs: You just did a campaign with Fan Experience Dinner, where you can bid on a dinner with yourself, and your wife Deanna at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi. All proceeds go to Favre4Hope.
That is really something special. I went on your site and read about all the charities you work with and the people that you reach with your kindness. That is very commendable and something you really can be proud of. Did you ever imagine that you would be able to touch so many lives?
BF: I guess I was no different than most kids when I was 13 or 14 years old. I dreamed of playing pro football and pro baseball. Honestly, I never thought about the money or the fame, or the Hall of Fame or MVP’s. What I thought about was playing the game I loved and how much fun that would be.
As a retired player, what a great experience to experience my dreams and then some, along with all the other stuff that’s come along with it. There’s been a tremendous amount of good and there’s been bad, but I think the way I was raised and my wife (who I started dating when I was 13 or 14) has always grounded me. My mother was a special education teacher and my dad was a driver’s ed. teacher and also a baseball and football coach. In Mississippi you don’t make a lot of money as teachers. So combined, they had four kids and we lived modestly to say the least. I learned at a young age that you treat people with respect regardless of status. To me it’s like gravy. Some people may give back because it’s almost expected or a chore rather than the right thing to do. God put me on this earth to excel at football, gave me the talents to achieve and I took it and ran with it. I thank Him for that. He also wants to see what I can do in return with the success that I’ve had. I believe in that wholeheartedly.
We’re not immune to hardships and trouble that everyone is exposed to. My wife had breast cancer and she turned a negative into a positive and has helped so many people. My father passed away and we set up an endowment/scholarship that we’ve been able to give to a student each year at my high school to go to college. We’ve given so much back to Wisconsin and the disadvantaged children there and we were able to donate money to St. Jude Hospital in Minnesota. Let me tell you, you go to these places where you get around people like the Make A Wish kids that I’ve been with for all these years, you talk about a humbling experience. Believe me, there’s so much satisfaction giving back, and especially at this time in my life where I’m not preoccupied with playing, you look forward to these things. It’s really a special experience.
GMs: Sqor athletes are showing their fans what their lives are like, on and off the field. I hear Sqor NFL ambassadors are Will Smith (Patriots), Kirk Morrison (NFL Analyst) – can you tell me more about how to become an ambassador?
BW: We have athletes in all divisions, MLB, MBA, retired athletes, amateurs. After you register with Sqor – Sqor will help you activate your account and set you up with ambassador
GMs: Are a lot of athletes joining Sqor? Some of your rookies are: Storm Johnson (Jacksonville Jaguars) & Jalen Saunders (NY Jets)
BW: A lot of young smart guys are joining with great social media presence. Over 1500 professional athletes have registered.
GMs: Honestly, this product is very different from everything out there. With over 1,500 athletes already signed-up it seems like it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The interaction between all parties is quite astonishing. Do you have athletes contacting you directly about Sqor and how they can get involved?
BW: We are getting a lot of inbound inquiries. In some cases the athletes directly or they’re going to the Sqor and signing up. We get a handful of inquiries a week from agents and/or their PR/Publicists who work with athletes. The word is definitely getting out there and the organic growth is really starting to show itself.
BF: I’m getting questions all the time from the general public. I’m not in the locker room everyday, or at minicamps, but I do have guys who I’ve played with and some younger generation athletes that workout here, who ask about it as well. In my opinion, Brian may have a different opinion, but I think it’s a potentially useful tool for the marketing side of the athlete. Some athletes don’t need exposure, but there are players who are leading the league in hitting or free thrown percentage, I use examples from other sports because most people know whose leading every category in football. But those guys that you don’t know anything about, but are tremendous players, this is a way for them to get their name out there. A way to get the exposure they’re not getting for whatever reason. I think, for an athlete, this is a great tool they will find out is there for them.