Viva La Stool

Today I want to talk about a company that is every bit as entertaining as it is polarizing -Barstool Sports.

Barstool began originally from the home of its founder and “El Presidente” David Portnoy who passed out paper issues along the T lines of Boston starting in 2003. An interesting and fun fact is that the first real employees of Barstool were homeless men and women that Portnoy would pay to pass out the papers for him. The company initially started as a very “frat” satire newspaper covering topics such as gambling, fantasy football and of course sports. This helped establish a small but loyal cult audience who enjoyed the lifestyle of the Stoolie. It wasn’t until 2007 when a fan of Portnoy’s asked to design a website for the company that Barstool really began to take off. Following this the next nine years of the company saw immense growth under Portnoy, so much so that it attracted the attention of The Chernin Group whom in 2013 purchased 51% of the company. While the details of the deal were not announced, it was believed at the time to have been based off a 10-15 million dollar evaluation. Portnoy still kept creative control of the company, but he now had to answer to new CEO Erika Nardini. Oh and he also lives my current dream job traveling around the country eating pizza. One bite. Everybody knows the rules.maxresdefault.jpg

As I mentioned earlier Barstool despite its popularity is one of the most controversial media sites in the current day. I want to look in depth at what makes them such a lightning rod of a topic as well as what makes them so successful.

The Image

First and foremost is the image of barstool, which was best summarized by Stewie Griffin when he said “Oh look! News cameras! I’m gonna yell ‘Viva La Stool!’ Like a young white drunkard”. Basically, both Stoolies and Stoolie haters Barstool represents itself as a nationwide frat. Their iconic unapologetic and uncensored writing style is a staple of the company and I believe its part of the reason they resonate so strongly with their audience. During the rise of Barstool its important to note that a trend among media companies was to really step away from any opinions and to report bare-bone facts. Barstool took this philosophy and spun it on its head, bashing and screaming about anything from the corruptness of the NFL (including this iconic Roger Goodell clown photo) 1190032_1.jpg

to social drama with Johnny Manziel, or most recently with ex-contributor Michael Rapaport. As with most opinions, people get offended. Particularly in this day and age when the cast of characters who represents Barstool is basically a group of white frat guys. And while that criticism maybe legitimate, as it the tendency to refer to Barstool as misogynistic – the company persevered. This is because as much as we hate to admit it, a headline such as “Syracuse Absolutely Shuts Down Michigan State to Advance to Sweet 16” is a more appetizing headline then “Syracuse Beats Michigan State, Advances”. It’s unprofessional, it’s a bit mean and it’s definitely not status-quo – but it’s entertaining as all hell.  Barstool was able to succeed because they kept up a consistent brand image, have established a core customer and have never tried to be anything they weren’t authentically passionate about. And if you disagree Barstool CEO has some advice for you, “If you don’t like it, don’t read it”.

The Catchyness

Now no matter what your feelings are, I can almost guarantee you have knowingly or unknowingly used a Barstool catchphrase. I don’t know if Portnoy manufactures all of these himself, but what is certain is that Barstool has mastery over catchphrases. The most famous of these slogans is of course, flat,800x800,075,f.jpg

but the barstool crew has gone well beyond this. One liners such as “One bite everybody knows the rules” accompany my mind whenever I begin to chow down on food. Even the term “Stoolie” is just great in my opinion, and these inside jokes are very helpful for Barstool in keeping their cult entact.

The Cast

Behind every great media empire is a cast of characters who works tirelessly to champion the free flow of information. Barstool certainly has this, but they also quite literally have a cast of very, very entertaining cast members. Portnoy is of course synonymous for his pizza reviews but other longtime contributors such as KFC (whom hosts a podcast in addition to live news sound-offs), Big Cat (podcast and Sirius XM show) and man of many talents Kmarko all help to keep the audience engaged. I could be wrong in stating this but I don’t feel many of Barstools audience members are often keeping up with the Kardashians – but they do love drama. That drama is more socially acceptable and hilarious with these guys, and they really do have a way of connecting with the audience and getting them emotionally engaged with their personal lives. Just check any of KFC’s posts following his recent scandal (he cheated on his pregnant wife) to find out how seriously Barstool fans take the character and personal lives of their favorite brand personalities. The cast is key in taking a satirical news entertainment and getting it to another, more emotionally attached level for Stoolies.

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The Diversity

The last real factor of success for Barstool – and what inspired this post – is the vastness and diversity of the media company itself. Initially Barstool sports covered basically that, sports. As time has gone on though, the brand has immersed itself into an almost lifestyle like brand that one either strongly follows or strongly opposes. Barstool surprised me recently when I discovered that one of my favorite instagram pages “ICantEven” (which features dogs and animals doing the funniest things) instagrammed a picture of a dog with a SAFTB bandanna tied to its neck. Upon closer inspection I realized that the page was in fact run by Barstool, which led me on a search to discover many other non-directly labeled instagram pages as well as directly-linked ones such as Barstool game-time. These are two pages, one that revolves around cute animals and another that revolves around video games, that featured topics the original Barstool might have scoffed at. But through time and presumably careful planning Barstool was able to infiltrate topics I wouldn’t come close to associating with them. Honestly it’s impressive, and their diversity I believe helps them protect themselves from any individual scandal (which when you release the type of media they do, is probably not too far away).

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I’d like to conclude my post by asking my audience their opinions on Barstool and their opinions on the Stoolie culture. I personally hated Barstool until I started actually reading their work, at which point I stopped viewing it as media and started viewing it as entertainment. While I certainly disagree with certain things the company does (such as the consistent thread of rating the newest sex school teacher- female’s only – the entertainment factor is just too good. Perhaps this kind of media should be shut down and is toxic for todays society, but I don’t know. There are lots, and lots of Stoolies. And that means that there are tons and tons of people who appreciate this kind of entertainment.

7 comments

  1. Barstool Sports is in my opinion one of the most talented companies out there. I visit their site as you do with the idea of being entertained while also updated on some sports news/drama that I might have missed. I think their material is extremely aggressive, sometimes inappropriate, and wildly unapologetic. With the social climate of our country moving towards perfectly politically correct, I find their content to be some of the old time comedy, while still trying their “best” to toe the line. New additions of employees add more aspects and different avenues for content, some good some bad. However, I think from a business perspective, and a comedy perspective, they are ahead of the curve, and stick to their roots.

  2. I’ll say it. I’m a Stoolie. I bought a “Free Brady” shirt back in 2015 to support the Brady Four’s infamous night in a New York City jail. As a native New Englander, I caught on to Barstool before it blew up over the past two years with its move to Manhattan. What originally drew me to Barstool was the authenticity of its content. Its blogs weren’t professionally persay, but they were written in a way that I could relate to. Barstool’s personalities talk about topics the same way that my friends and roommates would if we were sitting around on our couches, which is what makes the company successful. In today’s highly sensitive climate, Barstool has stuck to its guns and continues to churn out content in anyway how. The company sent Riggs and Trent down to Del Boca Vista, had them stay at Dave Portnoy’s parents condo, and they made a 5 part video on it. It sounds entirely ridiculous, but I watched it, and it was hilarious. The popularity of Barstool had led their bloggers to transform into personalities that can draw audiences on the interest in their lifestyles alone.

    Companies were wary of advertising and partnering with Barstool in the past because of its edgy persona. This changed when the Chernin Group purchased a stake in the company, which served as a way of legitimizing the operation. This was even further solidified when Dave Portnoy and Erikia Nardini went on Mad Money with Jim Cramer a few months ago to announce that the company received a second round of funding from the Chernin Group. Barstool’s business success had long been lagging its content success, but the two are now closer than ever.

  3. I thought this was a really interesting post, because I was introduced to Barstool this summer by a friend of mine. He was always listening to the podcasts when we took the train to the city together, so I started listening along so we could talk about it. I often cringed at the basic-ness of it, but I will admit I felt like I gained some insight into the male mind. While I wasn’t necessarily happy with what I heard in the conversations, I can see how catchy the barstool world is and why it attracts the fans it does. And the controversy definitely help the publicity!

  4. As someone who has always attempted to avoid the frat life persona I have found myself following Barstool and a few of their other channels on most of my social media accounts. In essence, I think this is why they are growing into such a huge success. If they can get a kid like me to follow and read their posts regardless of if it’s about sports or funny dog videos then that shows just how successful Barstool’s marketing is. The phrase “did you see that Barstool video” and “check what Barstool just posted” have become a daily part of conversations with my friends and I think that extends to large majority of college students. Unlike brands such as TFM and Old Row, Barstool attempts to be an entertainment media company rather than an accounts that just posts college party videos. This attempt (although not always successful) to be a company that you can go to for a “little bit of everything” will only attract more people from different demographics as Barstool continues to grow. Great post!

  5. Kind of weird since I’m a girl but I’ve been reading barstool since I was a sophomore in high school (so since about 2011? Think blackout tours and 21 year old Feits) and I think they do something that a lot of companies don’t utilize well, which is as you mentioned, the personalities of the people who work for them. They actually organically create content by just showing up to their office everyday. Some of the interoffice fights and their twitter pages are what create the most organic content and an amazing amount of commitment from their fans. My next blog post is going to jump off of you and discuss a little more in depth how they use their brand to monetize and deeply utilize their engagement to gain sponsors. I think you did an amazing job of explaining why barstool is so successful and why fans stick with them and stay loyal. They are a company that consistently is at the top of the list for follower engagement, even as a much smaller, generally regional brand.

  6. As someone sick of all the politicized news out there, it is refreshing to just sit back and listen to things like the Barstool Rundown and the Pardon My Take podcast for a good laugh and some sports and entertainment insight. To piggy back off your diversity point, Chicks in the Office involves two younger women who work for the company who are hilarious and have been very successful with the company. This helps them attempt to connect with the female audience more, although the audience is predominantly 18-30 year old men.
    I also want to point out their acquisition of Rough N Rowdy. It already seems like a wildly profitable investment. The PPVs go for at most $15.00 with 4 hours of electric redneck fighting. It may not be Mayweather v. Pacquiao but it is an affordable PPV with a lot of fighting, great entertainment (like Bill Burr being ringside for the next fight), and a great reason to get together with friends for a good laugh. I truly think that Barstool Sports has tremendously benefited from the Chernin Group and the sky is the limit as long as they remain out of any serious trouble for their controversial antics.

  7. Really interesting post Matt! I personally haven’t read or listened to much when it comes to Barstool but have definitely seen the cultural impact they have had with all the “Saturday’s are for the Boys” flags all over campus. I didn’t know the company had branched out into other areas like video games and pets which is an interesting move for their brand. I think it does help them get a larger audience and I wonder what people think when they find out those pages are run by Barstool. since the company is so polarizing I wonder if the branching out makes people consider giving regular barstool a chance or if they stop following the pet accounts due to the vulgarity and aggressiveness of Barstool itself. I feel as though Barstool is kind of like shows like family guy and south park where it takes a more aggressive and sometimes offensive view on current events. Shows like that have to cross the line sometimes because with comedy it is hard to be aggressive and edgy without sometimes offending people. One thing that interests me is the Saturdays are for the boy’s slogan and culture. I feel as though this is a show of possible fragile masculinity in an age where feminism is on the rise and women are taking more power. It seems like this desperate last attempt to keep girls away from something, like when you are little and you have a boys-only treehouse. The sense of exclusivity is something that can be a bit toxic and I am interested if Barstool will continue to be able to have toxic ideas like this and continue to be succesful

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