The lawyer and Georgia Bulldog takes Boardroom through her path to becoming Head of Athlete Partnerships at Twitter Sports.
In a social media landscape rife with fake and phony veneers of grandiose lives in the quest to become famous or to make a quick buck, so much so that a new app literally implores its users to be real, authenticity is always in short supply.
For Brantlee Fields, Twitter‘s Head of Athlete Partnerships, authenticity has always been her guiding principle. Born and raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina, she moved 115 miles south to North Augusta, South Carolina at age 14 before attending the University of Georgia as an undergraduate. After earning a degree in political science in 2011, she enrolled at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, the city in which she still resides today.
While in law school, she interned for Register Lett, LLP and Dow Lohnes Sports and Entertainment, now known as The Sports and Entertainment Group. It was at the later firm that she met Katrina Leonce, that group’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations. Leonce took Fields under her wing and taught her everything she needed to know about the sports business.
Back in 2013, the firm worked with football stars like Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte, and LeVeon Bell, plus NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer. It was a year after MJD had participated in ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue,” and it got Fields and the firm thinking — in working on PETA’s Body Issue-inspired “Ink Not Mink” campaign, they had Bell participate while getting to work connecting the dots between athletes and brands in the clothing and lifestyle spaces that weren’t strictly football related, which helped to showcase their clients’ off-field pursuits and interests.
While this practice is commonplace today, Fields notes that it was rare even eight or nine years ago.
Leonce was a Black woman in a white male-dominated industry, and she saw that Fields had serious passion for creating opportunities for athletes that were distinct from industry orthodoxy at the time. It was Leonce who gave Fields the best piece of professional advice she’s ever received: To be her true, authentic self. The rest will fall into place.
“Athletes are constantly told that they’re the best, this and that,” Fields said. “Sometimes, you have to kind of bring them down to reality. Like, ‘hey, we need to get this stuff done.’ I have incredible relationships with athletes; something that she taught me is they’re just like us. They’re regular people, too. So sometimes, you have to talk to them and make them understand that you’re doing this to help build their brand.”
All the while, Fields found out that she was the sort of person that others looked at a little bit differently — the sort of person that can face unfair and unnecessary but very, very real uphill battles to wage.
“I’m thankful that Katrina paved the way for me to be successful in this industry,” she said, “but I do think that women are viewed with a closer magnifying glass than males are in this industry because we’re not given the same sort of attention or afforded the same amount of respect. We have to work a little bit harder.”
Ready to spread her wings wider in 2015, Fields helped start a sports lifestyle media network called PROATHLETE TV, leading athlete relations and business development. The brand created digital content for athletes like Josh Gordon, Michael Johnson, and Mark Ingram off the field through food, fashion, music, travel, and business.
“In 2015, no one really knew where content was going to live, so it wasn’t notable,” she said. “Obviously we see that that is not true now.”
After three years, Fields went back into the marketing and agency world as a sports marketing manager with Everett Sports Marketing, which currently includes high-profile clients like Jalen Hurts, Nick Chubb, Jonathan Taylor, Mac Jones, and college basketball twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder. Before Deebo Samuel was selected with the 36th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, Fields helped ESM sell the playmaker’s story to Bleacher Report instead of the typical ESPNs of the world, taking things a step further to highlight what it was like for Samuel growing up and affording him the kind of nuanced visibility than the Worldwide Leader in Sports would not have had time for.
B/R was live on the floor with Samuel at the draft — sitting next to Fields, of course — documenting the moment in which he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers like no outlet had bothered to attempt before. Fans got to experience that moment live on Instagram; it was then disseminated all over Bleacher Report and ESM’s social channels, providing fans a uniquely immersive moment that’s since been emulated a hundred different ways.
Fields said she likes a challenge. She finds a thrill in outside-the-box ideas that fuel her creativity. That impulse led her to QC Sports, a subsidiary of innovative record label Quality Control, where she served as Vice President of Sports Marketing and Branding — but there came a moment in which Fields realized she was fed up with the agency side of life.
An avid tweeter and longtime lover of Twitter as a platform, she eventually found out through friends who worked at the company that the Head of Athlete Partnerships role was available.
So she went and got it.
“Now, I have a lot more freedom to work with all athletes and all sports,” she said. “I’ve been able to do a lot of really cool things.”
Fields’ favorite thing she’s done so far is helping to bring Derek Jeter to the platform at the end of May. She and her team got to shoot video with the New York Yankees legend, and she was especially proud of Jeter tweeting himself and not having some intern or ghost tweeter do it.
“Him reliving those tweets about him while he was playing was really, really incredible,” Fields said.
Fields’ day-to-day job is broken down into three general buckets:
- The general safety and satisfaction of athletes on Twitter’s platform, making sure they’re using it the right way and they’re not being targeted or harassed.
- Educating athletes about the most effective ways to use the platform and explaining to them why such practices are so important.
- The activation aspect, which includes getting Jeter on Twitter and creating content with athletes directly, whether it’s behind the scenes showing up at live events, making sure athletes are engaged with Twitter, making sure Twitter is present, and people can feel it.
All told, Fields maintains that the best Twitter athlete partners are the ones who equal parts engaged and authentic.
“We want people to come to the platform and talk about the things that they care about,” she said. “Sometimes, the media can misconstrue what people are saying, so I always encourage athletes to come to Twitter to create the narrative that they want first. It’s a great way for athletes to talk about their college decision or if they’re going to transfer, and I think that’s the place we want people to use it.”
For NIL athletes in college (and even high school), building personal brands on Twitter and allowing potential business partners to see the type of person they truly are is an opportunity Fields helps to encourage and facilitate. She understands, of course, that while the important conversations can begin on Twitter, they will inevitably evolve away from the platform in due time.
And while we all know Twitter’s NFL and NBA communities are strong, Fields has worked to engage dedicated communities like golf with Gary Player, Formula 1 with Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bull Racing team, Sydney Colson and WNBA Twitter, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NASCAR Twitter.
“Dale Earnhardt’s tweets are legendary,” she said. “I don’t feel like we spotlight NASCAR enough. NASCAR Twitter is really big, so to be able to reach out to him and get some stuff done because his tweets are just really funny was really awesome. I try to push people to follow athletes that are outside of their comfort zone. Athletes that they don’t normally think about.”
When working directly with athletes like Jeter, Dale Jr., and Tottenham Hotspur and South Korea superstar Heung-min Son, Fields lets them control the way Twitter kicks around content with them, enabling them to tell their own stories. If they’re directly involved in the process from start to finish, she said, they’ll be more inclined to work with them in the future.
A major initiative Fields wants to spearhead moving forward is what she called expanding locally — reaching out to athletes like Son and going to countries Twitter hasn’t truly tapped into yet and focusing on certain sports whose respective regional popularities are still developing.
“We want to get into pickleball and cornhole and everything else that is a little bit obscure that have a nice following,” she said. “Anything that can drive conversation to the platform, we wanna be a part of.”
As a Black woman in a leadership role at a major tech company, Fields also feels a responsibility to make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a key emphasis at her job as well. This year, she was selected and recognized by Hashtag Sports as one of its top 30 Creators of Color.
“I was brought into this industry by a Black woman that believes in me, and it’s only right that I do that for someone else,” Fields said. “I don’t want to pull the ladder up and stop other women from climbing up, because there is a space for them and the sports world is inherently African-American. It’s important that we highlight that and that those social teams that are working tirelessly reflect that.”
For now, Fields reports being especially happy with where the athlete partnership role is headed, continuing to highlight different sports within which Twitter hasn’t been so much a part of the conversation, and getting to work with top athletes across several regions and competitions, and
“Keep having the conversation on Twitter, engage with your fans with the tools and products that we have,” she said.
“And be authentic.”
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