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Cam Newton Calls His Own Plays in Media Master Plan

The Iconic Saga founder and former NFL MVP sat down with Boardroom to discuss his quest to become the top YouTuber in sports, the inspiration behind his businesses, and so much more.

Cam Newton has a two-pronged plan for success. First, build a media empire the likes no one has ever seen. Next, surround himself with the right people to help execute his vision.

Both goals propel a feeling of ownership for the 34-year-old. The days of studying game film are long past him. But Newton fuels a penchant for learning another way: studying some of the biggest names in media and their ascent from nobodies to billionaires. “Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Oprah. They all have something in common,” he tells me. “They own everything. So, anytime I have the opportunity to own an IP, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Listening to Newton break down his master plan, I’m struck by how in-depth it is. It contains attainable short- and long-term goals backed by the steps he’s already completed to reach said milestones. For Newton, this plan has been in process since he emerged from Auburn.

The former NFL MVP sat down with Boardroom to discuss how he’s taking his MVP work ethic into his next chapter, the businesses he’s building, and much more.

Entering the Next Era

From the moment we were introduced to Cam Newton the college quarterback in 2008, there was always something that stood apart. Rather than appealing to how the so-called “leader” should act, Newton blazed his own path. Thus, it’s perhaps no surprise that when asked what network would sponsor his new venture, he was quick to emphasize that it’s both solo-funded and free of corporate influence.

“Being independent, I wouldn’t even say it’s harder, but it requires more grit and grind rather than somebody having an already set platform, like ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS, and things like that. I don’t think if I were on those platforms, I would be able to truly give the consumer me. You would get a version of me, but that wouldn’t be the real me. I’m just sitting back and trying to build Iconic Saga as the leading minority business company and we have to start somewhere.”

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Founded in 2012, Iconic Saga is a full-service production company Newton started that focuses on scripted and non-scripted digital content, children’s programming, animation, and more. Anything you see Newton attach his name to, it’s surely an Iconic Saga project. What’s taking up a chunk of his time these days is his weekly web series, Funky Friday. There, he moderates a conversation on a variety of topics from lifestyle, to relationships, the latest in pop culture, and more. A second series, 4th & 1, centers more on sports.

For Newton, the shows are more than a chance to link up with some of his famous friends. Rather, it’s a way for him to set the narrative.

“I would challenge and encourage other athletes to take control of their narrative,” says Newton. “When I want to hear about football, I want to hear it from a football player. If I want to hear about basketball, I want to hear about that from a basketball player. Media is at a very interesting space right now because you have people who are gaining more validation by being able to speak on certain topics, as opposed to the days where somebody can just voice their opinion and say, ‘Okay, boom. That’s the show.’ Well, in this day and age, it is being able to be authentic to what you’re talking about and how you’re talking about it. And we’re seeing more and more creatives or creators create stories, storylines, and content that’s true to them.”

Photo by Derek White/Getty Images

Newton is just one of several athletes and former athletes reclaiming their narrative from traditional sports news. Rather than sharing their stories with traditional outlets, they’re creating a safe space of their own. They are also creating content, which they play a role in developing and finding a permanent home on a platform they create and finance — and profit from.

While Cam has a unique vision for what he wants to make, he looks to others who have come before him for inspiration, both in sports and entertainment. Newton referenced two well-known modern content creators when discussing who have successfully disrupted media consumption: Logan and Jake Paul. After meeting Logan, Newton says he found him to be “very smart and strategic about what and how he did certain things.” A YouTuber-turned-fighter-turned-sports drink mogul, Paul boasts nearly 26 million subscribers on YouTube, and Newton attributes the 28-year-old’s success to understanding his audience.

“People just throw content on platforms, whether it’s Instagram, X, or TikTok. What I’m learning is that good content creators study their audience, the bad content creators study just themselves.”

Building on the Strength of a Solid Team

While Newton has always set himself apart from the crowd, he knows better than anyone how critical it is to have a solid team behind him. The strength of his team was core to his success in football and now serves as a steady foundation for what he’s building with Iconic Saga.

In a separate office behind where we’re sitting, Newton’s team is busy editing the latest episode of 4th & 1. Newton shares he’s had people working on his behalf ever since the age of 17. Attending open houses, classes, picking up supplies at the bookstore, and even down to deciding what to eat. “That was the job of someone else,” says Newton. By the time he entered the league, Newton had a full-fledged unit negotiating on his behalf.

Despite the benefits of dedicated personnel, however, Newton now sees ways that it can function as a hindrance to growth. “Because you skip steps of really understanding your business and understanding what you need. It took me a while to recognize I was not the priority for a lot of people’s focus. … I had ideas and whether those ideas were hits or flops, I wanted it to be a person’s focus. Well, it’s hard to have that focus for somebody when they’re just a contractor.”

As someone who prides himself on long-lasting relationships. Newton’s staff is an indication of that virtue. His producer is someone who has been with him since his first stint with the Carolina Panthers, and his chief of staff joined his team well before he was named NFL MVP in 2015. Relationship building, according to him, functions by one simple question: “Who gets me?” Newton says. “The people who I put in charge have to understand my mental process. They have to be my quarterback. They have to be an extension of me in a way where you got to be gritty, you got to be professional. You got to be detailed. You got to understand the most important part of your job is the attention to detail.”

Newton then boasts about Omari Collins, his head of digital content with such esteem that it’s obvious Iconic Saga doesn’t function without him. Bringing him into his universe wasn’t contingent on negotiations, because Newton tells me he was willing to pay what it took to acquire Collins’ services. “I was like, ‘bro, tell me what you need, I’m going to figure it out.’ Now we’ve grown to understand each other in a way that reaches far beyond the workplace.”

It’s fascinating hearing Newton reiterate his thought process in real-time. He doesn’t just think of those around him as people on his payroll with the sole purpose of making him look good. They’re instrumental to his success as a content creator and his evolution as a businessman. Newton describes the fun they have in great detail, and it’s apparent by the way he speaks highly of his team at every chance he gets.

“I want people to come into this space and feel vindicated. I want them to feel empowered. I want them to have fun. I want them to be rewarded for what they create.”

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Writing the Playbook Behind 4th & 1

When it launched in 2020, Funky Friday was only supposed to be a non-football activity during the season. During his tenure in New England, Newton describes the days as very strenuous. “I was just thinking about football, football, football. Going through the pandemic. It was football, football, football.”

Thus, an escape was born. The show became a way for him to “breathe,” he tells me. Podcast culture was booming. These days, anyone is a few hundred dollars is 3-5 business days away from having their own microphone to spew whatever inner thoughts they’d suddenly want broadcast to the public.

“I was witnessing other people using their platform to start podcasts or shows. I was like, ‘Yo, they talking about anything? I just want to talk about anything,” he joked. “Anybody who knows me knows I always have questions of the day. I love talking to people.” Newton motions to our setup. “This shit right here, I can do this all goddamn day. I just love that,” he continues. As candid as he was to me, you can only imagine how rewarding it is to do Funky Friday. Newton gushes about how much fun recording the program is, mainly because he gets “to talk to people and just have fun.”

In another moment of transparency, Newton acknowledges that his guests remain the nucleus, emphasizing that his number one goal is to make them comfortable. After all, the more comfortable they are, the more guests are willing to share. I point out that it’s a net positive to be invited as a guest of an NFL legend. “I have this ‘I don’t give a fuck mentality,'” Newton quips, flashing his signature grin before continuing, “But I don’t want to be a pot stirrer all the time. I just want to have a good conversation. I want to bring something out of you that nobody has ever bought out of you. I want to curate a vibe that is just unmatched.”

So far, Funky Friday has welcomed the likes of comedian Gary Owen, Brandon Marshall, Eli Manning, T-Boz from TLC, and dozens more. A quick browse through the show’s YouTube page reveals hours of discourse between everyone from social media influencers to people he used to suit up against. As far as guests go, Newton tells me he favors the “controversial people who’ve been through some shit.” Or, the commonly misunderstood individual. Most times, those go hand in hand.

Doing It All His Way

Newton and I have been talking for a couple of hours in his office by now. We’ve discussed plenty of football and business, but there are a few more topics I want to cover while I still have his attention. Celebrated for his heroic antics on the football field, Newton’s off-field ensembles became another major topic of discourse. Newton’s love of fashion started at an early age. The son of a pastor, he jokes that “even though The Bible says come as you are, my grandma wasn’t letting me come in no church with flip flops, shorts, or a plain white t-shirt.” Dressing up, even at an early age, was a form of self-expression for him, and it heightened once Newton enrolled in JROTC.

“JROTC is very strict. But I learned nothing about strictness other than fashionable gems that I didn’t necessarily know before…” he says. “Most importantly, JROTC taught me how to tie a tie. And I was so happy about that because a lot of people, especially people I was around, didn’t know how to tie a tie. I guarantee I could go into my dad’s closet right now. He’s going to have hundreds of already tied ties, probably been tied for 20 years now.”

Of course, Newton is wearing one of his signature bow ties as we speak. I jokingly asked if he could fasten it without looking in the mirror. He smirks, puts down the cigar he’s been smoking since we started the interview, and unravels the accessory. Fifty-five seconds later, the tie is back to being perfectly cinched in the middle of his neck.

(Photo by Prince Williams/WireImage)

“That’s the thing about ties. It got personality to it, you know what I’m saying? And that’s me, a personable guy.”

Another thing that adds to Newton’s charm? His unique way of typing. A combination of upper and lowercase letters with oddly placed accent marks, It’s created so much controversy that Newton’s Instagram bio reads: ĪM ÑØT ČHÅÑGĪÑG TH£ ₩ÅŸ Ī TŸ₽£; gêt ōvêr ît❕ÿōū pōšt ÿōūr wâÿ; Ī ₽اT MĪÑ£…”

So, what’s the reasoning behind this decision? It’s all a part of his brand. “Did the way I type sacrifice deals? Yeah. Did it come off as narcissistic to some people? Sure, but they don’t know me. It’s a form of self-expression. If we don’t all write the same, why should we all type the same?” Newton informs me that to generate his font, he uses an app called I Post My Way.

The final thing that makes Newton a maestro of charisma is his hair. Over the years, we’ve seen it grow from a low fade to now a head full of locs. Before you ask, Newton has absolutely no plans to cut his signature look. His hat brand, Meshika, even makes custom headgear to withstand the locs that sit straight up.

In combination, Newton’s style has grown with him — with little consideration of any expectations of him.

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What’s Next For Super Cam?

Iconic Saga has a busy 2024 ahead. Although Newton’s focus is on becoming the most famous athlete-turned-YouTuber, he’s got even bigger plans to cement himself as Atlanta’s premiere businessman.

He and his older brother Cecil “CJ” Newton Jr. own Fellaship, a cigar bar in downtown Atlanta that’s a short walk from the Falcons’ home of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. A new restaurant called The End Zone is forthcoming, and alongside his business partner, Newton wants to create the number one minority brokerage company in the world.

Newton then exclusively reveals to Boardroom that plans for a private, membership social club are in the works. Named Cosa Nostra, it is set to open later this year.

Newton says he got the inspiration for the moniker from the mob.

“I’m a big fan of drug dealers,” he adds. “They’re the best businessmen in the world. Have you ever seen Pablo Escobar? Now, was he corrupt? Yeah, but I love his business mindset.” With two shows, multiple businesses, and a foundation to manage, it seems like football is the last of his priorities. Newton assures me the arm still works, but that’s no longer the focus.

So, what does he want his legacy to be?

“I want to monetize my life my way. I got control over my shit. Is it going to be harder? Yeah, but I ain’t want this shit to be easy. If it were, anybody could do it. I’m trying to learn from other people’s mistakes and other people’s successes and apply it to my own. I know my compensation may not always come in the form of financial. My compensation comes with joy. Every time I walk through these doors and I see the team and I see guys that stay here past the eight-hour shift, that’s the shit I get happy about.

“So you’re asking me, ‘Okay Cam, are you still playing football?’ My answer is ‘Hell no.’ But I’m busier than I’ve ever been because I could take what football taught me and implement it in every single one of my businesses. The structure, the discipline, the sacrifice, the mental stamina that’s needed. And that’s the conversation. The grind. The joy is in the journey.”

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About The Author
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. She began her career in sports journalism with bylines at SB Nation, USA Today, and most recently Yahoo. She received a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Truman State University, and when she's not watching old clips of Serena Williams' best matches, she is likely perfecting her signature chocolate chip cookie recipe or preparing a traditional Cameroonian meal.