Stenberg, M. (2021, September 23). Barstool Sports is expanding into food delivery. Adweek. Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://www.adweek.com/media/barstool-sports-is-expanding-into-food-delivery-with-barstool-bites/.
Barstool Sports has made its entrée into the world of food.
The publisher is pushing into the CPG and food-delivery industries, as well as launching the “World Cup of women’s hockey,” the Barstool Hockey Cup, CEO Erika Nardini said in an upfront presentation Wednesday night.
Barstool will be unveiling a branded pizza product, called One Bite Frozen Pizza, in partnership with Happi Foodi beginning Sept. 28, a foray informed by founder Dave Portnoy’s low-fidelity YouTube series, One Bite Pizza Reviews. At launch, the product will have four different varieties and be available in 3,600 Walmarts nationwide.
The publisher also plans to enter the food-delivery industry, in a venture it calls Barstool Bites. To tackle the logistics, Barstool will partner with Virtual Dining Concepts, a restaurant empire of delivery-only brands produced in ghost kitchens. At launch, Barstool Bites will have 300 market partners in cities nationwide, and the menu, which was crafted in collaboration with prominent figures in the Stoolie extended universe, will cater to sports fans hungry for gameday fare like chicken wings, sliders and fries.
The Barstool Hockey Cup, the publisher’s second push into live sports behind its recently announced sponsorship of the Arizona Bowl, will pit women’s hockey teams from Canada, the U.S. and Europe against one another for a weeklong tournament. The venture will be exclusively run by women at Barstool Sports, Nardini said.
Since its inception in 2003, Barstool has proven eager to evolve beyond the scope of a traditional sports media company. Last January the publisher sold a 36% ownership stake to casino operator Penn National Gaming for $163 million in cash and stock, and its expansive podcast network, combined with revenue from merchandise and gambling deals, helped it generate between $90-$100 million in revenue in 2019.
“Barstool is bigger than ever, I would say it’s hotter than ever and there isn’t really a category that we haven’t disrupted, except for live,” Nardini told Adweek.
The announcement of these new ventures, as well as the expansion of its existing ones, comes amidst a rapidly shifting sports media landscape. The legalization of online sports-betting in 2018 has prompted publishers like Sports Illustrated to form lucrative partnerships with gambling operations, while others like The Athletic, Gannett and FOS have shown the viability of paywalling sports content.
Barstool, despite its checkered history of misogyny, homophobia and racism, has cultivated such a strong brand identity that its business eludes easy categorization, allowing the publisher to expand into industries unavailable to more traditional sports publications. For publishers with loyal brand followings, like BuzzFeed and soon Vox Media, licensing has become a growing source of revenue.
In addition to its new offerings, Barstool also announced a handful of expansions to its existing ventures.
Barstool signed a multiyear branding rights deal with the Arizona Bowl in July, and the publisher has been building out programming around the Dec. 31 game, which will feature teams from the Mountain West and Mid-American conferences. The game, in a steep departure from tradition, will air online on Barstool platforms rather than cable television. It has also attracted controversy, prompting the Pima County Board of Supervisors to vote to withdraw $40,000 of funding from the game.
“This will be our first foray into broadcast, and it will be on social, it will be physical, it will be experiential in Tucson and it will be viral,” Nardini said.
The publisher is also expanding its Barstool Golf Classic by adding new cities and several new sponsors, and it hopes to attract up to 3,000 golfers this year, according to a spokesperson for the company.
On the editorial front, Barstool will be developing a handful of reality television shows that more mirror the standard format of the genre. For years, Barstool personalities have interacted on social media and platforms like YouTube, in series like Barstool vs. America and Surviving Barstool. The company plans to formalize the series and expand them.
Barstool is also bringing in new female talent to anchor several series slated to premiere in 2022. The publisher has hired the TikTok-famous mother-daughter duo Kim and Alex Bennett, as well as two gambling personalities, Megan Nunez of Megan Making Money and Kelly Stewart of Kelly in Vegas.
In July, Barstool lost one of its most lucrative podcasts when the (now lone) host of Call Her Daddy, Alex Cooper, left the publisher for Spotify, in a $60 million, three-year deal. In June, on an episode of his podcast The Dave Portnoy Show With Eddie & Co., Portnoy said he was “pretty happy with how all this shook out.”