Ed Romaine – Head of Marketing and Brand Development, Sports at Warner Bros Discovery
Runner. Soccer Ball. Basketball. Basketball player. Hockey stick. English flag. American flag. These are the 7 emojis that Ed Romaine has carefully curated to present himself to the world in his Instagram bio. Ed is the Head of Marketing and Brand Development, Sports at Warner Bros Discovery, where he oversees a myriad of sports related properties including House of Highlights and Bleacher Report.
In their conversation, Ryan and Ed bond over their love for sports while discussing highlight culture and strategies for connecting with the modern fan. Ed also gives a behind the curtain look into his unique role that spans far beyond the world of sports, and touches on his approach to managing a massive team with an emphasis on candor.
Ryan Berman 0:00
This is a show about facing fear, unlocking courage, and taking action.
Speaker 2 (Female) 0:05
Courage isn't necessarily a daunting thing.
Speaker 3 (Male) 0:07
It's going to give you more purpose, it's going to give you more drive.
Speaker 4 (Male) 0:10
It feels like making a courageous decision is going to get you closer to who you aspire to be.
Ryan Berman 0:14
It’s knowledge, plus faith, plus action equals courage.
Ed Romaine 0:18
If people know you're being a faker, or being inauthentic, you lose the room, they don't want to listen to you. And so, who I am outside of the office is exactly what I'm in the office. I lead with candor, I try to be mindful of when things aggravate me how they might aggravate others to try to defuse that feeling.
(Intro Music 0:35-0:42)
Ryan Berman 0:43
Seven emojis. If you actually look up Ed Romain’s Instagram, the way that you present yourself, you have seven emojis. Let me listen to this...
Ed Romaine 0:54
I don't think I knew this, by the way.
Ryan Berman 0:55
Okay, this is what I'm here for, a sleuth observationalist. We're going to start right here. Here are the seven emojis that you've chosen to use in the order from left to right. Runner, soccer ball, basketball -- this is where it gets interesting -- basketball player, USA flag, English flag, hockey stick. All right. Tell me, now that you know all this…
Ed Romaine 1:20
I'm going to take you through this. Now that you're reminding me of my emoji sequence, I can confidently say that it was all deliberate. So, the runner is a runner.
Ryan Berman 1:34
Like a marathon or...?
Ed Romaine 1:34
[Inaudible 1:34] Yeah. I ran my first full marathon at 35, my second one at 40 to see if I could beat my time at 35, and also, because we were coming out of the pandemic and I felt a little... Not like it was before the pandemic started, and I was bad about training. And I did great for the first 20 miles, and then, I sort of was in excruciating pain for the last six, but I still beat my time by 30 seconds. Okay, so that's the first emoji. The soccer ball is because I played soccer my whole life. The basketball and basketball player point to our top-tier league partnerships with the NBA. The hockey stick, NHL is our newest league tier one league partner, so that's there. The English and the American flag are representative of the teams that I sort of oversee on the Bleacher Report side, we have a small but mighty team in the UK, so that is an homage to the English. Did I hit all of them?
Ryan Berman 2:26
You got them all, that’s impressive.
Ed Romaine 2:28
All right. So, that's the design, yeah.
Ryan Berman 2:31
Well again, I love it, and a nice sneak peek behind the curtain too, of like, some of it’s personal, some of it’s work, but obviously, work could be personal especially if you love what you do, right?
Ed Romaine 2:43
Yeah, for sure. We work in marketing and entertainment and sports, right? Sports is a great community unifier, it's always been a part of sort of my life, and so, bringing it into the fold, such as showing what's emblematic of your profession, I think it all kind of blends nicely there.
Ryan Berman 2:58
And I think it's a nice segue that it's November right now, and I would say it's a pretty awesome time in the world of sports. You've got the NFL is hot and heavy, NHL is back, NBA is back. I'm sure you're pretty busy right now, but then, you add on this obscure World Cup that has been shifted to November, December. Although it sounds like that's more joy and love than work, on the World Cup side, are you the type of guy that will actually wake up to watch at 2:00 A.M., or 5:00 A.M., or are you into DVR too?
Ed Romaine 3:33
No, my plan actually is, on this Sunday, I believe there's a 2:00 P.M. that we're planning on attending. No, it would have to be waking hours for me to be not watching a highlight. I think, though, that it’s interesting, October was like fresh. We had MLB postseason, the NBA launched, the NHL launch, all of our creative sort of went out into the world. So, it's funny, because coming out of the summer, you're so eager to get the season started. So, it has been kind of an exciting time in that regard for sure.
Ryan Berman 4:01
So, I should probably take a step back. We are joined today by Ed Romaine, I just went into it. So, Ed, when I look at Warner Brothers Discovery, and try to figure out this portfolio, I think there's like 65-plus brands in the portfolio, Bleacher Report, TNT sports, but then, like HBO, CNN, are you responsible for all 65 and therefore you don't sleep, or are you under Warner Brothers’ discovery sports?
Ed Romaine 4:32
So, I'm under Warner Brothers’ discovery sports, which essentially means I oversee the marketing and brand development efforts for everything that happens in the sports vertical. That includes what happens in the sports vertical on our linear networks; TBS, TNT True, soon HBO Max with USSF, which we'll be streaming some matches for. And then, on the Bleacher Report side, well, I should say the digital and social side, we have MML, we have NBAD, a joint venture, and then, we have Bleacher Report, and there’s an ecosystem of brands, which is a whole host of stuff that I'm happy to go through. The two biggest brands that, from an awareness perspective, I would say are House of Highlights and Bleacher Report. House of highlights, as an example we're about to release today, is the most viewed brand on social across TikTok, IG, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. We've garnered in the last -- this is going to sound psycho, but in October, we garnered 961 million views on YouTube, and 3.9 billion views on TikTok, IG, and YouTube combined. So, just crazy, crazy resident's engagement numbers. So yeah, there's a lot going on just in sports alone. The other big piece of the job is figuring out how to create cohesion between the sports article, what we have going on with WB theatrical, what we have going on with the streaming product, what we have going on with news. And we're working really hard, myself and my marketing counterparts on creating synergies. So, from everything from NBA All-Star, which is like a tier-one priority for the company, but so is Barbie, the movie, so is Aquaman. How do we create interesting integrations across all the assets that we have? I did this House of the Dragon integration in MLB postseason. It was an awful announcement. It was one of the worst integrations they've ever seen, but, in that regard, it was like, bad press is good press, this is great. We had a CGI that could sort of fly in, Port Bob Costas was like, I think the Dragon from Westeros is here, this is like the whole thing, but that part has been really fun because we have tremendous assets of the company. So, making them sing in different ways that are sometimes intuitive to sports, sometimes not. It's been awesome.
Ryan Berman 6:40
Who's actually responsible for, I say, walk like a crab? You're responsible for walking left to right, side to side, making sure integrations happening. Is it like, “Oh, shoot, we didn't think about this,” or now it's like, “All right, now that we've gone through this exercise, we need something that's really integrating our brands across all the different verticals?”
Ed Romaine 7:05
I have to say, one of the calls to action from leadership since the merger in April has really been an evolved sensibility about making sure all boats rise. I think in the past and other companies that I've worked for, sometimes, there's a fostering of this intra-competition between like-minded assets, right? So imagine TBS competing with TNT. It's like, “What are you doing?” Or in the way that we promote March Madness, how do we use Bleacher Report to do that? You have to think about it in ways that you're not actually diluting both digital products, but you're augmenting. So, soon after the merger, they developed this council, which is called the Fusion Council, and it's about making sure there is cohesive accountability, to make sure that we are identifying, not every piece of IP that we have, we're producing… If you think about our US network side, how many pieces of content do we produce per day? There's innumerable series. So, it's really focusing in on a core set of let's call it, six to 12 things, that we think are going to be the most prominent for the company from either a brand equity perspective, or a revenue perspective. Bringing a group of creatives together to come up with realistic thinking around integration using our talent that we have, all of that stuff. Then, managing the execution such that we can actually capture performance. More difficult than linear, because you’re time stamping and looking at GOPs, but on digital social, you can really sort of see engagement, variety, the things that you're creating that are working. So, I think they've been really smart about using data to inform our go-forward strategy against each of those priorities, if that makes sense.
Ryan Berman 8:41
Yeah, in the competitive reality of corporate.
Ed Romaine 8:46
Ryan Berman 8:47
Is that just fear? Obviously, everybody wants to do well, but...
Ed Romaine 8:51
We're all chasing our tails for sure, which I think is part and parcel to the media advertising. It's like, “Oh, they're doing NFTs over here, let's go to an NFT here,”
or “We're going to go make a Metaverse environment, let's do that.” So, it's definitely, it's a balance. I don't think it's fear so much as making sure we strike the right calculus of paid media efforts off our ono, but using the scale and size of our US networks, of our streaming platforms, of our sports properties, to capitalize on audience, essentially. And, you know this, getting people to pay attention to anything, including myself, from the time I wake up in the morning, is like this super difficult task because we're just inundated with stimuli.
Ryan Berman 9:31
Ed Romaine 9:32
So, it's that.
Ryan Berman 9:33
To me, that's the question, that has always been the question. And the nuance that it takes to not invade someone's life, but actually make them want to interact with your magic. Which is where I think sports, for me, has always been a love story. Since I was six years old… My parents chose not to finish the basement because that was my arena.
Ed Romaine 9:58
Ryan Berman 9:59
I was just down there...
Ed Romaine 10:00
[Inaudible 10:00] down there?
Ryan Berman 10:01
No, whatever season it was -- I grew up in DC, so we actually had four of those things called seasons -- I was down there. If it was hockey season, I was on roller skates and I literally broke the same window like 11 times, until I finally smartly covered it up with a board. I always also had this personal fear, not that it stopped me, but I'm curious to get your take, that I never wanted to muck up my love of sports. I felt like going deep and working in sports, and really going behind the curtain of this thing that was so pure could do that. So, now you've been in sports how long?
Ed Romaine 10:40
Five years now. Ancillary seven, about five.
Ryan Berman 10:43
Okay, so first, I'd love to figure out, how did you… Let's talk about the steps, but do you feel now that you're there, can you compartmentalize your love of sports and your emojis or...?
Ed Romaine 10:54
That’s so interesting. So, I've worked in music, I've worked in a more traditional agency, sort of, your background, I've worked in fashion, I've worked in let's call it, sort of high-end luxury brand, I'll call it luxury, now sports. In any category of business that you work in, there's always this sort of test from the people around you being like, “Well, I love music more than you do,” and it’s like, “Let's name every catalog of every artist.” When you're in a conference room, you have to bump your head the hardest. So, now on the flip side, people looking in on all these jobs are like, it feels glamorous, it feels like you have access to all this talent. The people, our icons like Shaquille O'Neal, and Candice, and all these people. So, being inside of it is amazing because it's enlightening and you learn things. You learn the humanity of folks that you've looked up to your whole life, and there's something really grounding in that, but I also think, I'm like a big culture guy too, so it hasn't ruined my love for sports. In fact, I would say that because I started at Bleacher Report before I took over the linear side of the house, I really got a chance to see how sports and culture were coming together, because that was sort of the brand positioning for Bleacher Report, that intersection. In that regard, it was interesting to me to see how... So, I grew up in a super bifurcated home, my dad was from Boston, my mom was from Philadelphia, two angry fans, just angry people. One of my earliest memories, which I always talk about is, I went to a Devils; Flyers game, and I remember people chanting, from Philadelphia, of course, that the Devil sucked, and spilling beer on my mother. I was probably like six, and it was just always a part of my life..
Ryan Berman 12:47
“When I grow up, I want to work in sports.”
Ed Romaine 12:51
Yeah, it was just like quarreling factions of family about different teams and stuff. Anyway, I say all this to say, how I grew up, and maybe, how you grew up, it was like my uncle, and my dad’s, and even my aunts were super, super into sports, and that was a thing. It's interesting now because casuals, what I call casual, casual fans or new fans, sometimes don't have that same constants that we always had as kids, and they're coming into sports in different ways by following players on social, who have enthusiasm or passion for other things that then get them into it. That's fascinating for me as a marketer, because it's like, “Oh, you like sneakers, so you follow so and so.” So, “Oh, I'm going to get you into this thing.” Part of our approach really, is always protecting the core, so guys like you and me, or folks that have grown up with sports and they can care about it, and are going to tune in. And then, getting the attention of these folks over here who are like, “I don't really watch TV, I'm always on social, and I’m probably most of the time on TikTok.” It’s like, how do you get those people in? Some of it is capitalizing on players, which, to me, is it’s almost shifted to be player first, it used to be [Inaudible 14:04]. Then, on top of that, how do you create episodic narratives so there's a reason for tuning? Whether it's a showdown or a topical that's really relevant to the seasonal storyline, that's the fun part.
Ryan Berman 14:19
Look, and by the way, I'm not sure where this is going this next comment.
Ed Romaine 14:24
We can go anywhere.
Ryan Berman 14:25
I will say I find it fascinating how we use specific words in certain places when other words could be utilized as well. So, you talked about Bleacher, and culture, and… To me, culture is just team. We grew up in team sports. I grew up with team sports.
Ed Romaine 14:32
Yeah, me too.
Ryan Berman 14:43
Soccer, basketball, I was not a swimmer, golfer.
Ed Romaine 14:45
Ryan Berman 14:46
Exactly, halftime [Inaudible 14:48]. It's like, okay, well if you just treat it like a team, is this a highly functioning team? Are we playing like a team? Who's our coach for this team? I loved, like you said, people are now coming in from the player first and highlights look different. Highlights to me it's just a TikTok 30, it’s a highlight of a sneaker junkie called LeBron, and then, “Oh, I also happen to learn, he's really fucking good.” Excuse me, “He's really good at basketball, now I'm a sports fan because of it.”
Ed Romaine 15:17
By the way, even thinking about what we call treated highlights. So if James Harden steals the ball, and we then suddenly create snowfall on top of him, and say, “Winter's coming,” or something, sou put up this asset that then creates a moment that lasts so much longer than the game, and that's really the key to people are talking about it three days later. They might be talking about the animation, or the overlay, but it's still a conversation catalyst.
Ryan Berman 15:42
Plus, sadly, when was the last time you talked about a sports highlight three days later? Although maybe this Jefferson catch that just happened, I'm outdating myself.
Ed Romaine 15:51
Yeah. The other thing that you said that was interesting to me about coach, and cohesion, and what the one team thing is, you have to remember, just contextually, Bleacher Report used to operate independently for the most part, of what was Turner Sports, and the linear sort of business. On the advertising side, when I started years ago, I always thought, “Well, if I'm like Gatorade, how do I understand how to invest across a set of platforms?” Might be creating different messages, but how do I connect a story across all these things? Why isn't this turnkey or easy for me to just understand that I need to be a part of sports at Warner Discovery, at the time, Warner media? That has been the greatest piece of creative work because we've created so much platform-agnostic stuff that just runs across our ecosystem. It makes it much easier for our brand partners to come play with us because they get a more comprehensive menu of stuff.
Ryan Berman 16:51
Whether in it, this is where I wish I could go behind the curtain, and this is where I'm sure legal’s like, “Cut this part out.” When I sit down with you now as Gatorade, are you like, “Hey, here's what we can promise, you're getting sports, however, twice a year, you might also find yourself playing with HBO, or you might be in a movie,” is it all of the above now?
Ed Romaine 17:16
So, it's interesting. So, I think what sets us apart, first of all, are all of our tier-one link partnerships, and we've sort of been this quiet behemoth in the background. We have NCAA, NHL, MLB, NBA, USSF now. It's a lot of stuff, but I think brands are excited about that. I think brands are also excited that they can activate, not just on TV, which is sort of tried and true, it's a proven outcome, whatever it is. We have all of these digital products, and now, streaming products, and what I found on the brand side is they're super excited about the prospect of data, just more holistically across web WBD as an organization like, how do they get smarter about reaching folks? Then, what's been exciting I think, for our league partners is like, “Hey, we've noticed,” as an example, “More women are tuning into the NBA and the NHL. We happen to now have a whole host of US networks that largely skew female, if you think about HGTV and things like that. How do we work with our marketing counterparts to get creative, turning the Food Network logo into a basketball, things like that, to get people that might not be tuning into sports excited about it?” Again, it goes back to this thing that I was telling you, the soap-operatic thing, how do you get them excited for tune in through a voice that they're used to, whether it's Guy Fieri, or whomever it might be on the legacy talent side?
Ryan Berman 18:36
There's so many places now where you could try to start, strategically, nudging people into... The fascinating thing, to me, is a platform is now a brand. Living on another platform to let the world know you exist to bring you back to another platform.
Ed Romaine 18:55
Yeah, it's interesting. We think about it as… Like you said, there's a lot of brands. Even in the sports ecosystem, we have a lot of brands. We consider NBA on TNT its own brand, because that's what people know and tune into, similarly to, now we have Gretzky with NHL and TNT. HBO Max, Disco plus, those are their own brands, we view those, at least, as a market we view those as our distribution platforms. So, in many ways, Bleacher Report even is a distribution ecosystem for sports content, and the reason I'm talking about this so explicitly is because we just went through all this brand hierarchical work, which has been really helpful because it's like, what do we want consumers to see? WVD sports, probably not, that's a market thing, marketplace thing for our clients. And I think that's an easy evolution to explain, like Warner Media to WVD sports. But we do want people to know what Bleacher Report is because that's what our youngest segments, our 25-year-olds are following. If we're going to report that up through HBO Max, as an example, of Bleacher Report production, we want that to hit a consumer who knows Bleacher Report because they have the app, or because they visit the website, or whatever it is. So it is a tricky dance, for sure, because you also have to remember now, with USSF, we're going to be on TNT and TBS, and potentially, HBO Max. So, how do you sort of not confuse someone who didn't know we had soccer in the first place, wants to watch it, and then, they're like, “How do I get to it?” If I'm creating a commercial for you to tune into that, you have to just be mindful of not confusing. The good part about, like, you, who you know is a diehard sports fan, you're going to find wherever the content is. So, the discovery part is not such a challenge, but it is a challenge for incremental audience or for younger people who aren't as familiar with that kind of stuff.
Ryan Berman 20:45
To your point, is it a commercial, really, or is it an influencer or someone who has influence on TikTok?
Ed Romaine 20:52
Ryan Berman 20:53
There’s a million ways to now get the word out, and I'm going to find it, no doubt, as a sports guy.
Ed Romaine 20:59
Part of the strategy, funnily enough, on the influencer thing is that, within the app products, the future forward product state is that there are creative streams that exist in the product. So, that in real-time, even if you're not tuned into the game, you could be in an Eagles room, as an example, what we call a community room, and there could be...
Ryan Berman 21:17
The sports people.
Ed Romaine 21:20
(Laughs) My mom's from Fish town, so let's not despair it.
Ryan Berman 21:24
Look, I hate to say I'm a Commander’s fan, so I think we know where the joke’s on.
Ed Romaine 21:30
Anyway, it's interesting because you don't have to be tuned in in that instance, but we're garnering all this attention for what a creator might be talking about during a game, kind of thing.
Ryan Berman 21:38
So, we always talk about the relationship between fear and courage. You actually can't get to the courageous choice without first channeling it through fear. A lot of people, probably not listening to the show, but a lot of people we work with, they want to bury fear, they want to suppress it versus address it. When I think about your core, you are a 25-year-old super fan, this is just joy, the platforms are joy, Bleacher’s just joy. There's highlights, there's co-creation opportunities, there's swagger, there's style, there's creativity.
Ed Romaine 22:11
I'm glad you got that from it, thank you for saying that.
Ryan Berman 22:14
Yeah, take this to your bosses, take the sound bite. I wonder, the spirit of fear and proactively hunting down a fear, and then go, “This is going to be a problem three years down the line,10 years down the line.” Is the highlight actually hurting sports in the grand scheme of things? Meaning, that 25-year-old, 24-year-old doesn't actually watch the game anymore, they're a casual fan, it's transactional. They watched 72 seconds of the whole week, and it's 72 seconds, and then, they're done with it.
Ed Romaine 22:52
Yeah, and they feel like they got what they would have gotten had they tuned into the whole thing and saved a lot of time, is that what you mean?
Ryan Berman 22:58
Ed Romaine 22:59
Yeah, I think, you could probably say the same thing for a lot of social media, and how it abbreviates conversations like we're having. It makes it much more two-dimensional, because it's either this or that. We're in this sort of ‘pitch for it’ culture, and I'm going a little further, but yeah, with the highlight, I think it can be damaging. I think part of the whole thing with the treated highlight, or doing highlights, maybe, faster or differently, having comment or overlay, it's about… We try to do it in real time. So, I'll use an example. So, BR football, which is already a [Inaudible 23:37] brand, it's a very popular soccer handle on Instagram. Don't quote me on the number of followers, but I'll look at it while we're talking. But I say all this to say, when there's a match, when we had rights to UEFA and there would be a match, there's a control room in the center of the office where 20 programmers would sit there and pre-predict things that might happen between player interactions so that the moment that had happened, they could deploy it across social and drive people back to the match. So, I think, yes, at its base, a highlight can be damaging, but I think if you can use it as a way to be predictive/create excitement about what's happening in terms of like a FOMO moment, I think it can actually be quite useful.
Ryan Berman 24:18
It's like a real-time highlight, though, with the game still going on to drive people back. It’s very different, though.
Ed Romaine 24:23
Yeah, it’s almost like when you just said fuck in Ryan’s podcast, tune in, and that goes out on social, and so it's not that, but you got what I mean.
Ryan Berman 24:29
You don’t see my control room, my guys are on it already...
Ed Romaine 24:33
Ryan Berman 24:34
Yeah, we're trending on Elon’s network.
Ed Romaine 24:37
Oh man, that's a mess. Yeah, so I would say it can be both. We try to use it not as a detriment, though.
Ryan Berman 24:45
So your background, again, it's pretty cool to hear that -- I’m air quoting -- you've “only” been in sports for five years now because you brought a lot to the table from fashion, and style, and luxury. It almost makes sense that you now get to play with other brands outside of sports. It's almost like the perfect opportunity for you. Do you see it that way?
Ed Romaine 25:08
It's funny. I, truth be told, was hired at Bleacher Report because I was a casual fan, because their primary interest in growth, again, was to be more universally appealing to never fans or casual fans. The app was started in San Francisco, as you know, let’s call it 12 or 14 years ago, by four dudes in a basement who wanted to talk to other sports fans, and I'm...
Ryan Berman 25:35
Did they ever think of that as the name, four dudes in the basement, because that's pretty good?
Ed Romaine 25:40
(Laughs) It would have been a pretty good name, but I think, at the time, one of the founders, Dave Finocchio, his thinking, which I appreciated was like, “Look, if I get a bunch of Ryan Berman's in the room who are all speaking the same language, I'm never going to have this contrasting point of view,” because Bleacher Report was meant to be emblematic of all these other passion points of life, and that was sort of my background, it made sense at the time. I think, over time, hopefully, I've proved that I'm an effective marketer, which allowed me to have a broader purview eventually, but yeah. I think one of the biggest differentiators for Bleacher Report was always that it looked premium without being top-down. It needed to be peer-to-peer, it needed to feel polished but also user-generated. We needed to bring in all these other avenues for folks to pay attention. As an example, we started a commerce business having no idea. If you're coming to look at Bleacher Report for back scores and highlights, why am I thinking you're going to buy a T-shirt that says LeBron or the Hollywood sign when he was traded to the Lakers? We had no idea if it was going to work, and eventually, we realized there was resonance, we were capitalizing on seasonal narratives, the league got interested, we created a relationship with a PA. Now we have this amazing, fledgling business, that's great and sort of relevant. We work with top-tier talent, we get musicians to remix NBA jerseys from their hometowns. That is awesome, because, to me, if I'm a young kid in Miami, who maybe didn't follow Dwayne Wade, but I see this amazing collection of what we call a world tour, which is an homage to his retirement at the time a few years ago, suddenly, you're creating a cultural moment that goes beyond the sport, which I think is fascinating.
Ryan Berman 27:26
Are you guys still working with D-Wade or is it other athletes, or...?
Ed Romaine 27:31
Yeah. So, in the world tour vertical that I'm talking about, we’ve done Pedro Martinez. We try to use world tour as a final celebration for someone's career, and if you remember those concert T-shirts with the city dates on the back, which still exists, obviously.
Ryan Berman 27:47
Ed Romaine 27:48
We do it with amazing moments from their career. So, like an amazing victory, or like most points scored on this day, most three-pointers, whatever it is, and it just creates like a little chronology celebration to the individual, and gives people something to have that aspiration or admiration on their backs.
Ryan Berman 28:08
The higher up in the organization you go, does that... Let me just get to the actual question, I would say, the further from the actual work you get...
Ed Romaine 28:20
I already know exactly what you're going to say. Do I lose the creativity as I go higher?
Ryan Berman 28:25
Do you feel that?
Ed Romaine 28:26
Ryan Berman 28:27
So, what do you do to make sure you don't, or do you just have to surrender that?
Ed Romaine 28:32
It's a great question. A lot of my day-to-day is management, it's therapy, it's conversations.
Ryan Berman 28:42
Ed Romaine 28:42
It's keeping people, particularly in times of change, engaged. Morale is tough in times of change, being hybrid is tough, really tough for young people who feel isolated and don't have networks like you or I have because they haven't been in the game as long. I try to surround myself with positive thinkers. So, most of the people that I lean into and trust are people that have been with me before, and people that I know lead with positivity, are the best creatives, and I feel like even if I'm not on the ground with them necessarily, I couldn't possibly see every asset that was created, it wouldn't be possible. I know that they represent the best because they're a reflection of… We're a reflection of each other, sort of thing. I do have to say, when you're managing pieces of business, it's harder to feel as fulfilled creatively, for sure.
Ryan Berman 29:39
You’re talking about change can be scary, and change is hard, and change has been hard during this whole, whatever this last three years, 30 years, I don't know how long it's been, this pandemic spin. Optimism is my number one personal value. I'm always looking at the world trying to, “They say this, but maybe this is the positive way to say that particular thing.” One of the things I'm playing around with, I've got this weekly dose of courage, it goes out every Thursday, and it's coming up before the end of the year. It's funny that when someone tells you something has to change -- because if I'm on the team, I’m like, “This is changing,” you're like, “Oh, shit.”
Ed Romaine 30:19
I don't want it to.
Ryan Berman 30:20
That's when it's scary. That's when it's like, I'm scared, and I'm nervous, and sweaty palms, and all. When we say something's new, which is the same thing as saying change, by the way, “Hey, we have a new project.”
Ed Romaine 30:38
Or a new way, a new structure [Inaudible 30:39]
Ryan Berman 30:41
“I want you to help me figure out this new partnership.” Now it's exciting, now it's like, “Oh, I want to roll up my sleeves,” there's no sweaty palms, this is giving me permission to be curious and play. Change: Scary, new: Exciting. So, I think it's like a mindset shift, like, “Hey, this gives us the opportunity to create something new. We have got permission from the top to stay curious and figure out a way to work a flying dragon into this sports arena, let's figure it out.”
Ed Romaine 31:07
Yeah. What I found to work well with team members is, I think, so I talked a little bit about moving away from creativity because you're managing people, etc. When people feel like they have visibility into your thinking, when people feel like they have visibility into what might be happening organizationally, and that means having sit-down conversations with a lot of different folks at a lot of different levels so they can express their anxieties, or express that fluctuations in the market or making them nervous, the truth is, one; humans divert to fear, no matter what. If you said to me, “Ed, I'm going to cut your hair or something,” I'm like, “What do you mean, you're going to cut my hair?” Anything that you say about my day, or “I'm going to feed you this burger?” I'm like, “Where did that burger come from?” There's this immediate anxiety that's almost human, and I try really hard to cut that off and pass. One, by being really careful about semantics, because, to your point, words are triggering, and they trigger joy or they trigger anxiety or sadness. So, it's a little bit of that, and I have to say, my version of being courageous is being as transparent as I can. Within the confines of being a corporate representative, I tell people the truth because if people know you're being a faker, or being inauthentic, you lose the room. They don't want to listen to you, they don't feel what you're saying is necessarily what you actually think. So, for me, who I am outside of the office is exactly who I am in the office. I try to be super, I lead with candor, I try to be mindful of when things aggravate me how they might aggravate others to try to defuse that feeling. Does it always work? Sometimes. The other thing that I started, and I actually can't take credit for it because other leaders that I was listening to were doing similar things was, I was mandating time away from the computer, and I was also bringing in outside voices to talk about things like anxiety, things like productivity, things like creativity, and how to one; keep things out of your day and foster the productivity and creativity on the other side. I've gotten feedback that those have been super useful for folks.
Ryan Berman 33:22
I wish more leaders understood that. When you gift knowledge to somebody else -- because that's really what it is. When you're like, “Let me bring in these seven people who have outside perspectives, let’s just have a conversation with them,” and you give them the floor, and you just sort of share some of that power, which is what it is…
Ed Romaine 33:43
Yeah, most people pull faces away from the paper, meaning like, you're still here, you're thinking about your deadline, you're thinking about the games from the night before, you got to pull out, see somebody from a different vertical of business, a different world path, different viewpoint, and just get perspective because… One of the things about sports that used to aggravate me in the beginning was in its cyclicalness, I felt like it was so ripe for disruption because it was just this, you knew when the season was going to start. This is all pre-pandemic, but you knew when the season was going to start and end, and you knew when the Super Bowl was going to be, and trying to think out -- never knowing that sports would be paused in the beginning of the pandemic -- but trying to think outside of that was like… That was a challenge at first.
Ryan Berman 34:25
Funny, I see it as finally the one column is there's triggers on the calendar that you can rely on and build towards, although, you can be agile once you're in it as the stories bubble to the surface. NFL example, Justin Fields. Five weeks ago, no one was talking about Chicago. Today, everyone wants to see what Chicago is going to do this week and next year. I'd love to end with a little rapid fire. Five rapid fire questions.
Ed Romaine 34:55
When you said rapid fire, I got anxious now, because now it's quick, I got to be on my feet here.
Ryan Berman 34:59
Yeah. We're putting no timer on you. No, no, there's no timer on this, but five rapid fire questions, permission granted to not freak yourself out but to answer truthfully. Question number one, if you could transport yourself back into the portfolio as just a creator, what brand do you pick and why?
Ed Romaine 35:19
I would pick HBO Max. And why? Because it's been captivating me since I was a teenager. Whether it's comedy, the sports Docu-series that they have, the premiumness of… I’m watching White Lotus in the Valley season two right now. If there's a platform that I care about that will keep you engaged the most, it’s that. That would be another dream outside of the dream I'm in.
Ryan Berman 35:43
Berman family is a huge White Lotus family. At least, my wife and I, huge fans.
Ed Romaine 35:46
I don't want to interrupt your rapid fire but it's a very deadly season.
Ryan Berman 35:50
Yeah. Don't jinx it, because I'm not sure… We're not binging every year. All right, who wins the World Cup?
Ed Romaine 36:00
I'm going to go with Argentina.
Ryan Berman 36:02
I so hope you're right. Is this more like you hope they win or you think they’d win?
Ed Romaine 36:05
I love Argentina. I always loved Argentina. My husband and I, we follow Argentina.
Ryan Berman 36:11
I actually, when I was 16 years old, had to go down there and play.
Ed Romanie 36:15
Ryan Berman 36:16
Yes. I wasn't playing professionally, it was an exchange student thing, but I was like, “Yes, please underestimate me as an American.”
Ed Romaine 36:23
That is so cool. We actually have a few folks flying to Qatar, which I wouldn't, but yeah, I'm excited to watch for sure. What about you, who’s your team?
Ryan Berman 36:33
Obviously, I’m rooting for the USA, who isn’t, but I hope Argentina wins. I have a hard time thinking Brazil won't win.
Ed Romaine 36:44
Why do you hope Argentina wins?
Ryan Berman 36:46
I want Messi to win, and I love Argentina, I’ve been there. I think they're set up fairly well, I wouldn't...
Ed Romaine 36:51
I feel like Messi is a good guy.
Ryan Berman 36:53
Yeah, who knows, but I agree with you. I also think that people are… They're taking for granted… It's still going to be really hot there, so South American teams like Brazil and Argentina should have an advantage. Some of the players are in Europe, obviously, but if you're part of the homeland, you're used to this weather.
Ed Romaine 37:17
I want to look up the temperature while we're doing this. Okay, keep going.
Ryan Berman 37:20
It's hot, it's hot. It's 80s and 90s. All right.
Ed Romaine 37:23
81 today, peaking at seven. All right, go ahead. Sorry.
Ryan Berman 37:28
You get to host a private dinner, money's not an object, by the way. Three people, alive or dead, who's at the dinner?
Ed Romaine 37:37
In sports or out of sports?
Ryan Berman 37:39
This is your dinner.
Ed Romaine 37:40
Three people alive or dead. This is a tough one.
Ryan Berman 37:46
We'll go alive, we'll give you some guardrails.
Ed Romaine 37:49
We're going live. All right, I'm going to throw in… Now, I don't have to like these people, right?
Ryan Berman 37:55
Yeah, you don’t have to like them. I like where you're going.
Ed Romaine 37:59
All right. I got to talk to Oprah, she's got to be there. I'm going to throw over one of the Bushes, I need to talk to George Bush for a second while he's painting. I need to understand...
Ryan Berman 38:11
(Laughs) That's pretty rude that he's painting during the dinner though.
Ed Romaine 38:15
I need like a sick… I want Alan Spielberg there, how’s that?
Ryan Berman 38:18
Where's everybody sitting?
Ed Romaine 38:21
This is like a sort of semi-circular table. They’re sort of around me, so I can like rapid-fire them. Where are we eating? I want to be in Malibu somewhere… Not Malibu because we need something better than that. Yeah, I want to be looking at the water, it's got to have a calming effect so everybody feels the open fluid…
Ryan Berman 38:41
That's right. Your answer may be Malibu but, just because I said this, I don't think it's going to be now. It's your anniversary, money's no object, what city are you going to?
Ed Romaine 38:52
So, I'm a big traveler. On my bucket list is Australia, New Zealand. So, I would probably say that because I haven't been yet. One of my favorite cities that I have been to, I would say, it's Copenhagen in the summer only.
Ryan Berman 39:03
Okay, last question. Ready?
Ed Romaine 39:05
Yep, I’m ready.
Ryan Berman 39:07
If there's one thing you could change about your childhood, what would it be?
Ed Romaine 39:11
I think I wish that I had been more self-assured as a kid like I am as an adult because I think that I actually would have pursued things more fiercely on the creative side had I not been figuring out who…
Ryan Bernam 39:26
Who you are.
Ed Romanie 39:28
Yeah, we're all still figuring it out every day, but I just mean I think I was far less self-assured as a kid.
Ryan Berman 39:34
I would say that I would like to have been a fly on the wall because Courageous is the only word I could think about. Going through that journey, especially with a Flyer fan, and a Boston fan as parents, it must have been pretty interesting.
Ed Romaine 39:49
Can I ask you a question? When you started Courageous, what did that word mean to you at the onset? How did you land on that word?
Ryan Berman 39:58
So again, this is five years now, so I'm doing my best to go back to it. What we thought it meant, at the time, and, at the time, it was more about courageous ideas. We're almost fully full circle on we're living in this media-obese time and it's hard to break through. So, at the time, the idea was, every single time we work on a courageous idea, my team's happier, they stay later, and the return on courage was greater. Every single time we worked on a safe idea, my office was empty at 4:59 P.M., I had a closed-door meeting with someone every other week, how unhappy they were, and their return was meager, and shame on us for presenting the safe idea. So, back then, the idea was this is our positioning, Ryan. I's courageous ideas are the only ones that matter. That then turned into, if I'm going to do this from San Diego, which I didn't want to leave, we can't be even with LA in New York, we have to be better. And if we're going to win a CEO conversation, like, “Who are these guys, and where are they from?” So, the idea was, I was going to go write a book about all the courageous people that are making courageous ideas. The joke was on me, all these amazing sages along the way. I'm sitting with Eric Ryan, founder of Method, Scott Harrison; Charity Water, people at Amazon, Google, founding astronaut of Virgin Galactic, Loretta Hidalgo, and I'm going on this journey. I'm like, “Oh, shoot, I'm reading the book because I need the book first.” And realized, one; it's really, really lonely to be the leader. It's really, really lonely to be any leader; courageous leader, cowardly leader.
Ed Romaine 41:40
I’m so happy you said that because it's so true.
Ryan Berman 41:41
So, to me, the idea has morphed a lot since then. I wasn't sure if I was launching Courageous as I want to do courageous ideas, which is, I think, where we launched, and then, when I got to go to start keynoting about it, it turned into, “Wow, the world needs more courage, it's not just courageous ideas.” Everything you do, courageous reinvention is hard to do, change is hard to do, and you sort of just follow with the opportunities from there.
Ed Romaine 42:11
Even humility is hard to do, I would say. Everything requires some degree of courage, I would say.
Ryan Berman 42:17
Mirrors, I believe in the mirrors concept. So, if I'm vulnerable, it makes it easier for someone else to be vulnerable. If I can be honest in hard situations, and I will tell you that I use the name as a crutch. I'm like, “Hey, we're called courageous, I cannot say this.”
Ed Romaine 42:35
That’s right. It gives you sort of carte blanche to say those things that you need to.
Ryan Berman 42:42
And they need to be said. And so, to your point, this is like… I think we're close to 90 episodes of the podcast, and I've heard this theme, like, every four or five episodes, someone will say exactly what you said. It's like, just telling the truth is now an act of courage, and that is almost really sad to think about that just being honest is an act of courage now.
Ed Romaine 43:05
It's very different than when New York City parents, like, send their kids to school with an apple, and they're like, “You're so brave.” I think that, to me, is like, “How are we using this term to describe the situation?” Anyway, I think you're right, I also think talking about difficult things with... One of the biggest things that I think has changed, for the better, actually, since the pandemic, is that, in order to be an effective manager, you have to show vulnerability, which I think was not a thing in the past. In fact, I think it was looked at as a flaw in you as a leader if you were being emotional about something, or talking about something outside of the walls. The boundaries of office, outside office, it's not just that people are working hybrid, it's also how you talk about the world that we're in has changed so much at the office, that you have to adapt because you have to stay relatable to the people that you're working with.
Ryan Berman 44:01
Okay, but let's say you are an asshole, let's say you're on the other side of this.
Ed Romaine 44:05
That can’t be, by the way.
Ryan Berman 44:06
Let's say you haven't figured that part out yet, then what I would say is, being courageous helps you pick up time. If you and I have a direct conversation, versus, you thinking about something and it's just spinning in your brain for weeks, “Why doesn’t this boss like me?” Or, “What's really going on here?” And now your work is diminishing, the productivity is going down. So, I always start with being courageous and giving yourself permission to have that hard conversation, honest conversation, will trigger opportunity for more time. Then again, I hope you're not a jerk about it, but then, if you add that with being vulnerable, being honest, and having empathy, it does free you up. And that's what we're trying to do, is liberate people or businesses so they can deal with change, they can deal with new, they can come up with what tomorrow looks like, and then, that's how you also build a great team because we're all in this together, let's move together.
Ed Romaine 45:06
Yeah, I also think there's a connective thread between courage and confidence too. To work in a company the size of Warner Brothers Discovery, you almost have to have confidence, because you're not in every conversation, you're not always privy to what's going on, you're not always privy, actually, to the mechanics of how decisioning is done at the highest level. So, if you're insecure in your own ability or your own effectiveness, I think that can be a detractor. And I also think if you're not confident when you're talking to your teams, it goes back to this idea of you could be telling the truth but if you're shakily telling the truth, you're like, “I don't know, what's going on either?” I don't think that necessarily results in a positive outcome either. So, part of the courage piece, for me, is speaking confidently around difficult things too.
Ryan Berman 45:55
I would also say, just to add on to that, and I don't mean to be a one-upper here, but I think listening competently is even more important because if I'm on a fact-finding mission, and I'm just trying to create enough space for you to tell me the truth, it’s another version of confidence versus me being on display presenting to four or five people on my team. It's like, am I actually creating that space? Where it's like, “Hey, we're just trying to get to the…” Maybe everyone has a different version of truth on this particular moment, let's figure out what's the right truth to move forward. Now, you're a detective in some ways looking for answers. Man, I commend you for what you've done.
Ed Romaine 46:37
I appreciate it.
Ryan Berman 46:38
Keep at it. I should have asked one more… I'm going to ask one more question, because there's so much that you're responsible for, and I'm not going on the overwhelming side, that's a whole nother podcast. Yeah, if there was like a pie chart of your time at work right now, percentage-wise, what gets what?
Ed Romaine 46:58
It's a good question. We're in season for NBA and NHL, so they're getting a lot of my time right now. I would say, how we're cross-promoting across the company is getting a lot of my time right now, and I think people management probably gets 60% of that. I spend a lot of my time talking to folks during the day.
Ryan Berman 47:16
That's not a terrible thing.
Ed Romaine 47:16
It's definitely not a terrible thing, but it requires a… What is the word I'm looking for? It's not performative, but it's almost like you have to be on all day, which requires energy and a certain amount of poise because you're listening to people. Let me tell you, when you're meeting with people, they're not coming to you saying, “I'm so happy,”
Ryan Bernamn 47:38
Ed Romanie 47:41
“I’m just so thrilled about what's going on here.” So you have to be prepared to hear that all day, and then, also have the sort of ability to maintain calm and positivity like we were talking about before.
Ryan Berman 47:52
Well, stay courageous man. Stay the therapist that you are.
Ed Romaine 47:57
I loved talking to you today.
Ryan Berman 47:58
As your OG said, keep running, keep dribbling the ball or supporting those that do, and let's stay in touch, man. Thanks, Ed.
Ed Romaine 48:06
Awesome. Have a great weekend. I'll talk to you soon.
Ryan Berman 48:10
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Courageous Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don't forget to rate and review us on Apple podcasts so more people can find us. See you again next week.
(Outro music 48:21-48:35)
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