Fifteen Minutes Handles Historic Michael Sam Announcement

Michael Sam, Missouri football star and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, wanted to come out publicly before entering this year’s NFL draft. Considered to be an early to mid-round draft pick, Sam and his agents at Empire Athletes turned to Fifteen Minutes and its Chairman, Howard Bragman, to strategically manage the announcement.

Fifteen Minutes took the ‘less is more’ approach, offering two exclusive interviews – one print and one broadcast – in addition to one behind-the-scenes look. Bragman first approached Cyd Zeigler, the founder of Outsports, a news site geared for gay athletes, about documenting the process for his website, and then gave interviews to ESPN’s Chris Connelly and New York Times reporter John Branch

Bragman and team decided the interviews needed to take place before the NFL combine, settling on Monday, February 10, 2014. Armed with insider information about the possibility of the story breaking elsewhere, Sam’s interviews were conducted a day earlier and the coverage appeared Sunday night, February 9th, setting off a media frenzy. Zeigler’s in-depth, behind the scenes story ran simultaneously on Outsports.com, chronicling the campaign from the initial text he received from Bragman stating, “the eagle has landed.”

The volume of domestic and worldwide coverage surrounding this announcement was immense. There wasn’t one major news organization in the US who ignored the story. President Obama and the First Lady tweeted congratulatory messages. According to Bragman, “what’s important here was not how much coverage Michael’s announcement received, but how constructive and favorable the overall national conversation was.” Sam appeared on the covers of important publications including Sports Illustrated, GQ, Out Magazine and several others.