Exclusive: Ex-Football Player Brandon Marshall Talks About Building His Brand ‘I Am Athlete,’ Importance of Mental Fitness

Thirty eight-year-old retired football player and founder Brandon Marshall is making it his mission to humanize the collective experiences of athletes and turn transformative conversations into a resource with his brand, I Am Athlete

Created in 2020, I Am Athlete is a round table talk show that is revolutionizing sports and locker room talk with progressive conversations about mental health, equity, relationships, and entrepreneurship. Co-hosted by Adam “Pacman” Jones and LeSean McCoy, the show has featured some of the most influential cultural figures. People like Stephen A. Smith, Cari Champion, Fat Joe, Lil Wayne, and Bubba Wallace to name a few.

(Image: (L-R) LeSean McCoy, Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones, Brandon Marshall/Courtesy of House 3 Productions)

“I Am Athlete is the brand and what the brand is, is a platform. It’s a multimedia platform that, you know…it’s like what I think is the next generation ESPN [it’s] the next generation FS1. We live in this space today in media, where athletes want to sit down with athletes, [and] artists want to sit down with artists we’re more comfortable sitting down with each other. Right?” Marshall told BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“That’s new media…the approach initially was more along the lines of a production company…I wanted this discussion to live on an HBO or Showtime, even [an] ESPN, you know, like, in the right setting, that’s what I was trying to accomplish. Then I realized that we needed to own our own platform, I realized that not only [did we] need it, but it was like almost a responsibility in those times, right? [In] 2020 racial tension was soaring. We’re in a pandemic, you know, a lot of us are talking about equality, we’re talking about ownership. Right. You know, we own our voice, but we don’t own the platforms, which means sometimes they, you know, the platforms control the conversation,” he continued. 

After announcing his Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis to the world in 2011, eleven years later, Brandon is using what he has learned from his experiences to ask hard questions and pave the way for the next generation of athletes.

“I think everything that I do comes from servitude. So, to me telling my story wasn’t for me, it was me telling my story so the person that needed to hear it would get the help they needed…So when you hear Dez Bryant, or a Lil Wayne or Deion Sanders open up, about their struggles or the things they’ve overcome, right, like it humanizes it, right? It brings energy and life, to that topic to that conversation to that community, and empowers that community, right? That it’s not shameful. There’s more people out there that look like you…Because I know we, we all deal with something. You don’t even have to have a diagnosis or live with something for your life to be a living hell, right?…I’m not trying to recreate what’s on traditional television or [have a] linear approach. What I’m trying to create is that barbershop talk, what I’m trying to create, is those amazing conversations that I’ve had with my brothers in the locker room, right, like, that’s what I’m trying to create, and the only way to do that is by leaving it open,” Marshall stated.

For this purpose, the brand has positioned itself to make mental health the bottom line by putting resources behind the vision and is wasting no time doing it. Last week, the company debuted HOA+, a digital fitness app that focuses on building mental and physical strength with training and making it accessible to the community.

“The goal of HOA+ is to get more people to adopt our lifestyle. I want people to feel [how] Serena Williams feels mentally and physically when she’s in peak shape. I want people to feel and perform the way Tom Brady [and] LeBron James feel and perform when [they’re] in peak shape. And that’s a lifestyle. That’s a routine…when you think about mental health, there’s a lot of stigma around that. It’s a scary conversation, but with mental fitness, it’s like, Well, are you in shape or not in shape? If you’re not in shape, you know, there’s a prescription for that, like, you know, what to do to get in shape, whether [it’s] eating right, or working out, like there’s things out there. So, it’s the same thing with the mind, like, is your mind in shape or not?… new movements equal new language,” Marshall said. 

Ashley Nicole Moss
(Image: Ashley Nicole Moss/Courtesy of House 3 Productions)

Today, the flagship brand is announcing its newest member of the I Am Athlete collective, Ashley Nicole Moss. Together, the Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and Sports Illustrated journalist alongside Marshall will be launching their own five-day-a-week show called Paper Route.

“There’s a huge need for, you know, more people like us to have these conversations surrounding the world of sports. Damar Hamlin, you know, what’s our perspective on our platform? LeBron James [and] Skip Bayless, even being able to cover the people that’s covering us. You know, there’s accountability needed [in that space],” Marshall said.

Currently, I Am Athlete is also planning to add more dates to its roster in preparation for a second live tour this year.