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Derek Jeter on why The Players” Tribune is bringing its athlete storytelling platform to Japan

The baseball hall of famer explains why now felt like the right time for The Players" Tribune to expand its reach, and why he believes the athlete-driven content published on the platform will resonate with a Japanese audience.

30 March 2021 Sam Carp

Since being founded by baseball hall of famer Derek Jeter in 2014, The Players’ Tribune (TPT) has provided athletes with an online media platform through which they can tell their own stories as they want them to be told.

Now, some seven years later, the company is banking on the content strategy that has got it to this point resonating even further afield.

Last week, TPT confirmed that it will be launching its online storytelling platform in Japan, adding the world’s third biggest sports and advertising sales market to its already extensive presence across Europe and North America.

Asaf Peled, the founder and chief executive of Minute Media, which acquired TPT in 2019 and also owns brands such as 90min and The Big Lead, said in an official release that the move comes “after months of planning and preparation”. TPT claims to be a first-of-its-kind platform for the Japanese market, where the company has already formed an alliance with Miraikanai focused on content and production.

Our primary focus with TPT Japan, of course, will be local. Our mission is to serve as a trusted resource for Japanese athletes to connect with their fans, in any way they want, whether that’s essays, podcasts, videos, or on social media.

Derek Jeter, Co-founder, The Players' Tribune

The likes of Cam Newton, Saquon Barkley, Dina Asher-Smith, Romelu Lukaku, Alex Morgan, Bubba Wallace, A’ja Wilson, Allen Iverson and a host of other big names in sport have either penned pieces or appeared in content for TPT. They will soon be joined by Japanese stars such as Formula One driver Yuki Tsunoda, soccer player Mana Iwabuchi and the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Yuta Watanabe. 

Shortly after news broke of TPT’s launch in Japan, co-founder and Major League Baseball (MLB) icon Derek Jeter answered some questions about why now felt like the right time to enter the Japanese market, and what fans in the country can expect from the platform. 

Why have you decided to launch The Players’ Tribune in Japan, and how long has this been in the making?

Japan has the third largest sports market globally, so we knew that the hunger for sports content was there. Japan produces some of the world’s top athletes, but they don’t have a platform that allows them to speak directly, openly and authentically to their fans – until now. Expanding this platform globally has been a goal of ours since our inception.

Where do you see The Players’ Tribune sitting in Japan’s broader media landscape? What gap in the market are you filling?

The Players’ Tribune created the blueprint for athlete-driven storytelling and will be a first-of-its-kind-platform in this market. Japan has an incredibly invested sports community, but fans currently can only view their athletes through a traditional media lens. We know that journalists and reporters are essential in the sports world – and I have so much respect for what they do – but we are excited to diversify the media market in Japan and give Japanese athletes a space to share their unique narratives and connect on a deeper level with their fans.

Japan produces some of the world’s top athletes, but they don’t have a platform that allows them to speak directly, openly and authentically to their fans – until now.

What gives you confidence that the model that has been successful in other markets will also resonate in Japan?

I started The Players’ Tribune in 2014, because I knew from my own experience in locker rooms and on road trips that athletes were great storytellers, but you didn’t always see that side of them, and at the time there was no such outlet for athletes to share these stories. What we wanted was for fans reading to feel like they are a fly on the wall within an athlete’s life and experiences – rather than reading a cut-and-dry article about how an athlete thought they performed in a game – and I think we’ve achieved that. Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from both our TPT athlete community and fans alike, everyone can find a story that resonates with them, so it’s our hope that the Japanese community connects to the content in a similar way.

How have you gone about identifying athletes to partner with in Japan? Are there any sports in particular you plan to focus on?

The beauty of The Players’ Tribune is that we feature all types of athletes. Launching the first athlete-driven storytelling platform in Japan and being able to give a voice to athletes around the world is a surreal feeling and we are looking forward to continued global growth.

Formula One driver Yuki Tsunoda is among the Japanese athletes who will tell their stories on The Players' Tribune

Will The Players’ Tribune be doing anything differently in Japan to what it does in other markets? Will there be certain content formats you expect to work better for a Japanese audience, for example?

As of now, we have translated a large part of our archive into Japanese for fans to get to know us and the content we create. We will be following the traditional content formats to start but we plan to learn and grow with our athletes and audiences – what they want to see, how and what they want to share, etc.

What additional markets does The Players’ Tribune see as being expansion opportunities? 

Allowing athletes to have global reach through The Players’ Tribune will always be a goal and expanding into new markets will continue to be part of our growth strategy. We also consistently publish pieces in languages like Portugese, Italian, Chinese and more pending the athlete’s native language.

Our focus will continue to be on expansion and to provide a platform for athletes to tell their stories all around the world.

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