“Recruits are the product, colleges are the buyers”

In a recent web-exclusive report by Cailtlin McNally of the PBS show Frontline titled, “Marketing Kiehl Frazier“, Arkansas “sports promoterWalt Williams is profiled.

Frazier, a heavily-recruited Arkansas high school football prospect who recently signed with Auburn, is presented in the Frontline piece as having enlisted the “marketing” services of Williams during the quarterback’s recruiting process.

Excerpt from the show:

FRONTLINE VOICEOVER: For an ambitious player like Kiehl, it’s not just about putting up numbers on the field. It’s also about marketing an image.

On a Saturday in the summer, Kiehl and the team shoot a music video that will play on the stadium screen before every home game.

The director of the video is Walt Williams, a local sports promoter.

WALT WILLIAMS, Sports Promoter: You don’t have to oversell every time. Do some that are simple and some that are a little over the edge.

FRONTLINE VOICEOVER: He promotes the careers of promising college prospects like Kiehl.

WALT WILLIAMS, Sports Promoter: I mean, essentially what we do is we market players to colleges. Uh, they’re the product, you know, the colleges are the buyer, essentially.

VOICEOVER: Walt’s company sells promotion packages for recruits, including a personal website and a highlight reel. For these services, families pay up to $3000.

WALT WILLIAMS, Sports Promoter: Really what we try to do is just shed the best light possible on them. So, it’s much like marketing a product is all it really is. I mean, as a recruit, you become a product.

TV SPORTS ANNOUNCER: Springdale Arkansas’s Kiehl Frazier may be the most heavily recruited quarterback in the nation…

FRONTLINE VOICEOVER: Before his senior year, Kiehl was already attending invitation-only camps and tournaments across the country, facing the cameras wherever he went.

WALT WILLIAMS, Sports Promoter: Kiehl understands that things like making eye contact, making sure that you’re always very sharp and well put-together — I think all those things are important. They’re all about perception. If you show up looking like you rolled out of bed, people are going to think you’re not very prepared. We’ve talked about, you know, making sure that he just does things that give all the people all the right reasons to like him

FRONTLINE PRODUCER: How many media interviews do you think you’ve done over the years?

KIEHL FRAZIER: I don’t know, I’ve done a lot. Probably like 100, 200.

WALT WILLIAMS, Sports Promoter: And people will say, you know, “Let him be a kid, let him have fun.” But he has to make a sacrifice at some point, whether it’s now, or whether it’s down the road. The same kids that are being kids right now will be making $35,000 at an entry-level job when they’re 24 years old. Kiehl will make more than that in one day if he signs with the NFL.

Exactly how Frazier benefits from Williams’ “marketing” of him is not made clear in the piece.

Also unclear is if Frazier or his family compensated Williams for his services.

If Frazier or his family compensated Williams to “market” the Arkansas high school football prospect, why Frazier would need such a service?

For all I know, those questions are easily answered, but the Frontline piece nor Williams provided an explanation.

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