Flau’jae Johnson is a national high school basketball star who also happens to be making a big name for himself as a rapper, appearing on America’s Got Talent in 2018, and signing a deal with the Roc Nation-owned Equity Distribution. While her star has risen in recent years — she’s playing for Louisiana State University this fall — there’s a collection of news stories and TV profiles about herbut only one media outlet got full access to the inside story of her journey as it happened.
In June, Togethxr — a women-focused media platform launched by superstar athletes Alex Morgan, Chloe Kim, Simone Manuel and Sue Bird in March 2021 — released a five-episode docuseries about Johnson as part of its ongoing series on up-and-coming talents called Phenom. For Morgan, it’s also the kind of content that perfectly embodies Togethxr’s ambition to stylishly blend sports and culture from a woman’s perspective. “It’s an incredible story,” Morgan says. “These are things that most people wouldn’t otherwise see or hear without Togethxr and the partnerships we’ve been able to form.”
Togethxr is the latest media brand that has launched and quickly built a passionate fan community based on a strong, unique perspective, as well as socially progressive content that includes social platforms, short videos, photo essays and podcasts. Like the empowerment lens of LeBron’s SpringHill Company, mixed with the POV of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, Togethxr connects with four legendary athletes in a wide variety of sports. It has built a loyal following on social platforms, including more than 1.8 million TikTok followers, and the overall result so far is a sports and culture media brand that culture has never seen. “In life, we try to stay away from clichés, but sometimes it just fits: this is like lightning in a bottle,” Bird says. “It went so naturally. The engagement we’ve seen on social media is wild. It’s not just followers, it’s the actual engagement. People are connected to this brand.”
Co-founder and chief content officer Jessica Robertson says a central tenet of Togethxr is the recognition that women’s sports are the foundation for every single ism in the culture, which is why the brand’s content and voice are built around it. “Which means this is a brand that is going to touch on issues of race, gender, sexuality, human rights, voting rights and much more,” said Robertson, who previously served at the helm. The Players Tribune. “There is currently no neutral, from a narrative perspective, when it comes to issues in women’s sport. For us, the edges of our brand became sharper over time as the world started to change and brands must now appear. Women’s sports and female athletes are so far ahead of culture that culture has to catch up with these women, and a brand like ours just doesn’t want that. We hope that we are the tip of the spear to accelerate that.”
Togethxr started out as an idea Morgan had been thinking about for years. As she traveled across the country and the world with the United States women’s national soccer team, the screaming fans and… sky-high ratings were simply not reflected in the general media coverage. “It was so eye-catching,” Morgan says, “and it’s not that our stories are any less important or interesting, but women and female athletes were just drastically underexposed. Togethxr started out as an idea that’s now evolved over the past three years. transformed into this incredible company.”
The concept that would eventually become Togethxr began to formalize in late 2019, when Morgan began raising funds and partners to make it happen. For legendary basketball pro Bird, the decision to enter was an easy one. A veteran pro athlete and Olympian, Bird has been told for most of her career that there was no market for women’s sports or content centered around female athletes. After a while it starts to sink in. “Unfortunately, when people tell you that you’re not worth that much, you start to internalize it,” Bird says. “You don’t believe it, but you internalize it.”
The passionate community that Togethxr has built in a short time illustrates a pent-up hunger for these stories that were not told before. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, women’s sports only get about 4% of all sports media coverage. “It’s so refreshing and therapeutic for me to see this response and find out that I haven’t been crazy all these years into thinking there’s a market for us,” Bird says. “Now we see all these people, and they don’t come out of the woodwork; they’ve always been there, they just didn’t have a brand or company that spoke to them like that.”
The Summer of Gold is HERE. Relive the 1996 Summer Olympics through the eyes of the iconic female athletes who changed the game for women’s sports ????
— TOGETHXR (@togethxr) August 17, 2021
Backed by private equity firm Magnet Companies, Togethxr’s business model revolves around licensing agreements for original content, merchandise and brand partnerships. Togethxr’s partners form an impressive list of major brands such as Nike, BuickGeico, Porsche, AT&T, Google, Coca Cola, among other things. Obviously the founders between Kim, Manuel, Morgan and Bird have many corporate sponsorship connections, but these brands also see the value in committing to a unique media property with a passionate audience. This has not always been the case. As Bird recalls throughout her career, there was always a conversation with a big brand, no matter how popular the athlete was – and to be clear, Sue Bird is a superstar – there was always a elongated pause.
“To make it dramatic, pick a big male athlete—LeBron or Tom Brady—when they walk into the room, people are already saying, ‘Yup!’” Bird says. “For women and female athletes, there’s always a moment of, ‘Ahhh, would it sell? Ahhh, do people want to see this?’ There’s always that hesitation. What I’m saying is, even in the past year, the hesitation is getting shorter and shorter. I think people are approaching it now from a place of yes, rather than a place of no.”
She just launched a collaboration with Nike x Together.
The farewell shirt for @S10Birdhis last tour.
— TOGETHXR (@togethxr) August 9, 2022
This is what the founders of Togethxr wanted to do: use their collective starpower and fanbase as the basis for something else. Just over a year later, that something else has taken on a life of its own, challenging traditional notions of the potential of sports and culture stories.
“We’re going to center, inspire, and elevate those voices that have been deliberately left in the margins for so long,” says Robertson. “There’s a huge audience there, they’ve been so poorly served, and we’re going to build this huge community that’s unmistakable, and then brand partners will show up and be unable to ignore it. Then they start investing. Marking all of this in our space – not just us – will help keep building this space. We’re going to break the circle. That’s the whole point.”