In July, Barstool Sports and The White House released a video of Barstool founder Dave Portnoy, commonly known to his supporters as El Pres, interviewing President Trump in the Rose Garden. The segment, just over 20 minutes long, made an immediate splash in the media and put Barstool Sports alongside the likes of Fox News, Axios, and other news outlets that have secured a coveted one-on-one interview with the president.
Yet, Barstool Sports isn’t a traditional news organization. It’s a sports media site catering to Millennials and Gen Z sports fans.
Portnoy, who founded the company in 2003, continues to maintain that he is apolitical, however his 2019 Twitter war with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and frequent appearances on Fox News suggests otherwise. Further, El Pres has not been shy about his support for President Trump, and the Rose Garden interview moved the company even further into the political eye despite objections from Barstool staff.
The company’s fans, affectionately named Stoolies, are broadly college-educated, middle-class, High Noon connoisseurs with a deep passion for sports. But most of all, Stoolies young and old are drawn into the Barstool brand by Dave Portnoy himself.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, spurred by the shutdown of sports gambling, Portnoy shifted his focus towards Wall Street, launching Davey Day Trader Global (DDTG), a daily segment on the Barstool website in which he trades stocks in real-time as viewers look on. Devout Stoolies followed suit and Portnoy built a legion of young, independent, self-taught investors, successfully, if accidentally, getting new demographics interested in the stock market.
This isn’t the only example of Portnoy’s influence on Stoolies, either. At the beginning of the summer, after signing an advertising deal with Barstool, upstart hard seltzer brand High Noon quickly became the #1 selling seltzer brand in their class, selling out in liquor stores across the country and leaving Stoolies chasing shipments of the brand's products wherever and whenever they are delivered.
But most importantly, El Pres has centered Barstool Sports around an opposition to political correctness and cancel culture, earning them a following that values one's ability to voice their opinions unapologetically. Barstool and their followers alike continue to prioritize the freedom of speech over the “right” to not be offended.
While, traditionally, Barstool fans are not the first demographic you would expect to be jumping in line at the polls, Portnoy’s recent foray into politics is starting to have the same effect as his foray into investing. A Morning Consult survey shows that Barstool Sports fans are younger, more Republican, and more politically engaged than the overall public. This is something that certainly isn’t lost on President Trump and his re-election campaign.
However, as El Pres continues to lean into his political influence, most recently hosting a town hall on Fox Business just last week, we will have to wait until November to see if President Trump will reap the benefits from Stoolie's ballots – and if the Barstool bump will help lead him to a second term. Every presidential election, the media hypothesizes that this will be the year the youth finally show up to the polls, and this year they may be right.
Matt Rosborg is a former Nantucket beach lifeguard, current Project Director at Firehouse Strategies, and a dedicated Stoolie