My guest today is Jackie Fast, managing partner at Sandbox Studios where she invests in products that are being built by celebrities. She's also well known as the founder of Slingshot, an agency that manages sponsorships for Prince, Rolling Stones, Richard Branson, among many others.
Jackie, so your background seems perfect for what you're building at Sandbox in terms of just working with a lot of celebrities, and now investing into these projects. But, tell me a little bit about Slingshot in your background.
For sure. So, I've been doing this a long time, but I really fell into it naturally.So it's one thing being in sales and convincing one person to do something or buy something. It's a totally different thing to convince two different people that they should be doing something together. Honestly, it's a lot harder. and so I had a knack for it. I set up a business called Slingshot in London and my whole ethos was that social media and digital technology was changing and shaping the way that consumers and fans could engage with the things that they love.
And so our whole thesis with my agency was sponsorship without logos. Because up until that point, the way that sponsorship was valued or evaluated. Based on real estate. So if your logo's this big in front of the primary league football team, it's 53 million, but if it's this small on a hat, it's 5 million.
Um, and I was thinking that, you know, there are all these assets that nobody's buying or cares about that could be a sold or B. Fake bought or part of a package. And we used to work with brands and write folders and Hoover those things up. So it's everything from like time with the CEO of Chelsea football club to like meet and greets with the fans or backstage things like things were happening on sound checks was one of my big things.
like, in a concert, everybody has to do a sound check the night before. And so we started making it an event for VIPs. But they had to happen and it felt very special and exclusive cuz you could get in there before. And so that was my whole ethos and we were the first agency in the world that really pioneered this and championed it.
And that really set the path for where I am now.
So like, what do you do? I mean, I read your intro, but like, what do you do for someone like prince.
So prince was, uh, unique. I did all of the commercial deals for him, but that tended to lean into a much broader thing. So prince was one of my first clients and I didn't know this at the time, but the reason we got prince is nobody wanted to work with him to do commercial stuff. because he didn't care.
He's all about the music. He doesn't turn up. He doesn't do anything. He'll say he'll do something he doesn't show up. , but I didn't know this at the time. And I ended up taking him on as a client just because, , you know, nobody else would have him. And the reason that that works so well is we ended up kind of launching his 2010 album with Spotify.
It was the first time anybody had ever launched an album with an online platform before. and we launched it with a daily. Well, in, the UK and based on like hit rates of doors and Spotify like uses in plays, it was like the top 10 album for like four months running. And then from there that just catapulted me into the music scene.
that rolled into the rolling stones, Duran Duran. We did some stuff with one direction And that, kind of was the first foray into labels, looking at alternative platforms rather than using top 10 hits on radio. for music.
Wow. And this is with Slingshot, the agency that you built. Prince was one of your first clients, right?
he was my second client, but yeah. yeah.
it was insane. It was insane. Yeah.
Wow. I mean, can you also just maybe going backwards second and like, how did you decide to set up Slingshot?
I didn't decide. I wanted a job that I was very overqualified for in my, current organization. It was a commercial director role. I was 24. I was very qualified for the role, even to this day is still am annoyed about it. And I applied and the CEO just said, you're too young. You need more experience.
And they ended up hiring a guy who had been made redundant seven times before he was terrible. He's like one of those guys that you'd pitch him an idea one day and the next morning, he'd tell you his idea, which was your idea. And I didn't last. Very long under that situation and quit. And then I applied for a bunch of sponsorship jobs without really understanding that the sponsorship I was doing, which is corporate BEB sponsorship, boring sponsorship.
Isn't the same as like what sponsorship agencies do, which predominantly is in sport. Cuz sport sponsorship makes up 70% of the industry. So they didn't see my skill set is transferrable. but truthfully, I couldn't get a job and I really loved London so much.
I really needed to figure out how to keep my visa. And so I set up a consultancy in hopes that I would make 40 grand a year. Cause that's all I needed to still stay in the country. How old were you when you signed prints? I would've either been 25 or 26
And so just tell me a little bit more, because I think it's relevant to your current job. Just sort of, what are brands trying to get with sponsorship or with working with celebrities and maybe has it changed some
I mean, I don't think it's changed at all. You know, a brand fundamentally is trying to shift product. So there are certain times when consumers are more receptive to information. Um, and a lot of that is when they are enjoying themselves, they're having fun. They're in a calm place. So that's why television works really, really well.
You're in a common environment. That's not distracted. So when you kind of bypass that things like sports, music, entertainment is a really great opportunity because it's around values.
So any of those kind. Core emotional humanistic things that connect people with other people. If a brand can insert themselves in the middle of that, that's where the recall comes from. That's where like you start associating your own individuality with a brand. I mean, a lot of the reason that apple was so. Big besides the fact that the product was also timing. So, you know, now everybody really wants to be different, you know, 50 years ago, everybody wanted to be the same.
And so brands that kind of connect with the trends of what consumers are doing really help and then leaning into the celebrity stuff. When you identify then with the celebrity, that is. Emulating what the current macro environment is for like humans and human behavior. That then resonates more than a and celebrated that doesn't and B no celebrity at all.
So the fundamentals of what the brand is seeking are the same, but I imagine you've seen the tactics change a fair amount,
yes. And no, I mean, this goes back to the whole thing about sponsorship and brand recall. So in the eighties brand recall , was the biggest thing, but that's just because there was no, clutter in the market. So digital media and technology have shifted that because we're hit with 50,000 marketing messages of the day that are completely unsolicited. When we were in the seventies, eighties, we were hit with like 4,000. So, you know, It's still brand recall, but how do you be recalled? So the tactics to be recalled are more aggressive. they're definitely more tailored. It's definitely harder. So in terms of the question, I mean, the ethos is still the exact same.
Hmm. And so, I don't know if this is actually in your wheelhouse. I was kind of thinking like , what you talked about earlier about the difference between corporate sponsorship being very different.
It's all in my wheelhouse many
um, this is my bread and butter. Like this is, my whole existence, really, but, so corporate sponsorship and consumer sponsorship. Very different in terms of the way that the money is spent and the assets that you buy. So when you are doing consumer, a lot of that is reach.
So that's why working with celebrities is really helpful. So one of the big things with sponsorship, the first thing that you ever look for is how many people are gonna hit and are these people the most relevant to my product in my audience, So the the audience, the more niche, the audience, the more you pay for a sponsor because it's basically. Marketing to your target audience with corporate sponsorship, it's very, very different and technically the higher level as well.
So what they really want are buyers and let's take Salesforce is a great example is one of the last ones I kind of worked on, but they sell a product, based. Product package to one of their clients is half a million dollars. So within another corporate, there is one individual who buys that only one in a corporate of like 200, 2000 people.
There's one person. you might be able to invite all of their client companies, but if you don't get that one person, it's a complete waste of money. So you can upwards spend something. Millions just to speak to five people, just have five people in the room. ,, I used to do all of the commercial deals on Nera island and I once had a Japanese guy paid $250,000 to sit beside Richard Branson at a dinner.
but basically that's like his speaking to me because certain people think if I sit next to Richard, I'm gonna tell him my idea.
He's gonna gimme 10 million in life is gonna be amazing, which by the way, that doesn't actually work like that. But technically in corporate sponsorship, that is what you're trying to achieve. And so this bleeds in now to sandbox and what you're doing, like, when you're looking at these investments and it's a celebrity led product or service, how do you evaluate that sort of thing? How do you know that this is the right celebrity?
Who's gonna have the right audience, that sort of thing. you have to take Into account, a lot of different variables all at the same time and look for risks on every single thing. So when we look at an investment for sandbox, it's not just like, does the celebrity have an audience?
There's like things that are specific with certain celebrities that aren't specific to others. So without naming names one of the top. Followed female on, , Instagram and TikTok. looks like a brand dream. She has the number six following she's the number fifth engaged. She has an army of like people they have like hashtag and all of this stuff and she.
Is really nice in meetings She's very nice to me. She's very nice to a lot of people, but, , if you have worked with her, you know, that she treats every junior person, , like a lowly assistant and everybody hates working with her. And so. In that situation, like, you know, saying is she liked wouldn't really necessarily be part of our criteria, but it certainly would be an insider knowledge thing that I have that nobody else has.
Like there's some fundamentals that most like monkey can kind of get right. But it's underneath that. It's like, what's the motivation. So the motivation for me is absolutely everything. Like why is this person doing this? And. I mean a hundred times out of a hundred. It's not because they care they want to make more money.
And it's the same thing going back to Slingshot, , and brands. What do brands care about? They want to sell more toothpaste , so when you get that out of. Your head and you figure out how to align differing kinds of objectives to the company in question. And you can make those things work for the long term.
That's a winning business, butWhy is the person doing this in the first place?
And is the team. Well equipped enough to work with them, to develop that a lot of founders think that Brad, Pitt's gonna come on and they're gonna sell 50 million in products.
And again, that's not how it works. three months later, lo and behold, you can't get broaded on the phone. No wonder. , do you have tips on working with celebrities to actually get the distribution potential out of them?
So you have to contract it, you have to contract it and you have to be willing to be aggressive to deliver it. So, You would spend $5 to $10 million on a let's call it a team sponsorship. Most brands would use.
30% of the rights, maybe because it takes people to use stuff. So it's all well, and good to say, you've got 50 tickets, a game, but who's gonna invite the 50 people, right? The person at the brand needs to do that. So somebody needs managed that nobody has time to do that. It's a sponsorship. Most sponsorships are underused, same thing with these kind of contracts with celebrities.
So it's all well and good to say, okay, well, this celebrity is gonna gift all of their friends. Who's gonna make. You can send a hundred chocolate bars to somebody's house doesn't mean that they're gonna serve them over dinner or whatever the case is. And so you have to put stuff in place and I wouldn't even say penalize stuff, but you have to make sure that you are set up to make sure that somebody is activating it.
So, and again, this goes down to the celebrity in question, and then it also comes down to like trust. So with prince is a great example. He didn't do anything. I did everything for him. So like he didn't turn up to stuff. I wrote all of the quotes for the press releases. I got all of the images.
I signed off everything cause you couldn't lock him down. And so I had to have like a good enough relationship with him that he let me do that, you know? And not a lot of people can kind of like. balance that line,
So when you said like the team needs to, to come together to make this happen. Will that be sometimes the celebrities team? Like, do you evaluate like what team they.
A hundred percent, that's super important and also what motivates them. Most people are paid on bonuses and commission in entertainment. And so the goal mostly for agents is more bookings. So their goal is not. Spending time on doing stuff for free, that is directly opposed to what a founder needs from the celebrity question.
They want to parade them on every press junk on every event on anything that they can do, And so How the agents compensated is like a really important part of it. And usually they're not.
So then you have to figure out how to compensate them in other ways, which is usually the way that I like song and dance. It is like I give them opportunities. So like, I will give them the quote in the press release alongside, like, I make it worthwhile for them. They can tell their story. They get the benefits of going to the press, junket, whatever the case is.
I make it a career. I use all the things that I've got in my roster to help them advance their career because I can't pay them anymore money. So that's a real hard thing to manage as well.
There's a lot of people you have to manipulate to make this stuff work.
Fascinating. , what about the equity side of things like how does that work if you're trying to, as, as a startup, give a celebrity equity, but the agents don't care about equity, I guess.
nobody cares about equity. So, in Slingshot so I had 130 team people working in four offices globally. And my people, most of the were junior people, they can't pay their rent with equity. So like, why would I do an equity deal? I can't pay my staff.
So the entire industry is not set up even now to manage and do this correctly. And so what's happening or celebrities are creating their own deals like through Instagram, DM, like legit. This is how.
This stuff is happening right now. So when you say they're doing DMS, is that like they're reaching out to entrepreneurs and saying, I wanna be a part of this somehow.
So the equity deal thing was always there.
But when George sold, I don't think the talent knew. What could happen. So when George Clooney made a billion dollars, everybody's like, oh, well, why aren't we doing equity deals? And it's like, because it doesn't actually work. Um, and so what's happened since George was just 2017,
Which company did.
Okay. The tequila.
Yeah. , that really. In my, I guess my realm, which is, the realm, that was the thing that kind of really kick started it off like beats Byre was kind of seen as one off. And there was a couple other, like people had done stuff, but they weren't great, but they felt very much like one off deals.
They didn't feel like it was happening as much as it really was happening. And so when people kind of got win that George basically did nothing and made a billion dollars, everybody was like, oh my goodness, well, we should be doing this. Why are we taking. Fees. And so they're pushing all their agents to do them and their agents are like, why would we do this?
like, this is not good for anybody else, but you, and so the agents still never really did them. And then the talent started getting pissed off and threatening that they would change agents. So CAA and WME were really the first to kind of like answer to their clients and they set up venture arms.
but the truth of the matter is there's still no money, right? Cuz everything's equity. So you can set these things up. But when you have 4,000 clients all trying to do deals, you don't have 4,000 people running around trying to do equity deals and all get paid.
Like it's not on business model that works. So those talent in question are getting super, super frustrated. Like I told my agent, I wanted a deal. Why don't we have a vodka deal? I was really interested in this. Why don't we have this? And the agents are like, I have no time to do this.
Cause I'm trying to book you on a sitcom so you can get paid. and so what happens is that the talent. Start doing it by themselves. And they go and they like, like a product or try a product and they go and they say, oh, I noticed you don't have a celebrity. Would you be interested in me being the face?
And this, foundering question is like, yes, of course. And so the slabs of the founders are doing their own deals with like, I would say 40% of the stuff I've seen is like not done through an agent done directly. Really poorly done. so I think this is gonna explode because I never actually thought celebs would be so gangbuster that they'd start DMing people.
And so, what you're doing, let's just make sure we're clear on what sandbox is doing. So you're investing into these rounds when there's already a celebrity attached, it's usually a product like a consumer product.
It's a consumer brand. So product. assumes that it's like a CPG, like a packaged good thing, which is not always the case but all of them are, you know,, if it's not B2C, it's B to B to C And I actually have quite a lot of experience doing tech deals, for my experience of like working with Salesforce and Richard Branson and stuff. So I understand the game from a sales perspective pretty well, And then in terms of the CBG companies that we invest in, we tend to lean into sectors that I've worked in. So sponsorship really does food, booze, apparel, shoes, technology,
So there's certain sectors that I haven't had exposure to. So the bar is that much higher because I don't really know all the things. You ask me anything about alcohol in almost any country. I like know a lot of stuff and I know almost every single board for like ABM, MEV, Dio, et cetera. So, those are kind of the sectors. , we work in saying that as well, celebrities can immediately push the needle for a lot of B2C companies. That's really visible, but truthfully, I really. There's a wider opportunity with B2B companies, um, with celebrities, because with a corporate or a B2B company, you're really looking for a couple people that can really move the needle and with the right celebrity or the right partnership.
Like it's very easy to move stuff very quickly.
Hmm. I mean, do you think that the celebrities make good entrepreneurs?
but you're investing in them sort.
Yes and no. What I'm investing in is I'm investing in a route to market in an asset that most companies don't have access to. So I don't look at the celebrity as like a person or a founder. Look at the celebrity as the marketing arm or the marketing. dust that you can add to a product. So would I invest in a honestly pure play celebrity launch company? Probably not because the reason the celebrity in question is famous is because they are very good at being an actor or a sports star or musician.
When they're very, very good, like celebrity level actor, sports, star, musician, they're usually not good at other things. And it's just a time thing. It's like what they're passionate about. So you've been involved with many, many product launches. Do you have thoughts on brand building best practices or like pitfalls to avoid. I've probably done like 300 product launches with like almost every foot, two, 100 company. And the reason I, worked with a lot of very large brands, , at Slingshot. And I really enjoy working with smaller brands with sandbox is because when you are very large, there's quite a lot of. Like ideas that don't get executed because they don't have to because the brand in question will continue to grow and thrive about whatever percent.
Make shareholders happy. and you can do really amazing stuff, but really when you are that big of a brand, it has to be so astronomical to really, really move the needle. , when you are a smaller brand, , you can do small stuff that moves the needle. We did majestic athletic, which is a brand that most people will know, but probably not for the brand, any kind of like LA Dodgers hat that you have is probably made from majestic athletic.
They basically licensed sports teams and create great most of it's hats, but it's also kind of like leisure wear. We worked with them for five years and we did this festival. Sponsorship was this festival called outlook in Croatia, which sounds like really random, but it was their complete target demographic, outlook, had 14 stages. I wanna say 300, like musician acts. but we created custom jackets and t-shirts and hats. And we would gift all of the artists right before they go on stage and they would go on stage, which was then strained.
And like, like, I think. 30,000 people that go to that, festival. So every time you went to a stage, there was somebody wearing a brand and majestic athletic thing that you could then buy at the thing, 14 different stages is a lot to cover that much ground in a festival for like a week is insane., I've never done anything like that because. You have to get festival organizers who wanna do it.
And it's very difficult. And then I was personally on ground, like literally like shoving stuff in people's face. Like you should wear this. because I'm super aggressive like that as well. And most people wouldn't have done that in the brand would never have had that.
If I wasn't physically there making everybody aware, the staff that we had created. you're impressive, Jackie. I love it. Give me an example. What about, uh,, in your current portfolio?
The one that we're, I'm really excited about is invisible universe, which is the, , animations company that we're building with Alexis Hanian, Alexis, , with 7 76, co-led the last round with Amazon, Amazon has been buying up and investing in a lot of these IP created. Studios.
So if you look at, I mean, you have young children, I have young children. you know, my favorite movie is death becomes her. I've watched that movie 40 times. Maybe I have a two year old son. We try not to watch a lot of television. I've literally seen Moana, probably 795 times, you know, like it's just like, it's another level of TV watching.
we have been living with Disney and Mattel as massive monopolies for like 150 years, which is great for them, but actually they haven't needed to really reinvent the wheel. They bought Pixar,
But the way that they think is creation. Big stories, like little mermaid, like, you know, , beauty and the beast. And they create these beautiful episodic, features that take about a year and a half and people watch them, like I've watched Moana 795 times.
but what happens is. That business model means that when that show has launched, the way that you capitalize on it is you do licensing deals with Mattel. And there's a whole bunch of people that kind of like put out the toys and all of that stuff. And then there's an end. So with Disney, there's very much an arc with every story that they do.
They throw manpower at that. Like, you wouldn't believe that arc from start of an idea , to finish like death, death of the little mermaid, let's call it. Probably like three to four years, really. now when you think about children and now you think about now, when you think about digital media, like people have phases very quicker, those arcs are much, much shorter.
And so you can be obsessed with cocoa Mellon for four months and then move on to pep pick. And so Disney. Business model doesn't actually fit the way that children are consuming content. And with social, you can turn stuff around really quickly. So hypothetically let's say COVID hits. What has Disney done with COVID nothing. Why? Because their business model is way too long form.
They cannot be quick enough to like make a content quick enough to like, make it topical with these small animation companies. They can turn around ideas in A day and a half, and they create short form content that goes on Instagram stories, TikTok reels, and they build momentum. And following through lots of short form content what's unique about invisible universe is they partner with big celebrities to create children's characters. So Jennifer Anand has a dog called Claudia. That you can follow. He has his own kind of Instagram page. Um, Serena Williams' daughter has a doll called quake way.
She has her own Instagram. So they're using people with buildin audiences to kind of establish the baseline. And then like, I'm more likely to purchase it. Cause I follow Serena Williams or whatever the case is that. Totally changing the business model of Disney and animation, like completely, um, and using celebrities to get it.
So I'm like super excited about that.
Mm. Hmm. Um, are we able to talk about, your fund raising? Like,
I don't know what my question is, but like fundraising is freaking hard to be a new manager
Yeah, it's impossible. And, , honestly, , I mean, I tell everybody this, like I have not come from nothing. Like I built one of the world's most influential sponsorship, like if you know anything about sponsorship or marketing, you know who I am. Um, and I pump my own money. I've like invested over 14 million between me and my partner of our own capital.
We've got like. Great return. And we went out to raise capital. I legit thought like maybe I'll have to make like 20 phone calls. I have definitely, probably pitched. I wanna say like 300 people at this stage, maybe 400 people at this stage.
It's a small mini it's like 30 million. , but you know,
Fundraising's hard right now. blame. The re-ups.
I don't want to, I've worked in male, dominated, industries. Higher life. And I have only ever found that to be a benefit historically, because people need a woman on the panel. People need to do this, that the other.
So I always got modes of like stuff, I think because I was a woman, a young woman as well. I find finance very different. I feel that, , a lot of the people that have the purse strings are. Like no offense, but white middle aged men. And those people really like to deploy to other people that are white middle aged men.
And I don'tdisagree that you have to be risk, adverse in you're managing people's money. And why would you give money to an emerging manager? And I think, somebody else said to me, well, how do you know you're the best picker? And I'm like, I don't, but you know what? I am good at turning okay. Brands into like billion dollar companies. And that's what our fund does. So maybe I'm not the best picker, but I certainly know what I'm doing in terms of growing brands.
People don't care.
And there's a whole bunch of people being like, oh, isn't, she's so cute trying to run a fund. And in four years from now, everybody's gonna really regret all of these conversations that they said to me. And I won't let them invest in my fund. well, but also that's what I was gonna say is, , there's a being a young female, but there's also, it's a different culture do you feel like the world of tech startups , feels like a different culture to you?
Yes. And no, but like it depends, right. I feel like the great thing about entertainment is that people all enjoy entertainment in, in some form.
So they, you have kind of like an association or affiliation with it. Not everybody cares about. A SA software sales platform, you know, for B2B companies. Like that's not an interesting conversation like for most people.
I get it. but I don't like talking about sports or TV or entertainment. So I guess I will stick with my awkward nerdy SAS crowd. but let's keep talking about you. Fair to say you are super ambitious.Yeah.
Do you think you were just born that way? Like how,
on your ambition?
Yeah. Um, , I'm like, hypercompetitive, I'm super ambitious. , I don't do anything by haves. So like I'll either do everything like a hundred, 10% or I don't do anything. And that's not always a good thing either because like, I mean, a lot of people describe me as like a tornado.
So like, You know, when I get going, I get going. And, I don't think about anything else. that's the only thing I think about. That's the only thing I talk about. It's the only thing I dream about. Um, but when I'm not obsessing about something, I'm like always just like twiddling my hands being like, I wonder what I'm gonna do.
When I sold Slingshot, I really thought I would come up with a great genius idea within a year. And it took five years to come up with sand.
Hmm. Amazing. I'm so glad you're part of the LA venture ecosystem. It's really fun to get to know you.
Thank you. I'm glad to be part of it. I'm excited.
I'm sorry, I'm not a potential LP. I find it all very compelling.
One day mini one day.
That's right. That's right. Um, We didn't talk about you going on the apprentice, which, wow. That was a fun little sidebar. I didn't know about.
I know, um, I dunno how much you saw about that, but I was very drunk and I had told my business and I didn't know what to do. And I was like, apply. And then I just like snowballed into like me doing an audition. And then I was like, I wonder what the audition thing looks like.
And I like didn't really think I get in. And then I got in. Like, I, I think I shouldn't do this and my husband's like, oh fuck. Just do it. And so I was like, OK. and I definitely don't regret doing it. I thought I would learn more from it and I didn't really just that people are awful.
Yeah. I mean, I feel like it's putting yourself out there in a way that's kind of scary and allowing the whole masses to critique everything you do on a public stage.
yeah. That's stuff. I don't mind though. So, so I am not like. I'm definitely not a public figure, but I'm also not somebody who isn't known, you know? And like, I'm also not somebody that everybody likes and I've, I've always been that person. and that doesn't bother me. And so the spotlight and like all the negativ. Eight. Wasn't an issue for me. I think for me, it was more like, is this a real use of my time? But I wasn't actually doing anything so , so it was, it was good to do, but I like, I, it was very random.
And the one thing that I think nobody gives me credit for is I did that after I sold my business, it was like, A multimillionaire. Like, I did it for the experience and I think most people wouldn't have taken that kind of critique, but like, that's the type of person I am.
Mm, amazing. Okay. Jackie, you're so fun to talk to that. I am gonna, I could go way over, but, um, fair to say that you're interested in like making more connections in the venture ecosystem here in LA.
Oh, yes, please. Anybody who's um, interesting and would like to have a coffee or a drink with me. I would love to, even if you're in LA and I'm just like all about making friends and I think I didn't appreciate how great the venture community was about like how important, like even just like knowledge sharing.
Everybody's been so lovely that I've met. So yeah, I'm very much down for that.
Fantastic. I, I have some introductions. Well, congratulations, Jackie. Um, and thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
thanks so much for having me.