Turner’s Bleacher Report Hires Keith Hernandez to Lead Branded Content Strategy

Bleacher Report, Turner’s digital-media sports unit, has hired Keith Hernandez — the former BuzzFeed and Slate exec, not the former MLB all-star — as senior VP of brand strategy and sales.

Hernandez, who started at the company last month, reports directly to Bleacher Report CEO and founder Dave Finocchio. Based in New York, Hernandez is leading go-to-market strategy for social media, working with advertising clients and BR’s ad sales team to develop branded-content campaigns targeted at the site’s core millennial-male audience.

“He was the best on the market,” Finocchio said of Hernandez. “He has tremendous leadership qualities and will help us in our transformation from relying on display advertising to custom and branded content, where we can leverage our massive audience for brands.”

San Francisco-based Bleacher Report says it reaches some 250 million users across social media channels each month, with 75% of those under the age of 34. Turner acquired BR in 2012.

Hernandez used a baseball metaphor to describe his new role at Bleacher Report, likening himself to a hitting coach who works with the company’s ad reps on refining their swings to get more hits. “We’re moving branded content to the center,” he said. “Ad partnerships have gone from adjacency to leveraging and buying voice. There’s a huge white space for what Bleacher Report is doing for younger fans… to help our clients tell their story in a unique way.”

Hernandez most recently was president at Slate for about a year before leaving at the end of 2016, and before that he was VP of brand strategy at BuzzFeed. He also has worked at Blip Networks (acquired by Maker Studios, which subsequently shut it down), Vevo, Microsoft and The Onion.

As for that other Keith Hernandez, who played for the Mets and Cardinals in the ’70s and ’80s, the media exec met the first baseman once when he was 12 years old. “I don’t think he believed that was my real name,” said Hernandez, adding that his name sometimes “helps me get reservations.” Quipped Finocchio: “We decided we would only hire people who had the same names as professional athletes.”

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