He’s best known for his legendary status as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but what fuels Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers off the field is his prolific philanthropy. Whether it's working to help further childhood cancer research, his response to the California wildfires, or raising tens of millions of dollars for Covid-19 relief efforts, Aaron is intentional about his philanthropic work, proudly committing to more than life as an entertainer on game day.
00:08 - 00:47
Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Big Stage where we talk to athletes, artists and entertainers about their lives and impact. I'm your host, Adam Sansiveri, Bernstein Managing Director and Co-lead of Sports and Entertainment. Today, we're airing a conversation that Bernstein wealth advisor Jeff Kragel and I had with the acclaimed NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Aaron is widely considered to be one of the most talented quarterbacks of all time, and we are thrilled to give you a chance to get to know a different side of him, what fuels him off the field through his philanthropic work. Aaron Rodgers, thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.
00:47 - 00:48
00:48 - 01:58
I'll go ahead and start things off. I think clearly it has been incredibly well documented, all that you have done on the field, arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks to have ever played the game. So what we want to talk about today is maybe what has not been as well documented about you, and that's really your efforts off the field through your personal philanthropy. Not only have you donated millions of dollars, both personally as well as through the Aaron Rodgers Foundation, but you've also helped raise awareness and money through your platform.... So whether it was the work you've done for childhood cancer research with the MACC Fund, over 70 million dollars that was raised a couple of years ago in conjunction with the partnership with North Valley Community Foundation as a response to the California wildfires, to the tens of millions of dollars that you're helping to raise right now with Barstool in COVID relief across the country. And then what was recently announced this week, again, in partnership with North Valley Community Foundation, hoping to raise COVID relief efforts and money for your local hometown of Chico, California, for all the small businesses out there. So clearly, this is something that means a lot to you. Can you just maybe elaborate on why this is such an important part of your life?
01:59 - 02:52
, it's just... I just have this upwelling of pride hearing all that stuff, just knowing the time that we put in to just make a difference. I think that's the other part of the platform we've been given. Obviously, we're entertainers, we're in the entertainment industry on game day and been at it for a long time, been 16 years. And early on I realized I needed to have some other stuff going on to make myself a complete kind of NFL player, a professional athlete. I think there's just an onus on the guys to just be more than just a player. There's a lot of different ways the guys do that. For me, it's... I just try to align myself with organizations that share the same heart... and worked with the MACC Fund for a long time. I enjoy those people, especially John Kerry, who's, you know, who's kind of moved on to like a semiretirement. But John got me into the MACC Fund and just his heart for the kids. I mean, he he reminds me of my junior college coach and then US Coach Rigby up in college.
02:53 - 03:50
Hey, how's so-and-so doing from... pick a year. And he could tell you exactly what they're doing, where they are living, who they're married to. Just that like love for his school. I saw it with John Kerry in the MACC. I could ask him about any kid over the years and he could tell you how they're doing, when their last treatment was, how long they've been in remission, what their families are up to, where they went to college. And I just loved how invested he was in the kids' lives. And so it was fun to work with him for a number of years. The campfire was a no brainer. Our family lived in Magalia for a year, which is just outside of paradise. So I know the area really well. And I just we played against paradise in our league, in sports for my years in high school and know a lot of people out there know how the community is semiretirement for a lot of people, you know, move up there and, you know, get in the way and small town feel and have the whole town obliterated. Many people killed in their cars, you know, on the skyway. Just the tragedy and the sadness around it to get involved is a no brainer.
03:50 - 04:52
And I think I saw through that, there's other opportunities.... I've always had a heart for the homeless. And I work with some great organizations in Green Bay, including Paul's Pantry, who delivers meals to folks in need, especially all year round. But they do some big stuff around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Incredible organization.... But I saw through the campfire that as much as organizations and schools and sports programs need help getting back, when we saw the pandemic hit in the middle class, directly affected small businesses and shut down, especially in California, we realized we need to get the money to the people directly.... And these people can impact so many people's lives because the employers, the businesses, the companies are employing the people who were struggling and to be able to work with them is an honor I saw on the phone Barstool for a long time and knew what they're all about as far as being an interesting kind of cutting edge media group, that wasn't kind of the standard format.. And when Dave started the burst of fun, I knew I had to get involved. And it's been fun to be in a couple of those calls.
04:52 - 05:53
But also I really wanted to focus on my hometown. Being 37, so many of my friends are small business owners now. They've worked in either corporate America or their jobs out of college and started their own thing........ And those are the people that we need to focus on and help because they're the backbone of society. They are the employers of so many people in our beautiful hometown of Chico. And you talk about businesses and restaurants. That's what I love about the Barstool Fund and about what we're doing at the NVCF, is that we're not going after the chains. No disrespect to the chains, but there's so many one-off like individual restaurants that make Chico, Chico. The places that I would go all the time whether there's Burger on Fifth Street or AcaTaco... Places that make you think about nostalgic fun times in high school and college and just the joy to be able to be a part of it, I think is part of the responsibility. Not everybody takes advantage of it for whatever reason, but I've always looked for those opportunities to make a difference in working with the NVCF has been a great partnership.
05:53 - 06:34
And on that note, one of the things that I think is unique about you and I hope others in your position look to emulate, is that you're not just someone who writes a check and then moves on. Right.. You're also someone that does request support from your community, from your professional partner. So going back to the example of the campfire, besides your personal donation, you did have the support through other professional partners like State Farm and the Packers. But then you also had 3,328 individual donations from just everyday people that just wanted to be alongside you being part of the solution. So when you hear a number like that, what does that mean to you?
06:34 - 07:25
Yeah, I'm blown away, blown away with gratitude for all these people joining in. And, you know, not everybody can be out front, you know, and gets the opportunity to kind of lead. I have so much respect and admiration for anonymous donors because I've done a great deal of that, just really just kind of give without any strings attached. There's some things that when you attach you likeness and your words and your face, you can garner more awareness.. And we've done some of those things, which has been great. But I just have so much gratitude for these people and I'm humbled that they would choose to join in such a special crowd, especially I'm talking about the people living in different states or even the Wisconsin folks who aren't affected in any way by this. You know, I'm not even talking about Californians who didn't have fires in their homes. I'm talking about people who live in Wisconsin and the snowbirds down in Florida. You know, just people all over donating. I love it. It's super meaningful.
07:25 - 08:05
And so much good has been done with that money to help rebuild Butte County and excited to work with them now with small businesses. And I just can't wait to see what happens and what businesses that we can impact, because there's just such a web of people that are connected to these organizations and restaurants and companies that have been struggling. And you watch these videos. That's what's so meaningful at Barstool. You want to see these videos of these people crying and going crazy.. And so many of the stories is like, yeah, I just talked to my accountant and he said, you know, we have enough money for a couple more weeks. It's like, I mean, people are on the edge of surviving and making it and going under. And the government's not doing a whole lot. That's been some of the PPP loans, but so many people need help and that's where we're stepping in.
08:06 - 08:07
It's really incredible.
08:07 - 08:19
Aaron you're also an entrepreneur or an investor. You've consistently had a focus on investing in a way that is better for this world. So tell us what you think about impact through your investing and why is that important to you?
08:19 - 09:13
It's fun.. You know, I think, like I tell my own teammates, you know, being the only guy in the locker room and they come to me for advice from time to time. And I always tell them, first and foremost, let experts be experts.. Don't have your cousin Ronnie doing your finances and your accounting and different things. Find people who are great at what they do, but don't stop there. Don't don't wash your hands from that, start to understand what they're doing. So get involved with your finances, your accounting, talk to your lawyer consistently, understand what deductions are for your tax returns, understand what your money is doing, how you're allocating portfolios, what businesses, types of businesses you're in, what an index fund is, when it comes to your lawyer, like what is he doing for you? What do you need to be up on estate planning, your wills or whatever it may be? Just learn all the things that make your business or business. And I took the same approach with investing. I talked to people who knew what they were doing. And so I just learn what's important.
09:13 - 10:17
You know, at the same time, I think there was an important lesson I learned from my own marketing strategy. I did a deal almost ten years ago now with a company that was kind of a money grab. It wasn't really something, the product that I believed in. I remember afterwards going, it was a fun day, we had a blast shooting. But I remember thinking, I only want to be aligned with companies that I actually use the products or I really, really believe in. And so if you look at the things that I'm either repping at the moment, or invested in, they're products that I believe in, or companies that I believe in and I personally use on a daily basis or just have a ton of respect and appreciation for. So I think that's first and foremost. And for me, a lot of that has to do with what impact they're having in the world from a sustainability factor and then the impact that their companies are doing on their own. Like what organizations are these companies aligned with, you know, what kind of makes them go from a charitable aspect? Because aligning yourself with people who have similar focuses on how to change the world, allows you to, I think, get behind the product more, be more invested in what they're doing, both literally and metaphorically. And that's been really important to me, just trying to learn about investing.
10:18 - 11:21
What do great investors put in certain projects and at what stage too? Are we talking about seed capital? Are we talking about an A round, a B round, a valuation. What is it? I mean, there's a lot of stuff to figure out, but it just takes putting into work. And I think so many in the professional business, personal industry, I'm talking about all sports, are kind of like, man, I don't want to handle any of this. Just let someone else do it, my assistant do it, my agent do it, but you just miss out on all this interesting knowledge, and for me, about eight years ago, I just kind of went through my whole business.. And I said, I don't know what my accountant is doing, I don't even know his name. I don't know what my lawyer's doing, I don't know his name. I don't know what my financial guy is doing, I don't know his name. And I said, I need to change this because I feel totally out of control. And once I made those changes, now I'm talking to my financial people on a weekly basis, to my accountant, to my lawyer, it's first name about everything. You know, now it's a more proactive view. And what that does for you is give you the peace of mind that things are taken care of. And I know what's going on where before it's just like out of sight, out of mind. You just kind of like at the whim, hoping that, you know, these guys are doing good by me and it's not always the case.
11:22 - 11:25
So given what you've achieved, does anything still keep you up at night?
11:25 - 12:50
Yeah, for sure. I mean, being a business owner and being invested in so many companies, you know, I'm constantly looking into what's going on with them, how the pandemic has affected certain things business wise, you know, and then just double and triple check in the areas of my life that are important to me, you know, from security, privacy, business wise, next, career wise, you know, for me, it's all about learning and knowledge. And I'm constantly trying to add to that understanding of how the world works. And in the process, you figure out what kind of you're into. And I think the biggest fear, whether we admit it or not, as professional athletes is what's next and what are we going to do when this is all said and done. And so many of us, I believe, get into a rut postretirement, because there hasn't been the thoughts about what do I want to do next? Because maybe when you're in it, you haven't cultivated the other passions or other interests. And I'm not talking about like golf or the occasional charity organization. You have to have something that can sustain you from day to day and be a jump-off point from when your career ends. And I think that's what I've been really focusing on. And what are those next things that I want to do that are not just once or twice a year things? These are daily things I can work on and grow. And I think the most important thing is to continue to cultivate your knowledge of, for me, a number of different areas. When I'm done, figure out what is the one or two of the ten or fifteen things I'm interested in that I really want to focus on. And that's what keeps me up.
12:50 - 13:00
Well, it certainly sounds like you've done exactly that. It's very impressive and some amazing advice you've already given on this call today. It shows you truly are a leader on and off the field.
13:00 - 14:29
I appreciate that. And I think, you know, the one thing I do want to stress, is most of the things I've learned, I've learned through mistakes I've made. I'm always trying to pass on to the young guys, don't do this because I did that. And that's what got me into trouble, because not all of us are going to be able in my sport to be able to play sixteen plus years in the league. So you have to start thinking about your future now. And for even non athletes, you know, I think it's important to understand how the world works, how these systems that are in place work so that you can better understand how to maneuver within these systems. And for my teammates, it's a constant flow of information trying to get them to think about things that they might not care about today as a second year player, third year player, thinking they're going to play sixteen years, but you never know. And it's better to have the knowledge now and to make decisions that are going to set yourself up for a better future than to get to the end with so many guys I've seen, get to the end and then they're like, oh crap. Now what? I don't know what my money's done. I don't know who these people are that have access to my finances and my life. And I don't have anything that I feel passionate about. I mean, that's the greatest fear that I have for my teammates is to not be able to transition the right way. So thankfully, I've got a lot of great people. I lean on the experts and then I've just tried to educate myself along the way to learn a little bit more, now share what I know to my teammates and let them kind of go from there. I think that's part of the job as a leader is to pass on what you know and encourage and inspire the next generation of people.
14:29 - 14:34
Thank you, Aaron. I mean, this has been phenomenal. And I appreciate you opening up in this way for us.
14:34 - 14:55
Maybe to wrap things up. I know I said I wasn't going to talk sports, but you are Aaron Rodgers. So can you leave us leave the listeners with a kind of favorite sports moments that you had been a part of in your life, whether that is professionally college or high school, you can pick I mean, it's really, really tough.
14:55 - 16:09
There's been some just unbelievable, unbelievable feelings and emotions. You know, I've won the Super Bowl. You know, there's just nothing like that. But kind of taken, you know, my sport off the table professionally. You know, some of my favorite, favorite moments are seeing the horses come down the back stretch in the Kentucky Derby. I mean, I'm telling you, there is such an electricity in the stands as you have 200,000 people, most of them who've got money wagered on at least one horse, trying to figure out in the midst of 20, 23 horses, whatever it might be, where their horse is. But just the excitement, man, when it comes down to it, it's just unbelievable. I've been to the NCAA championship. I've been to the NBA finals. Those are incredible moments and venues. I was at Kobe's second to last game, ever home game, not his last game. That would have been unbelievable, but I got to see him in the second last game. That was one of those surreal moments. I got to talk to him before the game and definitely very special for me. I made a hole in one in golf that's like on my own top five. I dunked on a kid who hopefully, for his sake, is forgot about that. I dunked on a kid. It InMotion Fitness in Chico, California, in a pickup basketball game. It's definitely a highlight of mine.
16:09 - 16:13
dunked on me a couple of times too, Aaron. Just to be clear.
16:14 - 17:32
Yeah, it's shorter and shorter and this was actually on ten feet though. But, you know, so often it's not necessarily the play that's special. It's the people. Yeah, it's like a big group to the Derby and watching the first timers see those horses. I just get so much enjoyment out of other people's happiness. I really do. It's beautiful to see people in pure joy. There's been so many moments on the field where you can kind of take it all in. We had a snow game this year and you just kind of look around and has nothing to do with the score, obviously.... I mean, it helps when you're winning, but there's moments you just look around and you can't help but just feel so thankful for the opportunities that life has given you. Obviously, there's a lot of hard work and stuff that goes into it. But I think living a life where you constantly remind yourself of the blessings that you have and having gratitude for that instead of counting the things that you don't have or comparing a life that you maybe you wish you had, that is really, I think, changed my perspective more than anything in this chapter of my life. The last few years of my life has really been fun for me.... And again, it's that perspective of joy that whether it's in your own eyes or the eyes of a loved one, that's really, really special to see. Again, so many special moments. But it's the people, as you guys both know, that you go along the journey with that make everything that much sweeter.
17:32 - 17:37
Well, thanks, Aaron. This was such an inspiring conversation. So, again, we really appreciate you taking the time.
17:37 - 17:38
17:38 - 17:39
Yeah, thanks a lot.
17:40 - 17:58
Thank you all for listening. This has been The Big Stage. If you enjoyed this episode and would like to subscribe, please go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Please e-mail us with your thoughts, questions, and any feedback to insights@Bernstein.com and be sure to find us on Twitter and Instagram at BernsteinPWM.
17:58 - 18:08
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- Adam Sansiveri
- Managing Director —Head of the Nashville Private Client Group and Co-Lead Sports and Entertainment Group