For NFL Great Drew Brees, Authenticity is a Must in Franchising

athletes and franchise

The Multi-Unit, Multi-Brand Investor Uses Franchising to Improve Communities and Empower Others

NFL great Drew Brees always knew he wanted to be in business. As a Big Ten quarterback at Purdue University, he set records for almost every major career passing statistic, but his passions were not limited to football. The student-athlete earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from Purdue’s prestigious Krannert School of Management and constantly thought about entrepreneurship. “I always had a business mind,” he told the audience last week at the 2023 International Franchise Association’s Annual Convention. 

Like many other former professional athletes, Brees has embraced franchising in his retirement — but it’s much more than a source of revenue for him. As a multi-brand, multi-unit franchise owner, Brees takes an authentic approach to all his investments. He uses franchising to improve communities, empower people and make a difference. 

Drew Brees and Franchising
Drew Brees talks to Smalls Sliders CEO Maria Rivera at the 2023 IFA Annual Convention.

A Love for Jimmy John’s

People often ask Brees how he got into franchising, and the answer is never simple or straightforward. For him, it has been very personal and each investment happened organically starting with Jimmy John’s Sandwiches.

Brees discovered his first franchise opportunity when he was a student at Purdue, although he didn’t realize it at the time. “I used to eat at Jimmy John’s at least three times a week in college. I loved the No. 9,” he said. So when Brees played for San Diego and later for New Orleans, he was disappointed that he couldn’t bite into his favorite Italian sub. “There were no Jimmy John’s locations around,” he said. 

I have so much gratitude and love for New Orleans. I wanted to give back.

Spreading Joy in The Big Easy

Not only did Brees give New Orleans its first Superbowl win, but he also brought the city his favorite sandwich. Brees decided to make sure he — and New Orleans residents — were never without Jimmy John’s sandwiches again. He invested in his first Jimmy John’s franchise location in The Big Easy in 2011 and continued to open more locations.  

Brees genuinely wanted to spread joy throughout New Orleans — a city devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When he joined the Saints in 2006, the city’s residents welcomed him with open arms. “I have so much gratitude and love for New Orleans,” he said. “I wanted to give back.”

Discovering Walk On’s Sports Bistreaux

Just like his investment in Jimmy John’s, personal experiences inspired Brees‘ other franchise deals. As an avid franchise investor, Brees spent a lot of time prospecting new locations. In his journeys, he often passed by a Walk On’s Sports Bistreaux location in New Orleans and noticed the lively crowd outside. 

Brees had always wanted to create his own sports bar business and had a good idea of what it would look like. The minute he stepped into that Walk On’s Sports Bistreaux location, he knew it was for him. “It was always packed with people who were having a great time. It was exactly how I would design a sports bar concept if I were to do it myself,” he said. 

Brees was excited about the possibilities and contacted Walk On’s Sports Bistreaux co-founders Brand Landry and Jack Warner. The former collegiate athletes had an authentic leadership style that appealed to Brees, and he soon became a co-owner of the franchise system in 2015. A great culture and authenticity are essential in a franchise business for Brees. He has found those qualities in all his investments, including Stretch Zone, Dunkin’, Everbowl, and Smalls Sliders.  

If you want to reach a high level of success, you have to seek out mentors.

Partnership with Franworth

Brees’ thirst for learning everything franchising led him to seek mentorship from Franworth founder and CEO John Rotche. “If you want to reach a high level of success, you have to seek out mentors,” Brees said. The mentorship eventually turned into a partnership with the franchise growth firm. Brees also developed a great friendship with Roche and Franworth co-founder David Barr, who were impressed with Drew for much more than his celebrity. “After spending time with Drew, it was easy to recognize that his success was not by chance,” said Barr in a 2019 interview with the IFA. “I enjoy associating myself with smart people with great values — usually, great things happen.”

Brees Dream Foundation

In addition to bringing amazing businesses and opportunities to communities through franchising, Brees is an avid philanthropist who launched the Brees Dream Foundation. He and his wife, Brittany, established the foundation in 2003 and since then have contributed over $45,000,000 to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients and provide care, education and opportunities for children and families in need. 

A Deep Respect for the Military

Brees also deeply respects the military and has participated in five USO trips visiting Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Turkey, Djibouti, Dubai, Okinawa, and Guantanamo Bay. He wowed the audience at the IFA convention with his updated version of a military chant that he used in professional football and now in franchising (see video below).

A Winning Attitude

With his winning attitude, humble persona and strong values, it’s no surprise that Brees has so many fans both in and out of football. For Brees, it all comes down to one thing: teamwork. “The greatest teams are the ones that care about each other the most,” he said. Clearly, that’s a playbook worth following.

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Jill Abrahamsen’s career spans more than 25 years in editorial, design, and marketing roles. As the editorial director of IFPG, she serves as editor-in-chief of Franchise Consultant Magazine and FranchiseWire. Through both platforms, Jill helps franchisors spread the word about their brands and reports on the latest franchise news and trends. A skilled storyteller, Jill communicates franchisor’s messages through feature articles and franchisee interviews.

Jill is an accomplished writer, editor and graphic designer. Her extensive experience includes key roles with major consumer publications, including Boating, Popular Photography, and Design NJ magazines. As founding editor-in-chief of Franchise Dictionary magazine, Jill developed her passion and fascination for franchising which continues to grow in her role at IFPG.
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