Career advice from the rich and famous

More from 2017

View coverage of, held in L.A. Sept. 25-27, 2017, on the event recap page.

“Take your best of what you know, and just go.” This was Kobe Bryant’s message about making a career pivot during the Creative Conversations Keynote at in September. Bryant, who retired from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016, talked to the group of retailers about his transition from professional athlete to businessman and how it relates to the changes many are facing in the retail industry.

“Everyone has to break away from what’s comfortable and routine at some point,” he told interviewer Heidi O’Neill, president of direct to consumer for Nike. “In sports, you’re preparing for big moments and big games, but I had to adjust because you don’t have these dramatic moments all the time in business. Successful people have patience — they have their eyes on the big picture.”

Bryant is by all counts a successful person; he owns Kobe Inc., which invests in sports brands, and is a partner in the venture capital firm Bryant-Stibel. However, he is more apt to talk about his creative work since leaving the court. His Granity Studios recently produced “Dear Basketball,” a short film based on a poem he wrote about leaving the game. It was directed by noted Disney animator Glen Keane; the music was composed by Oscar winner John Williams. The short is considered by some to be a sure nominee at the Academy Awards next March.

“To hear that being said is crazy,” he said. “That really is beyond what I’ve dreamed of. To me, as long as people like it, that’s enough.”

The creative side of Bryant might be a surprise, but it shouldn’t. As he said, successful people — and companies — have an ability to reinvent themselves and tap creative depths in common. The reoccurring theme of reinvention was pervasive throughout, where retail brands go to learn more about the latest trends in digital retail, from what Wayfair is doing with augmented reality to how DSW is redesigning its stores.

Omar Miller (right) on the stage.

Omar Miller (right) on the stage.

The concept of athletes moving beyond their game and evolving their brand was also a topic for actor Omar Miller, who discussed his media company, Big Easy Productions, with NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

Miller stars on the popular HBO series “Ballers,” which features actors playing athletes mixed in with real football stars playing themselves. He believes this will be more common in the new media landscape. “Everyone’s lines are becoming blurred. It used to be strange to see a professional athlete in a setting like [a TV series], but now everyone’s doing media of all kinds and it’s almost the norm. To build your brand as a professional athlete, it’s almost a necessity to be out there doing all kinds of traditional and digital media, otherwise you’re swallowed up.”

Miller also addressed the challenges brands have reaching Millennials. “Younger people are growing up without the boundaries we saw in media. They’re not used to the traditional ‘commercial break.’ They want to zip through commercials on a DVR, or use ad blocking software.”

Miller pointed to the rise in product placement as a method that brands are using to get their message out. “On ‘Ballers’ we use a great deal of this since it’s so seamless. This kind of passive advertising has been around for many years, but I think we’re going to see it really explode because of its ability to reach consumers.”

His company has most recently produced “Advantage Omar,” a Tennis Channel series focused on lifestyle and travel, showcasing the events and cities where Grand Slam tennis tournaments are held. “One of the things I learned is that you really have to be telling a story with a show, and the same goes when you’re promoting a brand,” Miller said. “We’re showing an area of a city, talking to some interesting people, viewers see the tweets I’m writing as I’m walking, and the goal is to make it all look spontaneous and user-generated. But it’s all a very crafted, professional production.”

Off the court with Kobe Bryant

Video of Off the court with Kobe Bryant Off the court with Kobe Bryant