Martellus Bennett played in the NFL for 10 seasons, won a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots, and earned more than $30 million in total salary.
But he now says, “If I die and you remember me as an athlete, I failed at life. I want to be so far removed from the idea that it’s like, ‘Oh, right, he won a Super Bowl.’ Football is only a small part of your life… If I die at 75 years and my legacy is tied to three-and-a-half to 10 years of my life, I didn’t do a good job.”
Bennett started a children’s content company, The Imagination Agency, in 2014 while he was still playing football. In 2015 he made Zoovie: A Warm and Fuzzy Tale, an animated short written by Bennett, with voice acting by Bennett, rapper Asher Roth, and ESPN broadcaster Cari Champion.
“From then I just started making stuff,” he told Yahoo Finance on stage at our All Markets Summit: A World of Change on Sept. 20 in New York City. “I always wanted to do animation.”
Now his company has produced multiple children’s books (many of them starring A.J., a character based on his daughter Jett), storybook apps, and animated shorts. He’s also done advertising work for brands for like Play-Doh and guest-directed an episode of Bleacher Report’s animated Instagram series “Gridiron Heights.”
In April, Bennett told Yahoo Finance his goal was to model The Imagination Agency after Disney.
Six months later, he now says, “I changed it though. A lot of times people try to build a Disney, but they try to do what Disney did when Disney was Disney. He was a pioneer of the craft… To try to do it the same way he did would be wrong. In the future, what will kids be and how will media roll? You used to think that you had to be on TV or the movie theatre and that’s the big screen. But now my big screen is in your pocket… And the thing I like most about the mobile device is, it does something the TV can’t: you can touch it.”
Bennett wants The Imagination Agency to be “an ecosystem to push kids from interactive story apps to games to cartoons to shows, and all the characters develop.”
As for his own legacy, he’d like to be seen as a “voice of the youth that doesn’t get to see themselves in the media they consume, which is kids of color. I try to tell their stories and I try to focus on their stories and not the color of their skin, so the world can see how awesome they are.”
And he wants to achieve that without relying on his name as a former athlete. Bennett’s name is nowhere to be seen on the covers of the A.J. books—only The Imagination Agency. On the backs of the books, he signs them “Marty.”
It’s his way of “pushing the product” rather than himself.
“I’m trying to build something that lasts forever,” he says. “If it’s tied to my legacy as an athlete, then when I’m gone, it will have no momentum or can’t keep selling.”
To watch Martellus Bennett’s full interview at the Yahoo Finance summit, click here.