Case Study: The Triple Threat of Brainwashed

Headlines scream that football causes CTE, but the headlines don’t tell the whole story. A bold statement for an even bolder book that put Amplify on the map. Let’s dive into a case study on three key elements of book marketing that keep Brainwashed in the media spotlight.

Written by former NFL running back Merril Hoge (with contributions from neuropathologist Peter Cummings), Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and the Plot to Destroy Football was hailed as “a must-read for any parent” by current Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethisberger and his wife, Ashley.

The gist?
There are hidden agendas and misinformation surrounding CTE, which Hoge and Cummings address by examining flaws in the often-cited studies and exposing the sensationalist reporting that catapulted CTE into the national spotlight.

Our goals?

  • 1. Nail the timing
  • 2. Solidify the expertise
  • 3. Go big on press (or go home)

When Hoge approached us in January 2018 with the concept, we knew that time to market was essential to capitalize on this hot and controversial topic. Oh, and we needed to get this book out at the start of those five months out of the year dominated by one other acronym: NFL.

That gave us 10 months to get the manuscript written, edited, designed, and printed, a process that usually takes 18 months or more. Our keys to success were hiring both a ghostwriter and third-party researcher who knew that timing was key, but accuracy was even more important. Taking such an alternative approach to a topic that hit the country harder than a defensive tackle required airtight research.

One of Lou Holtz’s many quotable moments was when he said that “no one ever drowned in sweat.” So once the book was complete, we hit the press offensive. Hard. One day after the book’s release, Hoge was in USA Today (and in front of hotel room doors nationwide). That same day, both Hoge and Big Ben were on TMZ Sports, proving that no outlet was too big—or in this case, too out there—for this story.

And while this was nationwide news, the NFL jerseys that bore Hoge’s name shaped our regional pitch strategy. With a career-ending concussion as a Chicago Bear, Hoge returned to the Windy City’s headlines with this piece in the Chicago Tribune.

Throughout the 2018-2019 NFL season, Brainwashed continued to make national and international news with coverage on FOX News, the UK’s Daily Mail, and more. Now that we’re in the throws of another NFL season, the conversation continues. And Merril Hodge continues to be in it. 


New York lawmakers consider ban on youth tackle football (FOX News, October 31, 2019)

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From the Publisher

By Naren Aryal

Welcome to Amplify.  

At Amplify, we publish top-quality nonfiction titles. Specifically, we’re all about business books, political and policy-related works, and current affairs issues that are starting conversations. That’s it. Nothing else.

We launched our first book in October 2018, but we’re not new to the world of publishing. Amplify is the first imprint of a company I co-founded fifteen years ago, Mascot Books. Mascot is a multi-genre house, publishing everything from children’s titles, to cookbooks, to fantasy/science fiction novels, to memoirs—and everything in between. But even book people have favorite genres, and, as CEO, I wanted to establish a new imprint focusing on the genres I enjoy most and where we’ve had growing success. In the last five years, we’ve had the opportunity to work with some really impressive authors in the nonfiction space: CEOs, subject matter experts, innovative thought leaders. A new imprint would give these authors and their big ideas a unique space in the publishing landscape and set their work apart. Amplify was born.

Amplify’s first release was Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and the Plot to Destroy Football, a controversial look at CTE research and the way it’s represented in the media, by former NFL star and ESPN commentator Merril Hoge. In several ways, it embodies the core of what we look for in an Amplify title, beyond being well-written and thoroughly researched. Some agree with the stance Brainwashed takes, some disagree, but one thing is clear: it’s gotten people—journalists, players, and readers—talking. Brainwashed started a new thread in one of sports’ longest and loudest conversations. That’s what good books do.

In 2019, we’re continuing the momentum with The Age of Intent: Using Artificial Intelligence to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience by P.V. Kannan, the cofounder and chief executive officer of Silicon Valley-based [24]7.ai, a leader in AI-driven customer experience software and services. Slated for release on May 28, 2019, the book shares P.V.’s take on how AI is helping the world’s leading businesses attract and retain customers through personalized, predictive, and effortless customer experience by redefining the way companies interact with consumers.

At Amplify, we believe content is king. Here, you can expect to find books from leading figures in business like Tae Hea Nahm and Bob Tinker; subject matter experts like Melissa Agnes (Crisis Ready); and budding thought leaders like Dave Frankland and Nick Worth (Marketing to the Entitled Consumer). With the 2020 general elections a little over a year away, we’ll rise to meet the slew of political titles hitting the market with some of our own from both sides of the aisle. We’re looking forward to new voices, growing partnerships, and great books in 2019. I’m glad you’re here and hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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