Barstool Sports' female CEO shares her vision for the company and its brand

Erika Nardini, the first CEO of Barstool Sports and only the second female employee in the company's history, has taken the controversial site to new heights.
6:46 | 06/16/18

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Transcript for Barstool Sports' female CEO shares her vision for the company and its brand
Everyone can please gather round, the presentation's about to begin. Reporter: It's been called the bible of bro culture. Hear ye, hear ye, barstool hath arrived! Reporter: Barstool sports, the often controversial media brand that's wildly popular with men 18 to 34 years old. With its podcasts, videos, and blogs, barstool attracts 12 million followers who call themselves stoollies. Drawn to the big personalities that have become an essential part of its DNA. Like Kevin Clancy, aka kfc. I talk about what I want to talk about, joke how I want to joke. Reporter: Keith Markovich, or k-marko. There's not much method to the madness. Reporter: And the man who started it all, Dave Portnoy, known as el presidente. Wonder if barstool knows the rules. Reporter: 15 years in, cot has attracted big-name investors and is valued at $100 million. But while its no holds barred sense of humor -- See if we can duct tape hank to the wall. Reporter: Has won the company a fervent following, it has also invited backlash. We've got 3,000 here! Reporter: Five years ago barstool's infamous blackout tour sparked protests. They've also been criticized for sometimes misogynist posts. And last year ESPN, which like ABC news is owned by Disney, dropped a partnership with barstool after just one episode of a new show. ESPN's president at the time releasing a statement following the incident. While we had approval on the content of the show, I erred in assuming we could distance our efforts from the barstool site and its content. Portnoy responded in an eight-minute video post on Twitter. You hire barstool, the deal was with barstool, the reason you needed us is because we're barstool. We try to be funny. A few times in the span of 15 years, I would say, very few times, I've said something that rubs people the wrong way. I would argue it's always trying to be funny and not everything lands. Reporter: What might come as the biggest surprise about barstool sports is its CEO. Erika Nardini, CEO, barstool. Reporter: Erika Nardini. I was the last candidate to come along. There were over 70 were men. I think there was something that clicked with me and barstool. I saw what barstool could do, just how big this brand has the potential to be, just how powerful its audience is. You were the second woman to work here? Second woman ever. What did friends and family say? I had friends who were huge fans of barstool and were excited and really behind it. I had colleagues who thought this was career suicide. Barstool is very polarizing. The decision was very polarizing. There are people who believe, at least some of the content on barstool is sexist. What do you say to that? We're not a sexist company. I think most people who criticize barstool don't actually read barstool sports or listen to our podcasts or watch our videos. Have you ever been offended by any of the content? I'm not easily offended. And no, I haven't been offended. Reporter: Since joining the company in the summer of 2016, the former aol executive has helped barstool increase revenue by eight times, sent brand advertising soaring 700%, and commerce by 300%. I brought to barstool what I knew how to do, which is to scale, to monetize, to create a platform, to build systems, to think about the brand and brands that we could build underneath barstool. Reporter: The demo spends an average of 45 million minutes a month consuming barstool sports content. You have a lot of guys that are adulting. They're learning how to be adults. They don't have the adult commitments, yet they have disposable income. They can buy lots of toys. I think the most elusive consumer that anyone has is a 19-year-old. They're not watching television. They are not buying the things that they used to. They're not going to retail stores. They are different. And we are a company that understands them. Reporter: Portnoy quit his desk job to start the company in 2003. The early days content was all fantasy football, poker, gambling. That was 95% of it. Reporter: At firs a niche newspaper, barstool grew into a website. It moved away from the gambling roots to a lifestyle magazine, newspaper, whatever you want to call it. We talk about anything where a guy might be interested. Reporter: Attracting big-time football players like Johnny Manziel. It's putting a microphone, sitting in front of your friends, talking about sports. What's so different here than at networks, I can walk into our CEO's office and talk to Erika about any concern. Other networks you can't get to those people. Reporter: Smith left her job as an anchor for NBC sports Boston to join barstool. When I was presented the opportunity to come where you can be whoever you want to be, say whatever you want to say, for better or worse. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Reporter: The barstool community has also rallied around important causes. Giving back to victims of the Boston marathon bombing. Hopefully it helps. Reporter: Fund-raising for firefighters. Supporting veterans. I've been following barstool since I was literally a kid. Reporter: It's the brand's unwavering identity that keeps stoollies coming back for more. People are tired of boring, safe content. What has dealing with all of these controversies taught you about the right way to handle them? Think you can back away from who you are and what you stand for. It's a brand that's unafraid. And it's a brand that's very loyal to its audience. And in return its audience is very loyal to it. How difficult is it to maintain that brand identity? I don't think that maintaining and a brand in this day and age is difficult. What I do find is that the walls are closing in and the definition of what's okay and not okay is polarizing. I ultimately think that's very good for barstool sports because war stool is barstool. And we know who we are. And we know what we do and we stand by that. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm Rebecca Jarvis in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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