Sometimes, a change of scenery can be daunting. That was certainly the case for Matthew Sponhour, who moved from South Carolina to Ohio in elementary school. And while living away from “home” can be especially difficult for a fourth grader, Sponhour credits the move as an early kickstart for what he deemed an “unlikely” career path.
With the 500-mile journey north came an increased admiration for sports. Growing up a Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers fan—two teams Sponhour is passionate about to this day—he developed an affinity for the Cincinnati Reds and college football, particularly his now-beloved Ohio State Buckeyes.
About a year later, Sponhour’s life changed completely. This change existed in the form of sixth grader Blaiden Kirk, whom Sponhour credits with motivating him to enter the TikTok scene. “I knew nobody,” he said after moving to Ohio. “So having Blaiden definitely helped.”
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Sponhour began familiarizing himself with the popular social media app. “The hardest part is starting,” he explained, before adding, “you’ll get into slumps—whether it’s you or the app—but staying the course is key. TikTok is a good place to start because it promotes your ‘stuff’ well. If you’re making good stuff, it’s easy to get seen.”
During his high school years, Sponhour spent some time in the TV journalism program, where he refined the video-making skills and content creation that were vital in his ability to build a decent following on TikTok. “The way I got better with TikTok is almost like practicing a rep in a sport,” he explained. “It’s not enough to just make the video. It’s about asking yourself, ‘How can I get better?’”
Upon graduating from high school, Sponhour attended the University of Cincinnati, where he became a diehard fan of Bearcats athletics. It was also at Cincinnati, however, where his TikTok following began to explode—and his career took off.
“I actually dropped out,” Sponhour explained while reflecting on his college days. “When this started going really well, it was just too much of a time commitment and I was already doing what I wanted to do. I figured I was better off spending time on what I was working on, so I did that instead,” he added.
In a sports world where the so-called “hot take” has become commonplace, Sponhour believes being unbiased and comprehensive has allowed him to gain a big following on social media. “Nowadays, there are not a lot of people giving takes straight-up,” he said. On the other hand, Sponhour admitted that the opinionated culture of the sports media industry is here to stay. “If you’re giving interesting takes and engaging with fans then you can certainly build a good following.”
Sponhour built such a large following that opportunities began to open up outside of TikTok and X, where he has also had great success. “There’s always opportunities from places you don’t expect,” he said. “Like ‘Stay Hot’ was a really crazy one where me, Blaiden and Theo [Ash] were like, ‘we should do a podcast.’”
“The next day, Blue Wire reached out to us and asked us if we wanted to do a podcast, and it was like ‘WOW.’” Sponhour said he hadn’t told anyone about his idea to create a podcast and that the stars aligned at the right time. That the experience was shared with one of his best friends, Blaiden Kirk, and fellow TikTok sports personality Theo Ash only made it more exciting.
In April 2021, Sponhour, Kirk and Ash launched “Stay Hot: A Sports Podcast” with Blue Wire. Over two years later, Stay Hot has amassed over 181,000 followers across TikTok, X, Instagram and YouTube. It also helped that the trio developed a good social media following before the podcast’s launch.
Their podcast’s website states that “They’re going to hit you with the hot takes you crave and that no other analyst has the foresight or courage to give. Covering the NFL, NBA, and when hot, MLB, NHL.”
The unforgettable experiences that have come as a byproduct of Sponhour’s hard work over the years have been the most rewarding. Alongside podcast co-hosts Kirk and Ash, Sponhour traveled to Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League in 2022. Yet again, though, it was the unlikely experience that resides in his brain to this day.
“Out of nowhere, we randomly got some invite to do a little talk show at the MLB All-Star event,” he began. “We go there, and they put us up in the Santa Monica Proper, which is like this ridiculously nice hotel like four blocks off Venice Beach,” he continued. “They gave us $150 for room services each day.”
“That’s the coolest thing we ever got to do,” Sponhour remarked. “That was pretty sweet, and the best part is we knew absolutely nothing about baseball.”
“A podcast is something that doesn’t easily promote itself,” Sponhour explained. “You have to supplement it somehow, whether it’s through Twitter or TikTok or something else,” he continued. “I probably spend a couple of hours a day working on TikToks alone, I’m always on Twitter a little bit, and then for the podcast, it’s only an hour or two-time commitment each time we do it, but then you really gotta study up for those.”
Like any sports fan, Sponhour’s studying comes from watching games and monitoring statistics. On top of that, he says, he spends anywhere from 25 to 60 hours a week creating content and watching films.
In short, that hard work has paid off. What started as motivation from Blaiden Kirk nearly a decade ago has become a sustainable career for the 22-year-old Sponhour.
As of this writing, Sponhour has accrued more than 350,000 followers on TikTok, while his following on X hovers at around 100,000 and although he has seen many opportunities arise due to his popularity, he maintains that he loves what he does already and wants to expand on his work even further.
“I just want to continue to grow my audience and see what opportunities open up,” Sponhour replied when asked about his plans for the future. “I think I’m working on potentially going on YouTube at some point. You know I like working on the podcast.”
While Sponhour cited TikTok and X as his main avenues for producing content today, he provided insight into a new project he’s been working on. Having studied marketing at Cincinnati, he said, he has begun “working on marketing for a start-up sports app.” And while it’s still “in the very early stages,” according to Sponhour, he called it “an exciting opportunity” and one that he hopes will effectively supplement his work on social media.
With precisely 48 million likes on TikTok, Sponhour has cemented himself as one of the leading sports content creators on the app. And while he has met many people along the way, Sponhour points to one of his “likes” as his most fond memory over the last several years. Legendary Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, a player Sponhour called his “all-time favorite,” liked one of his tweets.
So, while his Panthers (and Hornets) fandom hasn’t changed since his move to the Midwest, much else has. In addition to developing friendships and attending prominent sporting events, Sponhour admitted he had found “home in Cincinnati” and sees “no reason to move out of here anytime soon.”
Although being a content creator has allowed Sponhour to construct his own image, he cited meeting Kirk as the most influential factor in his career path. “If Blaiden weren’t the one to do it first, then I probably would have never done it,” he said. Let’s just say it’s a good thing he did.