For better or worse when athletes are associated with a brand, people seem to trust the brand more (yes, even LeBron and Kia). Yet, in our current market it’s hard to get in contact with the right athlete to help your business. This is what OpenSponsorship plans to fix. The startup that is connecting brands with athletes, sporting events, and even teams, is doing your company and athletes a big favor by connecting two parties in need. Checking out the networks of athletes could be fun…but it can also transform your brand.
AlleyWatch chatted with CEO and founder Ishveen Anand about the startup, their recent time spent with 500Startups, and their latest funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Tell us about the product or service.
We are a marketplace for sports sponsorship. We connect brands to athletes, teams, and sporting events. Our current focus is on startups and SME’s, who have been previously under-represented in the $60B sponsorship industry. Our platform enables great matches, at better value and with a system to manage payments and track deals.
How is it different?
The Sponsorship industry to date has been all offline. We know, we used to be sports agents. By bringing a true-sided marketplace into the industry, we bring transparency and new access to this otherwise archaic industry. We differ from other online competitors by focusing on sponsorship as a whole, where some may be offering just social, or just appearances, we offer the full suite of rights. Deals to date include logo patches at the US Open Tennis and PGA Championship, photoshoots, product placements, social media and press interviews. We also allow product only deals, where brands gift product to athletes in exchange for social media shout-outs and real feedback.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
The Sponsorship market is $60B globally; sponsorship makes up 14% of all marketing spend in North America. We are taking chunk of the existing market, as well as growing the whole pie – a trend seen in many industries moving from offline to online, is that the market grows on average 25%.
What is the business model?
We charge a monthly subscription to brands for access to the site, which includes our analytics, pricing suggestions and the ability to post a campaign visible to our 2000+ athletes. We also take a commission from the deal from athletes. Subscribed brands can do deals for cash, product, equity or royalty.
What inspired the business?
I used to be a sports agent and 2 separate incidents led to the start of OpenSponsorship. First, as Commercial Director of the Indian Open (golf), I was speaking to a marquee player about his lack of sponsorship. Due to him living in the UK and having a local agent, but playing across the globe, he was not able to secure sponsorship due to a lack of relevant relationships. Secondly, the largest two wheeler manufacturer in the World, Hero MotoCorp, asked me to scout out soccer sponsorship opportunities in Colombia where they were expanding, this involved expensive and lengthy trips just to understand what was available. Why was there not one platform that just let brands know what was available, and allowed golfers like the one above to list their sponsorship opportunities for brands to purchase?
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The sponsorship industry is large enough at $60B, and the move to an online marketplace inevitable considering trends in complimentary industries. So it really came down to them believing that we are the team to build the platform that will service both sides of the market and define the new way of finding sponsors – which fortunately they did!
Tell us about your company’s recent experience with 500Startups.
500 startups was an amazing experience, I recently wrote an article about it here. As a first time tech entrepreneur I couldn’t recommend it enough – the learning, the help with pitching, validation for the company, access to investors, living in San Francisco, making new friends with a driven, like-minded community.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We just returned to New York from 500 so our plan is to work on product – both adding functionality and spending time on UI/UX – and then ramping up sales. We hope to grow the user base to include more SME and startups, and a more enterprise type of clients towards the middle of next year.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Don’t take introductions too early. First impressions count and you can’t take them back. On the flip side, one could say, showing improvement and growth is the key, but I would take intros when you know you’re ready to impress.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Being in 500 startups really helped us to get a stamp of approval, so if accelerators are an option then give that a go. I’d also say focus on revenue and the cheapest and quickest way to grow that figure. Don’t worry about spending time or effort doing anything that does’t directly grow revenue. This way you will either get more investors interested or it will allow you to grow organically.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
I’m going to give two out of a long list!
Indra Nooyi – CEO Pepsico, admittedly just outside the New York City area. Being a female CEO of Indian origin, I’d love to learn from her what it took to get to the top, and how she plans to keep Pepsico ahead globally. I also wouldn’t mind them becoming a client of ours J
Second would be Woody Johnson, for the innovative and leading sports franchise he has built with NY Jets as well as leading the giant consumer brand Johnson and Johnson. Running a two-sided marketplace involves having to have a face for the sports world as well as a face for the brand world, so I would seek to understand how he balances both sides.
Why did you launch in New York?
I moved to New York in 2013 when I got married to designer of KAS New York, Kirat Anand. Being taken out of my comfort zone and network really made me realize how inefficient our industry was, so I have a lot to thank for moving here. The big question was moving back to New York after spending 5 months in San Francisco for 500 startups. That was a tough choice, but I believe it’s easier as a smaller, seed funded startup to find good talent in New York. Also being in Martech it makes sense for us to be here around the major brands and sports agencies.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
L’esquina. Shout-out to Siam.