Sports marketing

OpenSponsorship sports marketing platform sees growth and seeks to expand into varsity athletics

For over five years, Ishveen Anand has worked in the sports industry, primarily focusing on securing sponsorships for athletes, teams, leagues and events in India and Europe. Anand found that it was not always easy for agents and athletes to connect with businesses and vice versa. And she knew the results weren’t always what both sides had envisioned.

So in 2015, Anand went it alone and founded OpenSponsorship, a digital platform with one goal: to help make sports sponsorship simpler and more effective. The company has also focused on the United States due to its huge sports market and its appetite for athletes as brand ambassadors.

At the time, OpenSponsorship was one of the first online marketplaces looking to negotiate sports marketing deals. But now dozens of contestants have backed each other up, especially with the NCAA declaring in July that college athletes can make money because of their name, image and likeness.

Yet OpenSponsorship thrives in a competitive landscape and seeks to grow with a greater focus on college athletes. The company is on track to generate between $ 4.5 million and $ 5 million in revenue this year, more than double the $ 2 million in revenue generated last year. By the end of August, the platform had facilitated nearly 1,000 sponsorship deals this year, nearly 25% of which involved a varsity athlete.

About 460,000 students participate in college sports, and only 2% of them end up playing professionally, so the college market eclipses the professional market.

Anand expects college agreements to increase as the NCAA, states, and colleges have more uniform regulations regarding NIL. For now, the rules vary across the country, leading some athletes, administrators and companies to be reluctant to make transactions that could impact their eligibility in the future.

“There is a lot of education to be done,” Anand said. “There’s a lot of haze around what you can do, which categories are OK, how does it all work?” There is a bit of confusion there. Anything that creates confusion does not make negotiation easier.

On OpenSponsorship, companies pay monthly membership fees ranging from $ 79 to $ 1,250 to access the platform, where they can post their marketing opportunities and connect with athletes and agents who want to close business. . Athletes and agents, on the other hand, can join the marketplace for free, but OpenSponsorship charges a commission for all transactions entered into through the platform. The typical commission is between 10% and 20%.

Deals made through OpenSponsorship include athletes who endorse products, post about the brand on social media, place the product logo on their uniform, appear at events for promotions and more.

More than 10,000 athletes have registered on the platform, including players from the NBA, NFL and other professional and college sports leagues. At the same time, around 250 brands are usually active, researching the athlete database and running campaigns. OpenSponsorship recently made deals with Walmart

WMT
and FootLocker

Florida
.

“Some of these great brands, it takes a while to get them,” Anand said. “In the beginning it was working with smaller companies, a lot more product-only giveaways (where athletes would receive product rather than being paid for promotions). Now we see these bigger budgets and these bigger brands because we have a lot of validation. “

Still, OpenSponsorship typically works with small and medium-sized businesses looking to reach athletes with whom they don’t have a pre-existing relationship.

Lauren Cecchi recently signed up to OpenSponsorship to secure marketing deals for Signables, a company she co-founded in 2018 whose main product is a flat leather ball with autographs from top European football teams, including Liverpool. , Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City. Cecchi joined OpenSponsorship to find athletes for a corporate initiative called Signathon, where people can register for a virtual event with top athletes, ask them questions, and have them sign their memorabilia.

This summer, Cecchi used OpenSponsorship to secure a deal for a Signathon event with Sebastian Cordova, a famous Mexican soccer player. She also used the platform to strike a deal with Jack Harrison, a Leeds United football player who is hosting a Signathon next month. Additionally, she connected through OpenSponsorship with around 30 varsity athletes who have signed balls and other memorabilia that will be sold on the Signathon website.

“OpenSponsorship makes it so easy,” Cecchi said. “As an entrepreneur, I don’t really have a lot of time to become an agent for my brand. We do so many other things. It’s hard to break into the sports world, but everyone has a great relationship with Ishveen. They trust it, they trust OpenSponsorship and they know they can come to the platform and close deals.

OpenSponsorship, which has 14 employees, has raised $ 1.3 million in funding over the years from investors including former NBA player Baron Davis; the Oxford Angel Fund, a group of angel investors graduated from the University of Oxford, which is Anand’s alma mater; and 500 Startups, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm.

The company facilitated deals involving people outside of the sport, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, a famous astrophysicist and author. But he works almost exclusively with athletes. Right now, 95 percent of athletes are based in the United States, but OpenSponsorship is pursuing other deals in Europe and other regions.

“We were looking to grow beyond sports, but with the opening of colleges, that got us a lot of focus,” Anand said. “Right now we’re very focused on anything tangential to professional sports and the college space.”