Sponsorship is the backbone of sports
The interest in sports is exploding, and it’s bound to increase. In a recent Statista survey, it is reported that 83% of men report themselves as either Casual or Avid fans, and 61% of women report themselves the same. In a separate Statista survey, more than 50% of the respondents between ages 18-51 actively consume sports content on social media, with those between the ages of 52-60 not far behind at 39%. The morning water cooler catch-up and the social media opinion posts are blending into one shared conversation about sports and the athletes who bring the games to life.
And while interest is exploding, so is spending on Sports Sponsorship. In 2020 it was estimated that $57 billion was spent by brands for some form of Sports Sponsorship, and it is projected to reach $90 billion by 2027. With the almost 500,000 collegiate athletes now accessible due to the June 2021 NCAA NIL ruling, the game has changed for the better.
To unlock such possibilities to boost your brand, Ishveen Jolly, the Founder, and CEO of OpenSponsorship, democratized sponsorship by making it accessible, transparent, and data driven.
Insights Success caught up with Ishveen in our voyage to find “The 10 Most Inspiring Women Leaders to Follow in 2022” and talked with her to know how she has connected brands to 11000 athletes for authentic, data-driven digital marketing campaigns.
Below are the highlights of the interview.
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at the company. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I started my career as a management consultant and a sports agent. After seeing some serious inefficiencies within the sponsorship industry, I started OS about six years ago.
Some of my biggest challenges would probably be starting a tech company without being technical while trying and failing at new things—a lot.
Tell us something more about the company and its mission and vision.
We’re the largest marketplace connecting brands and athletes, now also increasing to team and events.
Mission: Our whole mission is around democratizing access for sponsorship. Big companies like Nike and Pepsi with big budgets have been using sponsorship so effectively, but unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of smaller regional, local, and D2C brands use sponsorship marketing or athletes in their marketing mix, so we felt like we needed to fix that. That’s why we created a platform that’s accessible, efficient, and gets the job done for all. Whether it’s support and strategy, access to athletes, we make it really easy for them.
Vision: We want to make sure that every brand uses sponsorship in its marketing mix. Right now, it’s sports sponsorship; maybe in the future, it would be sports entertainment or music. We want to make sure that anyone who needs sponsorship can get it easily the same way if you want to rent your house out and you put it on Airbnb.
Sponsorship is a global industry. Sports are global. Media rights are very global. I think Sponsorship to date has been fairly regionalized. So, with our platform and technology, along with its accessibility, expanding internationally across countries is definitely on our minds.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the industry through your expertise in the market.
I think starting out as a sports agent and management consultant has really helped me make an impact in the industry. But I think the biggest impact really came from the help I received from people I’ve met along the journey and just constant trial and error.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.
- Transparency. Internally, we want everyone in our company to know everything, no politics or anything like that. Externally, we’re very transparent in terms of our athlete pricing, and it’s something we preach a lot because transparency is not something the sponsorship industry has been great at.
- Education. We enjoy hiring people that may not have worked in the sports industry before and educating them on the ways. We also enjoy educating our clients, including our agents and athletes, through our platform. Everything is really easy to use and efficient, without them needing any extra assistance.
- Accountability, especially with a remote environment, we want to hire people that have extreme ownership of their stuff and get things done. Also, on the other side, we’re a two-sided marketplace. Our athletes rely on us, our brands rely on us, and we want to be held accountable for that. Whether it’s money exchange, contracts, or service-level, we believe in giving the best.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
Technology is core to what we do. About a year back, we released our mobile app, and we see an uptick in that from our users – Mobile is becoming core to our product. We love the use of AI and data for our platform, from matching to suggesting the right campaigns for brands.
We’re also always figuring out ways to plug in other technological solutions to ours, like transitioning all our payments to athletes through Tipalti, using Stripe to collect payments from brands just to make it easier and quicker. We also use Intercom so that people can message us in real-time in the app. We’re constantly leveraging technology to make our process quicker and more seamless.
If given a chance, what change would you like to bring to the industry?
I don’t want sponsorship to be a chance, based on whom you know or whether or not you got lucky. So, we’re determined to make sure that there is access for everyone and that it’s meritocratic, just like how finding a job or dating is meritocratic.
What, according to you, could be the next big change in the industry? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?
College NIL is a big one. We’ve recently got 476,000 college athletes now applicable to do sponsorship deals, so we’re obviously making big moves there. The NBA also recently allowed international brands to do deals, which have never been done before. You can use the rights abroad for teams, opening up big opportunities there as well.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for the company?
I love what we do; I enjoy breaking new barriers and thinking about new solutions, so just building OpenSponsorship and making it bigger. As far as future goals, growing our team, revenue, and reaching new milestones really gets me excited for the future.
What would be your advice to budding women entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the industry?
Obviously, sports and technology both have independently been male-dominated industries. You have to be ready to know your stuff to prove that you belong at the table. The entrepreneurship journey can be long, hard, and lonely, so definitely be ready for that and have a strong support system throughout the journey.
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