OpenSponsorship is the leading sports marketing platform trusted by brands to connect with 12,000+ athlete influencers, teams and events globally. Our mission is to democratize the $70 billion sponsorship industry; making this marketing channel accessible to ALL brands. We are driving change using innovative technology, AI, and data to match brands with athletes, track deliverables, ROI, and other performance metrics – important factors that have generally been neglected by traditional agencies. Our impact is especially evident through our college athletes, paralympians, and female athletes, where we have seen a significant increase in the volume of sponsorship deals done in the industry today.
We have done approximately $2 million in deals this past year and have multiple partnerships with the likes of Walmart, FanDuel, and Footlocker with athletes ranging from college and seasoned pros, to retired athletes and broadcasters. We have also received great validation from investors in our latest funding round – Serena Williams, 76ers owner David Blitzer, and David Stern’s son, Eric Stern, just to name a few.
On OpenSponsorship’s leadership and plans for the future:
Ishveen Jolly (Anand) started her career as a management consultant and then as a sports agent. For five years, she worked in the sports industry primarily focused on securing sponsorships for athletes, teams, leagues, and events in India and Europe. Along the way, however, she realized that it wasn’t always easy for agents and athletes to connect with companies and vice versa. And when they did, the results weren’t always what either party had envisioned.
After seeing some serious inefficiencies within the sponsorship industry, Ishveen decided to start OpenSponsorship 6 years ago with one goal: help make securing sports sponsorships easier and more effective.
The $70 billion sponsorship industry has traditionally been inaccessible, lacking in transparency and effectiveness. Companies like Nike and Pepsi credit sponsorship for much of their brand success, yet sponsorship marketing has previously not been leveraged by 70% of brands who did not have the expertise, budget or access – which is why Ishveen and the OpenSponsorship team are committed to driving real change. Combining the power of a two-sided marketplace with the expertise of a sports agency, OpenSponsorship has enabled over 10,000 deals worth millions of dollars to date.
In the past 12 months, OpenSponsorship’s impact has been amplified with the NCAA NIL rules change, with 465,000 college students now being able to get sponsorship. OpenSponsorship, with its existing marketplace and brand network, is at the forefront of enabling these deals, especially through partnerships with top MMR partners and schools. As influencer marketing continues to grow exponentially, more opportunities have opened up for brands and athletes to partner on influencer campaigns. Companies like Walmart, Footlocker, StitchFix and Atlantic Records as well as hundreds of smaller brands have connected with athletes for brand partnerships. For the first time, brands – big and small – can leverage athletes in short term, impactful, ROI-driven influencer campaigns.
But of course, starting OpenSponsorship came with its own long list of challenges and obstacles for Ishveen.
“Being female in a very male-dominated industry like sports and technology, there are many privileges that you simply don’t get starting out in this space. You have to be extremely scrappy and ready to know your stuff to prove that you belong at the table”, Jolly said.
Despite the obstacles, Jolly is firm and clear on what she wants OpenSponsorship’s mission to be: to make sports sponsorship accessible to ALL, including underserved athlete groups and brands globally – big and small.
“OpenSponsorship has a female CEO, Serena Williams as an investor, and we are very focused on driving more sponsorship dollars to female athletes. In the past year we have assisted millions in sponsorship deals for female athletes, including Venus Williams, Megan Olivi, Sloane Stephens, Rose Lavelle.”. She added,“ We also recently
launched our UK office and have already enabled global partnerships including for Fulham FC, EPL soccer stars and Olympians.”
Following its $4.5 million growth round, the OpenSponsorship team is now deploying this capital to achieve milestones including hiring, marketing, product development, expanding into new international markets, and growing our college NIL solution. Long-term, OpenSponsorship has big ambitions to transform sponsorship into a more digital, impactful, and resultsdriven strategy for all brands, while also extending into music, e-sports, and entertainment. Sponsorship is the financial backbone of sports, with athletes, teams, and events relying on it, hence the mission to make dealmaking more meritocratic and efficient.
When asked about OpenSponsorship’s future, Jolly highlighted the importance of CSR efforts and building a strong identity for the company moving forward, “We want to continue to create an impact by leveraging our network of athletes, teams and brands – we’ve worked with the Texas and Florida governments, and NHS (UK)
to help promote vaccinations and COVID-19 ‘Stay Safe’ programs, and we’re excited to be involved in more impactful and meaningful initiatives in the future.”
As part of building a strong identity for the company, diversity, equity and inclusion are core to OpenSponsorship’s identity. Internally, OpenSponsorship’s leadership consists of a South Asian female CEO and an African American LGBT technical co-founder from the Caribbean. 40% of the company is female, a significant number given that sports and technology are both generally very male dominated industries. Externally, the business itself mainly caters to athletes, which is arguably the most diverse group of influencers and professionals on the planet. “We have a strong focus towards diverse individuals such as female athletes and paralympians. We are actively pitching niche athlete groups to our brands, and educating potential sponsors on why they should consider a diverse portfolio of athlete ambassadors. A big project we did was partnering Sperry with their first Paralympic athlete.”
OpenSponsorship is revolutionizing the world of sponsorship through its platform and technology, while creating a lasting impact and diversity in its team, clients, and business in every aspect.
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