Sports Business Journal, by Terry Lefton — Monday, July 8 2019
The lightbulb went on for SponsorUnited founder Bob Lynch around the beginning of this decade when he attended some advertising conferences after a number of years selling radio for Clear Channel and Westwood One. Media sales had advanced to digital marketplaces and automated/programmatic buying, with all the transparency facilitated by that consolidation.
Generally, those prospecting the market for their next sponsorship deal employ a patchwork network, including publications like this one and their own personal network of IP sellers and buyers.
Why couldn’t there be a centralized source for sponsorship information?
“Everything is very siloed in the sports sponsorship space, including the data,” said Lynch, who sold sponsorship and media assets for the Miami Dolphins and BSE Global before founding SponsorUnited. “Sponsorship is truly the last bastion in advertising of truly offline buying and
selling with no consolidated information behind it.
“You see what’s happening everywhere with analytics. I wanted to see if we could find a way to overlay data on a macro level, build a ‘Moneyball’ approach to sponsorship and make the industry more intelligent.”
So Lynch set out to become sponsorship’s Magellan, with the daunting goal of mapping the entire $60 billion business. Now less than 18 months after its official launch, around 140 clients, largely properties, have access to a database that can dissect the sponsorship industry by team, category,
market or even sponsorship asset. It lists 485 unique varieties, and the sites are often linked to activation examples.
Industrywide, SponsorUnited indexes a total of 5.9 million sponsor assets across 37,000 separate sponsorships, 24,000 brands and more than 3,000 properties, including major, minor and collegiate properties, entertainment venues and esports. Accordingly, when the Pittsburgh Penguins were recently seeking a new sponsor in the fitness category, the team was able to see activation examples across America. Eventually, it helped them land Planet Fitness.
“It just makes you — the property — smarter,” said Brett Baur, Penguins senior manager of partnership sales. “It’s helped us find prospects and activation ideas. If you do one deal, it pays for itself 10 times over.”
Depending on the size or type of business, SponsorUnited runs between $5,000 and $40,000 per year for an unlimited number of users per organization.
“It makes the whole industry more transparent,” said Kevin Rochlitz, senior vice president of sales and business development at the Baltimore Ravens, one of the first NFL teams to sign on. “The ability to see other deals and other activations is something you just can’t find elsewhere.”
Lynch said the inevitable first question during demos is where their data comes from. In effect, it’s crowdsourced. To glean the information on which SponsorUnited is based, Lynch relies on another burgeoning industry sector: the 400-plus schools offering degrees in sports management. Using
those students as what the company calls “scouts,” SponsorUnited has them train for weeks in “Sponsoruniversity.com” before they monitor venues and broadcasts for information. In return, the students gain industry acumen, and in some cases, academic credit. Some have moved on to jobs
within the industry.
Investors include Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, and retired ESPN sales chief Ed Erhardt is on the company’s advisory board. Last year, SponsorUnited raised $1.3 million in seed funding; profitability is in sight during 2019 for the startup, which has fewer than 20 full-time employees.
Agencies have just begun to sign on, including Excel, Octagon and Leverage. Brands are the next big target, and there are many more of those than there are properties.
Company founder Bob Lynch wanted to build a ‘Moneyball’ approach to sponsorship. 7/8/2019 SponsorUnited uses massive database to help brands, properties build better sponsorships
https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2019/07/08/Marketing-and-Sponsorship/Marketing-and-Sponsorship.aspx 3/3 “Our long-term goal is to get everyone in sponsorship on this platform,” said SponsorUnited COO Alain Benzaken.
If so, that means SponsorUnited could migrate to a platform on which sponsorships could be bought automatically and at scale. Perhaps call those programmatic sponsorship transactions. “Everyone says the three most important things in startups are people, capital and product,” said Benzaken, a veteran of technology startups including Priceline, Salesforce and The Ladders. “It turns out the most important thing is timing, and our timing is good.”
Terry Lefton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.