Startups · Marketing Strategy

How do you find early adopter athletes?

Clement Kpodar Conseiller Expert Services Bancaires at RBC

June 3rd, 2015

How would you do to get athletes, sportsman, sport team in amateur sport to get in your platform?
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Carlos Bencomo

June 3rd, 2015

I'd have to first start off by suggesting it depends very highly on (A) your platform and (B) your objective... are you a sports consumable good (i.e. beverage/food/snack/etc.)? are you a fitness oriented consumer product (smartwatches, fitness bands, weights, etc.)? are you a sports service (value-add service, tracking service, etc.)? For some of these it may be easier to simply reach out to amateur leagues either directly (i.e. contacting a league venue by finding their information on a website or some search engine) or indirectly contacting amateur athletes/fitness enthusiasts via platforms like meetup/facebook/etc.

The degree of success in reaching out depends highly, I believe, on your objective. Are you wanting to build awareness? test a product? sponsor a team/event? build your brand image? establish a sell-through channel/partnership? There are different tactics that would meet with best success given what you want to accomplish. It's been my experience that amateur athletes are more willing to field test a product (be it consumable or otherwise) if you're willing to show up on site and it fits with the nature of their event/sport i.e. if you have an energy recovery drink, then showing up at a practice would be helpful.... fitness trackers, etc., are a bit more difficult to come by would-be testers, in my opinion, because the more appropriate crowd may be aspiring athletes/semi-professional atheletes; these would probably be more appropriate to contact in a professional fashion (i.e. sponsorship).

Just my 2 cents!

Carlos Bencomo

June 3rd, 2015

Clement,

It sounds like you're asking, "how do I find beta users or driver early adopters?"

As Frederic seems to suggest, you could "hire amateur sportsmen" and have them "organize local sports events" while using your social media network to do so.

There are plenty of different places (both digital and physical) were you could find enthusiasts who might likely be curious about the platform especially if there's a particular segment in sports you may be after (i.e. it may easier for you to have tennis players curious regarding a tennis specific social network than, say, a more open-ended/generic platform).

Additionally, I would say, there's an important factor in budget; are you able to offer upfront payment & contract to early testers/users as 'brand' or 'platform' ambassadors perhaps? are you able to create marketing materials that reach out professionally or are you wanting to have a more candid conversation in the hopes that you find beta testers who are interested in using the platform of their own accord? If you've got the budget, then outright hiring a few users who may be locally influential in their particular sport could be a good option, and reaching them directly via contact information they may have available online could work. If you're looking for more casual beta testers then it may be easier to approach an amateur team and try to drive adoption in their sport league.

It's still difficult to suggest a definitive approach without knowing much other than a social media platform for sports amateurs (is it for organizing events? leagues? tracking statistics for games/events? messaging between amateurs for pick-up games? is it for one sport? a group of sports? all sports? is it for younger athletes in traditional sports or casual 20-40 yr olds playing kickball on Saturdays?)

As a quick sidenote/example, there are several amateur leagues with several teams in my area that offer an opportunity for small time sponsorship; you can sponsor a team as an individual/company/etc. in these amateur leagues (ultimate frisbee, soccer, kickball, dodgeball, volleyball, softball, etc.) for as little as $150 a season; now, they have several sponsors and they use these funds for jerseys or events, etc. but most teams (even the more amateur ones) have a website or a social media site setup (facebook/meetup/etc.) with contact info on how to sponsor them. You could always sponsor an individual team simply to build awareness of the platform and reiterate through several sports leagues in the hopes that growing interest leads to early testers or you could more formally contact the teams and offer more than the $150 sponsorship level were the team to use your platform to setup practices/hangouts/etc.

Again, just my 2 cents!

Carlos Bencomo

June 3rd, 2015

I'd like to add one more thing, some context around why I asked the below:

"It's still difficult to suggest a definitive approach without knowing much other than a social media platform for sports amateurs (is it for organizing events? leagues? tracking statistics for games/events? messaging between amateurs for pick-up games? is it for one sport? a group of sports? all sports? is it for younger athletes in traditional sports or casual 20-40 yr olds playing kickball on Saturdays?)"


The reason I ask is because you can bucket the kind of platform you're discussing into two types: 1. user generated content/data 2. third-party data used by users

Thought the latter bucket (#2) can also have user generated data; I mean this more to color platforms that, say, are meant to have data available to users that the app/network could retrieve on its own. This sometimes is a great way to showcase your platform's functionality without necessitating user input. Say your platform tracked wins, losses, game statistics, etc., then you could gather this data by attending sports events or accessing the data available on league websites, then you could showcase this data to league members as a way of enhancing their league experience i.e. "you're a member of Big Little Softball League? well here's a platform that can help you organize team practices, chat, and events as well as track your results! Look, we've taken the liberty of organizing the league data for this season, you can see how your team is doing very easily!" etc. etc. Though there are several hurdles in terms of this kind of data access (and approaching users with publicly available data comes with its own set of privacy issues), it can be easier to drive adoption for those platforms who have useful data to market rather than or on top of a functionality to market. It's harder to convince a user with "my platform will help you organize practices better!" than it is to say "look at how we've organized this data you already had available, now imagine if you were to participate".

Alright, enough word vomit, 2 cents in.

Anonymous

June 3rd, 2015

Hello Clement, it depends on what kind of platform your talking about.

Concerning myself and my future facebook/Twitter killer, I would hire amateur sportsmen as community managers and ask them to organize amateur local sports events in their location thanks to the social network.
Anyway in terms of communication , I would focus on their (my) interests : local events related to their speciality, (organic) nutrition food and opportunities to get discount on sportswear.

Regards

Clement Kpodar Conseiller Expert Services Bancaires at RBC

June 3rd, 2015

Hi, 
Thank you very much for your answers. The platform will be a social media web and mobile app for the sports amateur. Yours advices will help. 
Thanks.