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The Social Media Impact On Sports Sponsorship – Kris Mathis Interview

Sports SponsorshipIn today’s digital world, the “old-school” ways of sourcing, pitching and securing sports sponsorship deals are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  Today, individuals, properties and sponsors are leveraging technology to find the right fit and share valuable industry information.

Kris Mathis started SponsorPitch in 2008 to address a core business problem he noticed while starting and working in the sponsorship division of a global marketing and PR agency. Kris represented Fortune 500 clients at Edelman sponsorship consulting division where he made sponsorship buying, activation and renewal decisions for brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Schering-Plough, 20th Century Fox, Wyeth and Siemens.

We caught up with Kris to get an update on SponsorPitch since his last interview with Lewis Howes back in December 2008

For more information on Kris and SponsorPitch visit:

The Evolution Of SponsorPitch

In addition to the questions discussed in the video (transcript below), Kris and Trevor discussed the evolution of Sponsorpitch over the past few years.  Here is a summary of the key points regarding how SponsorPitch has listened their members and adjusted accordingly.

  • In 2010, we did a very telling survey of SponsorPitch members (results can be found here), which we would ultimately use as a guidepost for relaunching SponsorPitch in 2011. Among the findings of this survey were these:
    • The majority of respondents sent out 2-5 proposals each week.
    • Nearly a third of sponsorship sales professionals said that 25-50% of their time at work is spent researching brands.
    • 61% of serious sponsorship seekers were researching a brand for more than 2 hours just to determine whether it was a good fit for their opportunity prior to sending out a proposal.
    • On average, sponsorship seekers spend $4,383 annually on sponsorship research resources.
  • Not surprisingly, given the time and money survey respondents said they were spending on research, the survey uncovered that for every 1 member that was not willing to share information about their past experiences with sponsors, 13 members were willing to share with other members as long as they similarly benefited by receiving new targeted leads from other SponsorPitch members.
  • We thought, based on these results, how can we re-engineer the SponsorPitch site to help solve some of these really big problems and pain points that our users are telling us they encounter every day. Why should you have to spend 2 hours and hundreds of dollars to qualify a lead when the reality is that someone else in the network probably just assembled the same research you’re looking for? At the time, there was no way to connect the dots so we thought how can we take some of the principles of social media that we see in consumer sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin and apply them to make the business of sponsorship more social and in doing so, more efficient.
  • The site was relaunched in May 2011 with a new homepage, profile interface and the SponsorPitch Sponsor Index, which is a real-time user generated database of nearly 1,600 brands. Professional members of the site can use the Sponsor Index to filter, research and connect with actively-spending sponsors in a targeted, cheaper and more time-efficient way.
  • Paid subscriptions (Professional Membership) increased 800% over the course of 2011.
  • We’re in the process of negotiating similar partnerships to the one we have with MLS with other companies and leagues.
  • SponsorPitch is bootstrapped (no outside funding), but is in the process of raising an angel investment round from some prominent investors in the sports, entertainment and advertising space.

Kris Mathis – Sports Sponsorship Interview Transcript

Trevor

Hey everyone Trevor Turnbull here again from Sports Networker and I want to introduce you guys, or possibly reintroduce you, to Kris Mathis who is the founder of SponsorPitch. How’s it going Kris?

Kris

I’m good thanks. Thanks for having us back on Trevor.

Trevor

Yeah no problem. So Kris and I were talking about this a few minutes ago but I was actually doing my back research to learn a little bit more about SponsorPitch and realized that you and Lewis had done an interview back in December of 2008, so thats three years ago. Obviously a lot has changed since then so for those people not knowledgable about SponsorPitch maybe give them the once-over on “what is SponsorPitch”.

Kris

Sure it’s been a while since I did that interview with Lewis so I appreciate the opportunity to come back on and update you guys on what’s new.

So basically at its heart SponsorPitch is a professional network that allows a little over 6,000 members the opportunity to come on and connect and collaborate with their peers from across the world in a whole new different, real-time kind of way. As part of that, it’s for buyers, sellers, anyone activating a sponsorship, measuring sponsorships, looking for jobs, whatever your place is in the sponsorship industry we’ve got got a place for you on SponsorPitch and got something to offer for you. So that’s what SponsorPitch is kind of all about.

Trevor

Cool. So in 2008 you guys were going into beta at the time right? How have things evolved over time? To its core, as the name says, SponsorPitch is really about helping people understand the whole sponsorship world as it relates to the sports industry in general. How has it evolved over those three years? What kind of new things have you guys implemented over this time?

Kris

So we started out, like you said, in 2008 and the name SponsorPitch really started from the idea that in my old job I bought sponsorships for an agency and would constantly get pitched new opportunities. [I would] get proposals and quote calls and people would send me boxes of stuff, premiums and things like that, so I was constantly getting pitched these opportunities. So the original idea for the site started out as a way that sellers could come on and put all that information online in a coherent and indexed way so that buyers and agency people and brand marketers could go on and sort of sort through these different opportunities based on what they were looking for and find out the information they wanted to get before having a more formal discussion about what a sponsorship could do for them. So that was the original idea and that’s where the name SponsorPitch really came from.

Since that time we’ve gotten thousands and thousands of members and talked to people that are using the site and one of the things that we really found, and maybe underestimated at the launch, was the social aspect to it and the power that user generated data can provide to our members. So through that we started to understand that people didn’t want to just come onto our site and throw up a proposal and just go away. They understand that there’s no magic bullet to sponsorship to right? They understand that it takes work and that to be a part of a network that allows you to learn things like which sponsors are spending on which kinds of sponsorships, when they’re spending, who’s making the decisions for them, seeing what a business is all about and who their competitors are. You even talk to people within the network who have worked with a particular sponsor before; those are the types of things that are really important to our members, not necessarily just throwing up a proposal.

The social aspect to what we’re doing really caught our eye and made us realize we are onto something here and we have to restructure the network to make it more social and sort of optimize it to make it real-time and social and relevant so they we’re sending the most targeted and relevant information to our members that we can so they can take that information and go. They can sell a sponsorship, they can find an agency, they can find a job, they can find a sponsorship opportunity if they’re a marketer. Making it a lot more targeted and a lot more real-time; there’s nothing out there that we found that was really doing that at the time; so since 2008 we’ve done a lot of restructuring of the network to make it a lot more personalized to the user. That’s sort of the core of what we’ve done since I last talked to you.

Trevor

So you guys have really filled a need in the market as essentially the world has changed. I would imagine that the whole sponsorship industry over the years has evolved very slowly in the sense that the old school mentality might have been that “knowledge is power,” and you should keep it. But in today’s social world obviously that knowledge is power and people are willing to share it so you’re really giving them a platform to connect with other people that are looking to learn as well as share what they have experienced themselves over the years as professionals in the industry.

Kris

Correct. One of the interesting things is I went to grad school and came back to the industry around 2007 and it was amazing to me how people were still paying 400 bucks for a source book that was outdated a few months after it was published. People were still paying $1,500 to go to an annual conference once a year to network with a few hundred other people. There were all these things that we viewed as very sort of archaic practices and so one of the things we’ve tried to do at SponsorPitch is make it so we’re open, we’re easy to access, you can get into the network 24 hours a day and you can network with other people, you can get access to data that’s valuable to you 24 hours a day and make it sort of real-time and accessible and open to our members.

And to your point that information is power, I think what we’ve learned from our members and what I’ve learned from talking to people that sell sponsorships 10 hours per day, is starting your sponsorship search from scratch is a really, really tough thing right? So just coming to it and saying, “this is what I want to sell, how do I go about doing it” is a really, really tough task. So if someone can come to us and find that there’s 1,600 brands that have already been indexed by category, you can instantly find out, of these 30 brands in the airline category, what they’re spending on; what the trends are; what types of sponsorship opportunities they’re looking to partner with; when they typically sponsor; who makes the decisions for them. You can talk to other members who have worked with the sponsor in the past and find out what makes them tick and what makes them more interested in certain types of opportunities. If you can come to a place and rather than having to carry all that burden yourself are recreate the research wheel that everyone is doing throughout the industry, if you can come to a place and find that information in two minutes versus spending two hours [starting] from scratch to do it on your own thats a pretty valuable and compelling sort of value proposition that we can offer. And that’s sort of the power of a social media and what we’re putting together here. Not only does it help you do your job better but it’s just a faster, more efficient way to do it.

Trevor

Yeah. It’s great. I just signed up like a week ago so I’m just starting to dive around but I’m getting excited by all the things I’m seeing in there and looking forward to getting my hands into it a little bit more.

Let’s talk specifically about a client that you guys work with, or a partner I should say, in Major League Soccer. Maybe tell us a little bit about that partnership you have with those guys.

Kris

Sure. So anyone can come on and sign up for SponsorPitch as an individual professional and so kind of what we found based on our membership was that people from a lot of the same organizations kept signing up and getting active within the network. So what we’ve done recently is sort of partnered with a few different organizations and leagues to help them learn about SponsorPitch and make the resources available to their entire organization. So that’s sort of what we’re doing with Major League Soccer is try to make it more widely available to everyone within their organization and I applaud Major League Soccer for sort of taking the initiative and being forward thinking with something like this. So that’s sort of where that came from and as a part of that SponsorPitch is available to executives within the team front offices throughout the country.

Trevor

Nice. Well obviously a great success for you guys and just showing that you are growing and there are great things to come here in the future. I’m just looking at the dashboard right now Kris and I see there’s all kinds of stuff in here obviously. The ability to update your profile, there’s updated news to kind of have your finger on the pulse on whats going on, sponsor information, property information, connect with other people, there’s jobs inside here; it’s really evolved over the past few years.

Kris

Yeah, theres a lot going on. If you sign up the first page that you’ll get is what we call the dashboard which gives you a quick snapshot of the five or ten things that are happening today in the industry. What you can do from there is then follow the different brands that you’re either working with or want to be working with. You can follow other people in the network that you are working with or want to be working with. You can follow properties within the network that maybe you work with or you work at. So from that first page what we’re really trying to do is give you the information that is most important to you. So whatever you’re following within the network, the most recent updates from that will come directly to your dashboard.

So that when you log in Trevor, if you want to follow certain properties in Vancouver or you want to follow certain brands that are up there, what you’ll get when you sign in are updates based on those brands those properties and the people within your professional network. So that’s what that’s all about.

Trevor

Nice. Well I look forward to diving into this more. And Kris has actually agreed to do a Webinar with us here over the next couple of months, likely in February, so stay tuned for that we’re going to give you guys a heads up on that one. That would be for the members of our Sports Executives Association. We’ll really dive into all this stuff in more detail and show everybody the functionality and what you can do with it. In the meantime Kris tell everybody how they can go check out SponsorPitch and sign up.

Kris

Sure so all you have to do is go to SponsorPitch.com and the sign up takes probably less than 10 seconds so sign up and take it from there.

Trevor

Nice. Well thats very much for doing this Kris, really appreciate it and we’ll talk to you soon.

Kris

Thanks a lot Trevor.

Have you joined SponsorPitch yet?  If so, what has been your experience so far?  Let us know in the comments below and please feel free to share this article with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!

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5 Responses to The Social Media Impact On Sports Sponsorship – Kris Mathis Interview

  1. trevorturnbull January 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    @krismnyc Appreciate you taking the time to chat about SponsorPitch. Exciting stuff….definitely worth checking out for our readers!

  2. Shruti Singh January 12, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Yes bt whts type impact…

  3. sportsnetworker January 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    @bhelleu thanks for sharing our article boris!

  4. bhelleu January 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    @sportsnetworker you’re welcome : il like your website. So do my students.

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